Confession: I am 24 years old and I only began to enjoy the simple sweetness of cherries one month ago.
I realize this fact may startle most of you.
My previous stance against cherries, I realized, was purely based on my experience with the jarred varietal of cherry - the ones found so promisingly perched on top of a child's ice cream sundae or floating at the bottom of a Shirley Temple.
Thinking back, we never really used cherries in any recipes in pastry school. Even when we received shipment upon shipment of these bright red beauties at the restaurant, as the other pastry cooks sampled by the handful, I resisted and dutifully returned to my cutting board.
But then, in a moment of true weakness, as I perused the farmer's market, I was greeted by a mound of cherries. As my camera captured their beauty, they seemed to beckon for me - try just one.
Into my mouth, I popped the most juicy, sweet little cherry. I am forever converted.
I brought home a quart of the beauties and began thinking of how I might want to prepare them.
My first thought, obviously, was a steaming, fruity pie. But, between long work hours and some one's distaste of fruit desserts, pies, unfortunately, go to waste around here.
So, instead, I began thinking about what flavors I would want to pair with the cherries. While keeping the cherries as the star of the show, I decided something with a crunchy, freshness - maybe even spiciness - would be wonderful for a summer day.
While mulling over how to achieve these accompanying flavors, I began creating a simple, sweet cherry jam.
Maybe it was the homey, unmistakable scent of the sugar caramelizing with fruit that instantly pointed me in the direction of a buttery shortbread as the perfect base for this summer jam.
With the addition of bright lemon zest, freshly milled black pepper and a sprinkling of turbinado sugar, the shortbread emerged from the oven a perfect match with the sweet cherry jam.
Upon assembling and tasting my creation, from the very first bite, the soft, sweet cherry jam paired seamlessly with the crunchy, buttery shortbread, instantly brightened by the lemon zest.