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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sweet and Simple...

I turned 37 last weekend, and I've been having birthday issues for many years already.
Lots of mixed fillings. On that day, I miss my childhood friends and I miss childhood itself. I miss my family and I feel a lot of nostalgia for the idealized version of happy-birthdays-to-me (and happiness in general) stock in my head.
I don't make a big fuzz about celebrating the addition of an extra year to my life, but it does hit me, even if I try to repress it as much as I can.
However, this year I had a lovely, simple and revealing day. It was perfect without perfection. No big things, just lots of fulfilling, low-key happiness.
First of all, my husband responded to my son's demand for yogurt at the crack of dawn, and gave me the marvelous gift of sleeping-till-late. Later, both kids and husband woke me up singing "happy birthday." My kids were so excited about the date, that they passed the emotion on to me.
We then went to the kitchen and I rinsed some cherries. The first ones I've bought this season.
We sat at the table to bite into the jewel-like stemmed spheres. As our fingers got stained with the deep reddish purple of the fruit's juice; we talked, smiled, enjoyed, savored and chewed. Aren't cherries the most perfect of fruits???? Suddenly, a feeling of full happiness invaded me.

"These are my kids," I thought, and I feel so thankful for them, and for the family I now have. Yes, I miss the past (selectively, as I'm thrilled many things are gone, like puberty, braces, a skin growth on the tip of my nose that made kids call me names and make fun of me, or my parents' separation. But I do miss birthday slumber parties, staying up all night giggling and being silly).
Maybe that's the exact purpose of birthdays... but if savoring cherries and the present with my family weren't enough, my husband and I escaped for a couple of hours to my favorite NY spot: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was the perfect date. The two of us, the Steins' collection, and those vibrant Matisse's made me realize how, despite lots of things that go wrong, my life is as intense and full color as I could have ever asked for.
And...it's cherry season! Those delicious morsels of sweet, tart, meaty juiciness are finally back!!!

If you've been following this blog for some time, you know I do have a bunch of favorites, but if I had to choose, if anyone ever asked, forced, coerced me into picking my #1, I would say cherries. They definitely are my most favorite fruit. Do use the same frase every post???
However, I'd have to say, I find it sad to use them as a cooking ingredient. Not because I don't appreciate their nutritional attributes, such as their high potassium content (a great blood-pressure reducer), or their excellent concentration of phytochemicals like querecetin (an antioxidant that helps control blood pressure), beta carotene, vitamin C and anthocyanins (antioxidants that together, might work fighting and/or preventing cancer). Cherries also help reduce inflammation, they are one of the only food sources of sleep-regulating melatonin, and it's been suggested that their anthocyanins may help decrease fat storage in our bodies. The darker the cherries' skins, the higher the antioxidant concentration. But it truly is because all this goodness, their texture and their sophisticated sweet, tart and mildly fruity flavor that I don't like cooking with them. I don't even like pitting them, as their plumpness gets lost. If I have cherries, I just want to eat them as they are; unaltered.
If I were cooking or baking with them, I wouldn't be able to resist. The dish would never be ready, as I would inhale the bite-sized gems right during prep time.



I guess I can't give you a recipe for how to eat fresh cherries, which by the way, are the most nutritious, as their vitamin C content decreases (or disappears) with the application of heat. However, I can give you a very tasty recipe for a sauce to serve atop of meat.
It's BBQ season already, and although my husband will NEVER be found commanding a grill, he'll always be right next to it, with a plate in hand, ready to get the first steak. So, he'll love me for serving him this dish tonight (although it'll be roasted, not grilled). I'm not a big carnivore, but red meat saves my marriage, as he could have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Once in a while it's a great source of iron and protein.


LONDON BROIL WITH CHERRY SAUCE
To avoid any temptation to devour the cherries (and save myself and you a nice amount of work), I use frozen pitted ones. Cherries are in the "dirty dozen," food list of the highest pesticized produce, so pick a bag of organic cherries in the freezer section if you can find them.


INGREDIENTS

MEAT:
1 1/2 pounds London broil
5 small garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
5 or 6 thyme sprigs
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

CHERRY SAUCE
1 (10 ounce) package frozen pitted sweet cherries
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons white miso paste
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
3 thyme sprigs
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

METHOD

MEAT:
In a roasting pan, place London broil and season it with salt and pepper on both sides. With a pairing knife, cut 5 slits (about 3/4-inch long) along the meat and place garlic cloves inside them.

Drizzle vinegar and oil over the meat and place thyme on top. Cover with foil and marinate in refrigerator overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 F and roast meat uncovered for about 30 minutes, then cover and cook for another 30 minutes (but beware that time will depend on the thickness of the meat).
Pour cherry sauce on the meat just as it comes out of the oven. Serve.
 
 
CHERRY SAUCE
In a small saucepan, bring frozen cherries, vinegar, miso, garlic, thyme and a bit of pepper to a boil over medium heat.

Lower flame and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until it thickens a bit. Remove thyme sprigs and mash the cherries slightly with a spatula or wooden spoon. Taste for seasoning (miso is usually salty enough to forgo any salt, but you might have to adjust).

Pour salt on cooked London broil and serve.

Sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Serves 4 people

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