Plum Crazy

Plump, plentiful, and delicious, plums are wonderfully versatile.



I’d always thought apples had cornered the market on quantitative variety until I learned about plums: more than 1,000 types are grown worldwide, with around 140 varieties sold in the U.S. About 20 kinds are available at local farmers’ markets. It’s enough to give those Braeburns and Jonagolds an inferiority complex.
 

For all their diversity, plums derive from either a European or Japanese heritage. European types are sweeter and dark-skinned, their pits easily separated from the fruit. Japanese varieties, originally from China, are juicier, crimson-skinned, and termed “clingstone” due to their tenacious pits. Closely related to peaches, apricots, and nectarines, luminous gold, scarlet, and indigo plums are their more fecund, and flashy cousins.And many of them are flouncing around our area right about now.

There’s the gorgeous, berry-nuanced Elephant Heart, which Blue Hill’s Dan Barber likes for baking. There’s the ubiquitous deep-purple-skinned Santa Rosa, with its sweet/tart fruit, and its larger Methley sibling.

There’s the round, lemon-yellow Shiro that practically leaks juice, the dainty green Greengage that jolts with tartness, and the blue, oval Castleton and Long John, both of which peak in late August. And then there’s the stalwart Stanley, the go-to plum for drying into prunes.

At Bungalow Restaurant and Lounge (166 Stoneleigh Ave, Croton Falls 914-598-3008/845-669-8533, bungalow166.com), chef/owner John Reynolds grills them for a starter with ricotta salata and arugula, sautés them for a goat cheese-and-mascarpone Napoleon, and purées them with star anise and plum wine for a chilled soup. “I love plums for their beauty and versatility,” he says. “I can use them with or without skin, and their texture is smooth, not mealy like peaches tend to be.”  

Ripe plums will yield to gentle pressure, or buy them firm and keep them at room temperature for a day or two. Pick them up at the greenmarket (Red Jacket Orchards’; redjacketorchards.com, are outstanding), or, better yet, pick them yourself. Two area orchards ready and waiting are Samascott in Kinderhook, New York (518-758-7224;
samascott.com) and Weed in Marlboro, New York (845-236-0237; weedorchards.com). Or, if you’re plum crazy for them, a supplier like Georgia’s Willis Orchards (866-586-6283; willisorchards.com) will sell and deliver your very own tree.

Grilled Plums with Shaved Ricotta Salata and Arugula
(Courtesy of John Reynolds, Bungalow Restaurant and Lounge)
(Serves 2)
 

4 plums, pitted and halved

FOR MARINADE:
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp lavender honey
2 sprig lemon thyme, leaves only

Combine marinade ingredients. Add plums to marinade; macerate for half- hour.

FOR SALAD:
4 oz arugula
squeeze of lemon
drizzle of olive oil
2 oz ricotta salata, shaved with
vegetable peeler
2 Tbsp lavender honey
2 tsp balsamic vinegar or
balsamic reduction
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Prepare grill (if using charcoal, coals are ready when hand held directly above must be removed within five seconds). Toss arugula with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Grill plums until nicely caramelized and grill marks are present. Place plums atop arugula, garnish with shaved ricotta salata, honey, balsamic, and salt and pepper.

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