Thursday, May 31, 2007


Starting in late May the first of the stone fruits arrive – cherries, and the laundry pile of crimson spattered t-shirts. The ubiquitous dark red Bing cherries are our standard, but yellow Queen Annes; white and red variegated Rainers, and the short lived, sour cherries offer us options. A good rule of thumb for this native of western Asian and Eastern Europe is the darker red the cherry the greater the sweetness on one’s tongue. Though the weather will surely have it effect on the cherry. Too much early summer rain and high temperatures will thwart the cherry’s ability to fully develop the sweet, rich characteristic we crave. The varieties of sweet cherries are heart shaped, and should be plump and firm to the touch with an even flesh that is not bruised or spotted. They are wonderful eaten well chilled, and can be frozen to be used well after the season has left us. Though you may want to invest in a cherry pitter to remove the stones before you freeze them.

The smaller, rounder sour cherries are usually destined for pies, canned or frozen. Fortunately, nine states help satisfy this nation’s cherry obsession with Michigan having the honor of being the largest producer of sour cherries and not surprisingly, California is the number one producer of sweet cherries. Store the cherries in the refrigerator in a bowl lined with a clean piece of paper toweling for up to a week.

Whole Black Sea Bass with Cherries – yields 6 servings

2 three-pound whole black sea bass – scales removed
1-teaspoon coarse salt (such as kosher or sea)
1/2-teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 scallions – green tops only; cut 1/12 inch pieces
2-tablespoons tarragon leaves – roughly chopped
1/2-pound cherries - pitted

Pre heat the oven to 475 degrees.

Wash the sea bass quickly under very cold water, and pat dry. Make three cuts, on the diagonal, through the flesh of the fish on each side. Sprinkle the fish with the salt and pepper. Place the fish on a parchment lined baking tray, and fill the cavity of the fish with the scallions, tarragon and cherries having the filling spill out of the fish. Cook in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

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