Cook in the Moment: Italian Prune Plum and Cardamom Conserve

Italian Prune Plum Conserve with Irish Oatmeal (c)2012 La Domestique

If Italian prune plums can be found at the farmer’s market, fall is truly here. Small, oblong like a little egg with dusky midnight blue skin, these plums are sold at markets during September and October. The flavor is concentrated in their skin, covering golden yellow flesh that is meaty and soft, not bursting with juices like the Santa Rosas. It seems odd to get so excited about a fruit that I would never consider eating raw, but Italian prune plums make spectacular preserves. Transformed by the cooking process into sweet, tart, deeply flavored fruit, the plums hold their own in Rachel Saunders’s recipe for Italian Prune and Cardamom Conserve, flavored with spices and a kick of brandy. Thick and wintry, conserve is a jam made with fresh and dried fruit, often spiked with a splash of liquor. Every year I welcome autumn by putting up a batch of conserve to enjoy throughout the colder months. A heaping spoonful stirred into steaming oatmeal adds a nice fruity acidity and spice to a rich and hearty breakfast. Keep fruit conserve at the table to spread over slices of Irish brown soda bread, or use it as filling for a galette. Heat the conserve in a small pan and spoon the sauce over seared duck breasts or serve it as a condiment on the cheese plate. You’ll run out of conserve before you run out of ways to enjoy it.

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Cook in the Moment: Grilled Plum Salad with Purple Basil, Blue Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Grilled Plum Salad with Purple Basil, Blue Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette (c)2012 La Domestique

I seem to be going through a purple period. I just can’t get enough of plummy colors. Last week there was the Grilled Mission Fig Salad, followed by that post on aubergines, and today I’m grilling plums and placing them on a bed of purple lettuces and purple basil dressed in winey balsamic vinaigrette. Do you ever find yourself attracted to a certain hue which inspires the food you prepare in your kitchen? Figs, eggplant, plums- and I’ve got to warn you that next week it will be Concord grapes and purple potatoes! Now I’m realizing I may be out of control here with the purple.

Cooking with seasonal ingredients found at the farmer’s market brings awareness to the colors of each season. In spring it’s all green- asparagus, broccoli, spinach. Summer is fiery red and orange with peaches, berries, tomatoes, and peppers. As summer fades into fall the purples come out- cabbage, eggplant, kale, and glorious plums. It’s been a stellar year for plums here in Colorado. I’ve never thought too much about this stone fruit – peaches always seem to steal the show – but this year I bit into a ripe and juicy Santa Rosa plum from the farmer’s market and it was like tasting the fruit for the first time. I was blown away by the tart flavor matched with just the right amount of sweetness. Never one to eat plums out of hand (before this I mostly baked with them) I was surprised and delighted by this discovery.

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