New Castle News

February 15, 2014

Culinary Conversation: Cherries can help make Presidents Day sweet as pie

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Monday is Presidents Day.

Granted, most of us don’t celebrate like we do on the Fourth of July and Christmas.

Some get the day off, though, which is a mini-celebration in itself.

Typically, when we think of the two presidents associated with February, often what comes to mind is George Washington chopping down the cherry tree. But that tale has been proven to be a myth.

I cannot tell a lie. Cherries aren’t my favorite fruit.

However, in honor of President Washington, today we put them front and center.

Did you know there are quite a few benefits to eating cherries? According to Tanya Zuckerbrot, a registered dietitian in New York City, cherries help ease arthritis pain. Bing cherries, in particular, can ease painful inflammation.

Flavonoids are found in cherries and those are powerful antioxidants that help fight free radicals in the body. Zuckerbrot also said that drinking tart cherry juice before bed can help you sleep because it contains melatonin, a hormone that helps you feel sleepy.

Because cherries are an excellent source of potassium, they help to lower blood pressure by getting rid of the excess sodium in the body, she mentioned, and eating them can help you lose weight because a cup of cherries is less than 100 calories and contains three grams of fiber, which will keep you feeling full longer.

Lesson learned — I thought of cherries as either eating out of hand or in pie. But they can be added to everything from dairy to pork, strained for juice, cooked down to make sauces, and of course, in lots of other sweet desserts.

While it may be difficult to find fresh cherries this time of year, we have included several recipes using the fruit from a can. Save the rest for when you can find cherries in the store.

As always, Culinary Conversation welcomes your recipes and cooking stories.

And happy President’s Day — with a cherry on top.

  Chicken Breasts With Cherry Sauce

Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Put a handful of flour in a pie pan. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dredge one of the chicken breasts in the flour, coating both sides well but shaking off any excess. Increase the heat of the pan to medium high. Test the heat of the pan by flicking in a little of the dredging flour. If it sizzles and immediately turns golden, the pan is ready. Add the first floured chicken breast and quickly flour the remaining chicken breasts and add them to the pan. Cook for about 4 minutes. Then turn each one over and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a plate and keep it warm. Add the pan sauce ingredients to the hot pan and boil, stirring and scraping up the browned bits in the bottom of the pan, over high heat until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and whisk until smooth and glossy. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

Frozen Cherry Dessert

Heat oven to 400. Mix butter, brown sugar, flour and pecans with hands. Press mixture evenly in bottom of 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Bake about 12 minutes or until light brown. Crumble with spoon; cool.

Reserving 1 cup of the crumbs, press remaining crumbs evenly in pan. Pack ice cream evenly on crumbs. Sprinkle reserved crumbs on top. Freeze until firm. Just before serving, heat pie filling and rum flavoring; spoon onto each serving.

Mini Chocolate Cherry Cheesecakes


In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar and cocoa; cut in butter until crumbly. Gradually add water, using a fork until dough forms a ball. Shape into 24 balls. Place in greased miniature muffin cups; press dough onto the bottom and up the sides of each cup.

For filling, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in milk and vanilla. Add egg; beat on low just until combined. Spoon 1 tablespoonful into each cup.

Bake at 325 for 15 to 18 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully remove from pans to cool completely. Top with pie filling.

Store in the refrigerator.

Yield: 2 dozen.

Sweet Cherry Pie

Pastry dough for 8-inch, two-crust pie

Preheat oven to 425. Line a pie plate with half the pastry dough.

Drain the cherries, saving /2 cup of the juice. (If you are using fresh cherries, the natural juices, which bubble up during baking, are sufficient.) Mix juice, sugar and tapioca in a bowl; add cherries and toss well. Pile into the lined pan and dot with butter.

 Roll out the top crust and drape it over the pie. Crimp the edges and cut several vents in the top. Bake for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 350 and bake 30 to 40 minutes longer, until the crust is lightly browned.

(*Note: Most recipes have not been tested.)