Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Cooking

From the food editor: For cherry season, four ways to use the sweet fruit

Living in Florida, there are a lot of reasons to hate summer: Unpredictable thunderstorms ruin many an activity. That thing where you're never appropriately dressed because you have to bare all outside but stores set their air conditioning to 57 degrees. Sweat puddles. Actual puddles.

But one of life's true delights this time of year is the prevalence of fresh fruits, especially stone fruits: peaches, plums and cherries.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this luscious produce trio since I used them in a recipe for Stone Fruit Yogurt Bowl earlier this month. (Find the full recipe here.)

And when my mom texted recently that "both kinds" of cherries were now out, I knew exactly what she meant — and I had to go stock up.

Now I have about 4 pounds of cherries in my fridge, and while I could very well eat all of them as they are, after the yogurt recipe I've been eager to work stone fruits into my cooking.

Peaches and plums are admittedly a bit easier to work with, larger fruits with pits that aren't as treacherous to navigate. I consistently use either fruit in my morning yogurt or oatmeal bowl, or cooked down with some onion and butter to create a compote for pork chops or chicken.

But cherries are perfect right now, and I wanted to challenge myself to use them as often as I could. (Though does anyone have a foolproof method for pitting cherries? Without a specific tool to do the job, mine varies each time I cook with them.)

Here are four things I've tried, with my favorite, a cherry salsa recipe, below. Shout-out to my husband for the idea to craft a fruit salsa. Fun fact: The first time he ever cooked for me, he made salmon and a chunky mango-onion salsa to go with it.

Cherry Chocolate Overnight Oats

I am still learning to fully love overnight oats. Sometimes they can be squishy for my taste. But this version is decadent enough to hold my interest, especially when zapped in the microwave just before eating. It would also make a decent healthy dessert. In a jar or leftover container that can hold at least 2 cups, mix ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, ⅓ cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons chia seeds, ¼ cup rolled oats, ¼ cup pitted and chopped cherries and 1 tablespoon chopped dark chocolate. Let the mixture sit overnight in the fridge, and eat in the morning. I like to heat mine up in the microwave for about 45 seconds.

Cherry and Feta Quinoa

Serve this one as a side dish, or top with some cooked chicken and bring to work for a protein-packed lunch. Cook 1 cup dry quinoa according to package directions. Remove the pits from 1 cup cherries and slice thinly. Place in a bowl, then add 2 tablespoons minced red onion or shallot, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil and some salt to taste. Stir. When quinoa is done cooking, remove from heat and place in serving bowl. Drizzle with the cherry mixture, then add ½ cup crumbled goat cheese, ¼ cup chopped walnuts and a handful of fresh parsley. Stir to combine, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Cherry Chicken Thighs

I love how low-maintenance chicken thighs are, the higher fat content doing a lot of the work to ensure they don't overcook. Roasting is an ideal way to prepare them, especially with this simple cherry mixture to add flavor during the cooking process. Place four chicken thighs, bone-in but skin removed, in a large, oven-safe skillet. Season with salt and pepper, generously drizzle with olive oil, and add some fresh rosemary and thyme to the skillet with the chicken, about 8 sprigs total. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In bowl, combine 2 cups pitted and roughly chopped fresh cherries, 2 cloves minced garlic and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste and roast the whole thing for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

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