Cherry Party!

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I’m so lucky. There’s a beautiful old cherry tree in the backyard of my house. From my deck, I’ve seen two springs of that tree’s white, bodacious blooms; and now, its second cherry harvest.

So,quite spontaneously, I decided to have a cherry party. Each guest was asked to bring a dish containing cherries. I spent some time last week looking for savoury cherry recipes – figuring most people would opt to bring dessert.

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It’s a huge, generous tree, but it takes some determination and expertise to get to the berries, which have been turning darker and sweeter each day of June. Last year, my acrobatic friend Terri clambered from branch to branch and garnered several pounds of fruit. This year, just as the party began, two determined little boys, their bemused, sophisticated older brother, and a gangly, cheery, athletic man took on the tree.

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I’ve been craving these cherries, their plump, sexy flavour. I’ve also had some escalation of chronic joint inflammation lately, and read recently that cherries are full of good stuff: they have anti-oxidants, which fight cancer, and melatonin, which boosts the immune system. But best of all, they also contain anthocyanins, which reduce pain and inflammation.

Cooking for the party was a bit like an episide of Iron Chef: Operation Cherry. I decided to make a cherry marinade for the grilled chicken: I threw it together at the last minute, so it will never be made the same again. It was a joyful flurry of creativity. I pureed cherries mixed with lime juice, canola oil, maple syrup, some Diana BBQ sauce, and hot sauce. It was good, but needed to be stronger, more concentrated, more redolent of cherries: if I did it again I’d add a bit of cherry syrup or cherry jam.

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I made a cherry confit whose recipe I got from a blog named The Passionate Cook, (recipe below) and this was meant to go with the lamb burgers. People loved the confit. It tasted very Slavic somehow, like it could go with a Czech duck dish too. It would also be great with, say a grilled round of Brie.

The cherry-romaine salad (also below) got raves. The combination of cherries and mild Greek sheep’s milk feta, was sublime.

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Almost without exception, people brought desserts – these included Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream, fantastic cherry perogies from Polish town, and, the star of the dessert table, Cherries Jubilee!

Cherry Confit

2 medium red onions (thinly sliced)
2 tbsp olive oil
200 g cherries (pitted and cut in quarters)
1 tsp fiery Dijon mustard
100 ml red wine (fruity)
50 ml balsamic vinegar

Sauté the onions and cherries until soft, add the dijon mustard, wine and vinegar and reduce for about 3 – 5 minutes until the liquid has been almost fully absorbed. Season with black pepper. Serve as a condiment with meat or cheese.

Romaine Salad With Fresh Cherries

1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups bread cut into small cubes
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (apple cider vinegar could be substituted)
2 tbsp maple syrup
Salt to taste
11/2 cups fresh red cherries, pitted and quartered
2 hearts of romaine, about 8 cups, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp pumplin seeds, toasted
1/2 cup (125ml) sheep’s milk feta

Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in nonstick skillet. Add bread cubes and saute until golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

Whisk together remaining wet ingredients. Toss with lettuce. Sprinkle croutons, cherries and feta over top, and toss gently again before serving.

Serves 6.

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