Cherry season in short and intense here in Southern California, running from late April through early to mid-June. The markets are still overflowing with bright red bing and pale yellow "white" cherries, so stock up now, because there are so many more ways to eat a cherry than out of hand or in a pie.
Bonus Tip: Pit a Cherry in 3 Steps Without a Cherry Pitter
It is easy to pit a cherry, even if you don't happen to own a pitter.
1. Place cherry stem-side-up over the mouth of an empty wine bottle
2. Remove the stem and place a chopstick in the indentation where to stem used to be.
3. Apply pressure until the cherry pit is released into the bottle.
Cherry-Basil Drink Base
Whether you're making cocktails, spritz, or mocktails this summer, this complex cherry base is an amazing way to squeeze every last drop out of cherry season.
Combine 1 1/2 cups pitted cherries and 1/2 of sugar in a small saucepan; let stand 10 minutes or until juices have released, stirring occasionally. Place pan over medium-high. Add 1 cup water, 6 basil sprigs, and ginger to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until sugar dissolves and cherries have broken down. Remove pan from heat. Gently mash cherry mixture with a potato masher or a fork. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature. Strain cherry mixture through a mesh sieve over a large pitcher; discard solids.
Mix this base at a ration of 8 to 1, as a little goes a long way. Add seltzer and lime juice for a killer cherry limade; water and spirits for a boozy option, or add it to taste to a pitcher of sparkling wine over ice for a cherry-twist on sangria.
Slow Cooker Secret Ingredient
Making beef or pork in your slow cooker? Do a quick sauté of two cups of cherries in olive oil, with some garlic if you like, and toss them in. A little balsamic vinegar will help tie the whole lusciously tart dish together.
Swap Tomatoes for Cherries in Grain Bowls and Salads
Trust us. The meaty texture, tart flavor, and maybe the color too, make cherries the perfect substitution for tomatoes in grain bowls and salads. They pair especially well with feta and almonds, so pick a base of grain or green, add halved cherries, crumbled feta or blue cheese, slivered almonds, fine-sliced shallot or spring onion, and some diced up cucumber or celery for crunch.
Three-Ingredient All-Purpose Cherry Topping
We love easy, and this simple microwave sauce will ensure excess cherries never languish in the fridge again. Use this as a topping for yogurt, ice cream, brie, or slathered on brioche with a little fresh ricotta.
For about two cups of sauce, pit a pound of cherries and place them in a microwave safe bowl with a few slices of orange peel and a sprinkle of cornstarch. Cover lightly with a paper towel and microwave for a minute and a half, stir, and heat for another minute or so. Remove, stir, and add a bit of sugar if need be. Store for up to a week in the fridge.
Roasted or Grilled
This is easy. Stupid easy. But putting these guys over heat really mellows the tart flavor and brings out there natural sweetness.
Heat oven to 400° and spread cherries evenly on a baking sheet; roast until soft, about 10 minutes.
Alternatively, if you are outside grilling or smoking, skewer your pitted cherries and throw them on the grill or in the smoker for 10 minutes or until they become tender and start showing grill marks.
What you do with them after that is up to your imagination. Make a smokey Manhattan, mix them in your oatmeal, make a smoked cherry and watermelon salad, toss them with barbecue and hot sauce and use them to top your grilled chicken.
The possibilities are endless.