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Potluck: Summer Cherry and Cheese Tartines 

  • Apricots on rue Cler. Courtesy Betty Rosbottom

  • Cheeses in a shop window on rue Cler. Courtesy Betty Rosbottom

  • Fresh figs and cherries at a Paris market. Courtesy Betty Rosbottom

  • Courtesy Betty Rosbottom

  • Wine shop on rue Cler. Courtesy Betty Rosbottom



For the Gazette/Hampshire Life
Monday, July 16, 2018

Whether a New England market or a French marché, count me a fan! At home in Amherst, I’m a regular at the Saturday farmers’ market, and when in Paris, I head straight to le marché the minute I finish unpacking my bags. 

This past June, my husband and I stayed in a small apartment on Rue Cler — one of Paris’ most celebrated food-market streets located on the Left Bank in the 7th arrondissement. Only four blocks long, this pedestrian, cobble-stoned thoroughfare and its neighboring avenues are home to dozens of food emporia. Within a five-minute walk of our front door, there were three patisseries boulangeries, two excellent cheese stores (fromageries), three green groceries called primeurs, a butcher (boucher) and a fish monger (poissonier). And in case you didn’t feel like cooking, there was a fine Italian deli as well as a French one. My husband spent his time in the three wine shops along the route!

Most days, I set out with a grocery list, but typically, I gave in and bought what looked best at each stop. In June, plump juicy cherries, dark ripe figs, and tender apricots filled bins that caught my eye. France boasts more than 200 cheeses; besides my favorites, I tried more uncommon fare, such as gouda with cumin seeds and artfully aged Cantal. Fresh lamb chops cut from the rack at the butcher’s were irresistible, as were slices of ready-made country pâtés.

Inspired by my purchases, I served as appetizers the Summer Cherry and Cheese Tartines featured here. They take only a few minutes to prepare, but they deliver big, assertive flavors. Baguette slices are toasted, and next spread with a creamy blue. However, it’s the sweet and tart cherries, cooked in wine, vinegar and sugar, then spooned atop each slice, that give these nibbles their dazzle. 

You can cook the cherries two days ahead and toast the bread slices several hours in advance so that only a quick assembly is needed at the last minute. “Santé” (to your health) they say in France before sipping an aperitif. I would add to that toast, “To the markets, at home and across the ocean!”

 

3/4 pound large, sweet cherries (such as Bing), rinsed, dried, and stemmed

1/2 cup red wine

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

12 baguette slices cut on a slight diagonal into 3/8-inch thick slices

Olive oil for brushing on the bread

6 ounces creamy blue cheese such as Fourme d’Ambert or Saint Agur (See cooking tips) 

 

1. If you have a cherry pitter, use it to remove the pits and then halve the cherries. Otherwise, use a sharp paring knife to halve the fruit and remove the pits.

2. In a medium, heavy saucepan over medium high heat, stir the wine, vinegar, and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a good simmer, then reduce heat to medium and cook until the mixture has thickened and is just syrupy, 8 minutes or more. Stir in the cherries, coating them with the liquids, and cook 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and cool 5 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, an hour or more. (The cherries can be prepared 2 days ahead. Transfer to a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill.)

3. Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush generously on both sides with olive oil. Bake, turning once, until golden and slightly crisp, about 4 minutes per side. (Slices can be baked 3 hours ahead; leave at room temperature covered loosely with foil.)

4. For serving, spread each slice with some cheese, then spoon some of the cherries and only a drizzle of their syrup over the cheese. Arrange tartines on a serving plate. Serve with cocktail napkins to catch any drips of the syrup. 

Cooking tips:  

A creamy blue cheese pairs beautifully with the cherries, but other cheeses such as creamy chèvre, Brie, or Camembert would also work well. 

Extra syrup or cherries are delicious stirred into plain yogurt.