I haven’t wanted to go out much lately. Call it exhaustion, indifference or the side effect of nursing a recently lacerated heart; the why doesn’t really matter as much to me these days. A new outlook, however, does. I was only half joking when I told a friend that I was embarking on a year of dating myself, because I’ve been there before. Done with dating, done with the stress of trying to ascertain if this new guy is really someone I want to invest a bunch of time in, only to find out that he really isn’t. Usually the resolve passes quickly and I put myself back in the game. Not this time.

At least if I date myself for a year I know what I’m getting, right? And I can do those things I want to do that no man I’ve met (at least not yet, anway) has wanted to do with me. Things like eating at restaurants that aren’t a national chain, wandering to places just because and spending long, leisurely evenings with nothing but a bottle of wine and a good book.

So lately, when I have a kid free evening, I’ve been either staying home to try a recipe the kids would groan at, or I’ve been looking for new places to call favorites.  I’m going to tell you about a few of my new favorite places, for food and fun, in subsequent posts.

But what I really want to tell you about now is the new practice of staying home and making something just for me, because that’s a luxury that’s still feeling foreign but that I’m learning I crave more than anything else. There’s something about pouring a glass of wine, moving slowly and mindfully as I prep and not being worried about whether or not anyone else will like what I’m making that is decadent in its own right.

So last night, I had what I’d call a perfect evening, at least from a culinary standpoint. I made a simple panzanella salad for dinner; garlicky toasted bread chunks, fresh farmer’s market tomatoes, slivers of sliced red onion, basil from my garden and fresh mozzarella cheese, all tossed in a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It’s a salad I crave all summer long, and one that reminds me of how amazing fresh food really is.

cherriescollage

But I also tried something new: Roasted Cherries and Vanilla Mascarpone Whipped Cream. I’d ripped the recipe from my most recent copy of InStyle magazine a few days ago, thinking it looked different and good. Turns out, it’s amazing. The only modification I made from the recipe was that I used my three buck chuck instead of the wine the recipe called for. I didn’t have Muscat on hand and I’m not much of a sweet white wine drinker; if my substitution made a difference I’ll never know. I can’t imagine it tasting any better.

My favorite part, though? As I skimmed a little bit of the vanilla-speckled cream and dipped it into the cherries, the juice from the roasted cherries and the cream would commingle; as it turns out, commingling makes me happy.

cherriescream

So while I’m certainly not qualified to give dating advice, I will tell you this: go ahead, get wild and crazy and roast your fruits. I think I’ll try strawberries next. I remember a roasted strawberry balsamic jam recipe on Pinterest that caught my attention; it just might be next on my date agenda.

Roasted Cherries and Vanilla Mascarpone Whipped Cream
from InStyle Magazine

Recipe:
Serves 4
CHERRIES
½ vanilla bean, split and seeded
Zest of 1 orange
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (a sweet white dessert wine)
¼ cup water
4 cups cherries, any dark red variety, stems removed (try Bing or Brooks)
CREAM
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1½ cups heavy cream
3 tbsp granulated sugar
Thyme sprigs, for garnish

1 Preheat oven to 300°f. Combine vanilla bean, orange zest, sugar, wine, and water in a large shallow ovenproof pot; bring to a simmer over medium heat. When sugar is dissolved, add cherries. 2 Place pot in the oven and roast until cherries have softened, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes. 3 Meanwhile, make the cream: In a medium bowl, add the vanilla seeds to the mascarpone. 4 Add a little cream to the cheese and stir to loosen it up. Add remaining cream and sugar to mascarpone; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. 5 Place a few warm cherries in bowls and top with cream. Garnish with thyme.