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Chef's Hat: With a cherry on top

While they're in season, pick up a bag or two of cherries and start experimenting. They are great in desserts, salads, drinks and main dishes. And, of course, who can resists eating a few right out of the bag? Happy Eating! PineandLakes.com Illustration1 / 2
While they're in season, pick up a bag or two of cherries and start experimenting. They are great in desserts, salads, drinks and main dishes. And, of course, who can resists eating a few right out of the bag? Happy Eating! PineandLakes.com Illustration2 / 2

Walk through a produce aisle and it's obvious what time of year it is — it is cherry season. Shelves are stocked full of the famous Red Bing and Rainier cherries. Cherries are regarded as a dessert fruit, but they are also classified as one of the superfoods.

Cherries contain antioxidants, melatonin and s anthocyanins - which is a compound that helps to reduce pain and inflammation. Sweet cherries are loaded with potassium, which is a natural blood pressure reducer. And cherries are a good source of vitamins A, B, C and E, which help to keep skin radiant and healthy.

I have to admit, I've never eaten cherries for their health benefits. I just enjoy the taste of these little fruits and normally just eat them right out of the bag. But after eating about half a bag of cherries I decided it was time to experiment with the rest.

The only problem with cooking with cherries is the pits. In pretty much any recipe those pits have to be removed. There are professional cherry pitter type devices you can buy and they are not terribly expensive. But who needs one more kitchen utensil that's only used a couple times a year? All you really need is a toothpick or a paper clip that has been stretched out. Insert the tool into the cherry and you'll feel the pit. Twist your implement of choice and the pit will pop out. It may take a few tries to get the feel of it but it's an easy method and works well.

Both Bing and Rainier cherries are plentiful right now. Rainiers are a different color and have a very high sugar level and an incredible sweet flavor. The problem with Rainiers is they tend to be quite expensive. So for cooking, Bing cherries are probably more practical.

While they're in season, pick up a bag or two of cherries and start experimenting. They are great in desserts, salads, drinks and main dishes. And, of course, who can resists eating a few right out of the bag? Happy Eating!

Cherry Garcia Brownies

Adapted from Delish.com

  • 1 box brownie mix, plus ingredients called for on box (get a box that makes an 8 x 8 pan — not a larger size)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg (this is in addition to whatever the box calls for)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup cherries, pitted and cut into quarters
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (white chocolate chips also work well)
  • non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 by 8 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Prepare brownie batter according to package instructions. Set the bowl aside.

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, vanilla, egg and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the cherries and chocolate chips.

Pour brownie batter into the prepared baking dish. Dollop the cream cheese-cherry mixture over the brownie layer, then run a knife through mixture and batter to create a swirled effect.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the brownie comes out mostly clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan completely. Cut into squares and serve.

Grilled Chicken & Cherry Salsa

  • 1-1/2lb cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, they need to be of equal thickness
  • (pound with a meat hammer if necessary to get them even)
  • olive oil
  • Montreal Chicken seasoning (available at local grocery stores)

In a medium size bowl, combine cherries, red onion, lemon juice, basil, balsamic vinegar, honey, and salt in a bowl. Mix until well combined. Cover and place into the refrigerator while working with the chicken.

Preheat a grill to medium heat.

Brush both sides of chicken with olive oil. Lightly season both sides of the chicken with Montreal Chicken seasoning. Place the chicken on the grill and grill 4 to 5 minutes per side. (Cooking time will vary depending on how thick the breasts are.)

Make sure to grill until chicken is cooked through. (Chicken should be white in the middle.) Remove from heat. Let sit 5 minutes. Top with the salsa and serve immediately.

Crispy Salad with Smoked Turkey and Cherries

Adapated from catcherry.com

Salad:

  • 12 ounces Spinach leaves (or use Romaine lettuce)
  • ½ red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 can (11-ounce) mandarin oranges
  • 1 cup smoked turkey, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2/3 cup fresh cherries, washed, halved and pitted

Use a bottled honey or raspberry vinaigrette recipe or make your own

balsamic vinaigrette:

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Toss all salad ingredients, except cherries, together in a large bowl.

Whisk all balsamic vinaigrette ingredients together in a bowl or large measuring cup. Drizzle balsamic vinaigrette over salad, reserving 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette, and toss salad. Drizzle remaining vinaigrette over cherries and toss to coat.

Arrange salad on individual plates and sprinkle with cherries.

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