In 1931 Ethel Merman introduced us to the lyrics “life is a bowl of cherries” which later became an idiom for describing all good things in life. Well, in my kitchen recently, life has definitely been a bowl of cherries as I made use of the summer berry in a myriad of crimson creations.
The reason for all this creativity? Making use of the amazing yield from the tree that has been rooted in my father’s back yard for as long as I can remember. Every spring I admire the beauty of the majestic tree in bloom and anticipate sinking my teeth into the sweet fruit that follows. This year’s cherry harvest was one of the biggest I can remember, begging the question, what to do with all these cherries? The answer, some culinary ingenuity leading to both sweet and savory results. Aside from enjoying their blushing flesh as a snack picked right off the tree, I blended, stirred, pureed, baked and froze them, transforming them into different delights.
Aside from the obvious jam (which is an annual affair), they were blended together with yogurt, honey and almond milk to became a healthy start to my day as a breakfast smoothie. They also substituted my usual berry of choice for oatmeal muffins and were enjoyed as a morning treat by my girls. Pitted and pureed along with some cranberry juice we filled ice pop molds to make the perfect refresher for a summer afternoon.
The bulk of the berries were used to bake up a number of delightful desserts. Cooked up with sugar, cinnamon and a little cherry brandy they became the filling for crostata. The same confiture was used to make mini cherry crumble tarts and layered over a sweetened cream cheese mixture for cherry cheese strudel. My last confection was a twist on an Italian classic. I stirred the fruit juices over the stop top into a slightly tart cherry curd which was layered between savoiardi cookies and creamy mascarpone to create my cherrimisu.
Of course coming up with sweet cerise ideas was literally as easy as pie. It was my savory cherrimentation however, that thrilled me the most as I conjured up a cherry risotto. A brilliant burgundy dish making use of both the fruit and its juice finished off with fresh basil and an earthy and brilliant aged espresso rubbed Bellavitano cheese. This rice dish was the perfect accompaniment to grilled lamb.
With all of these sumptuous feasts of fruit the meaning behind the phrase certainly rings true for me, there are no pits here, only a bowl (or several bowls) of cherries.