Summer Plum Salad

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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.

Summer Shortcakes

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strawberryshortcake
Summer fruit is everywhere. It’s Fruit Galore! (If I was a Bond Girl, that would definitely be my name. That or Sticky Buns.)

A surplus of fruit means just one thing to me … shortcake.

This classic dessert has had many incarnations, but it began as a way to use up last night’s biscuits. I’ve seen it made with pound cake, sponge cake, cookies, scones and those doggy-dish shaped cakes they sell at the grocery store (along with that day-glo red gel goop I gather one is supposed to smear onto the fruit. Don’t do it people! That fruit has been good to you! It doesn’t deserve to be treated that way!)

My favorite way to shortcake is with fruit and cream sandwiched between a flaky, not-too-sweet biscuit. I start in the beginning of the summer with berries, until they go away.  Then I get creative.  Apricots, cherries, plums, figs.  When fall rolls around I turn to apples, pears, an even sweet pumpkin roasted to a caramelized perfection.  And in the lean fruit months, I switch into tropical gear, with grilled pineapple or mango.

Don’t be afraid to shed that creativity on your biscuit too.  Some of my favorite versions include roasted plums in a sage-pecan shortcake, mango and pineapple in coconut-macadamia shortcake, and dried fruit macerated in cognac in a gingerbread shortcake. Oh yeah!

And while you’re stretching your culinary creativity muscle, toss the fruit with a bit of sugar, Grand Marnier, herbs, citrus zest, or vanilla for a little something extra.

INGREDIENTS

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (you can substitute up to 1/2 cup of an alternative flour, such as whole wheat, corn meal, semolina, buckwheat, acorn or other nut–or you can substitute up to 2 tablepsoons of fine powdered flavoring, like matcha, rose dust, or instant espresso)
1/2 cup sugar, divided (this can be white, brown, date, coconut –what ever you like –it can even be a liquid sugar like honey, although best to add that with the milk)
1 TB. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 oz. butter, diced and chilled (if you are dairy free–there are many substitutes you can use, including solidified coconut oil)
2/3 cup buttermilk (or regular milk with a teaspoon of acid added–lime juice, lemon juice, vinegar–which is needed to activate the baking soda)
2 TB. vanilla extract, divided
2 TB. milk

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 pints fresh summer fruit, rinsed, trimmed and sliced as necessary

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine buttermilk and 1 tablespoon vanilla and set aside. In a large bowl sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut-in chilled butter to pea-sized pieces with your fingertips or a pastry blender. Make a well in the center of the flour-butter mixture, pour in buttermilk and stir gently until just moistened. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured work surface and fold 7-8 times, just until it holds together. Roll to 1-inch thick and cut into 2 or 3 inch biscuits with circle cookie cutter. Place on the cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Whisk together yolk, milk, and brush it generously on top of each biscuit, and sprinkle with extra sugar for a crispy crust. Bake at 375˚F until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  2. Whip cream to soft peaks with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Cut biscuits in half and sandwich fruit and whipped cream. Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar and serve.

strawberry-shortcake
I’m pretty sure Rainbow Bright could kick Strawberry Shortcake’s @$$

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