LATE-SUMMER PLUMS: A MARKET STORY
With this brisk, wish-I-had-a-jacket weather, people at farmers markets are embracing autumn with open arms. I, for one, am not jumping the gun. We’re going to be eating apples for months, remember?
But even though I’m clinging to summer’s stone fruits (and the last of the snapdragons and zinnias), a bit of finesse in the kitchen goes a long way. This is especially true when you have absolutely no time to waste, which is why I’m keeping this short and sweet.
I learned to roast stone fruits from cookbook author and all-around culinary goddess Georgeanne Brennan. She often does hers in a wood-fired oven, but a regular old oven works fine too, even though it isn’t nearly as romantic. I think I learned the trick of working some crème fraîche into fresh ricotta from her, too; the thickened cream gives the fluffy, uncomplicated ricotta a nutty sweetness, a little tang, and voluptuous body.
I love the rich, faintly spicy flavor of roasted plums all by themselves, but you could easily use other stone fruits or a mixture. And you could, of course, substitute a dollop of mascarpone or softly whipped heavy cream for the creamy ricotta.
Roasted plums are versatile. They swing homey or haute, and are ideal if you aren’t a baker or need a gluten-free dessert, because there is no dratted crust or crumble topping involved. They cook quietly all by themselves and make the kitchen smell heavenly. And, if you are very fortunate, there will be a spoonful or two left for tomorrow morning.
Roasted Plums with Creamy Ricotta and Honey
1 cup fresh ricotta
About ¼ cup crème fraîche
A dash of pure vanilla extract
6 to 8 plums, depending on size, or a mixture of plums and peaches and/or nectarines
Extra-virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 475º. Stir together the ricotta, crème fraîche, vanilla, and about 2 tablespoons of sugar, or to taste in a bowl. Pop that into the fridge until ready to use.
2. Cut the plums from stem end to bottom, first down one side, then the other. Gently twist the halves together; if they separate from the pit easily, that means they are freestone. Otherwise, they’re clingstone, so cut the flesh away from the pit in largish wedges. Put the plums in a shallow baking dish just large enough to fit them in 1 layer. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon oil and turn them a few times to coat. Generously sprinkle with sugar and turn once or twice more. Roast until the plums have just collapsed and are tender and just caramelized enough, about 20 minutes.
3. Serve the plums in small bowls with the creamy ricotta and honey, for drizzling, on the side.