I wait all year long for the local cherry season to begin and, now that it is here, I usually buy more than I need. I started roasting fruit as a way to preserve it before it begins to turn. Roasting fruit brings out its natural sweetness, and I particularly love roasted Bing cherries as well as roasted strawberries. The fruit softens as it roasts and the sugar forms a lovely sweet syrup around the fruit. For our annual 4th of July block party I made roasted Bing cherry ricotta crostini and roasted strawberry ricotta crostini. They received rave reviews, so if you are looking for appetizer ideas for a summer barbecue, try this.
A note on pitting cherries: I have a cherry pitter, but I found an easy way to pit cherries without a tool. Place washed cherries on a half-sheet baking pan. Press the cherry down with the heel of your hand and the juice will release. Then smash the cherry slightly and the pit comes out easily. The juice mostly stays in the pan instead of splashing all over the kitchen. Just sprinkle the fruit with sugar and you are ready to roast. You can roast the fruit several days in advance and store in a jar in the refrigerator until needed.
Roasted Bing Cherry and Ricotta Crostini
3 c. pitted and halved Bing cherries
4 Tbsp. vanilla granulated sugar
1 (16 oz.) container fresh whole milk ricotta cheese (I use Trader Joe’s brand)
1/4-1/3 c. honey
zest of half a large orange
1 large baguette, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cherries and vanilla sugar together on a half sheet baking pan. Stir to mix well. Roast for 15 minutes until fruit is soft and syrupy but doesn’t fall apart, stir once or twice to keep fruit from sticking. Set aside while you make the ricotta spread and toast the baguette. In a bowl combine ricotta, honey, and orange zest. Mix well. Taste and adjust honey to your liking. Set aside. Place baguette slices on a half-sheet pan. Brush with extra virgin olive oil and broil for 2 minutes until toasted, or grill.
Assembly: Spread 1-2 tsp. ricotta mixture onto each toasted baguette. Top with 1 Tablespoon of roasted cherries or roasted strawberries. Serves 8-10.
For Roasted Strawberries: stem and slice 24 strawberries, sprinkle with 4 Tbsp. vanilla sugar. Stir to mix. Roast at 375 degrees for 15 minutes until fruit is soft and syrupy but not falling apart. Assemble as you would the Bing cherry and ricotta crostini.