Cherry season is here. Break out your pitter

The time of the year that many of us wait for is finally here: cherry season. It is a brief one in California that creates a bevy of excitement at the markets. Last Wednesday, as I strolled through the Santa Monica farmers market, a friend commented that the air felt different and everyone was energized by all the vibrant, new summer produce at the stands.

The chief source of that excitement was all the cherries, toppling down from giant pyramid-shaped piles. You could smell them as you walked by and see shoppers quickly grabbing large handfuls to get their fill before the next customer in line behind them.

 

I find it so funny how cherries elicit this kind of reaction from people. Obviously, cherries are bite-size, so they make the perfect fruit snack — like nature’s candy (although you’ll never witness me use that phrase earnestly). And though I too stand in the lines and make sure I get punnets of my favorite cherries, when I get them, I only eat them raw.

I love the flavor of cherries even more when cooked, but the task of pitting the amount needed for a pie or a cobbler is just too much for me to bear. Some people have the fortitude to pit cherries, but my patience is reserved only for things like washing sinkloads of salad greens or stirring a pot of jam for an hour (we all have our escapes, yeah?).

So instead of using my hard-won, prized cherries for cooking, I turn instead to frozen and canned sour cherries. Now, before you write to me and ask for my head on a platter, I wrote a longer explanation, which I hope you’ll read and then also make my Whiskey Sour Cherry Cobbler included with that explainer. A healthy shot of whiskey, plenty of lemon zest and some cherry bitters help enliven sour cherries in a warm, bubbling cobbler topped with frozen shards of pie crust that bake up crunchier and butterier than the biscuit dough topping most people are used to.

But whether you have leftover frozen or canned cherries or you’ve been blessed with the ability to pit pounds of them and not develop an eye twitch, here are a few more cherry recipes to sate your craving.

My Cherry-Almond Upside Down Cake couldn’t be simpler to make. You simply sauté some cherries to concentrate their flavor, then top them with a simple cake batter made with almond paste, which only enhances that addictive cherry flavor.

Cherry Clafoutis is a classic French dessert that I often eat for breakfast, since the texture reminds me more of an eggy pancake than anything else (and the best part is, there’s no need to pit the cherries if you don’t want to). Staying in the breakfast mode are Mini Ricotta Latkes With Sour Cherry Sauce, which are like tiny cheesy pancakes topped with a fragrant sauce made from canned sour cherries and their syrup.

And if you’re looking for something with a bite to it, try this Cherry Relish, which combines cherries with red onion, balsamic vinegar and tarragon for a sweet-and-sour condiment that’s wonderful on pork, roast chicken or a grilled steak.

Whiskey Sour Cherry Cobbler

Inspired by a whiskey sour cocktail, which uses a maraschino cherry as its garnish, whiskey, lemon juice and cherry bitters combine to amplify the flavor of cherries in a simple, intoxicating cobbler. Typically made with biscuit dough on top, this cobbler instead is covered with strips of frozen pie pastry, giving the final dish plenty of crusty, craggy and crunchy pieces to contrast with the soft, bubbling, sweet fruit beneath.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 45 minutes, largely unattended, plus 1 hour freezing

Cherry-Almond Upside Down Cake

This cake derives its magic from a tube of store-bought almond paste, which adds sweetness and almond flavor to boost that of the cherries. Its dense texture is balanced by the cherries and their juice as you eat each bite.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 55 minutes.

 

Cherry Clafoutis

Clafoutis feels fancy but is actually one of the easiest desserts you could make. It bakes up like a huge, puffy, golden brown fruity pancake with a wonderful crust and a soft custardy middle.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour.

Mini Ricotta Latkes With Sour Cherry Sauce

Small ricotta pancakes work just as well for breakfast as they do for dessert. The syrup from a can of sour cherries is a brilliant resource for an instant dessert sauce when reduced and spiked with cherry liqueur.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 35 minutes.

Cherry Relish

The faint anise flavor of the tarragon is an unexpected note in this chutney-like relish. Pair it with grilled meat or chicken — or duck, especially, which is wonderful with cherries.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 25 minutes.

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