Category Archives: cherries

Black Forest Brownie Trifles


Another oldie but goodie. Do try to find fresh cherries if you can. If you can’t, frozen ones will suffice.

In planning a recent dinner party I had visions of serving a rich and perfectly smooth creme brulee.  But then I realized that good quality heavy cream is hard, if not impossible, to come by in Tirana.  Switching gears I started pouring over my favorite food websites in search of an alternative recipe.  I stuck gold when I found a recipe for individual black forest brownie trifles on From Away.  (I encourage those of you who aren’t familiar with this Maine based couple’s writing to check it out.  Not only are their recipes and food insight great but reading their postings helps temporarily fulfill my longing for Maine).  Cherries are at the peak of their season now so this was the perfect dessert.

I love the combination of chocolate and cherries tempered with a bit of whipped cream. The cleaver way of serving these trifles, in individual jelly jars, made me realize they would add the perfect amount of whimsy to my dinner.  I’ve added my own twist onto this recipe.  I prefer my own brownie recipewhich is moist and has a touch of almond flavor.  I also adapted my the original cherry recipe by substituting orange liqueur for some of the liquid.

The results?  A simple yet visually pleasing dessert that pleased the entire table.  Try it for yourself.


For the brownies:

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons extract of your choice, I prefer almond

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8-inch square pan with foil then coat lightly with vegetable spray.
  • Melt the chocolates, butter, and cocoa in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes.  Let the mixture cool slightly.
  • Whisk the sugar, eggs, extract, and salt together in a large bowl until well combined.
  • Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.  Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil and cutting into squares.

For the cherries:

4 cups fresh cherries, pitted

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup Grand Marnier liqueur, or other orange flavored liqueur

4 teaspoons corn starch

  • Place the cherries in a large sauce pan.  Add the sugar, juice, and liqueur and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a simmer a cook for 5 minutes or until the cherries start to break down.
  • Stir in the cornstarch and whisk to combine.  Cook an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside.  Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before assembling the trifles.

For the cream:

16 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

2 – 2/3 cups whipping cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

  • Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat until all of the ingredients are combined and the cream forms stiff peaks.


  • Crumble the brownies into small, bite-sized pieces.
  • Alternate layers of brownies, cherries, and cream in each of the 8 serving dishes starting with a layer of brownies and ending with a layer of cream.  Depending upon the depth of your dishes you should have 3 or 4 layers.
  • Top with a fresh cherry if desired.
  • Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.

Serves 8

Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin w/ Cherry Compote


It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

With the arrival of spring in Albania comes fresh cherries.  Small ones have been appearing in neighborhood fruit markets in recent weeks but they are now ripe, juicy and plentiful.  I can eat fresh cherries by the handful but I also like to incorporate them into entrees.  When combined with fresh orange juice and a dab of honey the cherries make for the perfect complement to balsamic glazed grilled meat.  I used pork tenderloin for this recipe but the flavors work just as well with chicken.  I served this dish alongside fresh peas, which are also plentiful this time of year, and leftover pearl barley.  Not bad for a quick and balanced dinner.


1 pork tenderloin

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 cups fresh cherries, pitted

1 Tablespoon honey

Juice & zest from one orange

Dash of kosher salt

1 Teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1 Teaspoon cornstarch

3 Teaspoons cold water

1 Tablespoon Kirsch

1/4 Teaspoon garlic powder

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until the vinegar is syrupy and reduced by half, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the honey and orange juice in a small saucepan over medium high heat until the honey is melted.  
  • Stir in the cherries and a dash of salt, cover, and reduce the heat to low.  Continue to cook until the pork is cooked, stirring occasionally and crushing the cherries slightly.  
  • Stir in the orange zest, ginger, and Kirsch.
  • In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and the cold water.  Bring the cherries to a boil, add the cornstarch mixture and boil for one minute.
  • While the cherries are cooking pre-heat a gas grill on high.
  • Liberally sprinkle the pork loin with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  • Reduce the grill heat to medium-high.
  • Grill over indirect heat for 8-10 minutes turning twice.
  • Brush  the reduced balsamic over the pork.  
  • Cook for an additional 4 minutes then baste again.  
  • Repeat basting and grilling until the pork is cooked to your likeness.  The total cooking time will be 16-18 minutes.
  • Remove the pork from the heat and allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Slice into 1/4 inch slices and divide onto four plates.  
  • Divide the cherry compote over the pork.

Serves 4

Twenty Five Days of Cookies:  Cardamom & Pepito Chocolate Bark


Christmas is just two days (gulp) away and what better way is there to countdown to the big event than to feature a cookie recipe each day? Think of it as a cookie recipe advent calendar. And to fill that advent calendar I’m featuring twenty five of my favorite holiday cookie recipes that are sure to fill your holidays with cheer. Bake them to fill your cookie trays, bring them to a cookie swap or eat them yourself; they are guaranteed to bring about holiday joy. And if you love baking as much as I do, making them is a fun filled gift unto itself. Enjoy!

I’ve heard it said that chocolate brings everything together and this is definitely the case with this spicy and sweet chocolate bark. Although I’ve included a recipe here, consider it to be more of a method. I’ve used a combination of both dark and semi-sweet chocolate but you can use a single kind or a combination that excites you. The same goes for the stir-ins. I love the complex flavor of cardamom but it is definitely an acquired taste. Ground cinnamon makes a lovely substitution. I like to use a combination of crunchy and chewy for my nuts and fruit and toasted pepito seeds and tart and chewy cherries are my preferred flavors this season. However, in previous years I’ve included chopped candied ginger, toasted almonds, and sunflower seeds. The options are unlimited and so go ahead and experiment. That’s half of the fun!


1 cup semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
2 cups dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 tsp. ground cardamom
2 cups pepito seeds, toasted
12 cup dried tart cherries
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until melted, 8 minutes.
  • Remove the bowl from pan and stir in cardamom and half of the pepito seeds and half of the cherries.
  • Spread mixture onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet into a 10” x 7” rectangle, about ¼” thick.
  • Sprinkle evenly with the remaining pepitos and cherries.
  • Sprinkle evenly with the salt.
  • Chill, uncovered, until bark hardens, about 2 hours.
  • Break into pieces to serve.

Yields 20-25 pieces

Peach & Cherry Shortcake


Strawberry shortcake is a classic summer time dessert but why not change things up a bit and substitute whatever fruit is in season? Or make it extra special by using two different fruit? Here I use fresh cherries and fresh white peaches, both of which are readily available at markets right now. The peaches are infused with a peach schnapps but if you prefer an alcoholic free version you can substitute white grape juice or even water. The cherries are made extra special with the addition of a cinnamon stick and Grand Marnier but orange juice can be substituted instead. And everything is better with real whipped cream. Plain whipped cream is nice but I love the addition of a small amount of tangy Greek yogurt. Its adds a surprising element to the topping that is sure to please.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients and multiple steps discourage you from making this recipe. The fruit sauces can be made up to two days in advance and refrigerated until ready to use. The biscuits taste best when made the same day they are served but you can easily bake them up in the morning to be served later in the evening. Only the whipped cream needs to be made at the last minute. So go ahead and serve these tasty shortcakes at your next cookout or summer time gathering. Kids of all ages will love building their own desserts.

For the biscuits:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes and well chilled

3/4 cup cold buttermilk

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Pulse the flours sugar, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
  • Scatter the butter pieces evenly over the top of the flour mixture and pulse to combine, about 12 pulses.
  • Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the buttermilk.  Use a rubber spatula to fold the liquid into the flour until a soft and sticky dough forms.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and quickly roll in into a rough ball.  Do not over mix.
  • Use a sharp knife to divide the dough into 12 even pieces.  Using your hands, quickly form each piece into a ball and place on a large baking sheet.
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the biscuits are browned and flaky.

Yields:  12 biscuits

For the peaches:

4 cups sliced white peaches

1/4 cup Peach Schnapps

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

  • Place the peaches, schanpps, sugar and cinnamon stick in a medium sized saucepan.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes or until the peaches begin to soften.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside.

For the cherry topping:

4 cups fresh cherries, pitted

2 tablespoons sugar

1 small cinnamon stick

1/2 cup Grand Marnier liqueur, or other orange flavored liqueur

4 teaspoons corn starch

  • Place the cherries in a large sauce pan.  Add the sugar, cinnamon stick and liqueur and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a simmer a cook for 5 minutes or until the cherries start to break down.
  • Stir in the cornstarch and whisk to combine.  Cook an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside.

For the cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup plain full fat Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat until all of the ingredients are combined and the cream forms stiff peaks.

To serve:

  • Spilt the biscuits in half and place the bottom half in a dessert dish.
  • Add peaches, cherries and whipped cream in alternating layers.
  • Top with the remaining biscuit half and a dollop of whipped cream.

Serves 12

Port & Cherry Brownies


I’ve been following her blog for awhile now and I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe from the Yankee Kitchen Ninja that I haven’t loved.  To put it mildly, you could say that I am a fan. So just when I thought it couldn’t get any better I came across this recipe for port and cherry brownies and my infatuation moved to a whole new level. All I can say is oh my! The brownies are dense and chewy and the cherries, plumped in sweet and fruity port, provide for a sweet surprise in every bite. And because they are baked in miniature muffin tins, you are rewarded with bite sized treats that are perfect for feeding a crowd.

These brownies seem designed with a Belgian palate in mind. Belgians love their port–it appears on just about every restaurant menu as an aperitif. Sweet and rich, port is a natural accompaniment to chocolate. And since I’m in Belgium, with ready access to a vast variety of the best chocolate in the world, I decided to mix things up a bit and use a combination of two chocolates in these brownies. I’ve experimented with different combinations but I like combination of bittersweet and dark chocolate the best since it adds complexity without sugar. If you don’t have dried cherries on hand, dried cranberries make for the perfect substitute.

And if you want to complete your Belgian trifecta, serve the brownies with a Belgian cherry lambic beer. The one from Timmerman’s Brewery is particularly good. A final thought, since these brownies have fruit in them they must be healthy. Right?


2 tablespoons port wine

2 tablespoons water

1 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

5 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup flour

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Lightly coat a 24 cup mini muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Heat the port and water to boiling in a small saucepan and then add the cherries.
  • Reduce the heat to low and stir until the majority of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Remove from the heat and cool.
  • Melt the chocolate and the butter in a double boiler, stirring until the mixture is smooth and well blended.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the sugar.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Add the salt, pepper and flour to the sugar mixture then gently fold in the cherries and any remaining liquid.
  • Divide the batter evenly amongst the prepared muffin tins.
  •  Bake for about 15 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool the brownies in the tins to room temperature and then unmold.

Yields: 24 miniature brownies

Chocolate Chip, Cherry & Pistachio Crisps


Who doesn’t love cookies? We certainly do in our house; I can bake dozens and they start to disappear the minute they come out of the oven. Those that last until the next morning get packaged up and brought to school for snack (for the little boy) and to work to be shared during coffee break (for the big boy). As for the types of cookies we like; they are all good. But by far, these crispy cookies, filled with chocolate chips, salty pistachios and sweet and chewy dried cherries, are our all time favorite. The recipe comes from Williams Sonoma and has become my go to cookie for bake sales, casual desserts or just snacking. And they keep and ship well as is evidenced by the dozens upon dozens I used to mail to Glenn during this last deployment.

I think of these cookies as a grown up version of the chocolate chip cookies of our childhoods. They are simultaneously crispy yet chewy and you are guaranteed to get a bite of cherry, chocolate or nut –or all three–in every bite. If you can find shelled pistachios use them since shelling the nuts can be quite time consuming. And has become my habit, I use miniature chocolate chips since I think they produce more chocolaty goodness in every bite!

Chocolate Chip, Cherry & Pistachio Crisps

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup miniature chocolate chips

3/4 cup unsalted pistachios, chopped

3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets and set aside.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl and using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add the brown and white sugars and beat until light and fluffy.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the corn syrup, milk and vanilla extract. Beat well.
  • Reduce the speed to low then add in the flour mixture, beating until just combined.
  • Using a rubber spatula fold in the chocolate chips, pistachios and cherries.
  • Using you hands, roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  • Using the bottom of a glass or measuring cup flatten the cookies into discs that are 3/8 of an inch thick.
  • Bake for 4 minutes then turn the baking sheet and continue to bake for an additional 4 to 6 minutes.
  • Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes before moving the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Yields: 4 dozen cookies

Caramelized Salmon w/ Cherry-Mango Salsa

photo 2-262

Here is a fast and fresh dinner idea adapted from The Daily Meal. I am a huge fan of fruit salsas and love to serve them over grilled meats and fish. And with fresh cherries beginning to appear in the Belgian markets, now is the time to start making cherry based dishes. (And it is a great excuse to use my cherry pitter). The combination of cherries and mangos, with a surprise touch of mint and chile peppers, makes this salsa flavorful and the perfect complement to the salmon. And since the salsa doesn’t need to sit you can make it while the salmon is grilling. (The salsa would also be good served alongside grilled chicken or pork).

So fire up the grill and enjoy some of the best flavors of the season.


1 1/2 pounds skin-on salmon filets (fresh is preferable)

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and halved

2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced

2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, orange peel and pepper.
  • Place the fish, skin side down, in a shallow pan and rub the sugar mixture over the fish. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  • When ready to cook, pre-heat a grill to medium heat.
  • Remove the fish from the pan and drain off any juices. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the grill. Do not turn the fish but grill until the fish flakes easily, about 20 to 25 minutes depending on your grill.
  • Meanwhile, toss together the mango, cherries, mint, vinegar and red chile pepper flakes.
  • Spoon the fruit salsa over the warm fish and serve immediately.
Serves 4


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