Cherries. I didn’t eat my first cherry until sometime in my early or mid-twenties. Man, I was missing out. Since then I have been in love with cherries of all kinds. Every year I attempt to make a pilgrimage to some cherry farm to get my fix of sweet cherries. Because I live in Los Angeles. So the only way I can find a fresh sour cherry is to win the cherry lottery. I found them once. Two years ago. At Whole Foods. I spent a small fortune buying as many as I could and freezing what I could not use fresh. They ran out soon enough and I’ve missed them. I have a few leads for next year though, so we’ll see.
I had another glorious day on a farm last weekend. Just….glorious. A few friends and I headed to the Oak Glen area of Yucaipa to get our apple pick on. My favorite farm in the area is Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho, so that’s where we went. I’ve been to other farms out there and again, this one has been my running favorite for the past few years. Not only are they super helpful and friendly, but they have the best fruit. They offer u-pick raspberries, strawberries and several varieties of apples. While Riley’s is not a certified organic farm, all of the fruit is chemical free. I went a few years ago and got the best Gravenstein apples I’ve ever had, but they are no longer available for u-pick. The farm did have Granny Smith, Spartan, Red & Golden Delicious for u-pick when we visited though. Score. Super sweet 4 variety of u-pick apple score.
We arrived at the tail end of raspberry season, so pickings were a little slim. Danielle and Brian combed the through the raspberry bushes and were able to get a pretty decent yield. The photos above are from a few years ago when I hit up the farm at the very beginning of apple season and the berries were out of control amazing. My friends and I left with a ton of them and I had to end up freezing a bunch because I went overboard.
On our recent visit, we were blessed with a beautiful, slightly overcast but cool day. It was the perfect backdrop for the day.
First up we headed to the Red & Golden Delicious part of the orchard.
Look. I’m posting a recipe for something savory. Sort of. 😉
These burgers are pretty easy to put together and they grill really nicely. I made them on Sputnik (it looks like a satellite), my tabletop outdoor grill. Don’t forget the vegan cheese as the it cuts the sweetness of the cherries. If you can’t get ahold of the new Daiya wedges, use your favorite vegan cheese you have access to. If you can’t get any near you, try making your own at home. There are a lot of recipes for nut based cheeses online and in various vegan cookbooks.
Cherry-Bulgur Burgers w/ Rosemary & Daiya Jack Cheese
Combine the bulgur with 1/3 c boiling water. Let it stand for about 10 min. If not all of the water is completely absorbed after 10 min, microwave the bulgur for about a minute until the water is absorbed.
In a bowl, combine the Vegenaise, lemon zest, 1/2 tsp of rosemary and 1/4 tsp back pepper. Mix and set in the fridge to chill.
Now grab a pan to cook your chopped onion. Heat about a tbsp of oil and add the onion. Cook for 10-15 min until the onion is golden. Add the garlic and give it a stir. Remove from heat and scrape contents into a large bowl. Add the bulgur, and Gimme Lean beef, remaining rosemary, salt and remaining pepper.
Whirl the cherries in a food processor to break them up a bit, or just give them a good chop with a sharp knife. Add the cherries to the bowl.
Use your hands to really mash everything together. Take handfuls of the mixture and form burger patties to your desired size. I made about 6 patties.
Now you can cook the burgers in pan, or do what I did and grill them. If you decide to grill them, add the vegan cheese in the last few minutes. The new Daiya wedges are a lot softer than the shreds and they melt more easily, so you won’t need to leave them for too long. I also like to grill or toast my buns. Rudi’s Organic Whole Buns are my favorite to use, just in case you were wondering. 😉 Add desired amount of Vegenaise, some nice crispy lettuce and some onions (which I hope you grilled!).
The title of this post is deceiving. I went to M&M Peach Ranch to pick, what turned out to be, the BEST Bing cherries ever. It was a lovely day with some lovely friends. M&M Peach Ranch does, of course, grow peaches as well, but they are late season peaches typically ripe in September. I will be back for those. 😉
It was a great and beautiful cherry picking experience. The cherries were ripe as could be, organic and $4 per lb which is pretty cheap for cherries in Southern California, even conventional cherries. The farmers were extremely nice and so helpful. I am looking forward to going back for some yummy peaches.
I ended up doing 3 things with my cherries:
1. I made Brandied Cherries with some of my Bings and Ranier cherries. (results to come!)
2. I made the Blueberry-Cherry Red Wine Pie from Eat the Love. (to make vegan, just sub out butter for Earth Balance, reduce salt in crust, and add a bit more liquid than called for–for the dough. Really easy! I used Green Bridge Organic Petite Sirah for the red, and as usual, subbed the cornstarch out for arrowroot.
A week or so ago, I spied a recipe for gluten free black forest chocolate crinkle cookies. I love incorporating gluten foods, but since I have no sensitivity or allergy to gluten, I generally like to make things with wheat-based flours. Plus organic, wheat based flours are typically much more affordable than their gluten free counter-parts. Enter chocolate crinkle cookies filled with gluten and cherry goodness. You may be thinking….cherries are so not in season. Well, you’re right and that’s why we’re using dried cherries in this recipe. 😉
Black Forest Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar
For Rolling Cookies:
1 c powdered sugar
1/3 c unbleached granulated cane sugar
For the cookie dough:
¾ c unbleached cane sugar
1/3 c canola oil
2 tbsp corn syrup (ew! But seriously, Wholesome Sweeteners makes a minimally processed, organic light corn syrup, which will work fine in these cookies. It’s not the same as high fructose corn syrup and you can use the rest to make candy)
2 tsp kirsch (cherry brandy) I used Aqua Perfecta Kirsch eau de vie by St. George Spirits
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/3 c non-dairy milk, with 1 tsp removed (I know it’s sorta weird, but just dip your tsp into the cup & gently remove—this is to even out the liquid ingredients)
1 tbsp ground flax
½ c chocolate chips, melted
1 ¼ c plus 2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp black cocoa (I like King Arthur brand. I also think it’s worth it to add this cocoa to your pantry. You won’t end up using it every time you need cocoa powder, but it’s great when you want something extra dark, like for these cookies or homemade oreos!)
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ c plus 2 tbsp dried cherries
Method: Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with silpats. Place the powdered sugar on a dinner plate and place the granulated sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
Bust out your mixing bowl and combine the sugar, oil, corn syrup, kirsch, vanilla bean seeds, non-dairy milk, flax seeds & melted chocolate. Mix until smooth. Stir in the flour, black cocoa, baking powder and salt. Fold in the dried cherries. Mix until you have a moist, thick dough. Place the dough in the fridge and chill 15-20 min.
Remove dough from the fridge and scoop a tbsp worth of dough. Roll into a ball and coat in granulated sugar and then generously coat in the powdered sugar.
Place the balls about 2” apart to account for spreading. Bake about 14-16 minutes until the cookies looked puffed and cracks have formed on the top. I baked one batch for 14 minutes and another batch for 16 minutes. Both batches were good, but I preferred the cookies that had a little longer to cook. Either way, let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for 5 additional minutes. Gently remove the cookies with a spatula and transfer them to a cooling rack.
I LOVE cherries. Delicious little beautiful wonders. This. This is what I think about cherries. Certain fruits just have this look to me. The look where if you were on your own….totally in the wild and stumbled upon this fruit for the first time, a cherry, you’d think, “That. I want to put that in my mouth”.
And it turns out, cherries are a swell choice for things you should put in your mouth. Cherries contain athocyanins, which is what makes them so purty. Athocyanins are antioxidants that give cherries, as well as other fruits and plants, their color. Cherries have also been known to help reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and there are even rumors afoot that they help keep fat away too.
Tofu Scallops Wrapped in “Bacon” with Cherry-Tarragon Sauce
Every now and then when I’m feeling fancy, I pull out my copy of Veganize This! By Jenn Shagrin and whip up a batch of her tofu scallops. Tofu scallops?!? What the hell are those? Short answer: Tofu marinated in an ocean-y broth. Ocean-y broth?!? Say what?? Think seaweeds and water and things. If you want more detailed info, get your hands on Jenn’s book. It’s not a great choice for beginning cooks, but if you love food and cookin’, it’s a must have. I have a small cookie cutter that I use to cut my tofu into scallop look-a-likes.
I lightly salted and peppered my scallops and peeled some garlic to bake with them. I wrapped them in Lightlife’s Smart Bacon, which I don’t normally use (I like tempeh bacon), but Smart Bacon was perfect for these. I put them on a baking sheet and sprayed them with a very light coating of oil. I baked them for about 25-30 minutes and then served them with the sauce recipe below on a bed of organic whole-wheat linguine. To round out the meal, I should have added a salad, but I was too full.
Adapted from Whole Foods Recipe
1 tbsp refined organic coconut oil, safflower or sunflower oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or very finely chopped
2 tbsp brown rice vinegar or white wine
½ lb cherries, pitted and quartered (about 2 cups)
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
unbleached sea salt, to taste
Heat skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until they start to soften. Then, add the garlic. Keep an eye….we all know how fast garlic can burn. Add the vinegar/wine and cherries. Here, you can either cover your skillet and let the cherries cook a few minutes (until they start to become soft) or you can leave the lid off and just cook them a little bit longer. Mix in tarragon and turn off the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. The sauce is cherry, so it’s supposed to be sweet, so keep that in mind when adding your salt.
If you like a chunky sauce, leave as is. If you like your sauces a little smoother, you can give it a whirl in a food processor or blender. Depending on what kind of skillet or saucepot you’re using, you can also use an immersion blender.