At Literati II in Santa Monica, pastry chef Kimberly Sklar pounces on fresh cherries when they come into the markets. She roasts the Burlat cherries from Barbagelata Farms in a vanilla, brandy and sugar slurry, then she serves them with an almondy polenta cake. The flavors are a spectacular combination -- the faint hint of corn and the almond notes in the polenta play beautifully off the deep rich cherries. Roasting the cherries is a perfect way to finesse the season, particularly if the flavors still need a little coaxing.
From the story: Caught up in the moment
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Use 1 tablespoon butter to grease a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan; dust with 2 teaspoons cornmeal.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until light in color and fluffy, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl and add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Stir in the almond extract.
Sift the flour, remaining corn meal, baking powder and salt together and fold into the mixture.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the sugar evenly on top. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Roasted cherries and assembly
Wash, stem and pit the cherries; set aside. When the cake is removed from the oven, increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, sugar, vanilla bean, brandy and the cornstarch slurry. Whisk until combined.
Fold in the cherries and place in an 11-by-7-inch glass baking dish. Bake until the cherries are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir after baking 5 minutes.
To serve, slice the cake and place on a dessert plate. Spoon cherries and sauce on top of the cake. Add a spoonful of whipped cream and serve.
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