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IN THE KITCHEN

AROUND HOME : Notes on Gazebos, Sconces and Teakettles : Tart Cherries

June 19, 1988|RUTH REICHL

IT'S SMALL AND dry and red all over. It is also delicious, expensive and, increasingly, seen in the very best places. But if you think the subject is sun-dried tomatoes, you're wrong.

That was last year's trendy dried red fruit. Modern food fads move at such a rapid pace that pumate (sun-dried tomatoes) now are placed on supermarket shelves. Meanwhile, this year's trendiest dried fruit hasn't made its way into the mainstream--yet.

But dried red tart cherries probably never will. For unlike tomatoes, which are found almost everywhere, tart cherries are rare. And it takes 8 pounds of fresh fruit to make a single pound of dried fruit. But fresh tart cherries, which are wonderful in pies, are even more delicious when dried until the flavor has become concentrated.

Sprinkled with a little sugar, they have a flavor unlike anything else. They are sour and sweet, with a fresh tanginess that makes you want to eat another as soon as the first is finished. They aren't much to look at--sort of like raisins, only red.

What do you do with them? Well, if you're extravagant you just eat them right out of the package as a snack. But they do wonderful things to pies and tarts, to say nothing of cakes. In fact, anyplace you might use raisins or dried apricots would be appropriate for these wonderful little nuggets.

Now that they have appeared in the market, the old saying may soon be amended. Forget about berries. These days, it's the cherries!

Dried Red Tart Cherries from American Spoon Foods, $5 per 6-ounce package from Montana Mercantile, 1500 Montana Ave., Santa Monica 90403; (213) 451-1418.

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