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Chilled Sour Cherry Soup with Tarragon

The herbal, anise-like flavor of fresh tarragon has a savory yet sweet quality that plays off the almond-like nuances of late spring’s fresh sour cherries. This first-course soup of Hungarian origin features a bracing sweet-sour theme that’s meant to whet the appetite for the dishes to come.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb. fresh sour cherries, stemmed and pitted
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 cups fruity red wine
  • 2 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus more, to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 lb. fresh sweet cherries, stemmed, pitted and quartered
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon

Directions:

Put the sour cherries in a food processor and process to a smooth puree. Pour the puree through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and, using a wooden spoon, press on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids in the sieve.

In a large nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add the sour-cherry puree, the wine and 1 1/2 cups water and stir to blend. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup water and stir it into the simmering cherry mixture along with the 2/3 cup sugar and a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until thickened to the consistency of light cream, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sweet cherries. Transfer the soup to a nonreactive bowl and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours.

When ready to serve, taste the soup and adjust the seasonings with salt and sugar. Ladle into chilled bowls and drizzle with the cream, dividing it evenly. Using a spoon, gently swirl the cream into the soup. Sprinkle with the tarragon and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Soup, by Adam Ried (Oxmoor House, 2008).