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Crostini with Cherries, Fennel, and Pistachios

These are the precious few weeks when everything is in abundance. Normal people get really excited about this: they come home loaded with little yellow tomatoes, bright green beans, beautiful ears of bi-color corn, and – for the few days that they’re available – blackberries. Me? I get stressed. What if I can’t get enough tomatoes in jars to last me through the winter? What if my jam doesn’t seal properly? And so on.

Putting up produce has become a summer ritual, and one of which I’m quite proud. I love serving friends pasta with my homemade sauce. When I put out a plate of pickles, I’m happy that they’re mostly my own creations. And I love how peppers, cherries, and rhubarb from the summer markets find their way into everything from sriracha to vinegar to Manhattans, all in my kitchen. But getting this done adds a certain pressure to summer market trips, and once in a while, I’d like to just enjoy the market with no agenda at all.

So sometimes, when I feel the stress coming on, I toss out the agenda entirely. I head to the market in search of a few things that would make a great dinner tonight. Just tonight.

A couple weeks ago, I purchased what must be the 15th quart of cherries I’ve eaten this summer. Jam had been made, and more jam could wait for other days. I brought these plump, sweet cherries into the kitchen, cleaned them off, piled them onto a lovely crostini, and ate them right then and there. Farm to table in under 24 hours.

I found the recipe while tooling around the DCist website. I had no idea the DCist published recipes, but after this success, I’ll be checking back more often. Cherries and pistachios are a classic combination, and while typically I’m loyal to sour cherries for this pairing, the goat cheese on these crostini offset the sweet cherries perfectly. The syrupy sweet cherries – almost a savory jam, if that’s a thing – will dribble down your chin as you eat. This will not be a clean supper. But isn’t that what summer is all about?

Crostini with Cherries, Fennel, and Pistachios
Adapted from DCist

1 fennel bulb
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil (I like butter. Shock.)
1 cup sweet or tart cherries, pitted
Cardamom seeds from 2 pods or a pinch of ground cardamom
1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
8 slices baguette, toasted in a 300-degree oven for 5-7 minutes until golden
4 oz. fresh chevre or other mild, spreadable goat cheese
¼ cup pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
Sea salt

Chop the bottoms, stems and fronds off the fennel bulbs and remove any bruised or discolored portions of the outer layers. Chop each bulb in half, then slice lengthwise into thin slices. Meanwhile, heat butter or olive oil in a large pan. Add fennel, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup water to the pan and cook covered over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fennel is very soft and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove cover in the last 10 minutes of cooking to ensure fennel gets browned.

Heat the pitted cherries, sugar, balsamic vinegar, cardamom, and 2 tablespoons of water in a pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and cherries are softened, about 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Spread a thick layer of cheese onto each slice of toasted bread. Layer some of the caramelized fennel on top, then several cherries. (If you’re feeling generous, drizzle some of that cherry syrup overtop.) Top the crostini with chopped pistachios and sea salt. Serve immediately.

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