It’s that time of year again when I gorge myself on ripe, sweet cherries! I just can’t walk by a display of cherries in the grocery store without buying a bag, because it’s the one time that they won’t completely break the bank! Have you seen them priced at $9.99 per pound before? I have and it freaks me out. So, I exercise restraint throughout the year and go cherry crazy right about now.
During cherry season, you’ll find me with a bowl of cherries tucked in my lap and munching away contentedly with no need to do anything further to distract from this lusciously sweet treat. Plain cherries are just fine with me, but I suppose if I wrote a blog post about a bowl of cherries, you might look at me a little funny.
Recently, on the way to work I was listening to an episode of The Splendid Table as Jen Stevenson, co-writer of the book, The Picnic and member of the Portland Picnic Society (well, of course Portland has a picnic society, doesn’t your town?) was discussing a cherry salad with mint and pistachios. By the time I got to work, I was brimming with excitement to make this salad and go on a picnic–probably not the best frame of mind for buckling down at work!
Aside from being at work and feeling antsy about cherries and picnicking, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The mint plants in my garden have finally recovered from the beating they took last month during the windy season and they are now back to being full and lush. I also just happened to have a bag of pistachios “borrowed” from a friend (note to self: must replace the borrowed pistachios). And, as luck would have it, it’s the beginning of cherry season. It was kismet.
I love recipes that are essentially non-recipes–it’s free-form and flexible. There are no hard and fast rules or measurements. Just cherries, a handful of fresh mint leaves and coarsely chopped pistachios. You could stop right there and not go any further, but I wanted to add a little dressing to make the dish complete. The simplest combination of lime, shallots, honey and a little walnut oil was a lovely, savory addition that made the cherries sing.
The result was a bright and refreshing summer salad, perfect for a picnic or even alongside a juicy steak. It’s a great way to enjoy the bounty of sweet cherries while they’re in season!
Sweet and Savory Cherry, Mint and Pistachio Salad
Inspired by The Portland Picnic Society
One thing that caught my attention as I was listening to the podcast was that Jen Stevenson pits cherries the same way I do, with an empty wine bottle and a chopstick. It makes pitting cherries a breeze and it eliminates the need for a cherry pitter. Here’s a link to a video that shows how it’s done.
- 1 pound ripe cherries, pitted and halved
- 1 handful of fresh mint leaves, slivered
- 1/4 roasted and salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
For the dressing:
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 teaspoons of honey or agave syrup
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot (about a half of a large shallot)
- 1 sprig sweet basil, chopped finely
- 1 tablespoon walnut oil (or other neutrally flavored oil)
- fresh ground black pepper
- tiny pinch of kosher salt
- In a small bowl, stir together the lime juice, shallot, basil, honey or agave syrup, black pepper and salt. Allow the ingredients to sit for at least 5 minutes, or just set them aside while you prepare the cherries. Add the walnut oil and whisk to combine.
- Combine the cherries, mint leaves and pistachios and toss very gently with the dressing. Sprinkle with a few extra pistachios and mint leaves and serve. I love this salad at room temperature, but it’s also great chilled.
If you’re in the mood for a cocktail this Cherry Drop Martini made with muddled fresh cherries and Hendrick’s Gin should hit the spot–it’s fabulous! Enjoy your weekend and the start of cherry season!