Our weeknight dinners are built around turning the bags of farm-fresh produce we carry home each weekend into new recipes for Saturday morning demos at Washington, DC’s Eastern Market. Recently, our friend Sam has joined us for Thursday night’s six-hour marathon sessions where we finalize Saturday’s menu.
Last week, eying a bag of Agora Farms black-red sweet cherries, he said” My Mom used to make a sweet and sour sauce with cherries and peaches. It started with a can each…”
I know. You’ve got a mental image of a loud record scratch accompanying this look of horror on my face. But you’re wrong. No one cooks better than your Mom. No one. At that goes for each and every one of you.
However, since Sam thought it would be fun to go home for a visit sometime and show Mom a new upscale version of her sweet and sour, cherry-peach chicken, we started experimenting. Sweet and sour dishes hang on the balance of sweet, acidic and salty. We began with shallot and fresh cherries, added brown sugar for sweetness and depth, and rosemary for a savory bite. Peach infused vinegar replaced the canned peaches and orange zest add citrusy brightness. The cherries we had were so sweet, and the the peach vinegar mildly acidic, that we added a splash of sharper vinegar to finish the thick, jammy, sweet and sour cherry chutney. Then we served it over wild boar sausages.
I’m still willing to bet that Sam’s Mom’s is better. After all, Mom’s who cook are nigh invincible in the kitchen. But we had a pretty darn-good meal.
Sweet and Sour Cherry Chutney
Sweet and sour is all about the balance of sugar, salt and vinegar. Taste often as you finish the sauce.
- 2 tbs grape seed or vegetable oil
- 2 large shallots, diced
- 4 cups sweet cherries, pitted and quartered
- 3 tbs brown sugar
- 1 tbs minced rosemary
- 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
- Peach Vinegar*
- Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry Vinegar*
*More wonderful vinegars from Sapore Oil and Vinegar on Capitol Hill. You can substitute with any fruit vinegar, just make sure you get enough acidity. We used about 1/4 cup Peach vinegar and reduced it down slightly as the chutney finished cooking. A splash of the Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry vinegar gave us the extra acidity that we needed. Sherry or cider vinegar would be a good substitute.
- In a small sauté pan, warm oil and cook shallots over medium heat until soft, without browning.
- Increase heat to medium high and add cherries. Sauté 5 minutes until cherries start to soften and liquid begins to evaporate.
- Reduce heat back down to medium. Add sugar and cook another 5 minutes until chutney starts to become jammy.
- Add rosemary and orange zest and cook another 5-10 minutes until chutney is thick.
- Season to taste with salt and vinegar. This sauce is all about balance, so taste after each addition of salt or vinegar. If your fruit vinegar is not acidic enough, add a splash of something a bit sharper. Add more sugar if needed.
Greens get a bad rap.
People say they are tough and bitter, the leaves big and thick, ruffly and ribbed. Those of us not blessed with a southern upbringing look slightly cross-eyed at slow-cooked, grayish collards and kale, smoky with slab bacon and sharp with vinegar. (They are a taste well worth acquiring.) With today’s busy schedules, cooking greens for hours is, at best, relegated to a Sunday supper.
That’s why I love sautéing them, cooking them quickly. Cut into thin ribbons, they no longer have the mouthfeel of a new-mown lawn. Sweet dried fruit, plumped up in concentrated balsamic vinegar cuts the greens’ bitterness and brightens the flavor – as does a healthy pinch of salt and sugar with each batch you add to the pan.
If you hate kale, or have never tried it; if you’ve read about how healthy it is and thought, “so is tee-totalling, but I’m not about to start that,” this is the time to dig in. Enjoy!
Sautéed Kale With Dried Blueberries
You can substitute dried cherries or cranberries, and any good, aged balsamic vinegar will do, but the combination of dried blueberries from Agora Farms and the richly-flavored blackberry balsamic vinegar from Sapore, is magic.
- 1/2 cup dried blueberries*
- 1/4 cup Blackberry balsamic vinegar*
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 pound kale, cut in thin ribbons
- 2 tsp sugar
*Though not the time to use your 25-year aged, you can substitute any other balsamic vinegar on your shelf. Other dried fruits like cherries and cranberries are great with this recipe.
- Warm vinegar and blueberries in a small saucepan over medium heat, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add shallot and sauté until softened 2-3 minutes.
- Turn heat to medium high and add kale in batches. Sprinkle each batch with a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt. Add more when the previous batch has started to wilt.
- Toss with blueberries and season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional Blackberry balsamic vinegar.