Cherry Soup

cherry soupIt's that time of year.

Farmer's Markets are exploding with great spring fruits and vegetables. My favorite among them is cherries. If this were prime time television, the cherry would be a superstar, hosting its own variety show in the best time slot possible. Like a Saturday night bookended by very special episodes of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Both of which would guest star Adrienne Barbeau.

It's been a while since I've watched television.

Well, I've taken to cherries again this year like I always have , but this time, I am looking at them through Hungarian eyes. With the possible exception of the cucumber, whenever a Magyar is faced with a piece of fresh produce, he or she does what comes most naturally to them-- they boil the hell out of it. Or pickle it.

There's an dish I have always been meaning to try from our dear, goulash-eating cousins, and that's Meggyleves, or Sour Cherry Soup. The only problem was that I didn't have immediate access to sour cherries. I wanted it now, so I had to make do with the local ones instead. Since I wasn't going for authenticity, I thought I might as well just appreciate the recipe for its inspiring qualities and move on.


Not-so-sour Cherry Soup

I've taken some liberties with this recipe. What I like about the original is its simplicity. I've basically adhered to that theme, just some slightly different ingredients. I do not recommend substituting whipped cream for sour cream. I tried it and it was, well, cloying. The sour cream adds just the right amount of tang-- especially since we're not using sour cherries. The Hungarians do know what they're doing.

1 pound fresh cherries, pitted
3⁄4 cup sugar
1 quart water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cardamom (some like cinnamon, others, clove. You choose.)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1⁄4 cup Amaretto (or Kirschwasser, or holy water from Lourdes.)
Juice of one lemon
Sour cream

1. Bring water, sugar, cherries, and cardamom to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes.

2. Make a slurry of the cornstarch and two tablespoons of water. Pour into stewing cherries and stir until clear and slightly thickened.

3. Remove about one cup of the cherries and purée. Add back into the pot. Add lemon juice, stir, and chill.

4. Add Amaretto or other liqueur before service, stir, then pour into bowls.

5. Place a generous dollop of sour cream on top and garnish with whatever you like, or nothing at all. I chose crumbled amaretti for all the obvious reasons.

Serves: 4 to 6.