When I was growing up we lived in a big old house with fourty-three fruit-bearing trees in our garden – the reason why I remember that number of trees is rather simple. My parents told just about everyone we knew or met at the time that our garden was studded with all those apple, pear and cheery trees. And I must admit to having loved that garden. My sisters and I built a tree house in one of the many apple trees and our afternoons were filled with times spent in the garden. Those were the days…
One tree I remember in particular was a sour cherry tree that bore a ton of fruit each and every year. Its sturdy branches were hanging over one of the upstairs balconies and reached almost all the way into the house. We loved being able to pick the cherries of the tree while sitting on the terrace and we loved those small, tangy, juicy sour cherries.
These days I still adore sour cherries but we do not have a cherry tree anymore and it turns out that they become harder to find in the markets and at the green grocers with each passing year. People prefer those big, burgundy sweet cherries. I still love both varieties and try to make as many dishes and recipes with them as I possibly can. The Dark and White Chocolate Cherry Brownies I blogged about last month, are still a huge hit at our house (for the recipe, please go here) - but cherries also add a "wow" factor to many savory dishes, such as my Cherry, Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Bruschetta.
Ripe sweet cherries, together with mild creamy goat cheese, delightfully salty prosciutto, a very lightly nutty pistachio oil, and just a bit of high-quality sea salt are absolutely and utterly addictive when enjoyed together in one dish. The flavors of these few components combine beautifully on these toasted slices of Italian Ciabatta – just the perfect little and very tasty nibble for a summer party. While cherry season lasts (we seem to have only another three to four weeks to go around here) you could also serve these for breakfast, brunch, and dessert all summer long or until the end of cheery season.
When shopping for cherries remember that there are many different types of cherries, including maraschino, griotte and Morello cherries, from which Kirsch and Black Forest Gâteaux (Schwarzwälder-Kirschtorte) are made. The best cherries are plump, firm, glossy and free of blemishes and their stems should be fresh and green. Cherries benefit most from being stored at cooler temperatures - warmth can compromise their flavor and texture.
Cherry, Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Bruschetta
- 1 loaf of Italian or Italian-style Ciabatta
- 100g creamy goat cheese (it is nice if you can get your hands on a local goat cheese here - whichever one you use, make sure to choose a mild, soft goat cheese suitable for spreading and for use in desserts)
- about 12 fresh, plump, ripe and blemish free sweet cherries for the bruschetta PLUS a few more for serving alongside
- 80g Italian prosciutto
- mild pistachio oil OR go for extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt (optional) such as the British Maldon sea salt OR the French Le Fleur de Sel de Guérande
- Heat the grill to its highest setting.
- Cut the ciabatta into 12 slices.
- Grill the sliced bread – make sure the slices do not get too dark and turn once.
- Remove the grilled bread from under the grill and place on a pretty platter.
- Using a butter knive or a small offset spatula, spread over the creamy goat cheese.
- Pit and halve the cherries and arrange them on top of the bruschetta with the prosciutto.
- Drizzle over some pistachio oil to serve and sprinkle with a bit of the best sea salt that you can afford (that is optional and depends on the saltiness of your prosciutto and goat cheese).
Goat cheese should always be white on the inside, with none of the yellowness that is common to cows’ milk cheese. If you’re worried about the pungent flavor that some goat cheeses can have, ask your cheese monger to let you taste it before you buy it and make sure to look for young, soft, creamy cheeses. Due to the number of varieties, goat cheese is available year-round, but some are best in the summer.
With this delightful recipe, there is absolutely no reason to wait until dessert to serve this juicy summertime fruit - take cherries on a fun and savory spin as a bruschetta topping for a kind of appetizer that will impress all those lovely people that enjoy the mix of sweet and salty, fruit and cheese and best of all, love, love to eat seasonally.