Market Mondays – Plums

We’re still in the family Prunus as we move from last week’s cherries to this week’s plums. Plums are eaten from Asia to Europe and are well known for their variety and flavour – from the first tart yellow plums to red, black and the purple varieties most popular in Italian cooking. Worldwide there are over 2000 varieties of the fruit with about 100 available in North America.

Plums are a versatile fruit; they can be made into jam or used in desserts, but can also be made into wine, pickled, dried and salted, or dried into prunes (although the black prunes available in stores are from a specific type of plum). They even work well on pizza with cheese and prosciutto in place of the traditional figs.

Considered one of the world’s healthiest foods, plums are high in anti-oxidants, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, fibre (prunes are a recommended treatment for constipation) and potassium.

To select plums, choose ones that are bright in colour, have a slight whitish “bloom” on the skin and that are firm or that yield slightly to pressure, depending on when you plan to eat them. Avoid plums that are hard are they may be immature.

Plums can be stored in the fridge if ripe, but bring the fruit to room temperature, especially if eating out of hand.

Plums are starting to show up at Toronto area farmer’s markets, so enjoy them while they’re here.

Oven Roasted Preserved Plums
from Christopher Palik, Executive Chef, L-Eat Catering and Paese Ristorante

1 pound of any red variety Ontario plums
1/2 bunch of thyme
2 tbsp of salt
4 tbsp of sugar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Start by turning on the oven to an extremely low setting. Around 200°F is perfect. This recipe can go two ways, savoury or sweet.

Cut the plums in half and remove the stone. Place the plums in the mixing bowl and pour the olive oil over them. If the plums are to be used for savoury purposes, pick the leaves from the thyme and place in the bowl along with the salt. Toss to evenly coat. If the plums are to be used for sweet purposes, omit the thyme and just toss the plums with the olive oil and the sugar.

Place the plums cut side up on the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet onto the middle rack of the pre-heated oven. The curing process takes a bit of time. At the one and half hour mark open the oven and turn the tray, cook for another two hours.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool, the plums will hold up to a week in the refrigerator. They are great to eat just on their own but pair well on a cheese plate, with ice cream, beside a roasted piece of chicken or duck, or in a salad.

Plum Tart
I’ve been making this tart recipes for years. I’m pretty sure it’s at least based on a recipe from a Chez Panisse cookbook, although I can’t remember which one.

1 square of puff pastry (thawed if frozen)
5 – 6 ripe plums
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup slivered almonds
2 Tbsp butter
additional sugar for top (2 -4 Tbsp)

Preheat oven to 400′F.

Leaving skin on, slice plums and set aside. Roll out puff pastry to about 9 inches round. Place an 8-inch Springform pan on top of rolled pastry and trim to allow an extra inch of dough.

Place pastry in pan, pushing excess onto sides so it stays up. Mix flour and 2 Tbsp sugar along with cinnamon and sprinkle onto pastry. Sprinkle half the slivered almonds on top of flour and sugar mixture. Arrange slices of plums in a pretty pattern or dump onto pastry and spread out so they are mostly laying flat.

Cut butter into small pieces and distribute over the plums. Sprinkle sugar generously onto plums, along with remaining almond slivers. Bring pastry edges down over plum mixture and crimp or pleat tightly. Working in small sections, brush cold water onto pastry crust and sprinkle this with sugar as well.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until plum juices are bubbly and pastry is golden brown. Immediately remove sides from Springform pan and using a pastry brush, brush the juices bubbling up from around and under the fruit onto the plums to create a glaze and keep the fruit from drying out.

Using a palate knife or spatula, gently remove the tart from the Springform bottom (it may be stuck slightly at the edges because of the sugar and water that was added to the crust) and place on a rack to cool – this will keep the bottom from becoming soggy.