This can be served as an appetizer, but most people are going to find it more appropriate at dessert. The fruit can be varied, but cherries really make the best base; leave the pits in for more flavor if you don't mind the annoyance. For wine, use Gewürztraminer or Riesling, preferably from Germany and at least slightly sweet (if the wine is very sweet, reduce the sugar).
3 cups sweet cherries
2 cups fruity white wine
1 teaspoon minced lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 pear, peeled, cored, and diced
1 ripe peach, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 plums, peeled, pitted, and diced
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste (optional)
Chopped fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)
About 1 cup sour cream for garnish (optional)
1. Combine 2 cups of the cherries with 2 cups water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, then cover and adjust the heat so the mixture simmers steadily. Cook until the cherries are very soft, about 15 minutes. Cool (if you're in a hurry, put the pan in a larger pan of cold water), then force through a strainer.
2. Return the juice to the pan and add the zest, sugar, diced fruit (including the remaining cherries), and pepper. Simmer until the diced fruit is soft, about 10 minutes, then taste and add more sugar or some lemon juice if you like. Chill and serve cold, garnished with mint and/or sour cream as desired.
Creamy Berry Soup.
Good for breakfast (use yogurt), brunch, lunch, or dessert: Substitute 4 cups one or more kinds of berries, washed and hulled as needed, for the cherries and other fruits. Omit the wine, pepper, and mint. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 cup yogurt or sour cream. Put the berries, lemon zest and juice, cinnamon, sugar, and 2 cups water in a blender; purée and then stir in the yogurt or sour cream.
Cold Cherry Soup with Mango.
Whole cherries, unstrained, are used here. Serve the soup with a word of warning about the pits and a small bowl to receive them: Substitute 2 cups fruity red wine, preferably Pinot Noir (Burgundy) or Gamay (Beaujolais) for the white wine, 1 peeled and diced mango for the apple, pear, peach, and plums. You may need up to a cup of sugar, depending on how sweet you like it. Omit the water, zest, and mint leaves. Combine the wine and sugar and cook until the sugar is dissolved; add the cherries and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with the mango and sour cream.