Nothing says summer more than a beautiful bowl of fresh cherries. Bing is the best-known sweet cherry. Large, round, and extra-sweet, it has purple-red flesh and a deep red skin that is close to black when fully ripe. Available from the end of May until early August, you can bet that the Bing will star in the National Cherry Festival, to be held July 7 to 14, in Traverse City, Mich.
There are, of course, other types of sweet cherries. The most common varieties are Lambert and yellow Rainier. Lamberts are available a bit longer than Bing, usually until the end of August. Buy them when you can and don't use them in pie only — cherries add color and taste to any number of good recipes, even where you'd least expect them.
Croissant French Toast with Fresh Bing Cherry Sauce
(From California Cherries)
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 cups pitted fresh Bing cherries
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. canola oil
2 cups fresh whipped cream
1/2 cup chocolate sauce
Heat orange marmalade in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cherries and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from flame.
Slice croissants in half lengthwise, as if to make a sandwich. Whisk eggs, milk, cream in flat-bottomed baking dish. Lay croissant pieces in egg mixture, flipping several times as liquid is absorbed.
Add canola oil to griddle and heat on medium flame. Cook croissant slices until golden brown on each side.
Place bottom croissant slices on serving plates. Top with 1/2 cup cherry mixture. Top with croissant tops, add a dollop of whipped cream and finish with a pour of chocolate sauce.
Hungarian Cold Cherry Soup
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 lbs. fresh sweet or tart cherries, stemmed and pitted
juice of 1 lemon
3/4-1 cup dairy sour cream
Stir the sugar and water together in a mixing bowl until the sugar dissolves.
Puree the cherries in a food processor with some of the sugar/water mixture. Strain the pulp through a medium-mesh strainer.
Combine the remaining sugar/water mixture and lemon juice with the strained cherries. Taste and add sugar or lemon juice if desired.
Serve in chilled bowls; top with sour cream.
Fresh Cherry Salsa
2 cups stemmed, pitted, fresh, sweet cherries
1/3 cup basil, fresh, chopped
1/3 cup green peppers, finely chopped
2 tsps. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
1/4 tsp. salt
dash of bottled hot pepper sauce
Chop cherries manually or in food processor. Combine all ingredients; mix well.
Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving over grilled fish or chicken.
Fresh Cherry Upside Down Cake
(From California Cherries)
Fruit Layer Ingredients:
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter or spray with nonstick spray a 9-inch standard round cake pan.
For the Fruit Layer: Melt the butter in a wide skillet, add the sugar, and stir until it is melted and begins to bubble. Whisk in the pineapple juice, stirring until smooth. Pour this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
In the bottom of the prepared cake pan, arrange the cherries cut side down in a circle, pressing down lightly to adhere. Add a second circle of cherries inside of the first ring.
Place pineapple chunks in a circle inside of the cherry rings and another circle of pineapple chunks, if there is room. Place a cherry half (or halves) to fill in the center of the cake.
For The Cake: Beat the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla until smooth. Mix the flour with the baking powder and salt.
Add the flour alternately with the milk, mixing until just combined. Pour batter over fruit and spread evenly.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes and invert onto a sheet pan. Drizzle any lingering caramel over top. Cut into slices and serve topped with whipped cream, if desired.
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. almond extract
1 and 1/2 cups fresh, dark, sweet cherries, stemmed, pitted and chopped
1 cup miniature chocolate chips
Preheat an oven to 400°. Grease 12 jumbo (31/2-inch) muffin cups or line with paper baking cups.
Stir flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; set aside.
Whisk together the sour cream, milk, oil, eggs, and almond extract in a separate bowl until well combined.
Pour sour cream mixture into the well, then stir in flour mixture until just combined. Fold in cherries and chocolate chips. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling half full.
Bake about 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 5 minutes.
Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Store tightly covered at room temperature.
Makes one dozen.
Rivka Tal is a former Minnesotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 45 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.