As a kid, I loved the sweet English peas from our garden, thick Chinook salmon steaks that my father brought home from deep-sea fishing off Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast, strawberries we U-picked from berry fields scattered around east Multnomah County, lots of dill to accent flavors, and plump Bing cherries.
I do love the increasing variety and availability of marvelous local foods, but I hold a soft spot for the real flavors of my childhood. Don’t you?
One of my earliest memories is my family gathered around a huge old cherry tree to harvest juicy, almost black Bing cherries. Sadly this tree got cut down for a parking lot expansion. Still, I have a soft spot for Bings, although there are wonderful varieties now like Tietons, Chelans, Lamberts, and Rainiers from the Wenatchee and Okanogan valleys of north-central Washington.
Recently I’ve been throwing cherries in my salads with tender baby lettuce. Before things turn really warm and everything bursts into full-on summer profusion, wonderful baby greens show up at the markets. Like right now. If you see them, grab them. And treat them gently; they don’t need much dressing.
Here’s my current favorite salad, which is very simple yet elegant. The robust sweetness of the cherries balances well with the slightly bitter lettuce. Adjust the quantities to however many you are serving.
Tender Lettuce Cherry Salad
Gently tear clean and dry tender lettuce like red oak or butter/Boston into bite-sized pieces.
Top with slivered dark cherries like Bing, Lambert, or Chelan.
Throw on a some toasted slivered almonds.
Complete with a bit of minced fresh dill and/or chives.
Toss with a lemon vinaigrette, which is what I seem to be putting on almost everything lately (except my morning oatmeal).
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves minced garlic
Combine the above ingredients and let rest for about 10 minutes.
Whisk in 3 T good quality olive oil until the dressing starts to thicken and emulsify.