A pound of cherries

Kat was the last person to move out of the old wondergeek apartment last December. She called me up at home as she was preparing to go through what was left in the kitchen: "Do you want to come over here and take a look at this stuff to see if there's anything you can use?"

Later that afternoon, I came home with several bags full of an odd assortment of bottles and jars and frozen odds and ends. There was literally a bit of everything: pork, salmon, ketchup, extra-chunky marmalade, frozen blueberries. Every food group you could think of, and probably one or two you'd managed to forget.

Since that day, I've been trying to find the shelves in my fridge. They've been covered over with strange and unusual ingredients that don't match my usual round of recipes, and I've hesitated to buy much of anything new until I used up the freebies I had received from Kat.

Last night, Sean brought over an implement I'd asked him to purchase for me while he was in Atlanta: a cherry and olive pitter. In the midst of last year's berry season, I froze two pounds of cherries, intending to use them at some point during the winter.

Pitting cherries by hand is laborious, hand-straining (and -staining) work. One usually ends up with as much cherry juice on one's hands as in one's target bowl. Thus, the two pounds of cherries sat in the freezer, waiting for the right time.

Last night, I was paging through one of my cooking magazines and noticed a recipe for a cherry custard tart. Hmmmmmm, I thought, don't I have all of these ingredients in the kitchen right now?

Pound of cherries? Check.
1/3 cup granulated sugar? Check.
2/3 cup heavy cream? Check.
A handful or two of sliced almonds? Check. (I've been trying to get rid of these for ages.)
Two large eggs? Check.
Random, lonely frozen pie crust, abandoned in the freezer and praying that it might someday see the light of day? Check.

So I cleared off an area of the kitchen counter and set a pound of the cherries out to thaw. Jeff came in and wanted to play with the cherry pitter for a bit, so he pitted a few cherries and wandered away, satisfied. I mixed up the custard, and then realized that I needed to blind-bake the pie crust so that the bottom wouldn't be soggy.

I keep a pound of dried beans in the kitchen for just this purpose—and of course, Jeff walked back into the kitchen just as I was pouring the beans into the pie crust and smoothing them out with my hands.

"What in the world are you doing, putting beans in a cherry custard pie?"

I got a good chuckle out of that. I explained to him that the bottom of the crust would rise up if it weren't weighted down, and dropped the pan into the oven for a quick crisping-up.

After that was done, I put the cherries in, poured the custard over, and then sprinkled the almonds on top. I pulled the pie out a few minutes ago. It looked right, at least; browned a bit, with the cherries soft and bubbling a bit of juice. After about fifteen minutes of settling, it'll be time to sit down and watch '24'…hopefully with a wedge of something that tastes, just a little bit, like the excellent fruit harvest from last summer.

Not bad for a cold, dreary February day.

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