Thursday, September 1, 2011

0 Recipe #278: Cherry Clafouti With Almonds & Pistachios

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If you're a fan of fruit-based deserts or are as much of a clafouti enthusiast as I am, then you'll probably want to check out the below recipe. :)

Instead of creating yet another cherry clafouti recipe with all of the usual ingredients, I thought I'd make it a bit more interesting by adding almonds and pistachios. These nuts are a natural complement to cherries and change up the texture a bit, giving it a bit more variation. Clafouti (or clafoutis, if you're speaking French ;)), is typically a soft, melt-in-your-mouth kind of desert, except for the crust, which has a gentle give to it and, depending on how it's made (&/or how long it's cooked!), can also have a little bit of crunch. Adding nuts takes it from "same-o', same-o', blah-blah-boring," to something new and unexpected.

What makes this recipe special is its use of fresh cherries. When clafouti is baked in the oven, the cherries come out of the oven warm, soft, and squishy, literally oozing with flavor. :) Since the custard-like base of this dessert tastes intensely rich and creamy in both its flavor and consistency, the simultaneously tart and sweet flavor of the cherries provide some much-needed relief to the continuity of this smooth and potent profusion. Not only do the flavors counterbalance each other, but each element helps to cut the intensity of the other.

The really nice thing about this desert is that, unlike your standard clafouti recipe, this version is actually healthy for you, even it does taste like regular ole' clafouti. Well, that's the general idea. :) It contains ZERO refined sugar, which, when compared to most desserts, is a delightfully refreshing surprise. And of course your guests will just blissfully enjoy their dessert without any prior knowledge of this fact. :)

A lot of fruit-based desserts -- especially pies, cakes, and tarts -- typically call for canned cherries, which are almost always swimming in loads of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). These cherries have been sitting in the can for who-knows-how-long, just soaking up all of that nasty stuff. Not only will they make your blood sugar sky-rocket to the moon only to come crashing down just as quickly, but then that sugar crash will make your body crave even more simple sugars and carbs to quickly get your energy level back up to where you can function normally again. ;) If this cycle is perpetuated over many days, weeks, months, or, heaven forbid, years, you can only imagine what this'll do to your body, not only in terms of weight gain, but also in terms of your general health. So, that's reason enough not to ingest the stuff.

Also, did you know that canned cherries in syrup have twice the amount of sugar and total carbs, not to mention a little over double the calories? Scary, huh?! And just think of how much extra exercise you'll need to do to burn that stuff off. ;) And what all of that refined sugar will do to your complexion and the rest of your body is even scarier. Now doesn't that just sound SO appealing?! NOT. :-D However, this evil cycle of unhealthy eating and weight gain can easily be prevented by replacing HFCS with a moderate, daily intake of fruit.

Like veggies, fruit contains soluble fiber, which, during digestion, causes the body to slow the rate of nutrient absorption as well as the breakdown of carbs into simple sugars. (This is what happens when soluble fiber in the gastrointestinal tract is absorbed by water and then transforms into a viscous, gel-like substance.) This process, in turn, helps to create a longer-lasting feeling of satiety (as compared to simple carbs/sugars), regulate blood sugar, and provide sustained energy (due to the soluble fiber's slower calorie burn rate.) Fresh cherries, in particular, are high in pectin, a soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol.

Not only that, but fresh cherries are relatively low in calories. To be exact: per 1 c. serving, sweet cherries have 97 calories, while sour cherries have 87. They're also loaded with vitamins (C, A, E, K, and all of the B vitamins except for B12) and are an excellent source of potassium, an essential electrolyte that's great for post-exercise recovery. :) They have about 2 g. of fiber per cup. And the good news just keeps on coming. :)

Cherry Clafouti With Almonds & Pistachios

3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 c. low-fat sour cream
1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. all-natural (no-sugar-added) cherry juice*
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/3 c. sugar-free cherry preserves*
1/3 c. honey
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cardamom
1/2 c. dried cherries (without added refined sugar)*
1/4 c. pistachios, shelled
1/4 c. slivered, blanched almonds
1 c. fresh cherries, pitted and halved

Directions: Place pistachios and almonds onto an aluminium foil-covered toaster tray (for easy clean-up), pop into a toaster oven preheated to 350°F, and toast for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, or until golden brown. When the nuts have toasted for the first half of their total cooking time, remove tray from toaster oven, gently rattle from side to side, and then return to toaster oven. (This will allow the nuts to cook more evenly and also prevent them from sticking to the foil.) Nuts can burn easily if unattended, so watch them carefully. (The nuts are toasted first so that they remain firm while they are baking in the clafouti's liquid ingredients. And of course, this also enhances their flavor as well.) Set aside and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add sour cream, milk, cherry juice, lemon zest, lemon juice, cherry preserves, honey, and vanilla, and mix together thoroughly. Slowly whisk in flour, salt, and cardamom. Add dried cherries, pistachios, and almonds. Pour mixture into a glass pie plate (about 9-10" in diameter), making sure to evenly distribute the pistachios, almonds, & dried cherry pieces. Add fresh cherry halves, gently pressing them into the liquid mixture, so they form a decorative pattern. Allow to set for 10 minutes. Then cook for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn off the oven and allow to set inside the oven for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for at least 5-10 minutes. Serve immediately, as this dish tastes best while it's still warm & fresh, straight from the oven to the plate.

Yield: Serves 8. Or 4, if you're all going to have seconds. :)

Serving Suggestions: Serve with a hot cup of (herbal) tea or a cold glass of milk.

Chef's Notes: For this recipe, you can use either sweet or sour cherries, or a mix of both, whichever you prefer.

*You can find cherry juice and dried cherries without any added (refined) sugar at Whole Foods. (These products might also be found at Trader Joe's or Wegmans as well. Probably best to call first before stopping by. :) )

"Eden Selected" sugar-free dried cherries, (which can be purchased at Whole Foods) are really tasty and make for an excellent snack as well. :) Sugar-free cherry juice can be found at regular supermarkets like Giant, etc. In my experience, sugar-free cherry preserves are typically harder to come by in most stores, but if you can't find it locally, it can always be ordered online, or, if you're feeling exceptionally ambitious, made from scratch. :) (Or, as a measure of last result, you could use low-sugar preserves, which are now offered by some of the more commonly used, big-name brands.)

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