Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sour cherries: going, going...


Serves 4 to 6


1 quart fresh sour cherries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup chopped almonds
8 sheets phyllo dough
1 ounce 70% dark chocolate
Powdered sugar for dusting


Remove the pits and stems from the cherries. Rinse.

Combine the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and almond extract in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring intermittently. Set aside to cool.

Place 2 phyllo sheets on a cutting board and allow them to dry out for 15 minutes. Crumble. Mix into cooled filling.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place 6 sheets of phyllo on a cutting board. Brush one sheet with butter and place it on the cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining sheets, layering the buttered sheets, one over the other on the cookie sheet.

Spoon the cherry filling on stacked sheets vertically, leaving a 3-inch border from the edge. Sprinkle with almonds. Turn the top edge and bottom edge of phyllo sheets down to cover the filling. Roll the phyllo widthwise. Place the rolled phyllo on the cookie sheet, seam side down.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the phyllo turns golden.

Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

Melt the dark chocolate and drizzle it over the strudel. Dust with powdered sugar.

Advance purchase required!
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Red Currant Jelly

The community garden is an Eden in my urban neighborhood. Inside its gates, honey bees hover over flowers, powdered with pollen. Squirrels scurry across tree branches that gardeners wove into fences. Rabbits appear out of nowhere, silent and watchful.

The garden is particularly magical by mid-June. Tiny pale blossoms cover the red currant bushes. Within a week, the blossoms transition into the caps of green berries that dangle from branches in loose strands. By mid-July, the berries ripen into a breathlessly regal red. Somewhat translucent, they pick up the sunlight and glow like the uncut rubies once worn by the Nizams of Hyderabrad.

In some ways, I feel silly harvesting such dazzlingly beautiful fruit to make jelly. The berries seem more fit for the hands of jewelers. (Perhaps that's why pastry chefs across Paris use them to crown tarts and tortes and other masterfully crafted confections.) Are there novel ways to incorporate their tart flavor?


Makes about 3 1/2 cups


2 pounds red currants
1/2 cup water
.5 ounce dry pectin 
3 1/2 cups sugar


Gently wash the berries. Pull them off of their little branches and place in a saucepan. Crush the berries with a potato masher or the bottom of a cup.

Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Place a 12 x 12 piece of cheese cloth over a bowl. Using a spoon, place 1/3 of the cooked berries over the cloth. Squeeze the berries to release their juice. Repeat with the rest of the cooked berries.

Pour the juice into a saucepan. Mix in the sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pectin. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 2 minutes. Carefully remove from heat. Skim off the foam with a spoon.

Cool and transfer to glass jars.

Advance purchase required!
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or call Zerve at (800) 979-3370