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Enjoy the savory side to Midwest's plentiful cherries
By Deborah Pankey | Daily Herald Food Editor

Rubies and Greens Salad


Courtesy of Produce for Better Health Foundation


Courtesy of LearningZoneXpress

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Published: 7/7/2010 12:00 AM

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With our relative closeness to orchards in Wisconsin and Michigan, it's easy for us to think that cherries have always been part of the Midwest landscape. In reality, the fruit was brought to America with early settlers in the 1600s.

Lucky us, since cherries are a good source of vitamin C and potassium and contain phytochemicals associated with cancer fighting. When you're at the store or the market, look for firm, red cherries with stems attached. Fruit with blemishes and any shriveling should be avoided. Once home, refrigerate cherries for up to 10 days.

While they're quite enjoyable right out of the bowl, they're also a great addition to salsas and salads, like this Rubies and Greens salad from the Produce for Better Health Foundation:

In a large bowl combine 5 ounces baby spinach or mixed greens, 3 cups sweet cherries (pits removed), 2 cups sliced English cucumber and 1/2 cup finely diced red onion.

For the dressing whisk together 1/3 cup orange juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons honey; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste. Drizzle over greens and toss to coat. Makes enough for six.

Taste of Italy: Barilla and local chefs will demonstrate recipes using fresh produce and Italian ingredients during the Barilla Italian Cooking Weekend, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 10 and 11, at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.

Saturday's chef lineup includes Mark Grimes of Pinstripes in Northbrook and South Barrington, Cristiano Bassani of BaPi in Arlington Heights and Lorenzo Boni of Barilla America. On Sunday, catch Yury Krasilovsky of Barilla America, Giovanni Carzedda of Trattoria D.O.C. in Evanston and Giovanni DeNigris of Trattoria Trullo and Macello in Chicago. In addition to the demos, there will be olive oil and balsamic vinegar tastings at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. each day and visitors can learn about Italian herbs and pick up a packet of sage seeds that includes a recipe (while supplies last).

Admission to the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Barilla Italian Cooking Weekend is free. Parking is $20 per car; free for Garden members. The Chicago Botanic Garden Trolley operates between the Garden and the Glencoe Metra station; round trip tickets cost $2 (kids 5 and younger ride free).

Following her lead: First Lady Michelle Obama has become the latest historical figure memorialized in produce for the Learning ZoneXpress Eat Smart poster series.

The company chose to recognize Obama for her commitment to gardening and her Let's Move initiative aimed at reducing childhood obesity levels.

The Eat Smart poster features a likeness of Obama created with red cabbage and papaya, including pearl onion earrings and necklace. In addition to the Michelle Obama poster, the Eat Smart series includes President Obama, Abe Lincoln and George Washington, the Statue of Liberty, Sherlock Holmes and Albert Einstein, as well as a new version of "American Gothic."

The line of food art posters was developed for Learning ZoneXpress by Lee Svitak Dean, a James Beard award-winning food writer, taste editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and author of the new book, "Come One, Come All."

While the posters are aimed at teachers and educational facilities, it sure doesn't hurt to repeat that message in our homes. The 18-inch-by-24-inch posters cost $14.95 and are available at

• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at or (847) 427-4524. Listen to her discuss food and restaurant trends on Restaurant Radio, 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on WIND 560 AM.