Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen -- Cherry, cherry: Make the best of a summer treat

By JANINE GILBERTSON July 10. 2018 8:15PM

Cherry Goat Cheese Tartlets, above, are easy to prepare using premade Phyllo cups. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Fresh summer cherries are turning up in grocery stores so now’s the time to make the most of them.

Cherries are fleshy drupes, or stone fruits, that have been enjoyed since prehistoric times. King Henry the VIII tried them in Flanders, a Dutch-speaking part of Northern Belgium, and then had cherry trees introduced to England.

The Dutch brought cherries to the United States when Brooklyn was still under Dutch rule and called New Netherland. They are now grown all over the country, but Traverse City, Mich., calls itself the cherry capital of the world and hosts an annual celebration in honor of cherries.

Cherries can be tart or sweet, but the most common type found in grocery stores are sweet. Although both contain abundant nutritional benefits, tart cherries are thought to be a remedy for inflammation, pain and insomnia. Both sweet and tart cherries are high in antioxidants and can be used in sweet and savory dishes.

One way I love to use fresh cherries is to fold them into a dark chocolate cake — dark chocolate is also thought to be high in antioxidants — so when I find myself reaching for a second slice of cake, I justify it by telling myself I’m boosting my antioxidant intake for the day.

Another great way to use cherries is to pair them with pork or chicken. I like to chop up cherries, red peppers and sweet onion, then toss them in olive oil with a little craft balsamic vinegar, like fig, and roast them on a sheet pan along with the meat.

When the meat is cooked, you can use the vegetables and cherries as a side dish and garnish everything with a little fresh sage. It’s delicious.

If you don’t feel like doing much cooking but are looking for an elegant appetizer, try filling little Phyllo dough cups with some honey goat cheese, sweetened with brown sugar, and topping it off with some cherries simmered in a touch of agave.

You can assemble a whole tray of tangy appetizers in about 15 minutes and they’ll be gone just as fast.

Cherry Goat Cheese Tartlets

4 oz. package honey goat cheese, softened at room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

1 T. brown sugar

2 T. agave nectar

2 T. water

2 c. cherries, pitted and halved

1.9 oz package premade phyllo cups, thawed

1/4 c. sliced almonds

1/4 c. fresh basil, thinly sliced

Remove Phyllo cups from package and set on a clean workspace. Add the cherries, agave and water to a small saucepan and set over medium high heat. Simmer cherries for about 7 minutes or until softened, then remove from heat. Add the goat cheese, brown sugar and vanilla to a small bowl and cream together. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of the goat cheese into each cup, then top with a spoonful of the simmered cherries. Garnish with sliced almonds and basil before serving.
Roast Pork with Fig Balsamic Cherries (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Roast Pork with Fig Balsamic Cherries

1 1/2 to 2 lb. pork loin

2 c. fresh cherries, stems and pits removed

1 small sweet onion, sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

2 T. fig balsamic vinegar

2 T. olive or avocado oil

1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

3 tsp. fresh sage, chopped

Add the pork loin, cherries, onion, and pepper to a large bowl. Drizzle with oil and vinegar and toss well to coat the pork and vegetables. Spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sage. Set in an oven preheated to 425 degrees and roast for about 17 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 160 degrees. Remove from oven and garnish with additional fresh sage, if desired.
Dark Chocolate Cherry Cake (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Dark Chocolate Cherry Cake

2 c. flour

1 c. dark cocoa, such as Hersey’s Special Dark

2 tsp. baking soda

2 c. hot water

2 c. sugar

2 eggs

1/2 c. sour cream

2 T. butter, melted

1 1/2 c. cherries, pitted and chopped

1 c. dark chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cocoa and hot water, then stir in the melted butter, sour cream and eggs and stir well to combine. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Fold in the cherries and chocolate chips. Spray a cake pan with cooking spray and pour the cake batter into the pan. Set in an oven preheated to 375 degrees and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the edges pull slightly away from the sides.


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