Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Redcoats are here!

Memorial day holds different connotations for everyone. Servicemen and their families think about fallen soldiers. If you live in the DC area, it's hard not to miss Rolling Thunder, 400,000 motorcyclists converging on the Pentagon to demonstrate support for POWs.  My extended family in Indiana is consumed by the Indianapolis 500, and several high school graduations. Stores stock shelves with charcoal and franks for summer's first cookouts. Pools open, and America dives in.

Since we bought this place, Memorial Day has become labor day, because in come the cherries. When you see them, flush and red on the tree, it is time to get out the ladder before the birds notice. This year, there were so many that I drove the pickup under the laden boughs and we stood on its roof with bowls like ants at a picnic.

It is like this with live charges. When they call, or ripen, or fall sick, you must answer. I have been trying to talk to a farmer friend, and between her breeding pig, my sick child and picking the cherries, we missed each other for a whole week.

But it is worth it. We sit and talk and pit the cherries, some of us using actual metal cherry pitters, others using tent stakes or lobster scrapers. My 5-year-old counts the pits as they plop into the bowl, proving that he actually can count into the thousands (he quit at 1,229). We eat them until our tummies are sore, then we freeze them on cookie sheets overnight before their final freezer storage in plastic bags.

But first we make dessert. For me that means clafoutis, an eggy, gluten-free, cherry studded flan. Cherry pie, cherry jam, cherry almond sauce on vanilla ice cream. For my husband, it means marinating them in Luxardo for plopping into his perfect Manhattans.

Cherry Clafoutis
adapted from Nigella Lawson

2 teaspoons oil (I use avocado or grapeseed oil, both of which hold up well in high heat, but if you can tolerate vegetable it is a less expensive option)
2 cups cherries, pitted
4 eggs
1/2 cup rice flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cup milk or sub 1/4 cup cherry juice or kirsch for 1/4 cup milk

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put oil in a pie plate or copper tarte tatin dish and pop it in while the oven heats. Meanwhile, mix flour and sugar, then whisk in the eggs, one by one, then the milk and other liquid, if using. When the oven reaches 450 degrees, stir the drained cherries into the batter and pour into the hot pan. Return to oven and bake about 20 minutes, or until puffy and golden.

Make this at the last minute and bring it piping hot to the table with some fresh whip cream -- depending on how well you know your dinner guests, you may just need forks. Bet you won't have any leftovers.

Home Made Maraschino Cherries
from the New York Times

1 cup maraschino liqueur
1 pint sour cherries, stemmed and pitted (or substitute one 24-ounce jar sour cherries in light syrup, drained).
Bring maraschino liqueur to a simmer in a small pot. Turn off heat and add cherries. Let mixture cool, then store in a jar in refrigerator for at least 2 days before using, and up to several months, if you can keep them around that long.
Yield: About 1 pint.

Cherry Almond Sauce

3 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup water
1 quart pitted cherries

Stir together in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until the cherries break down into a sauce, about 30 minutes. Spoon over ice cream, or serve as a side to ham or pork.

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