Strawberries used to be my favorite, and every summer I ate copious amounts of fresh strawberries straight from the berry patch, strawberry shortcake, and every birthday, a strawberry flavored birthday cake with strawberry frosting. There’s also Strawberry Shortcake herself. Is she responsible for my obsession? If so, the world might be seriously in need of some vegetable-themed characters. But that’s a discussion for another day.
I am writing at length about strawberries as a means of letting them go. I just don’t love them any more. It might be me or the inferior berries produced by the New York spring, but the magic is gone. And that’s alright since it gives me even more time to obsess over cherries. This time around I made cherry balsamic ice cream. It sounds amazing right? Maybe? The results were highly edible, if not good, but definitely not recipe material. There are kinks. Such as the color. No one wants to eat puce ice cream. Or the flavor–not quite cherry-y enough.
With improved color and flavor in mind I am going to keep testing as long as the cherries stick around. I like the idea of the sweet cherries tempered by a smoky tang of balsamic. In the meantime, I took some decent pictures that minimize the mauve-y puceness of this ice cream.
For a brief and glorious time each year cherries are available, and I eat them all. Bing, rainier, and sour–each has their place. Rainer are crisp and delicate, with a hint of cream in the flavor. Their pale color turns out to be a real advantage if, say, you are sharing them with a toddler. I learned that lesson the hard way. But bing and sour are the champions of east coast cherries.
I usually reserve bing cherries for eating fresh, or lightly cooked, and bake with the sour cherries. I had planned on making a pie, since cherry pies are my absolute favorite pie. I remember my Grandmother making tens of pies for church functions. The only thing more amazing than one cherry pie is 50. But, the cherries there came from a can, as so many do. I say, buy a pitter and get on with your life.
As I said, I had wanted to make a pie, but things were hectic and the kitchen was in no state to accept the amount of dishes generated by pie making. And then I found this cake with cornmeal. I guess the cornmeal and cherry itch had not yet been scratched.
This classic upside-down cake is fantastic. A summer cake at its best. With a hint of balsamic, the tart cherries are robust and tangy. Owing to the stiff eggs whites folded in at the last minute, the cake itself is shockingly springy. Overall, sophisticated, timely, and delicious. Cherries and cornmeal are a match made in heaven.
p.s. I almost forgot–Brooklyn Supper is two! Hard to believe it’s been two whole years. As always, thanks for reading. We really appreciate our readers.
Sour Cherry and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
1/4 cup sugar (brown is best, but I used turbinado)
3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3 cups rinsed and pitted sour cherries
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal (medium grind is best)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and the balsamic vinegar in a large skillet (10 -12″) with at least 2″ sides (the is where you will be baking the cake, so plan accordingly) over medium heat. When sugar is dissolved and things are bubbly, add the cherries, bring to a mild boil and then remove from heat.
In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Using a spotless bowl and beater beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, add the cream of tarter and beat a little longer. Set aside in a cool place. Next, in a large bowl, use the paddle attachment or beaters, and beat the remaining stick of butter until it is very fluffy, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the yolks one at a time and then the vanilla. Then, on the lowest speed, alternate in the flour mixture and milk. Using a spoon or spatula, fold in the egg whites.
At this point I poured off about 1/2 cup of liquid from my cooked cherries. You want things to be moist, but not soggy. The bonus is that we then had an amazing balsamic glaze with which to douse our cake. Gently pour the batter over the cherries, set skillet on a baking pan, and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
This cake is best the day of, but keeps quite nicely covered at room temperature for a day or so.
You may be wondering why you haven’t heard from us in a while. The best answer is that we’ve had a series of fails. First it was the strawberry pancakes–they were ok, but mushy and not something you’d want to have again. Then, the strawberry shortcake–I made all-lard biscuits, they were also fine, but small and dense. In both cases I blame the presence of whole-wheat flour. I want to make healthier food, but I find this stuff so temperamental.
Finally, this morning I had a culinary triumph. These rosemary polenta pancakes with sliced cherries and lime are sublime. The absolute best of the season with quiet, harmonious flavors. The only way these could be better is with a little ricotta cheese. The pancakes themselves have a great tooth with a hint of fluff. The rosemary adds a savory twist that compliments the corn. And the cherry flavors are wine-y with the tang of lime. Can I have my breakfast again?
The pint of cherries is not really enough for all these pancakes. If you are having a big crowd, double the cherry part. If not, I suggest reserving the pancakes for a savory compliment to scallops, bitter greens, or sausage.
With an egg and milk substitute, I think these would be excellent as a vegan dish.
Rosemary Polenta Pancakes with Sliced Cherries and Lime
(adapted from The New York Times)
for the pancakes
1/2 cup corn meal
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon plus a few pinches salt
1 1/4 cup of milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
diced fresh herbs, such as rosemary or sage
oil or butter for the skillet
for the cherries
1 pint cherries, rinsed, pitted and sliced
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
zest and juice of one lime
good pinch of salt
Combine the water, polenta and a good pinch of salt in medium sauce pan. Whisking almost constantly, cook over medium heat until the polenta is bubbly. Cook for ten minutes and set aside. Preheat your skillet or griddle over medium heat. Combine the flour, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk the two eggs into the polenta and then add the milk. Fold the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Spoon roughly 4 tablespoons batter for each pancake onto the greased griddle or skillet, sprinkle with herbs and a bit of salt, and cook about 4 minutes on each side. Place the cooked cakes in a slightly warm oven.
Meanwhile, rinse, pit, and slice a pint of cherries. Add t he syrup, zest, juice and salt. Set aside until pancakes are ready.
Serve two or three of the pancakes piled high with cherries and juice.
Margaret Thatcher came to my college once to give a speech and she said “we must dedicate ourselves to that grand and noble tradition that nourishes our civilization and offers hope to the world.”
The English. Nothing ever changes with them. First, King George III tells us to buy some stamps, then Margaret Thatcher tells us what we must dedicate ourselves to, then that little gecko tells us what car insurance we have to buy. Well, I’ve had enough! So for the 4th of July, we wanted to make a meal that would really stick it to the English.
What do English people hate? Cherries, I would imagine, as they are sweet reminders of how we really got over on them on the border between Washington and British Columbia. Also, burgers because it probably really sticks in their craws how they got us started but then all our favorite food is from Germany (and Italy and Mexico. Also sushi.).
So, we made cherry burgers. For people who are concerned about such things, making burgers with cherries supposedly makes them less carcinogenic. But those people are boring. The real reason to make cherry burgers is that they taste good.
makes 4 burgers
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 cup chopped cherries (sour if you’ve got them, sweet if you don’t)
- 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- half of one red onion, diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- Get the grill started, let it get nice and hot.
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Really knead them together.
- Form the meat into four patties.
- Grill the patties for 4-5 minutes on each side.
- Serve on buns with mayo, lettuce and sliced tomato.
On the menu: braised pork roast on a bed of polenta, sautéed summer squash and zucchini (again), a salad with fresh farmer’s market feta, plenty of rosé, and sour cherry pie. Brian made the main course and I made the salad and the pie.
I have a long history of making pies, and thanks to the Enid’s Apple Pie Contest I even have a couple to trophies to show for it. Apple is my specialty, but cherry has a dear place in my heart especially because cherries are the first fruit of my pie season. Some of you must be wondering, what about strawberry-rubharb pie? This is the pie that many kick off pie season with. I am allergic to rhubarb, and never liked the idea of a strawberry pie. So, back to the cherries; every year we enjoy the sweet cherries as they arrive at the market, and then a few weeks later sour pie cherries arrive and pie season begins.
This being the first pie of the season, there were a few kinks. I plan on making sour cherry pie round two soon so stay tuned to see if proposed improvements are successful.
Sour Cherry Pie
(adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything)
updated July 16
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (King Arthur is the best)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
8-10 tablespoons ice water, or more if needed
2+ quarts of fresh sour cherries
1/2 cup sugar (more if you like things on the sweet side)
3 heaping tablespoons of pulverized instant tapioca (I make mine in the coffee grinder)
Process flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about 3 seconds. Add butter and pulse until butter is size of large peas, about ten 1-second pulses.
Add water and pulse carefully, just until absorbed. Turn dough out onto work surface. Divide dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 4-inch round; wrap each round in plastic and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, before rolling. Wash and pit slightly more than two quarts cherries, add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 3 heaping tablespoons pulverized tapioca and let sit while you prepare the crust.
*This is where I ran into trouble with this pie. The finished product was too juicy, so next time around I will prepare the filling maybe an hour ahead of time, give the tapioca time to expand and absorb the cherry juice, and then before adding the filling to the pie shell I will set aside a good amount of the liquid. The pie I made on Sunday was very watery and the whole bottom crust was turned to (delicious, bright red, buttery) mush. Update: The addition of the extra tapioca (from 2 to 3 tablespoons) really cut down on the amount of liquid in the pie, if you do have a good deal of cherry juice in your bowl, I would advise adding it sparingly to the actual pie.
Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Place cookie sheet into oven for preheating (this helps get the bottom crust crispy before the fruit juices penetrate). Remove one dough round from the refrigerator and roll on a on a lightly floured surface or a large piece of parchment paper into a 13-inch circle. Fold dough in quarters, then place dough point in center of deep dish pie pan. Unfold dough. Gently press dough into sides of pan leaving portion that overhangs lip of pie plate in place. Refrigerate shell while oven preheats, at least 20 minutes.
Turn fruit mixture (minus excess juice) into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center. Roll out other dough round, cut into strips, and weave lattice over filling. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. If you like, add some chunks of butter just beneath the crust.
Place pie in oven onto preheated cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees, and then turn down to 350 and cook for an additional 35-40 minutes until lattice is just golden. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool.
Despite the liquid problems, the pie was picture perfect and very tasty :