Fresh sweet cherries recently reappeared in our area grocery stores. We won’t see our local cherries until mid-summer, but these cherries are still delicious and worth a try. Fresh cherries are one of my favorite snacks; they also are great in recipes from salads and savory meat dishes to desserts.
When selecting cherries, always look at the stems to find the freshest product. If the cherries have been picked recently, the stems will be bendable. If the stems are brittle, the cherries are older and may be past the desirable stage.
If you are cooking or baking with cherries, you will need to pit them. If you want to keep your cherries whole when pitting, you may want to invest in a cherry pitter; it enables you to pop the pit out of a whole cherry very easily. You can start by removing the stems and rinsing the cherries in cold water. If you don’t have a pitter, you can use a toothpick or even a clean, opened paper clip to help loosen and remove the pit from the stem opening. Be careful because the juice does stain.
If you are cooking your cherries into a sauce, it might be easier just to cut them in half and scoop out the pit. This chocolate panna cotta is perfect accompaniment to the delicious sweet cherries.
CHOCOLATE PANNA COTTA
PORT WINE CHERRIES
Makes six servings.
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
½ cup granulated sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
6 oz. quality chocolate (dark, bittersweet, milk or whichever you prefer)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pour the milk into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin on top and let sit for 5 or 10 minutes until the gelatin is softened. In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream and sugar over medium heat, whisking and bringing just to a simmer (do not bring to a boil). Remove from heat, add the chocolate and the vanilla and whisk until combined. Add the milk/gelatin mixture and continue to whisk until everything is well blended.
Divide mixture among six dessert cups (you can use martini glasses, or you can use custard cups and ramekins as molds). If you are molding with a cup, wipe with a bit of vegetable oil before pouring in your mixture. Cover and chill for at least six hours or overnight.
PORT WINE CHERRIES
1 pound fresh sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted (You also can use frozen.)
¾ cup port wine
¼-1/2 cup granulated sugar (based on sweetness of the cherries)
If you are using frozen cherries, thaw before using. In a skillet, over medium high heat, combine the pitted cherries, port wine and sugar.
I gauge the amount of sugar I use by the sweetness of the cherries; if the cherries are very sweet, I only use ¼ cup of sugar; if they are not as sweet, I use a bit more sugar.
Simmer until cherries are soft and the sauce has thickened – 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cherries cool. Refrigerate until serving.
Putting it all together:
When serving, if using a mold, place the mold in a pan of warm water and run a knife along the edges of the panna cotta, unmold onto your dessert dish. Once unmolded top with our cherry mixture. If serving in a dessert cup or martini glass, top the panna cotta with a spoonful of cherries and sauce. You can garnish with some freshly whipped cream or fresh mint leaves.
Cork Bar & Restaurant is at 463 Madison St. in Wilkes-Barre. Visit us at www.corkdining.com. If you would like to try this dessert at our restaurant, we will offer it all week.