Semolina with Cherries
It's funny how some ingredients can lead you on little mini adventures as you figure out who to use them us. I first bought semolina flour in order to add a few spoonfuls to this Norwegian sour cream porridge. (Still one of my favorite Old World finds. It's seriously time to bring porridge back.) And in anticipation of my move to Paris (for one year!! for dissertation research!! with a fellowship!!) I've been trying to clear out the pantry of things like extra semolina that R is not likely to use.
So the Scandinavians use it in porridge (as it was cooking up, it did remind me of Cream of Wheat, that childhood favorite), as do the British and even the French. The Italians tend to use semolina for gnocchi because of the light texture it imparts, and also for desserts such as this.
Basically, a glug of sweet white wine (or, if you're me you realize too late on a Sunday afternoon that you don't have the extra stash you thought you did, and that, by virtue of it being Sunday, sweet white wine is not available, you use a glug of ginger ale instead) is simmered with the semolina along with a few eggs, a little sugar and some chopped almonds. A stiffly-beaten egg white lightens it a bit before pitted cherries are folded in and it's baked in a bain marie.
Okay, let's talk bain marie. It's merely a French term, which I'm shoe-horning into an Italian recipe, that describes the technique of putting a smaller pan of food into a larger pan and filling the larger pan with boiling water so that it comes about half-way up the sides of the smaller pan nestled inside (see the picture above). It's a gentle way to cook foods, and you might also see the technique used for cheesecakes, puddings or custards. If you had nesting bakers, those work well since you know the smaller size will fit perfectly into the larger one.
This is also the perfect moment for this recipe since we're in the middle of the fleeting cherry season, at least here in NYC. If you don't have a cherry-pitter, you might consider getting one, since they make much easier work of dealing with the fruit. I put it off for about two cherry seasons, eschewing all recipes that called for pitted cherries until I finally broke down. It was totally worth it. And about the superfine sugar. I always say this, but it's worth using because it dissolves so much faster and, well, better. If you don't have superfine (I literally never do), just wizz regular white sugar in a food processor for a few seconds until its texture lightens and it becomes superfine.
Semolina with Cherries, or Semolino alle Ciliege
Adopted from The Silver Spoon
Butter for greasing your dish
1 cup sweet white wine, or if you don't have it or want to avoid it, 1 cup ginger ale
2/3 cup semolina
2 large eggs
generous 1/2 cup superfine sugar (see note above)
3 cups cherries, pitted (you don't need to chop them after they're pitted)
1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped
1 egg white
Oven preheated to 400F. Grease a baking dish with the butter, and make sure you have a larger baking dish into which the greased baking dish can fit. Get a pot of water on the stove so you can bring it to a boil as you work, you'll use it for baking in the bain marie (see note above).
In a medium pot bring the wine and 2 1/4 cups water to a boil then sprinkle the semolina over the top. Turn the heat down to low and start stirring the semolina. You'll have to continue stirring the entire time or it will burn, since you'll be cooking it until it's nice and thick, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool just a bit, then add the eggs one at a time, stirring well between each one. Next add the sugar and almonds and fold in the cherries.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg white until stiff, and fold that into the semolina mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and place that pan into the larger one. Your extra pot of water should be boiling by now, so carefully pour some boiling water into the larger pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the smaller pan. Carefully transfer the pans to the oven and bake for 45 minutes. If yours starts to get too brown before it's finished, you can tent it with tinfoil, which just means lay a piece of tinfoil over the top to prevent further browning.
Remove (carefully! That water will still be boiling!) from the oven, and take the smaller pan out of the larger one. Let the semolina cool to room temperature before serving, if you can wait!