Recipe du Jour

Summer Plum Salad

plums
I am plum crazy!

The farmers market is overflowing with delicious varieties in every color. Don’t be unnerved by the assortment–I know plums are “supposed to be purple.” Once teeth are sunk into the sweet, juicy flesh, color doesn’t matter. (As it should be.)

The ancient Romans, Japanese, and Chinese all knew the plum, and its uses varied from fresh and dried fruit to wine-making to medicinal use of the pit.

There are thousands of varieties worldwide and over a hundred available in the United States, mainly in the summer months. Colors include red, purple, green, yellow, amber, black, pink and variegated. Most common are the Damson, Greengage, Satsuma, Golden and Mirabelle. Dried plums are also popular, and go by the name prune. (Don’t get tricked into paying more for dried plums. They are still just prunes.)

Plums – like peaches, apricots, and cherries – are considered stone fruits because they have stones or pits in the center. They need not be peeled because the skins are thin, and not offensive to the palate. However if you insist, the skin can be removed by blanching and shocking, just the way you remove tomato skin. Score an “x” at the base of the ripened fruit, drop it in boiling water for 30 seconds, then immediately transfer it to ice water. When cool, the skin will slide right off.

Sweet plums and salty Roquefort are a delicious, though unusual, combination. Combined with this tangy dressing and crunchy nuts, this salad is an explosion of flavor.

Opal basil is another summer crop. It has a little more anise flavor than everyday green basil, but the green variety can be substituted.

INGREDIENTS

1 clove garlic, minced
2 scallions, minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
3 TB. white wine vinegar
1 TB. honey
1/3 cup olive oil
6-8 ripe plums, sliced into thin wedges
2 cups fresh opal basil leaves
1/4 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese
1-1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted and cooled

METHOD

  1. In a large bowl combine garlic, scallions, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add vinegar, honey, olive oil, and blend well. Set aside.
  2. In a salad bowl combine plums and basil leaves. Add enough dressing to lightly coat, and toss thoroughly. Serve topped with Roquefort and pecans.
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Techniques

Roquefort

Roquefort_cheese
Roquefort is the oldest blue cheese, favored by the ancient Romans 2000 years ago. It comes from the Aquitaine region of southwest France where it is made from sheep’s milk and cured in limestone caves.  It’s discovery is told in the tale of a shepherd that left a hunk of bread and a sheep milk cheese in one of these caves. He found it later,  and though it was covered with mold, he pronounced it delicious!

It is the mold penicillium roqueforti that gives this cheese it’s flavor.  It occurs naturally in the soil of the local caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in southern France.  Traditionally the cheese was made much like it’s origin story.  The mold was collected by leaving bread in the caves for several weeks.  The moldy bread was then dried, ground to a powder, then added to the curd. Today, the mold is grown in a laboratory, and added via aerosol through holes poked in the rind.

In addition, this cheese must be made from the milk of specific breeds of sheep (Lacaune, Manech, Basco-Béarnaise). Like so many other culturally rich culinary traditions, roquefort’s AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) is regulated by the EU’s INAO (Institut Nationalde l’Origine et de la Qualité).

I know this cheese is often referred to as the King of Cheeses.  I also know that the Stilton heads also claim that title.  This is a controversy I have no intention of participating in.  I love all my cheeses equally.

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