R5 What's in Season: Cherry Picked

Once in a while, my research yields an “aha!” moment, when a never-questioned reality suddenly is illuminated. It just happened again, so prepare for enlightenment. The reason cough syrups are traditionally cherry-flavored? A link to our Native American past, when tribes used cherries to treat sore throats.

I get excited about this kind of stuff, but you don’t need to concur. The cherries themselves are exciting enough, sour cherries in particular. Typically called Montmorency (the most popular variety) and usually sold canned, dried, or frozen, they’ll be available fresh in the next few weeks. Keep in mind that one pound of fresh cherries yields about three cups of pitted fruit, and once you get them home, keep them in plastic, refrigerated, for up to three days. But hold your fruit bowl: these tart beauties are meant for the stove. And since New York’s harvest is second only to Michigan’s, put those pie dishes, sauté pans, and soup bowls on alert.

Mark Kramer’s will soon be in full swing. The Susan Lawrence Gourmet Foods (26 Greeley Ave, Chappaqua 914-238-8833) proprietor and executive chef is ready to pickle his Montmorencies for a watermelon, arugula, and goat-cheese salad, and caramelize them for roasts and desserts. “I like to use them in unexpected ways,” Kramer says, and so the cherries for his roast duck are glazed with red wine and balsamic vinegar; the ones for his Black Forest brownie sundae, with brandy. And then there’s his mascarpone tart, crowned with vanilla-liqueur-glazed sour cherries and crystallized rose petals.

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You can sample them at Susan Lawrence’s shop and on the catering menu, or bake and glaze right alongside Kramer at the shop’s cooking classes. And if that’s not enough sour cherries for you, take a trip to Traverse City, Michigan, where from July 4 to 11, a half-million celebrants will gather at the National Cherry Festival. The pit-spitting record there is 95 feet, 9 inches. How’s that for an “aha!”

Pickled Sour Cherry and Arugula Salad with Watermelon and Goat Cheese

Courtesy of Mark Kramer
(Serves 6)

1 cup fresh sour cherries
(Montmorency), pitted
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
â…“ cup dry red wine

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper

In medium sauté pan over high flame, heat oil and sear cherries for 2 to 3 minutes until slightly blistered. Stir in wine, vinegar, and sugar and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

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5 cups fresh baby arugula,
loosely packed
1 cup watermelon cut in ½ -inch cubes, seeds removed
12 fresh mint leaves, torn
6 oz fresh goat cheese
(like Montrachet), crumbled
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
½ tsp white truffle oil for drizzling

In serving bowl, mix arugula, watermelon, and mint. Gently toss with cherry mixture. Top with crumbled goat cheese and drizzle with oils. Serve immediately.

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