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The Cherries of Summer

cherriesYesterday I stepped into the market with a grocery list of a few things and big plans for dinner. It was our date night that evening and earlier in the day I had given myself permission to leave a few gaps in the menu. This time of year I’ll often allow the food itself to determine its destination. Sometimes the plans become grand and sometimes they are as simple as melon and plums, thinly sliced with nothing more than a drizzle of fruity olive oil and fresh cracked black pepper, which was what filled in the gap for last night’s meal.

I walked through the stacks of produce and followed the heady scents until I found the origin. This lead me to apricots, blushed and freckled, dimpled melon that was far heavier than its diminutive size would allow you to believe. In other words, perfect. A quick sniff at the top where it once hung from a branch and my suspicions were right –  ripe.

Then there were cherries. A childhood favorite of mine that seems to be repeating itself in my own children. I bring home a bag of cherries and they act as if I’ve surprised them with a bag of candy. In fact, it’s more precious than candy because these treats – bulbous, sweet, tart and crisp – are eaten with great abandon for such a short time. Summer.
In this season we go through pounds and pounds of cherries, often eating them straight from the bag that they traveled home in from the store. Or, at the very most, served with dinner over ice. The ice slowly melts into the bottom of the bowl, dragging some of the buoyed little fruits with them. Those ones are the best – completely cold and crisp throughout, melting away the summer heat from the inside.

In the rare moments when I have a few cherries to play around with in the kitchen we’ve discovered their affinity towards white chocolate while dipping them in a bowl of melted chocolate much like you do strawberries with dark chocolate. We’ve bruised them in the bottom of a tall glass then poured chilled lemonade over their juices and soft skins. I’ve even pickled the sweet fruit to serve with sharp cheddar for a simple summer appetizer. They topped salads with goat cheese and have bathed alongside chicken thighs. And every year, at least once, there is a cherry pie (see recipe below). If I’m lucky enough to get my hands on sour cherries I’ll use those but often I’ll consider it a win if I’m able to squirrel away enough cherries for the pie before the cherries are eaten as is. You know, that’s all right too. Sometimes, cherries – perfectly sweet with ruby red juice, tight skin and simple – are best just the way they are.

by Ashley Rodriguez    
food blogger

Pie Dough
2 1/3 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 sticks (8 oz.) cold butter, cut in 1/2” cubes
2 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons cold water
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add dry ingredients. Mix on low to combine. Add butter using two hands to evenly distribute. While mixing on low, slowly add the oil, cream and cold water. When crumbly and dough holds together when squeezed, it’s ready. I like to finish off the mixing by hand to insure that the butter is evenly mixed and some remains in rough pea-sized crumbles. Divide in two discs and wrap well. Chill for one hour.

Cherry Filling 
For the cherries, I used Bing cherries. If you are lucky enough to have sour cherries, you can use those and simply omit the lemon juice.
2 pounds cherries 
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 t salt
3 Tablespoon cornstarch
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons sugar
Mix everything in a large bowl then set aside while rolling the crust.
Roll out one of the discs of dough and place in a pie pan. I prefer glass pie pans, as you can see the color of the bottom crust while baking and it seems to bake more evenly.
Use flour if the dough is sticking at all. Roll to about ⅛” inch thick. Place the pan with the bottom crust in the freezer while rolling out the second disc.
Roll out the other disc to ⅛” inch thickness. If you are doing a lattice top cut the dough in ½” strips.
Remove the pan from the freezer and fill with the cherries. Top the pie with the top crust, alternating the ½” strips.
Brush the top with a lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Dot the pie with a few little bits of butter before putting in a 370*F oven for at least one hour or until the crust is deep golden and the juices are bubbling thickly.