Cherry Salsa

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The prettiest cherries I’ve ever seen was on a drizzly day in Trier, Germany. Coincidentally, the white asparagus was at its peak as well! This is a photo from 2006, while walking through a square on our way to lunch, where I failed miserably attempting to speak German and read the menu!

Later on this trip, we visited the Schwarzwald, or the Black Forest region of Germany, known for Schwarzwald Torte, or Black Forest cake. At the Black Forest open-air museum we ran in to these ladies wearing their bollenhut.

The tradition is that the hats/bonnets with the giant cherry-red woolen bobbles must be worn while ladies are single. After the point they are married, they get to switch to a black version. I think I would have just moved to a different part of Germany.

Recently I was lucky enough to pick cherries from a friend’s trees. As I mentioned when I posted on the baked goat brie topped with roasted cherries, I wanted to create recipes for these fabulous fresh cherries that went beyond the basic cherry pie. That’s when I decided on cherry salsa.

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Now I know that I’m the first to gripe when terms are loosely used in the culinary world – words like confit, coulis, pesto, and yes, salsa. But it’s the only word I could think of to describe this lovely seasonal condiment.

It not cooked like a chutney, and it’s not a sauce. It is similar to the fresh tomato salsa I make in the summer, which really is a salsa, and also the cranberry salsa I make for the holidays. I used fresh cherries,orange, cilantro, shallots and ginger. It has zing, a freshness, some tartness and sweetness.

Use it with any kind of meat and poultry, just like you would a chutney or cranberry sauce. Here’s what I did.

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Fresh Cherry Salsa

1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1 shallot, minced
1 slice of ginger, approximately 1″ in diameter x 1/4″ thick, minced
Zest of 1 small orange
Juice of 1/2 orange
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon agave, if cherries are tart
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cayenne
2 cups cherries, halved if they’re large

Combine the cilantro, shallot, ginger, and zest in a bowl. Add the liquids, the salt and cayenne.

Then add the cherries and stir gently to combine. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

I love using sesame seed oil, and I thought it would enhance the shallot, ginger, orange and cayenne.

Serve at room temperature.

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I served the cherry salsa with a simple roast chicken and butternut squash.

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The flavors are spectacular.

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Baked Brie with Roasted Cherries

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My friend has a fruit orchard. In spite of a late freeze, the cherry trees were prolific this year, and at the beginning of June I went over to relieve her of some cherries!

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Although there’s nothing much better than just popping a fresh cherry in your mouth, I decided to do something with these fresh cherries, but without baking the obvious pie.

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I thought about ice cream, but then I settled on an idea I’d spotted in a cookbook a while back – roasting the cherries.

My friend told me to refrigerate them, as they’re easier to pit when they’re cold, so that’s where they went for a few hours.

I sorted the cherries, throwing away any questionable ones, rinsed them and let them drip dry.

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My friend gave me another tip – how to pit the cherries without using the olive/cherry pitter. A paper clip!

You insert one rounded end of a paper clip into the dent where the stem was, and simply “scoop” out the pit. This works especially well when the cherries are ripe.

I love brie in general, but if you’ve never had a goat brie, you’re mising out! However, regular brie will substitute in this recipe.

So here’s what I did.

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Baked Goat Brie topped with Roasted Cherries

Fresh pitted cherries, approximately 8 ounces
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon cherry or pomegranate syrup
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 small goat Brie

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Add the cherries and sugar, stir gently and remove from the heat. Place the mixture in an oven-proof baking dish.

Roast the cherries, watching them carefully. It should only take about 15-20 minutes. You’re not drying them, just caramelizing them.
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Remove the baking dish from the oven. Because these cherries were so juicy, I gently removed to cherries using a small, slotted spoon, and poured the remaining liquid in a small saucepan.
I gently reduced the cherry juice until a syrup, then added the cherry syrup. I reduced a few minutes longer, then added the balsamic vinegar.


Meanwhile heat the goat Brie ever so gently in the oven or microwave. You don’t want to cook the cheese, just begin the melting process.

To serve, place the Brie on a serving plate and cover with the roasted cherries.

After the reduction has cooled slightly, carefully spoon it over the brie and cherries.

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I also added a few sprigs of thyme, and served the brie with toasts.

If the brie is nicely warmed, it should pour out of its casing when cut into.

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The cherry juice, reduction and molten cheese made a beautiful design that wasn’t anticipated!
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This hors d’oeuvre turned out to be one of the tastiest I’ve ever created, in my humble opinion. And, it’s beautiful.
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The ratio of ingredients will definitely depend on the sweetness and juiciness of the fresh cherries!

Fruit and Chocolate

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I have a thing for the combination of dried fruits and chocolate, like dried apricots dipped in chocolate. Every holiday season I plan on dipping some variety of dried fruit or candied fruit in chocolate, but I know, in the end, I will be the only one who eats them.

photo from Windy City Sweets

photo from Windy City Sweets

Then I came across a recipe that combines chocolate and dried fruit – figs, to be specific – with nuts thrown in. And these bars seemed like something everyone would love.

The original recipe is in the book shown below, and it combines bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, macadamia nuts, and figs. Doesn’t that sound spectacular? I made the switch to hazelnuts just because I happen to have a lot left over from the holidays; plus they’re my favorite nut.
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I typically would have added different fruits to the mixture as well, but I held back, limiting it to the nuts and figs like in the actual recipe.

This batch was made last week, and what my husband didn’t eat went into a freezer bag. Maybe I’ll pull them out on Valentine’s Day. But what is funny, is that he wouldn’t eat a chocolate-dipped fig, yet he gobbled up these bars.

And that’s life cooking for people, isn’t it?!!

So here’s the recipe as printed in the cookbook.
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No-Bake Chocolate, Macadamia and Fig Slices

100 grams/6 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons clear honey
300 grams/10 ounces dark/bittersweet chocolate
100 grams/3 1/2 ounces milk chocolate
6 digestive or other sweetmeal biscuits/graham crackers
100 grams/2/3 cup shelled macadamia nuts
100 grams/2/3 cup ready-to-eat dried figs, chopped

Place the butter and chocolates in a double boiler and slowly begin melting the chocolate. I omitted the honey.

Meanwhile, grind the graham crackers, or whatever biscuit/cookie you’re using, in a food processor until smooth.

Measure out the hazelnuts, or whatever nut you’re using, as well as the figs. Add them to the graham crackers.

By now the chocolate should have begun melting. You want to be patient and wait until it’s smooth and shiny.

Mix together the chocolate and the goodies, then immediately spread into a foil-lined baking dish. The recipe suggested a 7″ square pan, I used a 5″ x 9″ rectangular pan. No greasing of the foil is necessary.
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Let the mixture cool, then cover the pan tightly and refrigerate for a few hours.

To serve, slice in the shape of biscotti, and top with a light dusting of cocoa.


As you can imagine, these are a wonderful chocolatey treat. I like their rustic appearance as well.

I enjoyed one with an afternoon coffee, though it was hard limiting myself to one.
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I wasn’t kidding when I said my husband finished off all of the bars that didn’t fit into the freezer bag, which I think totaled six. Well, he’s not on a diet.

verdict: These are fabulous. I’m really glad I omitted the honey. My only complaint is that these could be heavier on the dried fruit and nuts. Next time I’ll include dried cherries and apricots.

Cranberry Braised Cabbage

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A while back when I made cabbage bundles, I only used 12 of the larger, outside leaves of the one green cabbage I purchased. And there was no way I was going to throw away the rest of the par-boiled cabbage. So what to do?

my par-boiled cabbage, sliced

my par-boiled cabbage, sliced

Even though it’s January, I’m still in a festive mood. And, I happen to love braised cabbage, especially because you never have to make it the same way twice. I especially love the look of purple cabbage. Last year I braised cabbage with chestnuts.

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When I make braised cabbage, I typically start with butter and onions. But the fun part is choosing the braising liquids! There’s broth, wine, apple cider, and so forth. In fact, you can add sliced apples or pears along with the onions if you want that flavor as well. Jelly is traditionally added for a little sweetness, but I decided to use my cranberry-cherry chutsauce that I had left over. That made it a way more festive dish, and was a nice compliment to the green cabbage.
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So here’s what I did.

Braised Cabbage with Cranberry-Cherry Chutsauce

2 ounces butter
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 small cabbage, thinly sliced
White wine, I used a Riesling
Pinch of salt
Cranberry-cherry chutsauce*

Begin by melting the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 5 minutes.
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Add the sliced cabbage and sauté it for another 5 minutes, being careful that nothing gets close to burning.
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Add about 1/4 of Riesling and the salt. If you’re using raw cabbage, use maybe 1/2 cup of wine; you can always reduce it later.


Bring to a light boil, then cover the pot and cook the cabbage for about 10-15 minutes, or until completely tender. It should be very wilted.

Remove the lid and reduce any remaining liquid in the bottom of the pot.

Add about 2 tablespoons of your choice of cranberry sauce or chutney and stir gently. Taste for sweetness and adjust accordingly.


Once heated through, serve alongside pork, ham, duck, or roasted chicken.

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* My chutsauce recipe is not required for this braised cabbage, and I’m not trying to make anybody use my recipe in order to follow this braised cabbage recipe. Any kind of chunky cranberry sauce, preferably, or chutney with cranberries would be fabulous to sweeten the cabbage and spice things up a little. Especially with the individual berries still intact, as you can see in the photos. That’s what I was after. Just know the sweetness of what you’re adding so you can adjust the taste. I personally enjoy a little sweetness, but I don’t want my braised cabbage to taste like dessert!

Cherry Vodka Verdict

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It’s time!!! After two months of hiding in a pantry, the black cherry vodka is ready!

I decanted both liter bottles and collected the beautiful cherry-colored vodka, and saved the cherries. As with the strawberry vodka experience in the spring, this vodka-making process took a lot of the color out of the fruit. The cherries look a lot like the pale cherries you get from canned varieties. But I still might use them, if they’re not too alcoholic. I’m thinking of goat’s milk ice cream with cherries and cocoa nibs…
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Anyway, I mixed some of the cherry vodka with my usual mixer – Fresca. There’s just something about the grapefruity-ness that I like. I prefer it over the citrus-y varieties of soda.

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It was very refreshing. However, not nearly as good as the strawberry vodka. But I used less sugar, so that may be why. Still, it was fun, and it would be great in some kind of pretty punch as well – even at Christmas time. Although, I also make cranberry vodka. Maybe I’ll just mix them all together for a merry berry vodka!!! Cheers!
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Cherry Sangria

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Before my older daughter lived in Spain for a summer, I’d never been crazy about sangria. I liked wine just fine without any tampering. But when she came back and made sangria for me the “real” way – I gained great respect for it.

I happen to be the worst bartender around. You’d think I’d be pretty good at it with my affinity for anything alcoholic, but I’m not. And my daughter is married now and doesn’t live with me, so I can’t rely on her to make sangria for me any more. So I’m just going to have to put my big girl bartender pants on.

Sangria is typically wine, brandy, a little sugar, and some fruits. There’s a little bit of muddling of the fruits and sugar, but that’s essentially it. Sometimes there’s some lemonade, or something sparkling added.

But the thing is, you can do so much with sangria. You can use white wine instead of the more common red. And you can get creative with the fruits. I’ve made summery white sangria with peaches and grapes, and a very girly rosé sangria with raspberries and mint for a bridal shower.

And, you can use different liqueurs instead of brandy. I really like using Grand Marnier for the orange flavor, but I’ve also used crème de cassis for currant flavor. I very often use Quady Essencia, which is an orange dessert wine. It doesn’t pack a punch like brandy, and it’s more flavorful to me. You also don’t need any added sugar is you use a sweet wine. Less alcohol isn’t a bad thing, either. Sangria can go down really fast and easy. Especially on ice, when it’s really hot outside… not that I would know anything about that…

So today I wanted to make a new kind of sangria with cherries. I needed to use griottines that I never used over the holidays. If you’re not familiar with them, check them out here. Griottines are the result of Oblachinska Morello cherries that are picked where they grow in the Balkans, then essentially “brandied” with kirsch for a period of 6 months. They are alcoholic cherries in a strong but sweet syrup.

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Griottines can be purchased at igourmet.com here.

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So today I’m making sangria, but using cherries for my fruit, and the cherry-kirsch syrup instead of brandy.

Cherry Sangria

1 bottle (750 ml) light and fruity red wine
1/3 cup syrup strained from the jar of griottines
Juice of 1 orange
Griottines
1 can of Fresca
Orange Slices

It’s best if you start your sangria a few hours ahead. Place the bottle of wine, the syrup and the cherries in a pitcher and chill everything in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

I used Castle Rock pinot noir from the central coast of California. It’s not fruity, but is a real smooth pinot noir, and sells for $8.99 a bottle.

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Right before serving, pour one 12 ounce can of chilled Fresca into the pitcher. Decorate the glasses with sliced oranges, add a few cherries, ice, and pour in the sangria. Enjoy.

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note: If you prefer a lighter sangria, or perhaps a Cherry Sangria Sprizter, add one more 12 ounce can of Fresca. It’s very light and refreshing, more more like a spritzer than true sangria.

Also, this cherry sangria would be good with a white wine as well, like a nice Riesling. That way, you could see the cherries more.

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verdict: Loved it. Will make again.

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