Guest Author - Deborah Markus
Cherries are a rare delight -- literally, if one takes seasonal eating seriously. For a few weeks every year, one is almost inundated with red, golden, and burgundy heaps of tart sweetness that are just as abruptly gone.
Cherry season is so brief that it hardly seems possible one would want or need to do anything with cherries but eat them. Yet every year, perhaps because I can't resist buying huge quantities of them exactly because they will be gone so soon, I find myself thinking of things to do with them.
(I also hope that there will come a time when scientists will announce that cherries are actually a wonder food, the way they seem to discover how amazing chocolate is every week, and I'll be able to boast triumphantly of those bags and bags of them I've eaten every year. For now, I have to content myself with the fact that they're a decent source of vitamin C.)
Cherries and chocolate go beautifully together as is. I prefer dark on both counts, but a very high quality milk chocolate goes well with that indescribable bitterness even the sweetest cherries have.
Dipping cherries in melted chocolate is very nice. You can go all out with a fondue pot, but just melting a bar or chunk of your favorite chocolate in a heavy-bottomed pot, double boiler, or a bowl in the microwave is fine. Cherries even come with their own handles for dipping.
To take the chocolate-cherry connection a step further, pit a quantity of cherries and soak them for several hours in a little of your favorite liqueur. Then stir them gently into your favorite brownie or chocolate cake recipe.
Once cherry season is over, you can comfort yourself with high-quality dried cherries. These are also wonderful in your favorite baked chocolate goods, but they're best in the following cookies.
Soften two sticks (one cup) of butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, stir together one and a half cups all-purpose or oat flour, a teaspoon baking soda, and half a teaspoon salt. Set aside.
Cream the butter with ¾ cup each brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add two eggs and two teaspoons real vanilla extract, and beat well.
If you've been relying on an electric mixer up to this point, put it away and get ready to do your own heavy work. Stir the flour into the butter mixture with a heavy wooden spoon. Then stir in 3 cups rolled oats. Finally, measure out a cup of dried cherries and two cups of chocolate chips or (preferably) chunks. This looks like a very busy dough, but trust me, it works.
Spoon this out onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for ten to twelve minutes. If you like your cookies crisp, let them cool only a minute or two on the cookie sheet before removing them to cool on a wire rack. If, like me, you prefer a softer cookie, let them cool completely on the sheet.
But don't let them cool completely before you try one. Eaten warm, these are as fine as a bowl of ripe fresh cherries -- and you can make them all year round.