Saturday, July 15, 2017

MORE THAN JUST A BOWL OF CHERRIES


Life is just ---

Not much in life is more pleasurable than a bowl of sweet red cherries. We’ve been enjoying the fruit since early June. But, as the cherry season draws to an end, I’m going beyond the proverbial bowl of cherries.


I don’t remember eating fresh cherries as a kid. But I absolutely remember cherry pie, a favorite for the Fourth of July, made with canned cherries. When I came to Spain and found fresh cherries in the market, I bought a cherry pitting device at the local ferretería (hardware store) and produced some pretty good cherry pies. Later, I went through a few seasons of making cherry clafoutis. (My trusty cherry pitter did double-duty as an olive pitter.) But mainly, I’m happy to just pop cherries in my mouth.

Spain is in the top ten of world cherry producers and exporters. More than a third of the crop is grown in the Valle del Jerte, in Extremadura (western Spain). More than two million cherry trees cover hillsides in this protected climate, creating spectacular sights when they blossom in early spring. Cherries from the Valle del Jerte have Protected Designation of Origin.

Picotas, on the left, are sweeter than cerezas, with stems.

Two kinds of sweet cherries are grown in Spain—picotas and cerezas. Picotas, which are picked without stems, are darker, sweeter, with a crisper texture than cerezas, which are picked with stems. Both are superb. The guinda is another name for cherry in Spain, designating the sour cherry.

For my cherry-themed dishes, I'm making cherry gazpacho--fairly traditional, but with cherries as well as tomatoes--and a cherry "ketchup" to serve with marinated pork tenderloin.

Cherries add a subtle sweetness to traditional gazpacho.

Tangy cherry ketchup is a perfect accompaniment to quick-cooking pork tenderloin. Add a cherry-inflected Garnacha rosado wine from Navarra for a lovely summer menu.

 Cherry Gazpacho
Gazpacho de Cerezas

Garnish the gazpacho with crispy croutons.

 Chef Dani García at his two-star restaurant in Marbella makes a cherry gazpacho served with a powdering of goat cheese and a sprinkling of pistachios. I’m using traditional croutons of fried bread, but adding non-traditional basil that seems to complement both the tomatoes and the cherries in the blend.

If you prefer a completely smooth gazpacho, sieve it after blending to remove tomato pips and cherry skins.

Serves 4.

Chill the gazpacho before serving.
10 ounces cherries
2 ounces crustless bread (2 thick slices)
2 cups chopped tomatoes
¼ cup chopped green pepper
¼ cup peeled and chopped cucumber
¼ cup chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Croutons of fried bread to garnish
Sprigs of basil to garnish

Useful tool--cherry pitter.
 Pit the cherries (you should have 1 ½- 2 cups)

Break up the bread and place it in a blender container. Add the pitted cherries, tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber, onion, garlic and salt. Pour over the lemon juice and water and allow the mixture to soak for 30 minutes to soften the bread.

Blend the mixture until quite smooth. Add the oil and blend again until the mixture is emulsified. (Gazpacho can be thinned with additional water, to taste.)

If desired, sieve the gazpacho mixture. Chill it, covered.

Serve the gazpacho with croutons and basil.

Basil is a nice complement to both tomatoes and cherries.

 Cherry Ketchup
Ketchup de Cerezas

A little tangy, a little sweet, cherry ketchup goes with many foods.

I'm serving this fruity, tangy ketchup with marinated pork tenderloin. But it would go well with turkey burgers or barbecued meat.

Ketchup should have a balance of sweet and tart. I found the cherries sufficiently sweet, so I added no sugar. After adding the vinegar to the pureed cherries, taste the mixture and add sugar to taste.

1 ½ cups pitted cherries
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
2-inch celery stalk
¼ cup water
Pinch cayenne
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons wine vinegar


Place the cherries, onion, bell pepper, celery and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, 15 minutes until fruit and vegetables are tender. Discard the celery. Puree the cherries in a blender.

Return the puree to the pan. Add the cayenne, allspice, ginger, salt, sugar, if using, and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.
Store the ketchup covered and refrigerated. Keeps up to one week.

Pork Tenderloin in Adobo Marinade with Cherry Ketchup
Solomillo de Cerdo Adobado con Ketchup de Cerezas

Pork tenderloins are rubbed with adobo marinade with oregano.

A friend gave me a bunch of fresh oregano picked just before flowering. The pungent fresh herb inspired this adobo marinade, traditionally used to preserve pork. Here, it’s a rub for flavor. Spread it on the meat and marinate, refrigerated, at least one hour and up to 24 hours. 

Picked before flowering, fresh oregano is incredibly pungent.

I used three small tenderloins, which cooked fast, fast, in the pan. If you’re using one big tenderloin, finish it in the oven.

Serves 4

1 ½ pounds pork tenderloin
8 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon smoked pimentón (paprika)
1 tablespoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon + ¼ cup water
¼ cup white wine
Cherry Ketchup to serve


In a mini-processor, grind together the garlic, pimentón, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the vinegar, 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1 tablespoon water. Spread this mixture on the tenderloins. Place them in a non-reactive bowl or container. Cover and refrigerate.

(If you intend to finish the tenderloin in the oven, preheat oven to 400ºF.)

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet on medium heat. Sear the tenderloin until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes.

Scrape any remaining marinade into the skillet. Add ¼ cup water and the wine. Either place the pan in the oven or cover the skillet and cook on top of the stove until pork is done to medium-rare (145ºF internal temperature). (Small ones were done in 10 minutes.)

Place meat on a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes. Slice the tenderloin crosswise, Spoon some of the pan juices over the meat. Accompany with cherry ketchup.

Pork and fruity ketchup.

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