Cherry Picking with Slow Food Beijing

We spent this past Sunday picking cherries and peas in God’s Grace Garden, a biodynamic farm in the southwest of Beijing. The event was organized by the newly founded Slow Food Beijing. The farm is 25 acres large and was established in 2001 by Therese Zhang, a very interesting Chinese woman who speaks fluent English, Spanish and French. Therese hasn’t always been a farmer. She worked for a canning company when she learned about organic agriculture. She eventually quit her job and started planting fruit trees and vegetables on her new farm to ensure a lifetime of healthful food for her family and friends. She also raises life stock and we got to feed baby chickens, ducks and even turkeys (hopefully we can reunite with one of them on our Thanksgiving table later this year). For more information on God’s Grace Garden, here is a link to a very interesting video I found on vimeo (http://vimeo.com/9902834).

Therese’s daughter-in-law cooked a fabulous lunch for us with produce and meat from the farm, including duck, lamb, eggs, leafy greens, cabbage, zucchini, peas and homemade tofu. I asked her to share some of the recipes with me and hopefully in time I can share them with you.

With full and happy tummies, we headed towards the cherry trees. We tried 3 different varieties, before settling for utterly delicious Bing cherries. I found a lonely ladder and we managed to completely clear two fully loaded trees in less than 2 hours. Naturally, a good part of what we picked went straight from our hands into our mouths, but we also took several pounds home which I could not wait to turn into delicious treats.

I spent the entire next morning searching for recipes that would be a good match to our wonderful cherries. For once I decided that making up my own recipe might be too risky and settled instead on a Cherry Brown Butter tart recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen and a Cherry-Almond Upside-Down cake I found in a Bon Appetit magazine from June 2008. The first one is a twist on a Raspberry Brown Butter tart, which initially was published by Bon Appetit as well. Both cakes tuned out fantastic, but the brown butter really raised the tart to another level. It was heavenly and very much enjoyed by everyone.

As to the upside-down cake, I changed the cornmeal asked for in the original recipe to almond meal and used Chinese black wheat flour instead of all purpose flour. I am sure white spelt or white wholewheat pastry flour would work just as well. This cake is particularly delicious with ice-cream, Greek yogurt or a dollop of creme fraiche.

Brown Butter Cherry Tart

Crust
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Filling
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 pound sweet cherries, which will yield approximately 12 ounces of pitted cherries

Make the crust: Preheat over to 375°F (190C).

Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly onto sides and bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes (it will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.

Make the filling: Cook butter in heavy small saucepan (a lighter-colored one will make it easier to see the color changing, which happens quickly) over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often and watching carefully, about six minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly. Not surprisingly, I did burn the milk solids, but I sifted them out of the melted butter using a very fine sift. 

Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

Arrange pitted cherries in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the cherries. Bake tart until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool tart completely in pan on rack.

Remove tart pan sides. Place tart on platter. Cut into wedges and serve.

 

3 Responses to “Cherry Picking with Slow Food Beijing”


  • Great post! Hardly seems that You live in a big bustling city!!!
    Glad you are finding your way….to good food! Can’t wait to hear more.

  • Thank you Susan! I love all the food related adventures we have here and we have met some very interesting people that way. Off to the market now! xoB

  • Hi Birgit– Congratulations on your wonderful blog! Those cherries look divine. Love your writing and your recipes. I know you will look after Judy for us, and keep her very healthy! Cheers, Kath

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