Cherry Delights

Several years ago, when my mom came back from a family reunion in the state of Washington, she brought back some bing cherries. And boy, they were big, and they were good. They were so tasty it took me a while to get used to the ones in the supermarket again — the not-as-fresh and not-as-big ones.

It won’t be too long before this year’s crop of bings arrives in stores. But I’m not going to wait until then to get my fill of cherries.

I decided that after reading about a new human study that reinforces the antioxidant benefits of tart cherries — all kinds.

According to the University of Michigan research reported at the 2009 Experimental Biology meeting in New Orleans in April, eating just 1½ half servings of tart cherries could significantly boost antioxidant activity in the body. Specifically, healthy adults who ate a cup and a half of frozen cherries had increased levels of five different anthocyanins — the natural antioxidants that give cherries their red color.

Previous studies have suggested that antioxidants may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals, which can damage cells and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. (For more information on the science supporting the unique health benefits of cherries and for cherry recipes and menu ideas, visit www.choosecherries.com.)

Cherries come in many forms — dried, frozen and juice — so they are readily available all year and can be used in a variety of recipes. (Ninety-five percent of cherries consumed in the U.S. are grown in Michigan, Wisconsin, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania and New York.)

In one of the following recipes, salmon, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, teams up cherries for a healthy entree. The other, for cherry pie, is an American classic.

Carmelized Salmon with Cherry Salsa
1½ pounds fresh or frozen salmon filet with skin
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
½ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1 ripe mango or papaya, seeded, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen tart cherries, thawed, drained and halved
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, basil or cilantro
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Thaw fish, if frozen. Stir together brown sugar, orange peel and pepper. Place fish, skin side down, in a shallow pan. Rub sugar mixture over fish. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 8 hours. Remove fish from pan, draining off any juices. Place salmon, skin-sid down, on gas grill over medium heat or on charcoal grill 4 to 6 inches from medium-hot coals. Grill for 20 to 25 minutes, or until fish flakes easily. Do not turn fish. Meanwhile, toss together mango or papaya, cherries, mint, vinegar and red pepper. Spoon fruit salsa over warm fish. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 367 calories, 13 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 24 grams carbohydrates, 87 milligrams cholesterol, 37 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, 93 milligrams sodium.

Cherry Pie
1 package refrigerated pie crust for 9-inch pie
2 20- or 21-ounce) cans cherry pie filling
½ teaspoon almond extract
Line a 9-inch pie pan with pie crust. Trim crust along pan edge. Pour cherry pie filling evenly into crust. Sprinkle with almond extract, if desired.
Place second crust over filling. Wrap excess top crust under bottom crust. Press edges together with a fork. With a knife, cut slits in top crust.
Bake in preheated 400-degree oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Cover edge of crust with strips of foil, if needed, to prevent overbrowning.
Note: If desired, 1 cup of dried cherries can be mixed with the cherry filling before baking for added cherry flavor.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 269 calories, 2 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 60 grams carbohydrates, 2 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram protein, 1 grams fiber, 69 milligrams sodium.

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