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Easy cherry recipes are a sweet start to summer

Easy cherry recipes are a sweet start to summer

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POSTED May 25, 2010 9:55 p.m.

The pleasures of summer —  its warm temperatures, its long days, its holidays and its bounty of fresh foods — make it an infinitely lovable season. It's no wonder we look forward to it throughout the rest of the year. Many people plant fruits and vegetables in late spring, after the last danger of frost has passed, but the wait to harvest those treats can be long. Luckily, a bounty of fruit is ready at the start of summer, in the form of sweet Bing cherries.

One of the easiest summer treats— requiring no more prep than a good rinsing — is to sit down with a big bowl of cherries and simply enjoy them in their natural form. But these fruits have far more versatility than that and they make even simple recipes shine. Even the most dedicated cooks often look for simplified recipes in the summer, to avoid standing by a hot oven or stove top. But whether you're a beginner or an astute foodie, you can easily put together dishes —from the main course to fresh Bing cherry pie for dessert — that will impress family and friends.

Main dish: Don't be afraid to try out cherries in unexpected ways. A dressed-up salad can be a perfect summer evening meal. While greens and grilled chicken are a well-loved pairing, tossing in some chopped cherries adds a new dimension. Try adding toasted walnuts and crumbles of a mild bleu cheese to the mix as well.

Drink it in: Skip the boring beverages — you can make your own drinks that will really be a hit. After pitting, put Bing cherries in your blender and liquefy. Then, strain the liquid into pre-made lemonade for a memorable cherry lemonade. For a more grown-up approach, add sliced cherries to red wine for a sweet take on sangria.

Sweet side: Get creative with fruit salad to accompany your main dishes. Melon and grape mixes are a bit overdone — be inspired by colors and flavors, and don't be afraid to try something new. Grab a cherry pitter to make the prep work a little easier, and combine California Bing cherries with other dark fruits, like blackberries, plums and black grapes; or, use their rich color as a counterpoint to lighter fruits. For a little zing, add grated ginger or slivered mint to taste.

Just desserts: Pie can be an intimidating dish, partially because it is often an involved process that yields a dessert only after hours of complicated labor. But the baking-phobic who love the dessert can breathe a sigh of relief: there is such a thing as an easy cherry pie recipe. The California Cherry Advisory Board's "Easy as Bing Cherry Pie" is as simple as it gets — with foolproof, delicious results.

California cherry season kicks off around Memorial Day, which is the perfect time to invite friends over for a party to celebrate the season.

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