Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cheery Cherries

You can tell summertime is coming when you find sweet, fresh cherries in the market. Cherries grow in most temperate climates and have a very short growing season. The peak season for cherries is in the summer. In many parts of North America they are among the first tree fruits to ripen.

Pitting cherries is FUN. I have mastered the art of the pit. First, you buy a really snazzy cherry pitter. Remove the stem and place the cherry, stem-side-up in the pitter. The tricky part is not getting cherry juice all over the place, and making sure that the pits don’t get lodged into the finished dish. I shoot the pit right into the sink (making sure that the stopper is in place). After all of the cherries have been pitted, I simply scoop out the stones and toss them in the trash.
The next trick is to resist the temptation to eat them all before you use them in your recipe. (Remember the cherry scene from the movie The Witches of Eastwick?)

But i digress... Cherries are versatile. You can plop them in a garden salad, simmer them in a butter sauce, and poach them in red wine reduction. For dessert there’s cherry pie, cherry scones, and of course cherry crisp. My version of this traditional dish really highlights the flavors of the cherries. The topping takes a backseat to the fruit. Check out my recipe for Baked Cherries with Apple, Sage and Crunchy Oat Topping.

While you are enjoying your baked cherry treat, lick those fingers off and check me out on Oprah's website: just click here to watch my audition tape; with your vote, I just might get my own cooking show on Oprahs' new OWN network. Please vote for NANA - there's only three weeks left.

No matter what, just remember this: life’s a Bowl of Cheery Cherries!!!!

Baked Cherries with Apples, Sage and Crunchy Oat Topping

Reminiscent of a cherry crumble, this dessert focuses on the fruit first. Cherries mixed with fresh, vibrant ingredients and a touch of fresh herbs burst in your mouth. The crunchy topping is the enhancement.
Serves: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes

1 pound fresh sweet cherries, pitted, about 2 1/2 cups
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced, about 1 cup
1 tablespoon all natural granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour, plus ½ cup for topping
Zest of 1 medium lemon, about 2 teaspoons
1-inch piece fresh Ginger, peeled and grated, about 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), chilled, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a pie pan, or 8” x 8” baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Place the cherries, apple, 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar into the dish. Add lemon zest, grated ginger, sage and toss. Use your hands to crumble together ½ cup flour with brown sugar, oats, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Sprinkle the crumbs on top of the cherries. Bake until the cherries begin to burst and the topping is golden, about 40 to 45 minutes.
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