For the love of plums…
I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold --"This is just to say" by William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams and I are on the same page when it comes to plums; neither of us is (was) able to exert much self-control. In Williams’ case, he offered a poetic non-apology apology for his misdeed–a poem that takes the form of a note you might find left on an empty refrigerator.
Over the years since its publication in 1934, Williams’ minimalist poem has become something of a modern meme, with clever spoofs of the poem exchanged among friends and posted online (like the one that appears below).
But back to plums…not only has the taste of plums intrigued cooks (and poets) for centuries, but the word plum has insinuated itself into our conversations as a metaphor. If you get a plum of a job, for example, that’s a very good thing. Conversely, if someone tells you that you are a bit of a plum, you are being called an idiot. (Ouch!)
Right now, plums (the fruit kind…well, maybe both kinds) are everywhere! The stone fruit season runs from May to early October and supermarket bins and farmers’ market stalls are overflowing with multiple varieties (and a rainbow of colors) of plums. (There are more than 2000 varieties, by the way!)
Speaking of the abundance of plum varieties in cultivation, we owe a debt of gratitude to Luther Burbank whose hybridizing efforts with the fruit have given us considerable biodiversity in plum production. He is credited with developing over 100 plum varieties. He mixed it up, too, crossing plums with apricots. Today, as a result of Burbank’s pioneering work and the work of gifted hybridizers since, we can find beautiful pluots (75% plum/25% apricot), plumcots (50% plum/50% apricot) and apriums (75% apricot/25% plum) in the markets.
So buy some! At about 30 calories for one medium-size plum, there is no good reason to resist the temptation to fill up your fruit bowls with this season’s beautiful plums. Remember that plums are also rich sources of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins–particularly vitamin C– so you are buying a bag of health foods.
Here is a recipe for a great plum tart made with a cookie-ish crust. This recipe is delicious and the finished dish is visually spectacular. I confess that I had planned to bake two tarts this time–one for me and one for a friend–but the temptation of fresh plums in my fruit bowl got the better of me.
This recipe was adapted from one posted on the epicurious site. Here is a link to the original recipe: Epicurious’ recipe for Plum Tarts .
Yields 12 Servings
- For pastry dough:
- 1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
- 1/4 C. sugar
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/2 t. finely-grated fresh lemon zest
- 2 large egg yolks
- For filling:
- 1/2 C. sugar
- 1 1/2 T. cornstarch
- 2 pounds plums (pitted and sliced)
- 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Using your food processor, combine flour, butter, sugar, salt and zest. Pulse the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal with some small lumps that are about the size of a pea mixed in. Add the egg yolks and process until the mixture begins to come together in a clump.
- Place the dough mixture onto your work surface and divide it into 2 portions. Smear each portion once with the heel of your hand (using a forward motion). This will help distribute the fat in the dough. Put the two portions together and form into a ball.
- Put the ball of dough into a tart pan. With floured fingers, press the dough into the tart pan. You want an even 1/4 inch layer of dough covering the bottom of the pan and extending up the sides of the pan. (Use a tart pan with a removable bottom) Chill the dough in the tart pan for approximately 30 minutes--until it is firm.
- To prepare the filling for the tart, mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a large bowl. Next, add the plums and the lemon juice and toss the mixture to coat the plums. Let this mixture stand for approximately 30 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally. You want to have a juicy mixture of plums to arrange in your tart shell.
- Arrange the plum slices in the tart shell in concentric circles. Pour the juices in the bowl over the plums in the tart. (I had some juice left over the last time I made this tart. I was using particularly juicy plums. I didn't want to fill the tart shell to overflowing and did not use all the liquid.)
- Bake your tart in the middle of your oven for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F. After 15 minutes, take the tart out of the oven and loosely cover it with foil. Return to the oven and bake the tart for 40 to 50 minutes at 375 degrees F. When the tart is properly baked, the plums will be tender and the juices will be bubbling and slightly thickened.
- Cool tart completely before trying to remove it from your tart pan.