Friday, July 31, 2015

A Jazzed Up Cherry Compote!

In my last post I have mentioned that I will be posting some recipes featuring cherries as a main ingredient. As the season of these amazing summer fruits is coming to an end, there are many ways to preserve them while at their peak of freshness and quality.  You can of course make jam out of cherries and it will taste wonderful but this time I thought of preserving them as compote. This option is slightly different from jam as you won't need to chop or process the cherries, however, you may pit the fruits or leave them whole.

Cherry jam made only with cherries has a wonderful taste on its own but I do find it needs a booster and what better way than to add some citrus fresh for added freshness and taste? I do believe that lemon, lime and orange (or any citrus for that matter)  add so much flavor to both sweet and savory recipes even when used sparingly.

This compote recipe is really quite simple but perhaps the only problem with it is the cherry pitting. It does take time and you better wear gloves if you don't want your hands to stain! However, the end result is really worth it! I have made several batches of this compote, and I think I will keep on making it until the cherry season is over. It is really that good!

For 2 small jars or a big one,  you will need:
  • 350 g pitted cherries
  • 180 sugar
  • 1 lemon and 2 orange peels (a small slice of each fruit is enough, remember you only need the zest)
  • 1/4 tsp of pectine (optional, it thickens and helps in the setting of the compote)
  •  1 tsp lemon juice and 2 tsp orange juice
Combine everything in a heavy bottom sauce pan, mix well then leave to simmer over a gentle heat for about 30 min. When done, the cherries are tender but still holding their shape. If you overcook them, the fruits will disintegrate and you don't want that in a compote.
Transfer to sterilized jars and close. Once cooled transfer to the fridge. If you want to preserve them out of the fridge, you need to sterilize the filled jars again. However, once opened, it's better to put them in the fridge. I usually don't bother with this process as I only make small batches.

Enjoy them over your pancakes, over a toast and some butter, as a filling for a cake, over baked brie or camembert, really, the choices are endless.

I will share with you soon an easy recipe using this extremely delicious compote, stay tuned!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cherry Clafoutis, a summer classic.

Summer is an amazing season and although I´m not a fan of hot weather, however there are so many beautiful things to do and to enjoy during this season that make up for this annoying detail.

Any visit to the market during summer-time will greet you with a bounty of wonderful fresh fruits; a feast for the senses! As the season progresses different fruits and fruit varieties start to make their way to the market. By late spring and well into summer, fresh cherries can be easily found in Madrid markets. Cherries not only look good and taste great but they are also highly nutritious. With so many cherry varieties from sweet to sour, there's a cherry variety to just about any taste. 

I love all fruits, well almost, but cherries are one of my favorites and hold a special place in my heart. When I was still a kid, I used to pick them fresh from my uncle's orchard which was teeming with cherries, apricots and apples. Anyone who tasted super fresh fruits picked from trees knows that it is quite unrivaled, and until this day I don´t think I have tasted something as delicious as those cherries.

Nevertheless, the Jerte Valley of Spain is very popular for its cherries that are well appreciated and can be found in almost all markets. To make good use of this super fruit in its season and peak of freshness I decided to use it in several recipes starting with a classic: the cherry clafoutis.

Like many great classics, cherry clafoutis is a French dessert that is surprisingly easy to make and can be simply tweaked to meet your taste. The recipe has two main parts, the base and the fruit. The base is very simple and pretty similar to the crêpe batter. Once prepared it is poured over the fruits and the whole thing baked in the oven.

I should note that traditionally the recipe keeps the cherries whole, but I like them pitted. It's really up to you to pit the cherries or not. In case you don't want to pit them, do warn your guests!

For a 22 cm tart pan you need:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 70 g sugar
  • 30 g melted butter
  • 30 g ground almonds
  • 75 g flour
  • 125 ml milk plus 125 ml of cream
  • 350 g  pitted cherries
  • 1 tsp of kirch (optional) and a 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract or 1 tsp vanilla sugar
  • dash of salt

First whisk the eggs with the sugar, the kirsh and the vanilla then add the melted butter and whisk again. Fold in the almonds, the flour and the salt. Slowly add the milk and cream while mixing to avoid having  any lumps.
Once you have a smooth batter you just need to pour it over the cherries that you have arranged in the generously buttered tart pan.

Bake for about 10 min at 200C then lower the temperature to 180C and bake for an additional 15 to 20 min.
You need to watch the clafoutis and take it out of the oven when it´s golden brown and still a bit soft in the middle. 

Serve it warm with some vanilla ice cream and a light dusting of powdered sugar. It´s also delicious when it´s cold, but I like to heat for 10 sec in the microwave before enjoying the leftovers!

Enjoy this wonderful classic dessert with its authentic and refreshing taste of summer!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Watermelon and Salmon in a Refreshing Summer Salad.

I have been living in Spain for over a decade now, and I can truly understand why it is one of the world's top touristic destinations. The weather, the amazing nature, the rich history, the beautiful cities, the breathtaking beaches and of course the world class cuisine draw people form across the globe to try to the Spanish way of life.

If you had the chance to visit Spain so you must be familiar with tapas. A tapa is a small food portion that can range from just some olives to sophisticated meals and salads. In many places tapas are served for free with a drink, you can also find restaurants were only tapas are served.

Last year, in a hot summer day like the ones we're having this year, and in one of my favorite restaurants in the center of Madrid I tried a deliciously refreshing salad. It had a weird combination of ingredients but it was extremely delicious and perfect for hot summer days which often get too hot in Madrid.

I remembered this salad recently as  the Foodies plus, a Google plus community, suggested a Spanish Tapas month. I thought this salad would be the perfect recipe, since it could be served as tapas, as a first course or even a light main course. In all cases, this salad will surely please those who like to venture and try new flavor combinations; however, anyone should try it as it's easy to make and delicious.

For 4 persons, you need:
  • 150 g watermelon cut into cubes
  • 100 g smoked salmon, cut into small strips
  • 1 avocado cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • the juice of one big lemon or 2 small ones
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp chopped dill
  • black salt (optional) for decoration and olive oil
You just need to mix everything in a bowl, then arrange a small portion in a plate, add few drops of olive oil, decorate to your liking and enjoy with a cold beer or chilled white wine!