Monday, August 22, 2011

Once-A-Year Pleasures

Saturday I saw the loveliest, dark violet blue Italian Prune Plums at the Farmer's Market. I wanted them desperately, but decided to wait till next weekend. It was too hot then to use them the way I wanted to-- roasted and then baked into a gorgeous silky custard, each serving bathed in their fuschia juices.

Today I regretted waiting, since it's been cool enough to bake. I asked at the market if they would be available next week and they said yes, but still... There are so many rare tastes nowadays, things you may only get once, twice a year; tastes that capture a season, or more accurately are captured by the season. Tastes like the watermelon salad I posted Friday, or a perfect honeydew, or Thanksgiving pie or fresh rhubarb, or these sweet-tart plums that come to market maybe two or three times in a row. Maybe.

I could buy canned plums, but it won't be the same. Their season here is brief and tricky, and their quality can vary week to week. But I'll snap them up if I see them again, no matter what. I can't bear to wait another whole year.

Here's the recipe, from one of my favorite cookbooks:


Softened butter for 2 baking dishes


1 lb prune plums, halved and pitted (cut plum lengthwise, twist, remove pit)

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/2 C sugar

grated zest of 1 lemon (I use an orange for the zest & juice sometimes)

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice


2 large eggs

3 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 C half-n-half

1/2 C cognac or kirsch (optional)

whipped cream to garnish-- optional

Place the oven rack in the middle position, preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a medium baking dish.


Arrange the plum halves skin side down in the baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining filling ingredients and bake for 15 minutes, until the plums are tender but hold their shape. Lightly butter a 10-11-inch baking dish and transfer the fruit from the first dish; reserve the juices.


Raise the oven temp to 375 F. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and sugar to blend, then whisk in the flour, vanilla and half-n-half. Continue whisking until well blended. Pour the mixture over the fruit** and bake custard in the upper third of oven for 20-25 minutes, until it has puffed and browned slightly.

While the dessert is baking, warm the reserved juices in a small pan with liqueur if using. Serve the custard warm or room temp, accompanied by the warmed juices and sweetened whipped cream, if desired.

**At this point, the unbaked custard can be covered with plastic wrap and refigerated for up to 8 hours. Bring to room temp again before baking.

You can see how easy this is-- I barely even measure the ingredients, it's so natural to throw together. I use whiskey or even sweet vermouth if there's no Kirsch or brandy-like liquids to be had; but use less as those are so much stronger flavors. You could a splash of light wine, instead. For a baking dish, I generally use one of my larger pie plates, like a 10-inch. Serves 3-4, depending on how strong your willpower is.

from Barbara Lauterbach's THE SPLENDID SPOONFUL

Peace, Mari

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