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Flamboyant cherries

(ran NP edition)

Sweet cherries are the most flamboyant of the orchard fruits. With their beautiful blossoms, delicious flavor and succulent texture, cherries are virtually irresistible.

Sweet cherries are the flavoring in Danish cherry brandy, and the succulent surprise in sauces and chocolates. Cherry pits have an almond flavor often emphasized in baking.

How to select and store: Look for firm, shiny, plump cherries with no leakage and a strong color. (Since cherries are generally sold loose, it's worth picking through the pile.) Fresh green, pliable stems _ as opposed to dry, brown stiff ones _ are a good sign, too, indicating that the fruit is freshly picked.

Once ripe, cherries are very perishable; Refrigerate them as soon as you get them home. But before eating them, rinse them quickly in cold water.

To remove the pits before using them in recipes, use a cherry pitter, or a small, sharp knife. Work over a bowl to catch the juices (and wear an apron _ cherry stains are relentless).

Brandied Cherries

pound sweet cherries

\ cup sugar

\ cup plus 1 tablespoon brandy

About 1{ cups vanilla ice cream

Cut cherries in half and pit them, working over a bowl to catch the juices. Set aside.

In a small heavy saucepan over medium high heat, bring the sugar and \ cup of brandy to boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Continue boiling, without stirring, until the liquid is reduced to about \ cup, about 5 minutes.

Add the cherries and their juices to the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the cherries are just heated through and slightly softened, about 1 minute.

Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of brandy and remove from the heat. Set aside for at least 5 minutes to cool slightly and allow the flavors to meld.

Spoon the warm cherries and sauce over the ice cream.

Per serving (without ice cream): 210 calories, 1 gm protein, 34 gm carbohydrates, 1 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 1 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Source: "Gourmet's Fresh: From the Farmers Market to Your Kitchen" (Random House, 1999).

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