In celebration of Washington’s birthday

President may not have cut down the tree, but cherries are a sweet way to remember our leader

It seems appropriate to incorporate cherries into menus this week to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, which falls on Friday, Feb. 22.

Even if he never cut down a cherry tree or uttered the famous line “I cannot tell a lie,” Washington will forever be linked to the fruit.

Fresh, frozen and dried cherries provide a variety of benefits. Tart cherries are excellent sources of beta carotene, also known as vitamin A. In fact, cherries contain 19 times the beta carotene of blueberries and strawberries.

Cherries also are rich in vitamins C and E  and provide potassium, magnesium, iron, folate and fiber.

In addition, they contain a number of potent antioxidants — natural plant compounds that help protect the body from the damage caused by everyday pollutants. Cherries also are one of the few known food sources of melatonin, which helps improve the body’s circadian rhythms and natural sleep patterns.

There are a variety of ways to incorporate cherries into your diet. Make a trail mix with dried cherries, almonds and whole-grain cereal or add dried berries to tossed salad, fruit salads or chicken salads.

Use dried or frozen cherries instead of blueberries when making muffins or use dried cherries instead of raisins when making oatmeal raisin cookies. Add dried cherries to couscous, rice pilaf, grits, risotto or pasta.

Add toasted almonds and a little almond extract to cherry pie filling and use the mixture to fill crepes. Or add cinnamon, cloves and allspice to cherry pie filling to create a filling for omelets.

Following are a few cherry recipes from



Tangy Cherry Chicken

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons chopped thyme leaves
1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts)
3 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons cold butter
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup dried cherries
2 cups plain couscous
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup honey
2 scallions, finely chopped
Flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

    Heat three tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken liberally with half of the thyme, salt and pepper and add to the hot skillet. Cook five to six minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
    In a medium saucepan, toast pine nuts over moderate heat. Set aside. Add two cups stock and one tablespoon butter to the pot and bring to a boil.
    Heat one tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium-high heat, then add the onion, celery, crushed red pepper flakes, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook three to four minutes, until celery and onions are tender. Add white wine, and cook about one minutes, until the pan is almost dry. Add boiling chicken stock and dried cherries and cook for about five to six minutes, until there is only about 1/2 cup liquid in the pan. Turn the heat off and add remaining cold butter in small pieces. Whisk until has completely melted.
    Boil remaining stock in a medium saucepan, then add couscous, allspice, cinnamon and a little salt. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand five minutes. Drizzle honey over couscous and add pine nuts, scallions and parsley. Toss and fluff with a fork to combine.
    Serve chicken whole or sliced with cherry sauce poured over it and couscous alongside.



Tart Cherry and Red Wine Sundae

4 cups frozen cherries
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups dry red wine
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Vanilla bean ice cream, for serving

    Put a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cherries, cinnamon stick, sugar and cornstarch and cook about one minute, until the sugar starts to melt. Add wine, bring mixture to a boil and cook about four minutes, until wine has reduced and is slightly thickened.
    Remove from the heat, remove cinnamon stick and stir in vinegar.
    Scoop vanilla ice cream into bowls and top with the warm cherries and red wine sauce.



Hanger Steak With Shallot Cherry Sauce

4 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil
2-1/2 pounds trimmed hanger steaks
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pomegranate juice
1 cup cherry preserves

    Drizzle two tablespoons oil over steaks and season all sides with salt and pepper. Place on a hot grill pan or outdoor grill and cook about 3 minutes on the first side without moving. Turn and cook about five minutes, until preferred doneness is reached. Place steaks on a cutting board and allow to rest five to seven minutes.
    In a medium saucepan over high heat, place shallots and remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and cook until golden. Deglaze pan with pomegranate juice, scraping up the brown bits, then stir in the cherry preserves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until thick. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
    Thinly slice the steak against the grain and arrange on serving plates. Serve with the cherry sauce.



Honey Ricotta With Cherries

1-1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup cherries, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons honey
Kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped almonds
Whole wheat crackers, for serving

    Combine cheese, cherries, sour cream and honey in a bowl. Fold ingredients together so as not to discolor the ricotta. Season with salt.
    Place mixture in a serving container and top with chopped almonds. Serve with crackers.



Cherry Chocolate Coffee Cake

For streusel:
1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup sugar
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
For filling:
1-3/4 pounds fresh sour cherries, pitted, or 2 cups jarred pitted sour cherries, drained
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons cherry liqueur, optional
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
For cake:
3 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cups sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs

    Spread almonds on a baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven for five to seven minutes, until toasted. Let cool, then transfer to a food processor. Add sugar, butter, flour, cinnamon, orange zest and cocoa powder and pulse until the nuts are ground and the mixture starts to clump. Refrigerate until ready to use.
    Toss cherries, almond extract and cherry liqueur in a bowl. Stir in flour and sugar. Set aside.
    Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream, vanilla and almond extract. Beat butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed about five minutes, until smooth. Scrape down the bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until light and fluffy.
    Beat in half the flour mixture on low speed until almost incorporated, then beat in half the sour cream mixture. Beat in the remaining flour mixture, then the sour cream mixture. Finish mixing batter by hand, taking care not to overmix.
    Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Spread half the batter in the pan. Sprinkle half of the streusel on top, then cover with cherry filling. Drop spoonfuls of the remaining batter on top of the cherries and smooth with the back of a spoon. Top with the remaining streusel.
    Bake on a rack in the lower third of a 350-degree oven for 1 hours, 20 minutes, until cake springs back in the center when pressed. Transfer to a rack to cool. Run a knife around the inside of the pan, then remove the side and serve.



Pork Medallions With Cherry Sauce

1-1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, sliced into 1/2-inch thick medallions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dried tart cherries

    Season pork medallions with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat two teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook meat about three minutes per side, until there is just a slight blush in the center. Transfer the meat to a plate and tent with foil.
    Add remaining oil and shallots to the pan and saute about one minute, until shallots begin to soften. Add chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, remaining salt and cherries and cook about four minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce over pork medallions and serve.



Lamb Chops With Cherry Mint Sauce

6 lamb chops
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
4 cloves garlic, sliced
Kosher salt
Black pepper
6 fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
For cherry mint sauce:
2 cups dried cherries
4 cups cabernet
2 cups mint stems
1 cup mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/8 cup cornstarch

    Rinse lamb chops under cold running water, then pat dry with paper towels. Place lamb chops in a large resealable plastic bag and add olive oil, rosemary and garlic. Let marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
    Remove the lamb chops from plastic bag and season with salt and pepper. Grill at a 45 degree angle to establish nice grill marks until the internal temperature reaches 135 to 140 degrees, then remove the lamb chops from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
    Place cherries, wine, and mint stems in a large skillet and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by two-thirds, then remove stems. Whisk in chopped mint and sugar. In a small bowl, mix water and cornstarch, then add to the cherry sauce. Cook until sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon.
    Spoon sauce over the meat, garnishing each serving with a sprig of mint.



Frozen Fruit Smoothies

1 frozen banana, peeled and sliced
2 cups frozen strawberries, raspberries or cherries
1 cup milk
1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 to 3 tablespoons honey or to taste

    Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.


Dried Cherry Scones

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chilled butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
2/3 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup dried cherries
1 egg
1 teaspoon water, beaten
Sugar and sliced almonds

    Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender. Combine wet ingredients and mix into dry just until moistened. Add cherries. Mixture will be very sticky.
    Turn dough onto floured surface and knead four to five times with floured hands. Pat until 1/2-inch thick and cut into circles. Combine egg and water, then brush tops with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar and sliced almonds. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes.



Cream Cheese Pancakes With Cherry Syrup Jubilee

For pancakes:
1-1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons pure cane sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch fine sea salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 cup buttermilk
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus more for the pan
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
For syrup:
1 pound fresh Bing cherries, pitted
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
1/4 cup kirsch or cherry brandy

    Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
    In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks and the buttermilk. Add cream cheese and mix until combined. The mixture will look broken. Stir in melted butter, orange zest and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine.
    Whisk egg whites in another bowl until soft peaks form, then gently fold into the batter.
    Heat a griddle or cast-iron pan over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles. Brush with melted butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray, then drop batter onto pan by 1/3-cupfuls, leaving space between each pancake. Cook about four minutes, until golden brown on the bottom and just starting to dry a bit on top, adjusting the heat as necessary so the pancakes don’t get too brown. Flip and cook two to three minutes, until the reverse side is golden brown. Transfer to a rack set on a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200-degree oven.
    Heat cherries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean and seeds in a large high-sided pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, about 20 minutes, until cherries soften and sugar dissolves. Remove pan from heat and add kirsch. Return to the heat and ignite with a match. Using a spoon, baste the cherries with liqueur and juices until the flame dies out. Spoon over the pancakes to serve.


Cherry Hand Pies

For dough:
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
Vegetable oil, for frying
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
For filling:
3 cups pitted cherries, roughly chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

    Pulse flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor. Add butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Drizzle in six tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough starts coming together.
    Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and lightly knead to bring together. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate about one hour, until firm.
    Combine cherries, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, about five minutes, until cherries are juicy and the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer and cook about five minutes, stirring. Spoon about 2 tablespoons juice into a small bowl, then stir in cornstarch until dissolved. Pour cornstarch mixture into the saucepan and continue to simmer six to eight minutes, stirring, until very thick. Transfer to a bowl, stir in lemon juice and let cool.
    Divide dough into eight pieces and roll each into a ball. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each ball into a 6-1/2-inch round, using as little flour as possible. Stack rounds between pieces of parchment paper and refrigerate about 30 minutes, until firm.
    Remove dough from the refrigerator and let stand five minutes. Place 2 tablespoons cherry filling in the center of each, then fold in half and crimp the edges to seal. Heat 1 inch vegetable oil in a deep skillet until a deep-fry thermometer registers 360 degrees. Fry pies in two batches about three minutes, turning once, until golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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