Created in 1972 in Washington state by cross-breeding the more common Bing and Van cherry varieties, the unique golden-blushed Rainier is named after the state's namesake mountain, Mt. Rainier. Rainiers are a premium variety only grown in small amounts due to the extra care and attention the trees require. They are regarded for their sweetness and flavor with a lower acidity, making them a perfect ingredient for both sweet and savory dishes. Parents love them as a snack, as their juice is a light color and won't stain kids' clothes. Though now grown around the world, Rainier cherries are primarily grown in the Northwest region, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana, and are available for a limited time through July.
Along with being delicious summer treats, sweet cherries grown in the Northwest – including the shiny, golden Rainier and iconic Bing varieties, among others – are known for their high fiber and low calorie count. A study showcasing the anti-inflammatory properties of sweet cherries was published in the March issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Further, over the past few years cherries have also received increased recognition for their role in preventing serious illness and diseases as well as regulating existing ailments, including Alzheimer's disease, cancer, diabetes, inflammation, hypertension and stroke, and also aiding in better sleep.
Here are some delicious cherry recipes to help celebrate:
GRILLED PEACHES WITH FRESH CHERRY SAUCE
For the sauce:
1 pound fresh dark sweet Northwest cherries, pitted (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kirsch (cherry liqueur)
For the peaches:
4 medium peaches
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup vanilla ice cream
For the sauce:
To make the cherry sauce: In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, combine the pitted cherries, sugar, red wine, and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and purée until completely smooth. Return the mixture to the sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the kirsch. Simmer until reduced to about 1/4 cup, 1 to 2 minutes.
For the peaches:
Cut the peaches in half and remove and discard the pits. Place the halves in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Coat the peaches with the butter mixture. Grill the peaches over direct medium heat until grill marks are clearly visible and the peaches are soft, 10 to 12 minutes, turning once halfway through grilling time. While the peaches are still warm, layer each serving glass with 2 peach halves, 1 scoop ice cream, and 1 tablespoon cherry sauce. Tuck a cookie into each glass. Serve immediately.
18 slices (1/2-inch thick) small baguette-style bread
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1-1/2 cups pitted Northwest fresh sweet cherries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup each chopped cilantro and diced yellow sweet pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon grated lime peel
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil
Toast one side of baguette slices at 350°F 5 minutes. Turn slices, brush with olive oil and bake 5 minutes longer. Combine cherries, cilantro, pepper, green onions, lime juice, lime peel, salt, pepper, and remaining olive oil; mix well. Top each slice of baguette with a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese, a heaping tablespoon of cherry mixture and sliced basil. Serve warm or cold. Makes 18 appetizers.
CHERRY STUFFED GRILLED CHICKEN
1-1/2 cups pitted and coarsely chopped Northwest fresh sweet cherries
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon each salt and chopped fresh thyme
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (4 to 6 oz. each)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
Combine cherries, onion, sage, salt, and thyme; mix well. Cut a pocket on the thicker side of the chicken breast; sprinkle lightly with salt if desired. Stuff 1/4 of cherry mixture into the pocket; close opening with metal skewers or wooden picks. Combine oil, vinegar, garlic salt, and pepper; mix well. Marinate stuffed chicken breasts 1/2 hour in refrigerator. Broil or grill chicken breasts, brushing with marinade, until fully cooked and juices run clear when sliced.
Oven Method: Brown stuffed chicken in oven-safe skillet on both sides. Bake at 375° F 12 to 15 minutes or until juices run clear.
For more recipes and information about cherries please visit Northwest Cherries.