Spiced Brandied Cherries

Jon and I, wanting to replicate those really delicious black cherries you'll find in your drink at cocktail bars that pride themselves on freshly squeezed juices and handmade elixirs decided to try our hand at homemade maraschino cherries. I waited until the height of cherry season back in August when you can score a huge bag for next to nothing and decided on the recipes featured in this New York Times article from a few years back. The recipe had the integrity, and minimal ingredient list I was looking for. And in addition to the Maraschino Cherries, the article also had a recipe for Spiced Brandied Cherries which sounded good enough to try, you know since I was already pitting tons of cherries. Turns out they're much better than their 'true' maraschino counterparts. Maraschino cherries are supposed to be sour to begin with, and then you soak them in alcohol, and they kinda fade to a greyish maroon that's not very attractive. And you're left wondering why you did this to all those lovely peak season cherries. But the brandied ones rely on a simple syrup base, a small amount of brandy, and some lovely hints of spice. Which make them absolutely delicious! You can of course plop them in cocktails, but they're also great with ice cream or along side any chocolaty dessert. And while a batch made with fresh cherries does have a bit more plumpness than one made with frozen, I think the frozen variety would make a great holiday gift or easy to assemble dessert this time of year.

Spiced Brandied Cherries
from the NY Times

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 whole cloves
1 2" piece of cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
1 quart sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted if fresh
1/2 cup cognac or other aged brandy

In a small saucepan combine sugar, spices, and water and bring to a simmer stirring until sugar dissolves. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add cherries and brandy. Allow to cool. Store mixture in jars refrigerated for at least 2 days and up to several months.


Lentil and Roasted Vegetable Salad with Yogurt Tahini Dressing

This is a great way to show off colorful fall produce like purple and yellow carrots or various hues of cauliflower. The sweet roasted vegetables, smokey spices, and earthy lentils come together with a bright and tangy yogurt tahini dressing for a light meal perfect for when the weather's just starting to cool down.

Lentil and Roasted Vegetable Salad with Yogurt Tahini Dressing
Serves 2

1/4 head cauliflower, broken into bite sized pieces
2 medium carrots, sliced into large chunks
1/2 head fennel, sliced 1/4" thick
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp smokey paprika
1/2 cup dry beluga lentils
1 bay leaf
1 cup mixed greens
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp plain nonfat yogurt, preferably greek
2 tsp tahini
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup shelled pistachios

Preheat oven to 400. Toss cauliflower, carrots, and fennel with olive oil, spices, salt and pepper and spread evening in an oven proof skillet. Roast for about 20 minutes until vegetables are softened and crisp on the edges. Let cool slightly before serving. Meanwhile, fill a small saucepan with lentils, bay leaf and enough water to cover by about 1". Bring to a boil and turn heat down to a low simmer, cover and let cook about 15 minutes until water has been absorbed and lentil are softened. Remove from heat, uncover and let cool slightly.

Combine yogurt, tahini, and lemon juice and whisk until smooth.

On a salad plate, spread lettuce, then top with vegetables and lentils, spoon dressing over top. Finish with chopped pistachios and serve warm.

Southwest Salad with Cornbread Croutons

Warm and crisp from the oven, the croutons on this salad are a delicious way to use up leftover cornbread. Especially if it's started to go a bit stale. And with corn, sweet potatoes, and black beans it's a filling and substantial salad perfect for a light dinner or hearty lunch.

Southwest Salad with Cornbread Croutons

Serves 2

2 tbsp buttermilk
1/2 tsp chopped chipotles in adobe
1/2 tsp honey
1 tsp mayonnaise
1 tsp red wine vinegar

1 small sweet potato
1 tsp olive oil
2/3 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup corn kernels, blanched
1 small avocado, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups romaine, chopped, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup cubed cornbread
salt and pepper to taste
sesame seeds, optional

Preheat oven to 400. Cube sweet potato and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes until soft in the middle. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, combine buttermilk, chipotles, honey, mayonnaise, and vinegar in a large bowl, whisk to combine. Add black beans, tomatoes, corn, avocado, pepper, lettuce, and sweet potatoes, stir to coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper. In an oven safe skillet or baking sheet, arrange cubed cornbread in a single layer and place under broiler until just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and top salad with warm cornbread croutons and sesame seeds if using.