Total time: 40 minutes, plus at least 4 hours' chilling time
Servings: 6 to 8
Note: This slightly sweet soup is an adaptation of a classic Hungarian dish. It makes an elegant first course for an early-summer dinner.
8 whole cloves
12 whole allspice
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
12 whole black peppercorns
1 (750-ml) bottle rose wine
1/3 cup sugar
2 pounds cherries, stemmed and pitted
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup creme fraiche or yogurt, plus 1/2 cup more for serving
1. Cut a piece of cheesecloth about 5 inches square. Place the cloves, allspice, cinnamon and peppercorns in the center. Bring the corners together and tie the packet shut with a piece of string. (Alternatively, you can place the spices in a large tea ball.)
2. Bring 2 cups water, the wine and sugar to a simmer in a large saucepan and add the spice packet. Cook until the wine loses its raw alcohol smell and mellows in flavor, about 15 minutes. Cooking gently will help the wine retain its delicate fruit.
3. Add the cherries and cook, at a gentle poach, until the cherries have slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar and the almond extract. Taste and adjust the vinegar; the soup should be slightly sweet, but with a tart backbone. Transfer to a lidded bowl and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours.
4. Just before serving, discard the spice packet and add the creme fraiche. Replace the lid and shake gently to mix well. The soup should be lightly creamy and pale pink. There should not be any trace of unincorporated creme fraiche.
5. Ladle the soup into chilled bowls and garnish with a small spoon of creme fraiche swirled into the center.
Each serving of 8: 241 calories; 2 grams protein; 28 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 8 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 16 mg. cholesterol; 24 mg. sodium.