Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cherry on Top

As usual, when my monthly 'surprise' box arrives from The Fruit Company, I got to work on how to make the most of it -- July is ripe, dark and gorgeous cherries. But since my husband is on a 'no sweets' kick, the challenge was a bit harder. This ruled out pies, tarts or even a sweet glaze. After a bit of experimenting I found ways to use them without adding sugar... and still had enough left for simple, unaltered snacking.

The first approach was how to incorporate them into a healthy dinner. Hot weather combined with the fitness focus required that the cherries had to be a highlight for something delicious but also fairly light. I chose extremely lean pork chops as a base and dressed them up with an amazing cherry-mustard sauce. Served with a side salad, this made the perfect meal. It was also fun to enjoy fresh fruit in a new, different way. Here's the skinny on how to put it together:


1 Tbsp Olive Oil (Lucini, always)
4 bone-in pork chops (organic and lean)
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 lb cherries, pitted and halved
1 tsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet at medium-high, add oil and swirl to coat. Season chops on both sides with salt and pepper to taste and add to pan, letting cook on each side about 3 minutes to lightly brown. Transfer to foil to keep warm.
Deglaze skillet with wine, keeping any browned pork bits. Reduce heat to medium and stir in butter and mustard then add cherries. Once sizzling, reduce heat to medium and add chops back into pan. Season again with salt and pepper. Flip once and spoon sauce over both sides (total about 5 minutes). Place onto platter and serve (at our house, there were leftovers -this is 4 servings).

Of course, I'm always thinking cocktails on summer nights (actually that's true in any season). Since I didn't want to do purees or simple syrups to keep calories low, I opted to infuse the cherries into vodka for a few days (about 1/2 cup to 1 pint vodka-- I used Tito's). Let it sit undisturbed in a tightly closed jar for 3-5 days, strain out the cherries and put back into a bottle or jar (lasts for months). Then you have flavored vodka without all of the chemical additives in varieties on retail shelves. Playing with how to use it is part of the fun once the flavor's set. This is the best light mix I've found. Lightly sweet but still tart enough to be completely refreshing:


1 oz cherry-infused vodka
Juice from 1/2 lime
6 to 8oz of sparkling water or club soda. (Substitute diet Sprite if you're a sweet drink fan)

Stir well and serve over ice. Garnish with cherries or a lime slice. 

How are you using this summer's bounty? Please share here, and keep following for inventive ways to make the most of this Southern summer!