Cherries are the first fruit to arrive in the summer here in Northern California, and when the trees are laden with them, you have to pick and eat as many as you can, before the worms and birds get to the rest. Friends with cherry trees are good friends indeed, especially when they arrive with baskets filled to the brim. Mostly this is an opportunity to gorge, and engage in pit spitting contests. (I’m still mad that they’ve cross-bred the seeds out of watermelons, depriving me and thousands of kids of the summer rite of seed spitting, but am happy to engage with cherry pits.) But if you want get all grown up on us, you can do other things with fresh cherries—clafouti, cherry fro yo, and sweet cherry pie—or make a simple cherry salsa to accompany pork chops or pork tenderloin.
Now a note about salsa. Just because many of us are used to salsa served with tacos doesn’t mean that salsas are inherently spicy. Salsa is just the Spanish word for sauce. In Mexico that usually means the addition of a spicy element such as dried red chiles or chopped fresh jalapeños. Salsa can also be Spanish or Italian inspired, without chiles, which is what we’ve chosen to do here. I actually tried without success to make a spicy cherry salsa; any chile heat ended up detracting from the sweet flavor of the cherries. We finally settled on this simple version with red onions, a little lemon juice, and some balsamic and a touch of sugar to intensify the flavor of the cherries. Lovely served with grilled pork chops.
Any other ideas out there for savory spins on fresh cherries? Please let us know in the comments.
If your cherries are juicy, the salsa will be juicy too. If you want the salsa less juicy, put the finished salsa into a fine-meshed strainer and strain off some of the excess juice.
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 1/2 pounds cherries, about 4 cups
- 4 pork chops, about 3/4-inch thick
- Olive oil
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 heaping teaspoon sugar
1 Mix the chopped onion with the lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside. The lemon juice will help take the edge off the onions.
2 Coat the pork chops in olive oil and sprinkle salt over them. Set aside at room temperature.
3 Pit and de-stem the cherries. A cherry pitter is magical for this task, but if you don't have one, use a small knife. Double check for stray pits, they always seem to find their way into dishes that call for fresh cherries.
4 Put the cherries, onions and chopped basil into a food processor. Pulse a few times until you have a chunky salsa, with differing textures of cherry. Alternately, you can chop everything by hand.
5 Mix in the balsamic vinegar, the 1/2 teaspoon salt and sugar. Add more of any of these ingredients to taste. Set aside at room temperature. You can make this salsa up to 8 hours in advance.
6 Prepare your grill for high direct heat. Grill the pork chops over high heat with the grill cover closed for 3 minutes. Turn them 45 degrees on the same side to get a pretty cross-hatch pattern, then close the grill cover and cook another 3 minutes. Turn the pork chops over, but this time keep the grill cover open and cook for a final 2-3 minutes. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Serve the pork chops with the cherry salsa.