Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summer Life: A Bowl of Cherries

What do fresh, sweet cherries remind me of? Summer, yes, well that’s the obvious answer here, but it’s not the one foremost in my mind. Delicious, sweet cherries inevitably remind me of a press trip I went on, probably about 15 years ago, to Portland and Yakima, Washington, prime cherry country. It was put on by the National Cherry Growers Association (or something along those lines), and 

it was mostly a lovely trip, with about 20 or so food editors from various publications. We had a picnic in a cherry orchard one day. Fried chicken, as I recall. Something cherry for dessert. Lobster dinner at the Heathman Hotel. So far, so good – ah, the glamourous adventures of a food writer! That is, until about 2:30 a.m., when I was catapulted out of bed with a severe case of food poisoning. So bad, in fact, that not only couldn’t I make it to the tour of the maraschino cherry plant the next morning, I also 

refused the services of an ambulance to take me to the hospital because I felt that if I left my bed, I would surely die. Turned out that 15 fellow editors were afflicted with the same illness. A public relations nightmare, if ever there was one. I was never quite sure what caused it, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was the fried chicken at the picnic. But I don’t hold grudges – fresh cherries remain one 

of my favorite summer fruits. Cherry crisp is an easy way to enjoy them, and only requires a cherry pitter to remove the cherry pits. My friend Rose Levy Beranbaum swears that a hairpin works better, but I haven’t tried that method. Give it a twirl if you don’t have a pitter, and let me know how it works out.

Cherry Crisp

Makes 4 individual servings

3 cups pitted sweet cherries
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup light brown sugar, divided
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Caramel, Vanilla or Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray four 5-ounce ramekins with non-stick cooking spray and place them on a baking sheet.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the cherries, 2 tablespoons of the flour, lemon juice, zest and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Evenly distribute the cherry mixture into the prepared ramekins.
3. Combine the oats, the remaining 1/2 cup flour, remaining ½ cup brown sugar, coconut, salt and melted butter together. Crumble evenly over the cherry mixture. Bake for about 30 minutes, until nicely browned and bubbling around the edges. Serve each crisp warm with a scoop of ice cream.