I’ve often thought about why the little plum never garners my attention as perhaps it should. Is it because I tend to associate them with prunes? Or is it because I really only buy them once a year when their skin is paper soft and they are close to bursting with ripeness? Perhaps. Maybe it’s because in the summer frenzy I’m occupied by peak season peaches and unbelievably sweet ears of corn and everything else just gets ignored.
Plums, I’m sorry and starting today it will never happen again.
Plums are considered drupes, or stone fruit, and are all related to that big happy family that includes peaches, nectarines, apricots, even almonds. There are tons of varieties and they grow in just about every color you could imagine. Just don’t imagine florescent blue because you’ll be out of luck. Anyway, there are three categories of plums: Japanese, Damson and European, and their shape, size and colors can vary greatly. Some are perfect for out of hand eating, others are too tart and best for pickling and canning, and some are grown specifically for old people, er, um, I mean for prunes.
(And yes, a prune is a dried plum. Just like chipotles are dried smoked jalapeños. And like how Britney was once a really fun pop star and now quasi-alien with remarkably hideous footwear. Heck, even I can wear a wig better than that.)
I began to really think about plums this past spring when our fruit trees began to bloom. The tiny fruit babies spend months clinging to the tree before they ripen and fall or become tasty snacks for all the birds who set up camp in our backyard. Without fail, the tree says "I’m Ready!" and before I know it I am faced with pounds of fruit. I hate to waste it and end up taking bags of plums to the office. This year I still plan on sharing but I wanted to be prepared with an arsenal of recipes so I could actually cook with plums instead of sitting on the grass gorging myself. When the window of ripeness opens up this year I’ll be good to go!
Grilled Ribs with Plum Barbecue Sauce
My friend Loren gave me this recipe, and I must say it’s a nice break from the standard rib sauce that appears everywhere this summer. It has a little smoky heat and sweetness and that mellows out with cooking and it’s perfect with an Asian-style slaw.
For the ribs:
3 lbs pork loin back ribs
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub salt and pepper over both sides of the ribs. Place the ribs in foil-lined shallow roasting pan and bake for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your barbecue grill and make the sauce, below.
For the sauce:
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds large red plums, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Sauté the chopped onions and diced red peppers in olive oil in a medium saucepan. Cook the onions until translucent. Add the plums and sauté for 2 minutes and then add the chipotle peppers and chicken stock. Cook for another 3 minutes on medium heat. Remove the pot from heat and put the mixture in a blender and cover and purée until smooth. Return the puréed mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium-high heat and add tomato paste. Add corn syrup, soy sauce, honey, and Dijon mustard to the saucepan, mix well and cook until heated, about 5 minutes.
Grill the ribs for 15 minutes over medium coals, covered. Brush both sides of the ribs with the plum barbecue sauce and grill until browned, about 10 minutes.
Can you believe I haven’t yet written anything about my experiences with Perfect Scoop by our pal David Lebovitz? I think that because I am constantly emailing him with my life’s dilemmas and boy-gossip (thank god I cannot see him rolling his eyes all the way from France otherwise I’d be crushed) that I forget to write about the fact that yes, we went and bought an Cuisinart ICE Automatic Ice Cream Maker based on his recommendations because the other 2 I own weren’t enough and yes, his book is the best thing ever and yes, within a week Adam made 5 batches of ice cream from his book and yes, you are reading the world’s longest run-on sentence!
Not only is it a brilliant book filled with everything we love about David, but damn it if this book isn’t a great resource for all things ice cream. I’m constantly amazed about how much David managed to include and if you think of something you’ll most likely find it inside Perfect Scoop. I mean, he writes about Cajeta!
Summer is around the corner. If you don’t yet own this book then by all means buy it. Run to the bookstore, order it online, whatever! You must have this book.
Plum Granita from Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz
1 1/2 pounds plums
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
Slice the plums in half and remove the pits. Cut each plum into 8 pieces and put them into a medium, nonreactive saucepan with the water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. for 8 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
Once the mixture is cool, purée it in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour the mixture into a dish and place it in the freezer. Begin checking it after about 1 hour. Once it begins to freeze around the edges, take a fork and stir the mixture, breaking up the frozen parts near the edges into smaller chunks and raking them toward the center.
Return the dish to the freezer, then check the mixture ever 30 minutes afterward, stirring each time and breaking up any large chunks into small pieces with a fork, until you have beautiful, fine crystals of homemade granita.