A plethora of plums


This is a strange year for fruit. Seems it all wants to ripen at the same time. Just finished eating the last apricot from my lone tree, and in the last few days my plum tree has created a veritable purple rain as it hurls fruit from its overladen branches. It’s like a frantic Easter egg hunt as I gather the fallen plums, competing with birds and bugs and summer heat that is stewing them right on the ground. Not that I don’t appreciate an instant compote, but I’d rather have them intact for a few new recipes. Unfortunately, many of them have cuts or soft spots and are quickly turning into little purple puddles.

Last year I offered up a sauce, a salsa and a tart for you to try. This year I am tackling that plethora of plums with savory black beans, a mildly spicy chutney and a delicious torte that will disappear quickly at breakfast time. I’ve done the research; you harvest the benefits. If you don’t have a plum tree, pick a pile of plums at your favorite market and give one of these a try. (Store ripe plums in the refrigerator. Hard ones will soften on a countertop but won’t get sweeter.) Meanwhile, I’m heading back outside with another bowl … the blackberries have decided to come in a little early.

Spicy black beans with fresh plums

This is a good accompaniment to grilled vegetables, chicken or fish. It can be made up to three days in advance and served hot as a side dish or cold as a salad.

Recipe from “Almost Vegetarian” by Diana Shaw; makes 4 servings.

4 sweet plums

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 large white or yellow onion, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced

1 large yellow pepper, cored, seeded and diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

2 whole cloves

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano

Pinch cayenne pepper

1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and well-drained

Salt to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add plums; boil 1 minute to loosen skin. Remove plums and set aside to cool. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onion, peppers, garlic, cloves, cumin, oregano, cayenne and cilantro. Saute over medium heat, stirring often, until onion is soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Peel plums, remove pits, and coarsely chop the pulp. Stir the lemon juice, honey and plum pulp into onion mixture. Add beans; stir and cover. Reduce heat to low; continue cooking until peppers are soft, stirring often to prevent sticking, about 30 minutes. Season with salt; serve over rice if desired.

Plum chutney

This is a good, quick chutney with lots of plum flavor. It requires firm-ripe plums to hold its texture during simmering. Try it with chicken, turkey or pork.

Recipe from “Chutneys & Relishes” by Lorraine Bodger; makes about 2 cups.

1 pound firm-ripe plums

1 medium Granny Smith apple

1 medium onion

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (safflower, sunflower or canola)

1/2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

1/8 teaspoon salt

Cut plums in half, discard pits and chop the flesh coarsely. Peel, quarter and core the apple, removing all seeds and hard matter from the core; dice the flesh. Dice onion. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over low heat; saute onion until lightly browned. Add diced apple, ginger, and garlic; saute for 2 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients except the plums; stir well and simmer uncovered for 2 minutes. Stir plums into mixture; cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover pan and simmer another 10 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool; it will thicken as it cools. Chutney should last at least five days if refrigerated; bring to room temperature before serving.

Plum torte

I’ve had this recipe for many years. It comes together fairly easy and is fantastic at breakfast, with a cup of Kona coffee. Use plums that may be a bit too ripe for other purposes.

Recipe from Epicurious; makes 6 to 8 servings.

3/4 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar

8 tablespoons butter, softened

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

Pinch of salt

Approximately 12 plums, halved and pitted

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Arrange oven rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 350 F. Place softened butter and the 3/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl; cream with an electric mixer. Add flour, baking powder, eggs and salt; beat to mix well. Spread batter in a 9- or 10-inch ungreased springform pan. Cover top of batter with plum halves, skin side down. Mix cinnamon with remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar; sprinkle evenly over top. Bake 40 minutes, or until center tests done with a toothpick and edges are browned. Remove; cool on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.