The summer solstice crept up on me quietly this year. It’s a day I usually relish, but this year I’ve been distracted by writing and family and found myself waking up by the very early morning light and realizing that, wow, is it the summer solstice today? With nothing planned to celebrate, I realized it would probably end up being just like any of the other long days I have, albeit with a bit more sunlight.
But nature works in funny ways. And this year she wasn’t going to let the solstice slip by without my notice. Subtle, she is. At the Greenmarket I was met with giant, overflowing crates of vibrant red sweet cherries. Whoa, it is summer! The slow progression from apples to strawberries to the first stone fruit always seems to hit me so quickly. Much like the bare winter trees do; slowly budding, flowering, gaining leaves–all of a sudden I think, sheesh, when did the trees get so green?
So I feasted on cherries, still with tatters of blossoms and leaves attached, right there in the market. I ate them on the way home, I ate them in the kitchen, and brought more with me as I shuffled around the house. I started thinking about cherry recipes, and started planning a cherry clafoutis.
Yet for some reason summer still didn’t really sink in. Even though the sun was settling so late, I kept forgetting that the season was smack dab in the midst of changing. But when I looked out the window down into our instantly (seeming) lush urban garden, I did an absolute double take to see a small coterie of fireflies, lit for the first time this year. How punctual they are. Flitting around, attracting one another with their pulsing luminescence. Cherries and fireflies, yes, summer is here.
Next: the recipe
Cherry Clafoutis Recipe
This classic French country dessert is like a marriage of a cake and a pudding, and whistles “hello, summer” to me whenever I see it. Traditionally the cherries are left unpitted. I prefer it this way because the cherries retain their juices and the pits impart a very subtle almond flavor (at last they do in my mind). Granted, it’s not as easy to eat this way, so pre-pit the cherries if you prefer. I have also seen clafoutis prepared with the stems still attached to the cherries and rising up from the cake like trees in a winter forest. I will try this next time–again, more work for the eater, but fun and rustic.
3 cups fresh sweet cherries, washed and stemmed
2 large eggs and 1 yolk
1/2 cup Sucanat or other natural sweetener
1 ounce cornstarch
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 vanilla been (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Whisk the eggs and yolk with the Sucanat. Scrape the vanilla bean vanilla bean and add the seeds (or extract if using) and stir in.
3. Dissolve the cornstarch in cold milk, and add to egg mix. Add flour and cream, and mix until combined.
4. Butter a 9-inch cake pan or deep pie pan and sprinkle with sugar. Place the cherries in and cover with batter.
5. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden.