Saturday, July 16, 2016
“Tragic,” my fellow-cook Anne said.
Tragic to us is what I did the other day. I drove to Little Compton for a visit, going from one friend to another. On the way, I stopped at the Fruit Lady’s, and to my surprise, she still had sour cherries: living nearly an hour away on the other side of the bay, and being very busy in June and early July, I have missed them this year. So I was thrilled to see them.
There was only one pint, though, which I bought along with three colors of currants, and asked if there would be more later in the day: they put the fruit out twice a day. The Fruit Lady makes no promises, but after stopping at Walkers on the way out for corn (gone—went to Karla for that and some fresh garlic) and lettuce and real cream (success), I stopped at the Fruit Lady’s on the way out and there, on the stand, were two pints! Waiting for ME! I snatched them up, together with a cup of raspberries (I’d bought the currants and raspberries in the morning), and went to pay. Fruit Lady husband/farmer, Dick, was there, and though we’d spoken at length in the morning, we struck up a conversation again. I talked while rummaging around for more cash and bagging up my purchases, eager to get on the road back through Newport before the traffic got really bad. I hit the road, happy.
At home, I unloaded my treasures of lettuce, cream, milk, corn, garlic, some discounted perennials, currants, raspberries, and….cherries? Where are the rest of my cherries??
Left. Lost. A fool. Ergo: Tragic.
But I did have my one pint. Not enough for a pie, but still. What to make? A batch of cocktail cherries? Some little turnovers? Some of my favorite jam? I decided—it seemed fitting—on a fool. I had that wonderful cream, after all, and I could do a semblance of a cherry pie filling for the fruit.
It was trash day, and while the filling was doing its quick cooking on the stove, I did my usual survey of the refrigerator and freezer to see what, if anything, needed to go. And there, lying right at the top of the freezer drawer, tightly wrapped, was something I’d forgotten about: a single layer of Mrs. Lincoln’s sponge cake . So maybe I’m just a trifle of a fool, after all.
Sour Cherry Fool or Trifle
You can make a close facsimile of a fool with just the cherries and cream, or turn it into a close relative of a trifle with the added cake. A fool is usually made with fresh fruit, and a trifle with custard, but these are close enough. The trifle is surprisingly light and refreshing—a nice summer dessert. This would be good with blueberries treated similarly.
2 c sour cherries, pitted
½ cup sugar
juice of ¼ lemon
1/8 tea cardamom
1 ½ T corn starch
1 cup fresh, high-fat heavy cream
2 T + 2 tea sugar
½ tea vanilla
1 thin layer homemade sponge cake, or 1 pkg lady fingers
¼-1/3 cup white wine
2 T rhubarb or other fresh red-fruit syrup (optional)
For the cherries:
Place the cherries, sugar, lemon juice, spices, salt, and cornstarch into a heavy aluminum 2-qt saucepan. Turn the heat on low, and after the sugar has begun to melt and the cherries to throw off liquid, turn the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened. This will take no more than 5 minutes; do not overcook. Cool to room temperature.
For the whipped cream:
Beat the cream with the sugar and vanilla until it forms soft (not stiff) peaks.
In a pretty bowl, preferably glass, make layers, beginning and ending with the cherries, as follows:
1. Tear about a third of the sponge into pieces and fit them around the dish fairly snugly. Sprinkle with a little of the syrup and the wine.
2. Spread a layer of whipped cream to cover (a little less than 1/3).
3. Spread about 1/3 of the cherry mixture over the cream, not quite to the edges.
4. Repeat. You should have a little whipped cream left over for garnish if desired. Layers will not be as visible as in a trifle made with firm custard, but will be nice when scooped out. Cover and chill for 3-6 hrs.
Remove from the refrigerator about 10-15 minutes before serving (you do know how I object to anything too cold to taste). Serve in glass or white bowls if you have them, with a little extra whipped cream. Garnish with a little grated lemon zest, or with a little mint, if desired.