by Matt on May 20, 2007

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Full confession:  I didn’t grow up eating cherries. Not a one. In fact, I can’t remember ever having a fresh cherry when I was a kid. The only thing I can remember was the woefully unoriginal idea of cherry: cherry soda, canned cherry filling, maraschino cherries, cherry cough drops, cherry candy, cherry air freshener (ick!), etc. That bizarre red unidentifiable flavor that tries to be a cherry but can’t quite reach its goal. I have no doubt you know what I’m talking about.

Fake cherry.

I fault no one, and we all know necessity is the mother of invention. How else were the masses supposed to enjoy the bright happy zing of a cherry throughout the year? There’s only one problem though–cherry flavor is nothing like a real cherry.

There. I said it. I got it off my chest.

Unlike citrus and tropical fruits,  cherries are modest with their flavor. They don’t fill up a room with perfume and they don’t knock you over and give you a puckerface. And therein lies their beauty. Those little crimson globes are delightful as is, sweet and juicy with a fleeting flavor that can truly be appreciated when fresh.

And not in a cough syrup.

Because that artificial cherry thing is imprinted on my brain I am a little gun shy when it comes to cherries. It’s only been the past few years that I have learned to love them and only in their fresh state. I’ll pass on the Cherry Garcia and smile politely if you offer me a chocolate covered cherry (it’s that goo, no thanks!). But I’ll never turn down a fresh cherry.

In my convoluted and twisted ‘lil opinion I believe that cherries lose their magic when cooked (but I will make an exception with a properly prepared clafouti, thankyouverymuch). You get this nice yet not so fantastic flavor when their flesh has been cooked down to mush and that’s why I like cooking them as little as possible. I realize I may be going against popular opinion here, and hey,  I’m cool with that.

My wonderful partner knows I’ll never earn the title "World’s Greatest Cherry-Lovin’ Mexican" and was quite excited to stumble upon a recipe in this month’s Everyday Food. They call it a tart, but it’s not really a tart as much as a semi-trashy dessert with raw cherries on top. Hurray! Raw! And please, it’s not my intention to offend, but you must admit this recipe is very 1970’s Melba-Toast-Eatin’-Mom. Perhaps you’ll want to sit in a bean bag and play some Linda Ronstadt while you enjoy it.

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Fresh Cherry Tart from Everyday Food, June 2007

9 graham crackers, each 2 1/2 by 5 inches
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound fresh sweet cherries, such as Bing, pitted and halved
1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350˚. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers and 2 tablespoons sugar until finely ground. Add butter, and process until combined. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Using the base of a dry measuring cup, firmly press mixture into bottom and up sides of pan. Baked until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, vanilla, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add cream, and beat until soft peaks form; spread mixture in cooled crust. Scatter cherries on top.

3. In a small saucepan, combine jam and 1 teaspoon water; heat over low until liquefied, about 2 minutes. Using a pastry brush, dab cherries with glaze. Refrigerate tart at least 30 minutes or, covered, up to 1 day.