ON THE BALL WITH CHERRIES

(May 15) Sweet cherries from the Northwest are available only for a short time — from mid-June through mid-August. The most popular varieties are bing and rainier.

Bing cherries have a deep mahogany-red skin and flesh. They are large and firm with an intensely sweet flavor.

Rainier cherries have yellow skin with a bright red blush and yellow flesh. They are exceptionally sweet with a delicate flavor.

Develop a plan for these varieties starting with these five ideas from the Northwest Cherry Growers, Yakima, Wash.

1. Make a cherry spread for a blushing turkey and cheese sandwich. Using sliced French sandwich rolls, spread goat cheese on one side and add a mixture of pitted and chopped cherries, mayonnaise, mustard and basil. Add thin turkey slices and baby spinach leaves.

2. Make cherry salsa by combining pitted cherries, chopped fresh basil, finely chopped green peppers, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, grated lemon peel, salt and a dash of bottled hot pepper sauce.

3. For a cherry summer slaw, combine shredded cabbage, pitted and halved cherries, torn spinach leaves, shredded jicama and carrots, snipped cilantro, diced red onion, diced avocado and toasted pine nuts for garnish. To make the dressing, combine and boil olive oil, fresh lime juice, thawed lime juice concentrate, minced jalapeno pepper, lime zest, chili powder, ground cumin and salt.

4. Extend the short season by freezing a supply of cherries. You can freeze them up to a year. Remove them from the freezer 30 minutes before use. It’s best not to let them thaw completely.

5. Dehydrate cherries by cutting them in half and placing them skin side down on dryer trays. Dry at 135 F for 12 to 15 hours and store them in plastic bags in a cool dry area. Add the dehydrated fruit to salads and desserts.

TASTE OF THE NATION

Two hundred chefs weighed in with their thoughts on the culinary trends of the day for Share Our Strength, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-hunger organization. The organization’s “Taste of the Nation” survey paints the culinary scene like this:

  • Fresh, local and organic foods are the rage.

  • Chefs experiment with vegetables more than any other food.

  • Sautéing is preferred above roasting or grilling by 43%.

  • Filet of beef and salmon are the most popular meat and seafood items on the menu.

  • Asian and South American cooking styles are the most popular.

  • New York is the American city with the best food.