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Get ‘em while they’re here: The best recipes for baking with niche-season fruit

Grab lots of peak season cherries while they last to bake into pies, cobblers and this upside down cake made with almond paste and kirsch.
(Leslie Grow / For The Times)

Even though time has lost all meaning in quarantine, a recent sighting of mulberries and cherries at the farmers market let me know that *takes a deep breath in, exhales out* spring produce is here, bringing with it all the excitement and happiness that only niche-season fruit can.

To inspire you to get cooking with the here-today, gone-tomorrow fruits, we’ve got a dessert for each fruit below, plus a reader’s question about what to cook with loquats, which are hitting their peak at this very moment.

To get dinner on the table before digging into dessert, make my easy, it-gets-better-the-longer-it-sits kale and pasta salad that jolts the staid dish out of the deli department. My colleague Genevieve Ko has a dead-simple tomato soup and grilled cheese combo that hits all the childhood nostalgia points. Follow it up the next day with her old school-style Caesar salad to balance the juvenile with the sophisticated.

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For something more substantial, I’ve got an easy inside barbecue chicken, while Genevieve pulls out the stops with carne asada burritos. Not in the mood to cook for a change? Check out these eight places to get the best banh mi sandwiches from our restaurant critic Bill Addison. And if you’re craving restaurant takeout without leaving your home, we’ve got you covered with République’s bright-and-sweet date butter roast sweet potatoes. All simple comfort food to get you inspired for warmer weather cooking.

Kale Pasta Salad With Parm and Smoked Almonds

Time 20 minutes
Yields Serves 2 to 4

Cold, nutritious and tastes better the longer it sits in the fridge — the ideal warm weather dish.

Creamy Tomato Soup

Time 1 hour, largely unattended
Yields Serves 4

Better than opening a can but still hits all the comfort food feels you’re craving.

Classic Caesar Salad

Time 20 minutes
Yields Serves 1 to 2

Eat this salad with your fingers — like Genevieve does — and breathe easier knowing there are fewer dishes to clean.

Dry Spice Butterflied Chicken

Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Yields Serves 4

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No spices? Skip them and go with simple salt and pepper. The perfectly juicy meat and crisp skin you get here are the real stars.

Carne Asada

Time 20 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Make several of these bad boys and store them in the fridge to grab when you need an easy lunch or dinner — you won’t even have a plate to clean afterward.

République Date Butter Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8

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Elegant and easy — you’ll want to roast lots of sweet potatoes just to make this salad over and over again all week.

Cherry-Almond Upside Down Cake

Time 55 minutes
Yields Serves 8

Take a bunch of cherries and heighten their flavor with kirsch (cherry brandy) and almond paste, the latter of which creates the best texture in this easy cake that lasts on the countertop for days of snacking.

Crispy Mulberry Cobbler

Time 50 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8

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Buy all the mulberries you can at the market to make this simple cobbler, a berry’s ideal preparation.

Ask the cooks

I made your version of the ever popular New York Times plum torte — using persimmons with the addition of turmeric — several times, also substituting frozen avocado for the butter, with much success. Now I’m planning to make a loquat torte and would like to know what spices you might add. Also, have you suggestions for using loquats?
— Eve Jones Burton

Though they are small, oblong, orange and end in the same suffix, loquats are not related to kumquats but are in the same family as roses. The fruit ripens on trees from late April through May and tastes like peachy pears, if that makes any sense. I love to pick them and make jam — my preferred method of dealing with any short-season fruit with a short shelf life — but you can also use them in place of cherries for clafoutis, peaches or pears in a cobbler or crisp, or even as a substitute for persimmons in that torte.

Since their flavor is so delicate, I tend to lean toward more floral enhancements like ground ginger or cardamom, rose or orange blossom waters, or vanilla bean seeds.

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To break them down, tear or cut the fruit around its central seed like you would a peach or avocado, then discard the large seed. The skins are edible — make sure to give the fruit a good rinse first — so I leave them on; if you want to take them off, go for it, but you’ll quickly realize it’s not worth the hassle.


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