If you have seen Ben Mims The Story of Cherry Cobbler last week and/or if you read his newsletter Sunday, you know we’re at the height of the California minute of a cherry season. Here in our sunny state it’s mostly the deep, sweet, juicy crimson Bings which abound from mid-May to the end of June, meaning you only have a few weeks to stock up on locally grown delicacies. If you need more time for fresh cherries than the SoCal harvest allows, Pacific Northwest cherries are arriving now and should be available through August.
Bursting with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds like polyphenols and vitamin C, cherries are nutritious little bombs that promote health. Animal and human studies suggest that eating cherries may reduce the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. There is also some evidence that eating cherries can improve cognitive function and sleep. Heck, if a bowl of cherries is what it takes to ward off metabolic syndrome, I say go for it! And if you can resist gobbling them all up as soon as — or even before — you get them home, try one or more of these delicious cherry recipes.
Almost as American as an apple pie, cherry pie is satisfying in a different way. Rather than the cinnamon spice that comes with apples, a dollop of orange liqueur and a little vanilla add depth to the cherry flavors.
Described by Julia Child as a fruit flan, clafoutis that’s what the French do in cherry season. A simple pancake batter-like mixture is poured over a baking dish filled with fresh cherries and baked until golden and firm. To prevent the red streaks from “bleeding” the cherries, the French usually leave the pits in the cherries. If you choose to do the same, be sure to give a warning when serving it.
The brandy-roasted cherries form a rich garnish that plays nicely with the corn and almond notes of Polenta Cake with Roasted Cherries — a spectacular flavor combination.
Rye flour adds a subtle nutty flavor and complexity to the dough Cherry and rye pies. If the extra dimension of rye isn’t enough, the cherry compote that fills the handy carry pockets is enriched with Madeira wine and balsamic vinegar.
Sprinkled with pieces of garnet cherries, Cherry, Honey And Fennel Bread is a spectacular-looking quick bread made with whole wheat flour for added texture and hints of nutty flavor.
If you prefer to start your meal with cherries rather than wait for dessert, or reserve it with a first and last course of cherries, try Cold spicy cherry soup. The balsamic is a game-changer here – the tart, caramelized sweetness balances the cherries beautifully.
And if cherry bookends aren’t enough, Hot Steak Salad with Sherry Cherries is a boldly flavored dish that also boasts of being simple: if you don’t count the salt and pepper, it only requires five ingredients and it can be ready in less than an hour. A brief soak in sherry vinegar gives the cherries a bit more pep.
Burlat cherries are roasted in a vanilla, brandy and sugar batter then served with an almond polenta cake.
YieldsFor 8 people
Steak, arugula, and cherries macerated in sherry vinegar make for a simple, elegant meal that’s achievable on busy weeknights, and incredibly delicious.
Rye flour adds a subtle complexity of nutty flavor to this pastry that complements the sparkle of cherries doused in balsamic vinegar and Madeira wine.
YieldsMakes 12 hand pies.
Clafoutis dough is a simple mixture of flour, sugar, eggs and milk, seasoned with vanilla pod. It is traditionally made with cherries but many other fruits can be used.
YieldsFor 6 to 8 people
This pie is simple yet rich in flavor and a slightly firm texture from the fresh fruit. A little Grand Marnier and vanilla brighten up the flavors and add depth to the cherries.
YieldsMakes 1 pie (9 inches)
This slightly sweet soup is an adaptation of a classic Hungarian dish. It makes an elegant starter for an early summer dinner.
YieldsFor 6 to 8 people
This gorgeous whole grain bread is sprinkled with cherries like garnets.
Time1 hour 10 minutes
YieldsFor 12 people