Cherries scream warmth. But their growing season is short, ranging from May to August depending on your location, so the picking is fast and furious when they are available. Since we are just on the cusp of May, what better way to prepare for cherry season than to get a few seasonal recipes in order. (I like plan in advance when it comes to food — just another excuse to think about what next to eat.)
Fresh, raw cherries are a sheer delight. Crisp and sour, they are like the sunshine itself on warm days, supplying an uplifting dose of color and tartness. Cooked cherries, on the other hand, are like warm summer nights, suggestive of passion and sweet things. Their essence seems to be magnified in the process of cooking, by which their juices are stretched, their hues of red and purple darkened, and their fleshy texture thickened.
A recipe to highlight just this process is one of my personal favorites: a compote. What is a compote? Not quite a jam, a jelly, or a spread, it is akin to a thick fruit stew and can be served in a number of delicious ways. A compote is one of those deceptively easy recipes that many home cooks avoid because it seems fancy, but in truth, it’s easy as (actually, far easier than!) pie. Fresh or dried fruits are placed in a stockpot, along with spices, sugar, and a bit of wine, water, or juice. The mixture is simmered until the fruit has released its natural sugars (called the pectin), which thickens the whole pot. Within no time, you have compote: thick, saucy, delicious stewed fruit.
Served hot or cold, a good compote can compliment any breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Since it’s the beginning of the spring season, and everyone seems to be busting out the grill, I find it appropriate to highlight some grilled dining options. Here is a recipe for cherry compote, along with three ways to serve it: a grilled pork entree for the omnivores, a grilled tofu entree for the vegivores, and dessert suggestions for all-vores.
Fresh Cherry Compote
2 cups fresh cherries, washed, pitted
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup sugar or honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt
1) Combine all ingredients in small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer; cook 10-15 minutes, until cherries have released their liquids and compote has thickened. Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator.
Grilled Pork Kebabs with Cherry Compote:
Marinade cubed pork tenderloin in bowl of olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, mustard, and lime juice for 30 minutes. Preheat grill or broiler. Place pork cubes on metal skewers and cook 5-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until done. Remove from heat and spoon cherry compote on top.
Grilled Tofu Kebabs with Cherry Compote:
Place cubed tofu in bowl of olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, mustard, and lime juice overnight to marinate. Preheat grill or broiler. Place tofu kebabs on metal skewers and cook 6-8 minutes, turning occasionally, until sides are browned. Remove from heat and spoon cherry compote on top.
And for dessert…
As dessert, this compote is perfect served over ice cream or with a bit of fresh whipped cream. Serve it atop Mascarpone cheese, orange zest, and honey. Smear it on freshly baked scones or biscuits. Spoon it atop warm coconut rice pudding.