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It’s cherry season: Wow your customers with a pop of color and taste

It’s cherry season: Wow your customers with a pop of color and taste

Photo: Thinkstock

Cherries are like chocolate and french fries. I haven’t met a person who doesn’t love them.

And with a substantial list of health benefits to their name, there’s even more reason your customers will enjoy seeing them on the menu.

Most notably, their beautiful red hue comes from antioxidant compounds called anthocyanidins, which help to fight inflammation in the body, a contributing factor to many chronic diseases. They also contain potassium—one of the nutrients most likely to be missing from Americans’ diets, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans—which helps to lower blood pressure. A one-cup serving is also a good source of fiber and an excellent source of vitamins A and C, two more antioxidants that work synergistically with anthocyanidins to pack a mighty anti-inflammatory punch.

While we all remember summer days sifting through a bowl of cherries and eating them straight off the stem, cherries are not widely used in cooking.

Their beautiful color and sweet and tart varieties bring so much to so many dishes. And since we are smack in the middle of their peak season, now is the perfect time to wow your customers with a pop of cherry color and taste. Here are some great ideas for how your fellow foodservice chefs are cooking with cherries.

Mark Mollentine, chef de cuisine with Sodexo at Children’s Mercy Hospital, in Kansas City, Mo.
•    Combine chopped cherries with tropical fruits (pineapple, mango, etc.), red onion, lime and cilantro to make a tangy fruit salsa that is a perfect topping for grilled chicken, pork or fish or inside of a wrap. Think Caribbean-spiced grilled chicken and fruit salsa wrap.
•    For a twist on chicken salad, make a curried-cherry chicken salad and serve as a flatbread sandwich or wrap.

Stephanie Hedrick, chef-regional purchasing champion, Greater Midwest, with Eurest Dining
•     To make cherry “slaw,” julienne fresh tart cherries and toss them with shredded radicchio and other julienned vegetables (zucchini, carrots, red bell peppers). For the dressing, combine the juice from the tart cherries with extra-virgin olive oil or mayo, fresh herbs like basil and sea salt.  
•    A cherry balsamic reduction is perfect for meat dishes. Either spoon it over steaks or add it to demi-glace instead of red wine. The balsamic enhances the sweet-tart flavor of the cherries and the cherries absorb the balsamic to make a sauce that stands up beautifully to steak.

Cheryl Burger, executive chef with Eurest Dining at J&J Janssen, in Raritan, N.J.
•    Cherries are a stunning addition to dark chocolate bark, which pairs well for an afternoon coffee service. The deep flavor of the dark cacao and brightness of the cherries paired with a cup of dark roast coffee seems like a decadent treat!
•    How about this unique mixture of flavors? Skirt Steak Grilled Pizza in which goat cheese, cherries, balsamic reduction and lettuces are topped on a smoky grilled pizza dough. The pop of flavor from the cherries is a nice balance to the creamy goat cheese.

Jason Wilson, consulting chef for Northwest Cherry Growers
•    Cherries are incredibly versatile when making sauces for proteins, particularly lamb and pork. Cherries’ sweet, complex flavor in conjunction with herbs and spices really light up a dish.
•    Fresh cherries are a go-to in the summer months when looking to add something sweet and unexpected to a savory dish, such as spicy foods like barbecue.

Eliah Golden, executive chef, housing and dining services at the University of Colorado, Boulder
•    -When using cherries in savory dishes, incorporate a spicy or bitter counterpoint to keep it from crossing the line into the dessert realm. Ingredients such as fresh herbs, black pepper, arugula or whole-grain mustard will balance the sweetness and create a dynamic flavor profile.
•    -Incorporate pitted cherries and cherry juice into your favorite barbecue sauce recipe. It’s great for ribs, roasted pork loin or gamey meats such as elk.

James Okerson, executive pastry chef, housing and dining services at the University of Colorado, Boulder
•    Slab cherry pie squares are more convenient and portable for summer picnics and potlucks than traditional pie wedges. Using sour cherries helps to control the amount of sweetness while keeping the wonderful cherry flavor.
•    Rehydrated dried dark cherries make vegan, gluten-free dark chocolate brownies even better. The sweet, fruit flavor complements the bitter cocoa and adds a delightful chew. Plus, they can be used all year long!

For more ideas on cooking with cherries, visit:

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