I have very fond memories feasting on cherries as a child. My grandmother had a cherry tree in her garden, which as well as bursting with cherry blossom and beauty, also supplied us with a bounty of cherries each year, if we could get to them before the birds did of course!
A few years ago I started to see in the shops a variety of cherry that I was unfamiliar with. I discovered more recently that they are called ‘Rainier’ cherries and that they are originally from the US Northwest Pacific region. Imported to the UK by ‘Northwest Cherries’, they have a creamy yellow flesh and a pink blush, contrary to its usual ruby red counterparts, and are deliciously sweet with a thin skin. They are named after Washington States’s largest mountain, Mt. Rainier, as they are larger in size to other cherries. It is reported that they were created in 1952 when Harold Fogel and other researchers from the Washington Agriculture Experiment Station in Prosser, crossed two well-known varieties of cherries the, ‘Bing’ and ‘Van’, resulting in the sweet tasting Rainier cherry.
Now the good news folks is that JULY and AUGUST signifies the beautiful Rainier cherry season in the UK and are widely available at selected retailers. Cherries have numerous health benefits and are a good option for a healthy treat. They are packed to the rafters with antioxidants, vitamin C and fibre, as well as containing phytosterols, which is thought to help lower cholesterol. If you are planning to jet around the globe this summer bear in mind that cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, which can apparently improve sleep and help prevent jetlag. If that wasn’t enough to make you run and buy a punnet, the anthocyanins in them are important for good brain function. They help the brain produce the mood-enhancing hormone ‘serotonin’. It’s amazing how a fruit so small, in the grand scheme of things, can contain so many good health benefits.
Whilst I can easily see off a whole punnet on my own, I also thought that it might be fun to show you a recipe that really allows Rainier cherries to be centre stage. Over the summer months I love to entertain outdoors – I mean who doesn’t? – and offering guests a cool aperitif with a delicious canapés always goes down well. I thought crostini with Rainier cherries sitting on whipped soft goats cheese, a little prosciutto perhaps, drizzled with a mint oil would receive a positive reception. You can make the dish vegetarian by removing the prosciutto completely. As an alternative to the goats cheese you can also use ricotta and parmesan, which works really well too. So lots of options to consider. The sweetness from the Rainier cherries balances so harmoniously with the saltiness from the cheese and prosciutto. In the mint oil I have added a little lemon juice, zest and wildflower honey to balance it all out and offer a lightness to the canapé.
You could also serve this as a starter or a lunch option. Instead of using baguette to create your crostini, you could use some sourdough, which is larger and have a slice or two of this with all of the ingredients below on each plate.
However you like to serve it up I can assure you that your family and guests will absolutely adore this summer Rainier cherry recipe.
Rainier Cherries, Soft Goats Cheese, Prosciutto and Mint Oil Crostini
1 x stonebaked baguette, thinly sliced on the angle
300g soft goats cheese, whipped in a bowl
70g prosciutto, cut into small strips
1 x 400g punett of Rainier cherries, halved and stone removed
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 large mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp honey
- Preheat a grill at 190 degrees (fan).
- Thinly slice, on an angle, the baguette and space out on a baking tray.
- Place under the grill for 2-3 minutes – keep a close eye as it will burn quickly. When it is lightly bronzed take it out of the oven and turn it over and grill the other side for another minute.
- Remove from the oven completely and rub the raw garlic gently on the side of the baguette that you are going to put the whipped soft goats cheese on.
- To whip the goats cheese, simply place in a bowl and mix with a spoon so that if become smooth.
- Place a teaspoon of goats cheese onto the toasted baguette and evenly spread.
- Next place a thin strip of prosciutto on top of the cheese and twist it so that it adds texture and height and then half a Rainier cherry at the back and a little of the dressing on top.
- Work through the whole toasted baguette or as much as you think you and your guests will eat.
You can make them ahead of time – although I suggest adding the dressing at the last minute – and eat at room temperature.
Easy, visually striking and importantly packed full of delicious flavours.
AD: This blog post was a paid collaboration with @lovefreshcherries. All views, opinions and the recipe are mine.