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Plum Perfect

Posted Oct 10 2008 1:00pm
I thought I'd devote a few posts to seasonal early-autumn produce.

First up, plums (a tasty spinach option is on the menu tomorrow). I am a champion of plums because I know how opulent their flavor can be.

The knowledge stems for a simple circumstance: I grew up with a plum tree in my backyard. It produced exquisitely delicious fruit, the skins tart, the sweet flesh beneath, lush.

But to my family’s chagrin (most notably my mother’s), the plums came all at once (in about a 2-week period), so despite stuffing ourselves silly with fresh plums morning, noon, and night, my mother had to crank into uber-creative plum mode to use up the bounty before the gorgeous globes rotted in the grass.

Hence she made jars of plum jam by the dozen, plum cake, plum pie, plum crumble, plum clafouti, plum jell-o, plum salads (slices of fresh plum are smashing with spicy greens like arugula), even a few batches of plum chutney. In the process, she also inspired me to consider plums in a wide range of culinary uses.

I don’t have a plum tree of my own here in Texas, but I do have a simple remedy for anemic supermarket plums, one that will have you filling your basket to overflowing with plums once you give it a try: oven-roasting. A quick roasting (crank up that heat!) transforms supermarket plums (even the rock-hard ones) to tender, sweet-tart perfection.

The pairing of plums with goat panna cotta comes straight from my Panna Cotta book, with an Enlightened adaptation: I’ve replaced the heavy whipping cream with whole milk and a scoop of light sour cream. I think it is, perhaps, even better than the full-fat original.

Beyond panna cotta, the roasted plums can be paired with just about anything you choose.
Here is a list for getting started,but I fully expect you to come up with your own combinations—you’ll be inspired at first bite.

Plum Nutrition Notes:

Though only 36 calories per medium plum, these beautiful fruits are packed with some significant nutrition. They are a good source of vitamin C, and also vitamin A, potassium, and dietary fiber. Plums have come under the scientific lens more recently, revelaing some additonal nutrition news: it turns out that plums have a high content of unique phytonutrients called neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid. These substances are classified as phenols, a variety of antioxidants. Plum dandy!

Roasted Peppered Plums

2 pounds medium-size plums, cut into wedges, pits removed
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl combine plums with brown sugar and pepper. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet (line with foil for east cleanup). Roast until plums are soft and juice is bubbling, about 16-18 minutes. Remove from oven. Transfer plums and their juices to large bowl. Cool completely; optional chill in refrigerator.
Makes about 1 and 1/2 cups,

Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with Roasted Peppered Plums

As I’ve noted below, you can substitute vanilla extract for the vanilla bean. If doing so, stir in the extract along with the goat cheese.

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup water
1 and 1/4 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
6 ounces soft, mild goat cheese
1 and 1/4 cups reduced-fat sour cream
1 recipe roasted peppered plums (see recipe above), cooled

Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small bowl; let stand 10 minutes. Bring milk, vanilla bean, and powdered sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove pan from heat; remove vanilla bean and, with tip of knife, scrape seeds into milk mixture (discard bean).

Whisk in gelatin mixture and goat cheese until smooth. Whisk in sour cream until well combined. Divide mixture evenly among 8 (6-ounce) custard cups. Cover and refrigerate for 5 hours or overnight.

Loosen edges of custards with a knife or rubber spatulaa. Place a dessert plate, upside down, on top of each cup; invert onto plates. Serve with the cooled roasted plums. Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition per Serving (1 panna cotta and 1/8 of the plums)
Calories 219; Fat 7.7g (poly 0.5g, mono 2.3g, sat 4.4g); Protein 6.7g; Cholesterol 34mg; Carbohydrate 30.3g; Sodium 89mg; Fiber: 2.9)
(Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1)

More ways to enjoy the roasted plums:
*vanilla light ice cream
*lightly sugared biscuits and a dollop of whipped cream for a seasonal shortcake
*chocolate sorbet (trust me on this one, it's exquisite)
*sweetened ricotta cream (if you haven’t made this before, make it now; I am a fan of ellie krieger's recipe. It's so healthy and good, you can eat it for breakfast too)
*vanilla panna cotta (here's my basic recipe for a lightened panna cotta; make it in a cup, spoon the plums atop when it's set)
*a creamy goat cheese or blue cheese and grilled baguette slices for a sweet-savory dessert (it's embarassing how much I can eat of this combination)

Or for breakfast:
*Spoon atop oatmeal (or other multi-grain cereal) along with some toasted nuts and a dollop of yogurt
*Swirl into lightly sweetened plain yogurt ( a pinch of cardamom in the yogurt takes it over the top)
*Puree the plums and thier juices in blender and serve as a delectable syrup with pancakes, waffles, french toast, etc. YUMMY!!!

Or at the dinner table:
*Serve alongside chicken or pork (especially good with grilled)
*Puree in a blender and use as the basis for a sweet-tart vinaigrette

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