July 1-7, 2007: Le Temps de Cerise

               Bing Cherry Clafouti

The treat of July is cherries. Purple black sweet cherries and luminescent red sour cherries. I have found that the freshest and most delicious cherries are also the firmest cherries, so be sure to pinch your cherry's cheeks.  My fantastic local find in cherries was a guy who had gotten a booth at the Farmer's Market, for one week only, to sell the cherries growing on his 2 trees on Pauline Street. Sweet and dark Bing cherries and also some pink-tinged yellow Queen Anne cherries.  Both delicious! And the ultimate in local for me - less than a mile from my house. 

The other treats of this week were peas from Fusilier and fava beans from Tantre. When I learned some distressing news about a family member who had been in an accident, I spent an evening shelling peas and fava beans to keep my hands busy and my head away from thoughts of doom.  Normally a bit tedious, that night the task of popping open the bright green pods and scooping out sweet peas was just occupying enough for the few brain cycles I had available.  I was doing something useful that I would be happy about later and I was avoiding obsessing about how bad things might turn out to be. When it turned out that the accident was less serious than originally feared, I had the peas ready to make a grandmotherly-hug-level comfort food: creamed peas and new potatoes.  Who knew that making local food has psychological benefits?

Back to the Cherry treat of July. In terms of the easy and tasty value proposition, one of the best things to do with cherries is make clafouti - a custardy French dessert. This has to be one of the speediest desserts too. I tried it recently the traditional way leaving the pits in, but kept worrying that I would forget and break a tooth. This made the clafouti stressful, so I believe it's better with the pits removed.   Leave them in for traditional accuracy - warning your guests in advance of course that they should wear their dentures. 

Clafouti for 4

400º 20-25 minutes

1/3C. + 2T. sugar

3 T. flour

3 eggs

1 C. milk

2 t. vanilla

1/2 t. almond extract

1 1/2 C. pitted sweet cherries (Bing cherries are traditional)

1 T. butter (for buttering the baking dish)

Whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate large bowl, whisk together wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients and whisk gently to dissolve lumps but not to incorporate air.  Bake in an 8x8" pyrex dish that has been buttered and sugared. Arrange cherries (or other fruit) in the bottom of the baking dish. Turn custard into prepared dish and bake just until filling is set. It will be done when it is a little jiggly in the middle.  Do not over bake. 

You can substitute other fruit in this recipe. Especially good are pears - increase almond extract to 3/4t., and add 1T. chopped candied ginger. Also good are prunes soaked in Armagnac. Yum! And need I mention that raspberries would also be delightful? 

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