I've had a special fondness of cherries my whole life. More than any other fruit, cherries are by far my favorite. I don't know if it's because they're a beautiful fruit or because they taste best only when in season.
When I lived in Germany, we rented an apartment from a sweet, generous couple on the outskirts of a sleepy village. We shared the house. They had the downstairs and my family the upstairs. It was a decent size place - not big by any means but it was comfortable and we made do. We were used to small living but I don't recall spending much time inside anyway. Even during the coldest of winter days, I would play outside until numbness took hold of my fingers and toes. Back then, the elements didn't have the same hold of me as they do in my adult years.
But summer...summer was my favorite time of year. Aside from hours spent roaming around on my used white Schwinn, one of my favorite activities was simply hanging in the back yard, daydreaming. On many days, I would climb a cherry tree and help myself until I could eat no more. Suspended above freshly cut grass, there was no sense of time, nothing pressing to get to and no anxieties to indulge. Gazing through branches at a clear, blue sky on a July afternoon, belly full of cherries, was a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time.
Maybe this is where my love of cherries solidified. Maybe I associate them with carefree summer days, where the sweet smell of warm air in my mind still mixes with the sense of possibility and all is right in the world, if only for a few moments.
Since cherries are out of season right now, the next best thing is dry cherries. Real, juicy dry cherries with no added sugar. I impulsively bought a few too many and wanted to make something with them aside from eating them by the handful. I had a bunch of Brussels sprouts in the fridge, a few leftover slabs of bacon and this is how this salad was born - crunchy, salty and sweet. This salad is definitely not for the lighthearted. While I'm only using two strips of bacon, I use every single part of the bacon, including the cooking fat, to whip up a delicious dressing.
warm brussels sprouts salad with bacon and dried cherries
prep time: 5 minutes
cooking time: 10-12 minutes
makes: 2-4 servings
2 thick slices of bacon cut into small pieces
1 16oz package of Brussels sprouts sliced
1 shallot finely chopped
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp dry cherries or cranberries
2 tbsp sliced almonds
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
cast iron pan or another sturdy pan
small mixing bowl
Preheat pan on medium and add bacon. Cook until crispy stirring regularly - about 5 minutes. Remove bacon and set on paper towel lined plate. Reserve cooking fat in mixing bowl.
In the same pan, add olive oil and shallot and cook for 2 minutes, constantly stirring. Add Brussels sprouts and pinch of salt. Cook stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. You still want a bite to the Brussels sprouts.
Meanwhile, combine leftover bacon fat, mustard, lemon and 1/4 tsp pepper and whisk well.
Once sprouts are cooked, turn off heat and add bacon, dressing, cherries and almonds. Stir well to combine all ingredients. Enjoy.