Tart black currant and cherry salad

Some recipes just happen. Without a plan in mind or a grocery list in hand, all of a sudden ingredients that never seemed to make a match, become a perfect pair. While researching the wooden tables at the farmers market this week, a box of black currants caught my eye. I knew these intensely purple berries would be put to good use, but had no idea at the time that they would become the dressing for a summer salad.

With a bag full of cherries, a handful of arugula, a small goat’s cheese, bunches of carrots, yellow zucchini, oddly shaped tomatoes, white eggplant, purple basil, flowering oregano and the fascinating black currants all packed up, I bicycled my way into the weekend.

While arranging my groceries in the kitchen, I considered the possibilities for the intriguing berries.  The following recipe takes advantage of their startling tartness in a new favorite for the season.

Ingredients

  • 200 grams of fresh black currants
  • 10-25 grams of honey
  • 25 ml of water
  • 150 grams of fresh arugula
  • a handful of ripened cherries
  • one small fresh goat’s cheese like the Crottin de Chavignol
  • 10-25 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • black pepper and sea salt
  • fresh lavender from the garden

Pick the currants from their stalks and remove any broken stems or shriveled fruit. Rinse the berries well in a colander. Place the currants in a sauce pan. Add the smallest amount of water and barely a spoon of honey to the currants. Put them on medium heat and cook them until their skins split. Turn off the heat and allow them to cool in a ceramic bowl or glass jar.

Bring the fresh goat’s cheese to room temperature. Wash the fresh arugula and dry it in a clean tea towel. Rinse the cherries and split them in half, removing their pits.  Cut the cheese into narrow slices.

Put the arugula in a mixing bowl and drizzle it with olive oil. Add salt and a noticeable scattering of black pepper.  Stir two heaping tablespoons of currants in the bowl and toss it lightly through the arugula. Place the dressed leaves on a platter. Arrange the goat’s cheese and the pitted cherries around the salad and decorate it with fresh lavender. Enjoy the sourness of the currants with the peppery arugula glistening with olive oil and pepper, contrasted by the smooth goat’s cheese, not to mention the amazingly juicy cherries.

♦  Suggested combinations
Black currants are traditionally used in combination with cream or pastry for summer desserts. I can imagine that they make an interesting dip for grilled eggplant covered in leaves of fresh mint and purple basil.

♦  Notes
Save the cooked black currants in a glass jar with a tight lid in the refrigerator for up to a week.  Add more honey to balance their sourness and spread them on bread or pancakes.

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