[Thank you everyone, for your very kind words regarding my recent life changes. It means a great deal to me!]
I don’t watch a lot of tv (in fact, we don’t even own a television set and haven’t for close to 3 years), but that doesn’t mean that pop culture references escape me. Or, rather, more cult-y pop culture references. Take Twin Peaks for instance. I was a bit too young to be watching or understanding it when it first aired, but my ladyfriend took care of introducing me to what is now probably one of my favorite tv shows. And ever since then, I’ve really, really, really wanted to make a cherry pie. (If you’ve watched it, you know what I mean.) A local independent theater here in Minneapolis had late night showings of Twin Peaks for a whole summer, back before the box set came out, and they even had to use laserdiscs (!!) in order to screen the second season. Every Saturday night you could enter a Twin Peaks pie contest and the winner was announced at the end of the summer (this was before my kitchen intensity began so I never brought in a pie). Today I give you, not a pie exactly, but raw mini Fresh Cherry-Meyer Lemon Coconut Tarts, since this lady isn’t about to turn the oven on anytime soon!
I used to think that I didn’t like cherries, until I ate a real fresh cherry…my only exposure before then had been kid’s juice boxes or cherry candy, which you may know is nothing like the real thing. Lately I’ve been obsessing over Rainier cherries while I still have a significant income — these things aren’t cheap! But they are delicious. Refreshing, juicy, and just-sweet enough. I bet any kind of cherry would work for these tarts, though, keeping in mind that meyer lemons are fairly sweet on their own and maybe wouldn’t go so well with a super sweet cherry unless sweetness is your thing. The crust is delicate and topped with a thin layer of meyer lemon coconut cream and covered in fresh cherries tossed in a cherry-lemon-date syrup. I had to stop taking pictures because I had to finish eating one, that’s how tasty they are! I hope you get to try them out yourself while the cherries are abundant in the markets. This recipe is easily increased to make a large tart, too.
Fresh Cherry-Meyer Lemon Coconut Tarts
makes 4 mini tarts
1/2 cup raw almonds (this would also be tasty with toasted almonds if you’re not concerned with being raw)
1/2-3/4 cup dates (depending on how soft they are)
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup tightly packed young coconut meat
1 tablespoon fresh meyer lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pitted cherries
3 pitted dates (soaked in water and drained if not using a high-speed blender)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh meyer lemon juice
1 1/2 cup halved, pitted cherries
additional whole cherries and lemon slices to garnish (optional)
To make the crust, chop the almonds in a food processor into a coarse meal. Pulse in the sea salt. With the food processor running, add dates through the food chute until you’ve added the first half cup. Check the “dough” to see if it’s ready by pinching it between your fingers. It should stick together; if not, add a few more dates and continue processing until it passes the “pinch test.” Press this mixture into the bottom and up the sides of four 4-inch mini tart pans and set aside (optionally, you can grease the tart forms with some oil or line them with plastic wrap for easier removal later). Wipe and rinse the bowl of the food processor of any crumbs if you plan to use it for the coconut cream and/or cherry syrup.
To make the coconut cream, add coconut meat, lemon juice, and vanilla to the food processor or a blender jar and process until smooth (you’ll get a smoother texture with a blender, especially a high speed one, but using a food processor is perfectly fine and will save dish space). Divide this mixture evenly into the bottom of your crusts. Rinse out the food processor or blender jar again.
To make the cherry-lemon syrup, place the 1/2 cup of pitted cherries, dates, vanilla and lemon juice into the the food processor bowl or blender jar and blend until smooth. Toss with the 1 1/2 cups of halved cherries in a small bowl, and divide evenly amongst the tart shells.
Garnish each tart with a whole cherry and a small slice of lemon if desired, and enjoy this summer treat!
Notes: I used deglett noor dates for this recipe, but any soft date should work. If they seem dry, try soaking and rinsing them to soften.
If you want a nut-free pie, you can substitute shredded coconut to make the crust. The same amount or slightly more as the almonds should work.
The coconut cream will be affected by the firmness of your coconut flesh — if the flesh is quite firm, you may need to add a touch more lemon juice or a bit of water to help it blend. This amount also makes just a thin layer under the cherry mixture, but is easily increased if you want more of a “cream pie” result.
If you can’t get a hold of fresh coconut meat (click here to see my fresh coconut-cracking tips), try blending shredded coconut instead; it will have a more granular texture, which can be strained through a fine mesh if you liek. Alternatively, you can make a thick cashew cream using the same amount of soaked cashews, lemon juice, and a little bit of water to help with blending.