Swimming Cherries with Hazelnut Tuiles make a sweet finish for a summer meal. Recipes below.
Oh, I like my cherries just fine eaten out of hand, in their plump and glossy freshness, plopping one into my mouth and pulling gently at the stem until it gives, chewing expertly on the sweet juicy flesh to isolate the pit and discarding it into my closed fist like my mother taught me -- or just spitting it out if no one's looking.
Clotilde Dusoulier is the 25-year-old Parisienne behind the popular food blog Chocolate & Zucchini. She is working on her first cookbook.
But fresh cherries take on a very different persona when cooked: velvety, darker and more aromatic. I like to reveal their sensual side in this deep-flavored summer dessert, featuring cherries gently poached in red wine.
Soupe de cerise is a traditional French dish that has origins in the region of Berry, where it was originally made without added sugar and served as a first course, as well as Alsace, where the use of preserved cherries make it a typical holiday dessert.
I serve Soupe de cerise chilled as a light yet sophisticated endnote to a mid-summer night gathering. Simple dinners always appeal this time of year --- perhaps an arugula and walnut oil salad with shavings of sheep's milk cheese, followed by grilled lamb chops and herbed polenta triangles, and crowned by these charming swimming cherries.
For this recipe you will need cherries at their peak. In French markets, it is considered your God-given right to choose a cherry from the stall and taste it solemnly, your brows furrowed with concentration, while the merchant holds his breath and waits for you to decide if this is, indeed, a suitable crop. Alas, in large grocery stores where cherries are pre-bagged, gently feel the fruit to be sure it's firm (but not rock-hard), look for stems that are still firmly attached and for a rich burgundy color.
As for the wine for cooking, you should look for a medium-bodied, fruity and slightly spicy red wine. It could be a pinot noir, a chianti or a syrah. I successfully used a syrah from the Cote-du-Rhone. If you can, I recommend going into a wine store and asking for advice. This is always a better strategy than going in with a fixed idea: You'll take advantage of what's in stock, and wine sellers are often passionate and knowledgeable, so you'll learn lots of things in the bargain.
No need to spend a fortune -- the wine is going to be cooked and mixed with other ingredients -- but, as with all recipes that call for wine, don't use anything that you wouldn't drink straight from a glass. Your cherries deserve better, no?
To keep the swimming cherries company, I suggest this recipe for hazelnut rosemary tuiles. Those thin wafers are literally called "tiles" because of their curved shape, reminiscent of old-fashioned French roofing tiles. This shape is obtained by placing the wafers on a rolling pin or a bottle right out of the oven while they're still malleable. As they cool, the cookies harden in this graceful posture. If this sounds like too much work, you'll be happy to learn that they taste fine flat -- just don't tell anyone I said so.
The traditional topping for tuiles is finely sliced almonds (available pre-sliced from the store for the modern French baker) but I love using herbs in my baking, and this twist on the classic recipe is a wonderful complement to the cherries, the crisp golden edges and slightly chewy centers dying to be dunked in and scooped out.
One final tip: As my friend Pascale likes to do, you can use the same batter to bake larger tuiles that you will shape on small upturned bowls, thus creating edible cups in which to serve (at the very last minute so the cups won't soften) ice cream, fruit or -- of course! -- swimming cherries.
1 pound fresh cherries, sweet and juicy -- bing or lambert, for instance
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon zest, preferably organic
1 cup red wine, fruity and spicy
Yield: four servings.
Rinse and drain the cherries. Discard the stems and pit the cherries. Two lifesaving bits of advice. One: Give yourself the gift of a simple cherry pitter, an inexpensive kitchen gadget that will make your life so much nicer. Added bonus: It works with olives, too! Two: Work on an easy-to-clean surface, wear an apron and wear something black underneath. Those red little darlings certainly like to spread the fun.
Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, uncovered. Add in the red wine and lemon zest. Bring back to a simmer and cook for three minutes over medium heat, stirring from time to time.
Add in the cherries and wait until the liquid returns to a simmer. Count two minutes then remove pan from heat. Cover with a lid, let cool to room temperature on the counter, then refrigerate.
This is best made a day ahead so the flavors have time to develop, but it tastes fine the same day. It can be served chilled, at room temperature or slightly warm -- I like to take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving.
Serve with butter wafers or hazelnut rosemary tuiles.
Hazelnut Rosemary Tuiles
2 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup whole hazelnuts (skin-on makes for a nice color contrast), chopped
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
Yield: 18 cookies.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper -- or better yet, a silicon baking mat.
This batter can be easily made by hand. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Add in the melted butter and whisk again until combined. Whisk in the flour little by little to avoid any lumps. Don't overwork the batter.
Using two teaspoons, drop walnut-sized spoonfuls of dough on the prepared baking sheet. Use the back of one spoon to spread the dough out and form a disk, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Work in small batches, about six wafers in each batch. Sprinkle each of them with chopped hazelnuts and just a pinch of rosemary (a little goes a long way).
Place a rolling pin and two thin bottles on your counter -- these will be used to shape the cookies into a curve when they come out of the oven. Wipe the outside surfaces clean and lightly flour the rolling pin if it is made of wood.
Put the baking sheet into the oven to bake for 10-12 minutes: The tuiles are ready when they get golden on the edges. Take the baking sheet out of the oven, remove the wafers with a spatula and place them on the rolling pin and the bottle, pressing their sides down gently so they will adopt a curved shape. Work quickly while they are still hot.
Let the tuiles cool while you bake the next batch, then transfer onto a rack to cool completely. They are particularly delicious on the day they are baked, but they will keep fine for a few days, stored in an airtight container.