When it’s cherry season in Colorado, I’m usually baking a pie. That’s because our cherries are sour cherries –or pie cherries– depending upon where you’re from. You have to grow your own sour cherries or beg from a friend wherever you live; they don’t hold up well for shipping, so…
…they’re not something you see in the grocery store anywhere. Most sour cherries are purchased where they’re grown (Michigan comes to mind) and are otherwise canned or frozen. My cherry tree had to be laid to rest last year –chopped down a la George Washington, sadly– and the pain of the loss is still with me. I do not exaggerate. It’s a bit late in my life to plant another, but if I can…
Note to young cooks: Buy your land, plant your goodies, and stay put.
Meanwhile–just like you– I am enjoying Bing or Ranier cherries out of the local store’s produce department. And, like many folks, Dave and I often simply eat them out of hand hoping to get through that big bag or box before any go bad.
They aren’t pie cherries, but they’re sweet and plump, juicy, and downright perfect for staining anything you’ve got on that day. We’d eaten quite a few, but knowing how many were still left, I’d begun thinking about something to do with them besides snarfing down another handful every time I passed through the kitchen.
I had in mind cherry muffins — and will still do them as a COOKING WITH ADDIE post soon–but last night needed something to go with some leftover salmon Dave had smoked. (I don’t know how he or we managed that luscious fish as we had a busy week volunteering with Inter-Faith Hospitality Network (FAMILY PROMISE) at our church last week. We host several homeless families –usually around 15 people–several times a year in our facility, as do a few other churches in town. I co-coordinate the meals and service each time and Dave is often the key to making it all work, as always.)
Below: Dave cooking out in the church parking lot on the 4th of July for our homeless families.
The vegetables and angel hair pasta from the salmon’s first run had disappeared in the search for lunch the next day…
…and while smoked salmon is lovely for an appetizer all by its lonesome, for dinner it absolutely needed a companion. Rifling through the cabinet with the beans and legumes, there were a couple of packages of wild rice (I order them online several at a time.) that didn’t need using, but sang out none-the-less. Wild rice, if you didn’t know, has an indefinite shelf life if stored properly. Even white rice and especially brown rice go bad if they’re left to their own devices, but wild rice is forever. After living in Minnesota, a land where wild rice can be thrown into nearly anything– but most famously into soup as in CHICKEN-WILD RICE SOUP– I’ve found I love wild rice salads of any kind… Warm Wild Rice Salad recipe here
..and the fresh cherries felt as if they could be a definite foil for the chewy and hearty-savory rice. And so they were. I cooked the rice for about an hour, pitting the cherries in the meanwhile, and then drained and seasoned it with a drizzle of olive oil and salt/peppers–black and red. I then began to add what I imagined would compliment the marriage of cherries and rice. A bit of brie found its way into the bowl for a change of taste and texture and because it was facing its final day of life. Better in our stomaches than in the garbage. (Wild rice and cheese love one another anyway.) Celery, another favorite boon to wild rice, just about minced itself and a fennel bulb jumped in, too. There was half a pound of cooked asparagus and I chopped that right up. Red onion? Well, just a tad–not too much–and minced finely. Orange juice was the only acid I could think about, mild as it is. After tasting the salad, however, a teaspoon or so of white wine vinegar was needed, too. A bit of blandness ran away after a tiny sprinkle more of crushed red pepper was tossed in and a well-balanced side-dish came to be. We loved it. You will, too. Try this:
WILD RICE- SWEET CHERRY SALAD
The ingredient police are in the North Pole this week-no worries there. This salad is full of opportunities for you to experiment with vegetables you like or have on hand. Have at it!
- 1 cup wild rice–Wash well by placing in a pot with lots of water, swishing around with your hands, and draining several times before cooking.
- 4 cups water
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- Crushed red pepper or one-two shakes of hot sauce such as Tabasco
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2/3 – 1 cup sweet cherries, stemmed, pitted, and sliced in half
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 stalk celery, minced
- Zest of 1/2 large orange–a little more than a tablespoon
- 1 bulb fennel, sliced (Mince half of the slices and put in salad. Reserve the other slices, as well as the fronds, for garnish)
- 2 teaspoons minced red onion
- 3 ounces brie, chopped (about a 3-inch wedge out of an 8-inch, 1 pound round)–can sub really sharp Cheddar
- 1/2 pound cooked asparagus, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (could sub nearly any cooked green vegetable such as green beans or chopped zucchini, etc.)
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or to taste
- Juice of one large orange (about 1/4 cup or more to taste)
- Place clean rice and water in a 4-quart pot. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper, crushed red pepper, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce to bare simmer, and cook, covered, until tender, but chewy: 45-60 minutes. Drain well.
- Meanwhile, pit the cherries using a cherry pitter or knife. Set aside, covered.
- Add rice to a large mixing bowl and, while warm, stir in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon (pinch) crushed red pepper. Stir well.
- To rice mixture, add the parsley, celery, orange zest, fennel, onion, brie, and asparagus; stir well. Pour juice and vinegar over everything, mix, and gently stir in the cherry halves. Taste, adjust seasonings, and re-season as needed with salt, pepper, red pepper, and white wine vinegar, etc. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold garnished with with fennel slices and fronds.
Here’s how it came together–worked up into a crude slideshow on the More Time fb page! Trial run.
Stir in vegetables and cheese. Add cherries.
Garnish and serve.
IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU MIGHT LIKE MY:
Sing a new song, don’t just eat cherries, do something with them!