Fresh cherries have something resembling a mythical quality. Their too-short season makes spotting them in markets akin to discovering a long-lost treasure, and the gentle pop when you bite into a firm one has almost no parallel in the food world. I buy pounds of them when their time finally comes around, and for some reason, even at relatively high prices, it never feels like overkill—it's always completely worth it, and, in fact, it seems like the only sensible thing to do.
Sweet cherries are lovely in desserts or eaten out of hand, and sour ones are great for baking with a healthy dose of sugar. Grab as many cherries as you can handle while they're still around, and make one or two (or three) of these 11 recipes.
Easy Stovetop Cherry Grunt (Stovetop Cobbler)
A grunt is just a stovetop cobbler, and, despite the name, it's easy to make. This version uses juicy seasonal cherries and tops them with super-moist biscuit dumplings that steam with the help of a lid.
Goat Cheese and Balsamic-Roasted Cherry Crostini
Balsamic-roasted sweet cherries pair naturally with smooth, tangy goat cheese in these surprisingly delicious crostini. For an effortless party appetizer, make the topping in advance and refrigerate overnight.
Peppered Duck Breasts With Cherry-Port Sauce
This cherry-port sauce is made by cooking shallots in butter, then adding port, balsamic vinegar, cherries, and brown sugar and cooking until the sauce is reduced and syrupy. It pairs happily with grilled peppered duck for a main dish that's refined and elegant without being time-consuming. Watch the duck breasts carefully, since the rendering fat can cause flare-ups.
Classic Cherry Clafoutis
Clafoutis is a classic French dessert that's fancy only in name—it's actually very easy to make. A simple batter of egg, milk, flour, and sugar is poured over fresh cherries and baked. A little kirsch (cherry brandy) will enhance the fruit flavor, but it's optional.
Mini Sweet Cherry Pies
These cute mini pie-lets are the ultimate in "awww"-inducing desserts. And the method is the same as what you'd use to make the full-size version—just divided into several smaller ones. Make sure you factor in time for your dough to chill, and have fun with making a variety of lattices or other ornamental tops. These make great gifts, not least because they travel better than your average pie.
Spiced Sour Cherry-Glazed Ham With Parsley Potatoes
If you want to create a feast that makes an impression, a whole, scored ham will certainly fit the bill. Luckily, it's also easy enough to make, if you have the cook time available. Blend up a glaze of cherry preserves (homemade is always preferable), mustard, sherry vinegar, and spices, and put it in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors marry. Slather it on at cooking time, and enjoy any leftover glaze as a spread.
Sour Cherry-Lime Sorbet With Amaretti Cookies
This sorbet takes a little bit of cooking, a blender, an ice cream maker, and some freezing time, but it's well worth it, especially as a summer weekend project. The result of all your labor is a wonderfully tart and lightly sweet cold treat that pairs nicely with homemade amaretti cookies. Both can be prepped ahead of time, leaving you with just the baking and the sorbet scooping on the day of.
Sweet-Tart Duck Breasts With Fresh Cherry Sauce
This French dish of duck breasts topped with fresh cherry sauce is bound to wow your lucky dinner companions and get you props for all your hard work—but truthfully, it can be whipped up in 30 minutes flat. The duck starts on the stovetop and finishes in the oven while you make the simple balsamic-cherry sauce. Serve with whipped potatoes and a crisp salad.
Cherry Barbecue Sauce
Give your barbecue sauce a seasonal touch (and make it lip-smacking good) with the addition of cherries. This sauce has the classic elements of a tomato base and a vinegary tang, plus the extra fruitiness of cherry, with ancho chili powder and white pepper to balance out the sweetness. Slather it on ribs, chicken, and more.
Cherry Hand Pies
If you're on dessert duty at the next barbecue or picnic on your calendar, bring these cherry hand pies and be assured of charming everyone there. The filling of fresh, sweet cherries, sugar, and lemon juice and zest really puts the fruit front and center, and a simple pie dough is adapted to make convenient hand-held pockets. Use extra filling as an ice cream topping.
Semifreddo With Cola and Cherries
Don't have an ice cream machine? With a little elbow grease and knowhow, you can make a scoopable semifreddo without using any special equipment at all. This creamy dessert is flavored with cola and Lambrusco and finished with a simple warm cherry topping. The result is a not-too-sweet dessert that makes a refreshing summer-afternoon treat.