July 8th, 2010

{recipe} Vanilla Poached Cherries

Can you tell? I’m in a summer state of mind! Summer means ice cream, popsicles, stone fruit paired with fresh herbs and CHERRIES!

Cherries make me incredibly happy. Not only are they divine fresh and completely unadorned, but they are also delectable in my favorite desserts: pies, crumbles and crisps (like this Cinnamon Cardamom Cherry Crisp… DROOL.) But, alas, for now, I’m trying to avoid such desserts. And so I almost avoided cherries all together. Seriously. Making something buttery, cinnamony and cakey with cherries is that tempting. But, then, of course, I thought better of it.

Okay. I really just thought, what the hell. One pie won’t kill you. So I bought some gorgeous Rainer cherries at the farmers market and made my way home. Once there, I really did think better of it. There had to be a healthy cherry dessert that would knock my socks off. And sure enough, there is.

Deciding to poach these was divine intervention. (You know, from the food gods.) The cherries come out tender and bursting with natural juice, just like when you bake them. So satisfying. And the vanilla lends a sweet flavor that makes this abstemious dessert taste sinful, especially spooned over some vanilla yogurt—even the low fat kind. Delicious! It’s almost like eating a delicate (but just as soul warming) version of pie filling, without the goop or crust. And way more refreshing on hot summer evenings. Works for me!

Not only can you enjoy this without guilt, but you can share it with your little ones without guilt, too! No over buttery crust. Not so much sugar that they’ll be bouncing off the walls. (Though, of course, there is a time and a place for such things!) They make a great finger food and jazz up plain whole milk version. You can even pour some of the poaching liquid in fizzy water and throw in a couple of cherries for a fun drink. I guarantee your little eaters will be lapping this up just like the Hungry Boy.

Vanilla Poached Cherries
makes 4 desserts, as a topping
(can be served to kids 12+ mos)*

1 c fresh cherries, pitted
1/3 c orange juice
1 1/2 c water
1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/8 c honey*
half a vanilla bean

1. Combine all ingredients except the vanilla bean in a small saucepan.

2. Cut a vertical slit halfway down the vanilla bean. Scrape the resin from inside (so the resin from 1/4 of a whole vanilla bean) and mix it into the liquid mixture. Toss the vanilla bean segment (the entire 1/2 that you started with) into the pot.

3. Cover the pot and turn heat to medium. Cook cherries until they are tender, about 15-20 minutes. These are best chilled; put the cherries and poaching liquid in an airtight container and cool in the fridge for a few hours. They will last in the fridge for about 5 days. (That is, if you double or triple the recipe… because this amount will go in one sitting!)

*Note: Conservative food introductions delay citrus until 12 months. If you are taking a liberal approach to food introductions, you can share these with kids as young as 6 months, so long as they don’t have a personal or family history of food allergies and you consider the risk of feeding anyone under 12 months honey (see below). If you’re feeling liberal but going slowly, skip the poaching liquid.

As for honey, the risk isn’t about food allergies, but rather botulism. There is some disagreement about the risk, so speak to your pediatrician before feeding any child under 12 months honey, even cooked (home cooking temps do not kill botulism spores). If you want to share these with your hungry baby, consider using a different sweetener.

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