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With Cherries in Abundance, It’s Time to Use Them in Multiple Ways

  • Fresh summer cherries, both Bing and Ranier varieties, are plentiful in local stores. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

  • Cherry and chipotle pepper turkey chili, topped with plain yogurt. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)



St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

When I was a child, my favorite flavor was red. If pressed to be specific, I always said my favorite was cherry.

I still love cherries. At this time of year, when they are so abundant, I can never quite get the stains of cherry juice off my fingers.

Cherries are sweet, of course, and they make basically any dessert better. But they also can be part of savory dishes, too — they add a hint of cherry magic that accentuates the savoriness of the other ingredients.

I began with a cherry chipotle chili, and not only because of the alliteration. I was intrigued by the addition of sweet cherries to the spice and the smokiness of the chipotle peppers. I thought the classic combination of sweetness, smoke and heat — think of a spicy barbecue with a sweet, tomato-based sauce — might be good. This might be my new favorite way to make chili.

At least, that’s how I felt on the second day. It was pretty good when I first made it, but the sweetness of the cherries was a bit too assertive. By the next day, the cherries had mellowed and joined the assembly of tastes. On the second day, you get just a hint of sweetness and the flavor of cherries was happily assimilated into the whole.

I stayed in the savory realm with my second dish, grilled pork tenderloin with cherry salsa. Pork and cherries are a natural combination, and I liked that the cherries would come in the form of a chunky sauce.

I was also attracted by how the tenderloin is marinated briefly before grilling. Marinating a tenderloin is never necessary, but it doesn’t hurt. This marinade has the bite of lime juice mixed with shallots, along with plenty of cilantro.

Those ingredients are also featured in the salsa, along with the freshness of cherries and a bit of pepper for extra punch. The salsa is great on its own — one taste-tester said she wanted to make it to serve with tortilla chips — but it also amplifies everything that is so wonderful about grilled pork tenderloin.

For my first sweet dish, I made a pastry that is not too sweet, despite its name. Sweet cherry-filled buns are a type of vatrushka, a bun popular in Russia and Ukraine. In other parts of Central Europe, it would be called a kolache or something similar. It is kind of like a danish, only the dough is less sweet.

Vatrushki are usually filled with farmers’ cheese, but they are also often filled with fruit. That’s where the cherries come in. Why use any other fruit when there are cherries?

These buns are made with yeast, so they rise three times. That makes them deliciously puffy without being too dense. The filling is just cherries with sugar sprinkled on top, and they have a crumb topping for a little extra richness.

And of course I made cherries jubilee. You can’t write about cooking with cherries unless you make cherries jubilee. Everybody loves cherries jubilee.

And to the best of my recollection, I had never actually had cherries jubilee before. And neither had the people who tasted it. It must be one of those hugely popular dishes that no one has eaten since 1979.

Now that I’ve made it, I don’t understand why it has disappeared from menus. It’s easy to make, it tastes great and it catches on fire. What’s not to love?

The recipe dates back to the most august of all chefs, Auguste Escoffier, who created it in 1897 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, her 60th year as sovereign.

Escoffier’s original recipe calls for cherries to be poached in a simple syrup. The syrup is then thickened, and hot kirsch (a cherry brandy) is poured over it and set aflame.

The modern version is not much different. The syrup is now buttery and no longer thickened, and if you do not have kirsch you can use ordinary brandy. Orange zest and a hefty splash of fresh orange juice add a citrus zing that lightens the sauce. The flames? Just the cherry on the sundae.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin With Cherry Salsa

Makes 6 servings.

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, divided

½ cup minced shallots, divided

6 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 pork tenderloins about 2½ total pounds

½ pound fresh cherries, stemmed, pitted and halved

1 fresh Fresno chile, red jalapeno or Holland chile, or ½ green jalapeno, thinly sliced crosswise

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper

Note: Both the marinade and the salsa can be made 1 day in advance. Do not marinate the meat until 15 minutes before cooking.

1. Prepare a grill to medium-high heat. Combine ½ cup of the cilantro, ¼ cup of the minced shallots, 4 tablespoons of the lime juice and the vegetable oil in a resealable plastic bag. Add pork; seal bag and turn to coat. Marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, combine remaining ½ cup cilantro, remaining ¼ cup shallots, remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice, cherries, chile and olive oil in a medium bowl. Season salsa lightly with salt and pepper and set aside to let flavors meld.

3. Remove tenderloins from marinade and season generously with salt and pepper. Grill, turning frequently, until a thermometer inserted into meat registers 145 degrees, about 15 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes. Cut into thin slices and serve with salsa.

Recipe from Bon Appetit.

Cherry Chipotle Chili

Makes 6 servings.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound lean ground turkey

¾ teaspoon salt, preferably kosher

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 medium carrots, diced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 cups pitted black cherries

2 canned chipotle peppers, diced, plus sauce

2 bay leaves

1 (15-ounce) can white beans, such as cannellini or navy, rinsed and drained

¼ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt, optional

Chopped fresh cilantro, optional

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook turkey with salt and pepper, stirring, until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add carrots, onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder. Add tomatoes, cherries, chipotle peppers, bay leaves and 1 cup water; bring to a boil.

2. Reduce to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes. Add beans; cook 2 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Divide chili among 6 bowls. Top with 1 tablespoon yogurt and garnish with cilantro, if desired, before serving.

Adapted from Epicurious.

Sweet Cherry-Filled Buns

Makes 16 servings.

1 cup warm milk, 100 to 110 degrees (no hotter)

½ tablespoon active dry yeast

3¾ cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting

7 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided

2 eggs, one at room temperature, the other beaten with fork (for egg wash)

1 tablespoon butter, melted

½ teaspoon salt

1 pound sweet red cherries, pitted

4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold butter, diced

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the warm milk and sprinkle the top with the yeast. Let sit 5 to 7 minutes for the yeast to bloom.

2. Stir in ½ cup of the flour and 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and whisk until blended. Let rise in a 100 degree oven for 20 minutes, or at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.

3. Whisk in the room-temperature egg, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the melted butter and the salt. Attach the dough hook and add 2¾ cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing with the dough hook after each addition until fully incorporated. Add the last bit of flour slowly; the dough will be perfect when it no longer sticks to the side of mixer — do not add any more flour past this point (you may not need the full 2¾ cups). Continue mixing the dough with the dough hook on low speed for 15 minutes.

4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a 100-degree oven for 1 hour or at room temperature for 2 hours, until tripled in volume.

5. Transfer dough to a nonstick surface, such as a piece of parchment paper, and cut it in half. Cut each half in half, then each of those pieces in half, and then each of those resulting pieces in half. You should have 16 pieces of equal size. Shape the dough into balls.

6. Butter 2 baking dishes, either round cake pans or a 9-by-13-inch pan and an 8-by-8-inch pan. Place balls of dough, evenly spaced, in the baking dishes. Use a narrow drinking glass, small ramekin or your clean fingers to make a well in the center of each one.

7. Place 3 or 4 cherries into each well and sprinkle each bun with ½ teaspoon of the sugar. Let rise in a 100-degree oven for 20 minutes or 30 to 40 minutes at room temperature, until they look puffy.

8. Preheat oven to 360 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the cold, diced butter, the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and the remaining ½ cup of all-purpose flour; use a pastry cutter or rub together with your fingers until small crumbs form.

9. Brush the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle the tops generously with the crumb mixture. Bake 20 to 22 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

From natashaskitchen.com.

Cherries Jubilee

Makes 4 servings.

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups fresh cherries, pitted

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and scraped

Pinch of salt

¼ cup brandy or kirsch

Juice from ¼ orange

Zest from ½ orange

1 pint vanilla ice cream

1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, add butter. Once bubbling, add cherries, sugar, the seeds from the scraped vanilla bean and salt. Cook until the sugar has dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Remove from heat, add brandy and carefully ignite. Extinguish flames by squeezing the juice of ¼ orange into the pan. Add the zest, and set aside.

3. Scoop ice cream into serving bowls. Pour cherries over ice cream and serve immediately.

Recipe by Michael Symon.