begrudgingly accidentally grumpily optimistically moved to Jersey 5 years ago, I imagined it as the land of parking lots, strip malls, toxic waste and Tony Soprano. It was the place you scoffed at from other states; where fresh air was a pipe dream and the roads were clogged with big haired women in oversize SUVs on their way to the mall.
OK, so maybe I still scoff at North Jersey.
But where I live, in South Jersey, is totally different. I live in a suburban neighborhood like the Wonder Years. Our grass grows like it's on steroids. Not five minutes away is a cute little center of town where you can grab a smoothie or a coffee and wander down the streets, window shopping and people watching.
I might kind of like it here.
(Don't tell my husband. He'll never believe you anyway.)
In the summertime, our Garden State truly lives up to its name. You can't go 5 minutes outside of my town without seeing farm stands on the side of the road advertising blueberries, asparagus, cantalopes, even fresh eggs. Bob's commute every day takes him past these yummy places, and yesterday he came home with a bag of giant red strawberries, vowing never to buy produce from the grocery store again.
My favorite place for local produce is the Collingwood Farmer's Market. If you're ever in the Jersey side of the Philly burbs on a Saturday morning, check it out. Such an assortment of produce, flowers and plants, cheeses, baked goods and fresh bread - with some of the local restaurants serving brunch-type goodies and live music, and occasionally cooking demonstrations. Fun times.
This week, I went with the intention of getting some blueberries and some corn. Hennebaby decided that corn on the cob was going to be a must on our menu that night. As I was picking out my ears (wow, that sounds gross), I looked to my left and saw the last quart of the most beautiful sour cherries I've ever seen. I said to myself, Self - you need those cherries. So I bought them.
What I was going to do with them was another matter. Pie? Tarts? Ice cream? Crumble? In the end, I made another good decision. When is crumb cake ever a bad decision?
This dessert can be sliced into bars and eaten on the go (yummy), served warm topped with ice cream and eaten with a fork (yummiest). It's amazingly easy to make, especially if you have a) a cherry pitter, or b) a good natured husband who doesn't mind pitting a quart of cherries. Martha's recipe called for buttermilk, but since a) I didn't have buttermilk, b) I don't always see what the fuss is with buttermilk, and c) I was feeling slightly adventurous, I sliced a vanilla bean lengthwise to let it soak in a 1/4 cup of milk and added the vanilla bean seeds. This resulted in a vanilla-y cake, which holds its own under the cherries. The crumbly topping is delicious, and the cherries really pop, both in color and in flavor.
You should have this right now. Slightly warm. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream. While you marvel in the surprise that is New Jersey.
Sour Cherry Vanilla Crumb Cake
(adapted slightly from Martha Stewart)
4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
2 1/2 cups fresh sour cherries, pitted
Preheat your oven to 350, and butter and flour (or line with parchment) a 9" baking dish. Measure out the milk, and place the vanilla bean in it to soak, scraping the seeds into the milk. In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and cinnamon until crumbly.
Cream together the softened butter and sugar. In a small bowl, sift or whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined. Add the vanilla. Remove the vanilla bean pod from the milk. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Stir until just combined. Spread in the bottom of the pan. Top with the cherries, pushing them into the mixture if you so desire. (Otherwise they'll stay in the top-middle, like mine.) Top with the brown sugar mixture. Bake for 1 hour; cool before cutting.
(Do you like how sometimes I can take really awesome pictures? And sometimes they look like a five year old shot them with a broken cell phone? Yeah....)