Results tagged prunes from David Lebovitz

Tu bi’Shvat Cake

Israeli Fruitcake

I’ve never given Israeli food all much thought. Sure, I’d had my fill of falafels and hummus in my lifetime, but there is a trip in my future and I was at a dinner party the other night and the woman hosting us had lived in Israel for a number of years and said it was her favorite place in the world.

Other people at the party chimed in saying also that the food was great – especially the salads, something I miss from years of living in California – all those vibrant, fresh greens and luscious tomatoes bursting with flavor that we had an overload of at the farmers markets! But I’ve never given much thought to Israeli desserts. (I adore Black and White Cookies, but don’t know if those qualify.) So when I came across this Tu bi’Shvat Cake in The Book of New Israeli Food, as I’m fond of anything packed with dried fruits and nuts, I thought I’d give it a try.

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Bircher Müesli

müesli

I have quite a few “issues”, including an aversion food that’s blue which wasn’t intended by nature to be so (I don’t understand what’s up with that ‘blue raspberry’ soda), I don’t like getting dressed first thing in the morning or talking to others for at least the first hour of the day, I get uneasy when being driven anywhere by a taxi or hired driver, and I’m so terrified of my bank back in Paris that I avoid making money so I don’t have to go in there and do anything scary like, say, make a payment or deposit money into my bank account.

swiss yogurt

But nothing strikes fear in the heart of me more than one thing: Hotel Breakfasts.
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Le glaneur

colander plums

There is a French term, un glaneur, which describes a person who who glanes. If you don’t have any idea what that means, you’re not alone. I had to look it up in my French dictionary and there it was, just above the word glander, which they translated as, “to fart around.”

There’s a heckuva lot of French verbs out there, and I’ve been trying to learn them as fast as my little brain can absorb them, but that was a new one on me. Would one say, “Je vous glande”, or “I fart around you?” I hope not. (At least not around me.)

2 buckets of wild plums

A glaneur (or glaneuse), is someone who picks or forages for fruits and vegetables. And in fact, there was a well-known film called Les glaneurs et la glaneuse about French people who hunt for food.

When we were recently driving around the Seine-et-Marne, a bucolic region just an hour or so outside of Paris, where we were spending the waning days of summer, we rang the bell of a friend of ours, who unfortunately wasn’t in. Yet being the eagle-eyed forager that I am, I fortunately noticed a whole bank of trees across the street, each heavy with branches bearing a multicolored line-up of itty-bitty wild plums that were ripe ‘n ready.

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Parisian Prune Desserts

Chocolate & prune
Chocolate-Prune Tiramisù

Skip the chocolate, I’ll take prunes.

Plum Kernel Ice Cream Recipe

Ice cream

Last month, I received an invitation to visit the French Sénat. Like most of the government buildings here in Paris, this is one fabulous. Think wildly-ornate with lots of gilding and chandeliers and gardens that are plucked and shaved within an inch of their life. (‘Nature’ in Paris is meant to be looked at…ne touchez pas!) Plus there was a gorgeous dining room where les Sénateurs dine.

(Well, I should say, the real Sénateurs, since they didn’t seem to have my name on that list.)

I don’t know why the exhibition of foods and wines from the Lot-et-Garonne, was being held there, but I felt pretty special all the same. And who doesn’t like feeling special?

Jardin

There was a decent selection of foods to try. Lots of foie gras, some nice Gascon cheeses, and of course, pruneaux d’Agen. And lots of ‘em. Since they were free, I ate as many as I could, especially the ones stuffed with chocolate-flavored prune filling. I was in prune heaven!

Except the next day—I was in prune hell.
Like Armagnac (take it from me); it’s worth knowing your limits.

Continue Reading Plum Kernel Ice Cream Recipe…

Duck with Prunes Recipe

This past weekend I went to the Marché des Producteurs de Pays, a lively little outdoor event where people come from across France to sell their edible wares here in Paris. Naturally there were lots of mountain cheeses, specialty honeys, and regional wines. But I was on a mission to stock up on les pruneaux d’Agen since I knew les producteurs would be there from Agen who cultivated and dried their own prunes

duckleg.jpg

In America, duck always seems like a special occasion thing, perhaps because it’s not so easily available. But in France, it’s hard not to find duck and braising the meat tenderizes and assures the skin will be dropping off-the-bone succulent. The prunes add a melting sweetness and you can use an inexpensive red wine as the cooking liquid.

duckleg1.jpg

Duck with Prunes in Red Wine

Serves 4 to 6

Some folks use a mixture of red wine and stock or water, so you can do whatever suits your taste. Since it’s Beaujolais Nouveau season right now, you can that. I like Pinot Noir, Merlot, Brouilly, or a similar wine.

To begin, cut 4 duck thighs in half, separating the legs and upper thighs. If you have time, rub them all over with about a teaspoon of salt and refrigerate for 1-3 days. If not, that’s okay. Just pat the duck legs dry and rub them with salt.

Heat a large Dutch oven or roasting pan on the stovetop.

When very hot, add in the duck pieces in a single layer, skin side down and cook, disturbing them as little as possible until the skin is very brown. Flip them over and brown the other side for a few minutes too. If they didn’t all fit in a single layer, brown the remaining pieces of duck the same way after you remove the first batch.

Once they’re all cooked off, pour off any extra duck fat (reserve it for another use, like sautéed potatoes) and pour one bottle of red wine into the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spatula to unleash all those delicious brown bits.

Add the duck pieces back to the pan along with any or all of the following:

  • freshly-ground pepper
  • a few strips of wide bacon or pancetta, cut into generous bâtons
  • springs of thyme
  • a strip or two of orange zest
  • one onion, peeled and sliced
  • a couple of whole cloves
  • a head of garlic cloves, separated from the head, but not peeled
  • 2-3 bay leaves


The liquid should be covering the duck up to about the 3/4’s mark. If not, add some water or chicken stock.

Cover the pot and braise in a low oven, 300-325F (150-165C) and cook leisurely for 2-3 hours. The duck is done when the meat is relaxed and comes easily away from the bone. Exact cooking time isn’t important; just check after an hour or so for when the meat slumps and begins to feel tender.

Check and make sure the liquid isn’t boiling while cooking. It should be just steaming and barely simmering every-so-gently. If it’s too hot, turn the oven down.

Flip the duck pieces once or twice during braising. During the last 30 minutes, drop in about 20 prunes. Cover, and let cook until the prunes are tender.

Serving: You can serve with rice, green lentils, beans, or wide noodles. The duck can be made a day or two ahead, refrigerated, then re-warmed for serving.

Prune Recipes from Around the World

Welcome To Prune Blogging Thursday!

I was, frankly, a bit surprised that anyone but me participated…but most of the prune-skeptics out there seem to have been won over. Participants were from all over the world: Italy, Estonia, France, Scotland, Spain, Germany, Canada, and the United States. Thanks to everyone for sending me your entries and I encourage readers out there to visit their web sites to read about their prune-alicious adventures.

pruneblogdayparis!.jpg

In spite what I now see as a highly-organized, internationally-recognized conspiracy against prunes, here are entries from all over the world.
Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

The divine Judy of Over a Tuscan Stove has a savory and amazing recipe for Cinghiale in Dolce Forte, adapted from an ancient recipe. Her wild boar stew has nice plump prunes…along with a suspicion of chocolate!

The zesty red-headed Laura of Cucina Testa Rossa began a torrid love affair with, what she writes, “the most expensive prunes in the world”, the famed Stuffed Prunes from Agen. Then she went on to make a creamy Glace de Pruneaux d’Agen et Armagnac, Prune & Armagnac ice cream, making full use of her new ice cream freezer.

Fellow Parisian Christine who resides at Chez Christine presents a stunning Terrine de Canard aux Pruneaux et a l’Armagnac (Duck Terrine with Prunes and Armagnac) along with the recipe, which sounds worth tackling for the holidays.
Or perhaps she’s taking orders?

Zorra, from Andalucia, Spain, made some fabulous tapas of Sherry-Soaked Prunes in Bacon, a variation of the delicious bacon-wrapped dates which I’ve had grilled and served in many tapas bars. I can’t wait to try it with prunes and it’s simple enough for anyone to make…no matter where you live.

My gal Alicat slinks in with two original tarts; Apricot & Prune Tart, and Dark Chocolate, Pecan, & Prune Tart. Both tarts look terrific and she and I did a mind-meld and were the only ones who combined chocolate with prunes in our desserts.

Peter at Tea Leaves found his own translation for pruneaux d’Agen. And even if a scholar of the French language might take exception to his method, his entry How To Eat Prunes had me eying my prized bottle of Armagnac in anticipation of making his boozy infusion.

I was almost afraid to open Lindy’s post at Toast since it was titled “Nightingale with Prunes”. But instead of something ‘fowl’, I found a delicate and delicious prune-presentation inspired by a recipe from pastry hero Pierre Hermé.

Pille, an Estonian living in Scotland, who’s captivating blog presents an I Am So Good For You Prune Cake called hapukoorekook kuivatatud ploomidega, (although she slipped once and called it ‘plum juice’ when she meant ‘prune juice’). In spite of the, er, high-fiber benefits of prunes, her recipe packs in some extra wheat bran!

My Amateur Gourmet Survivor, Melissa, survived her search for two prune recipes and discovered an Iranian Prune Stew and a ‘Plumb’ Cake that I could almost smell just looking at the pictures.
Merci Melissa!

Marc gave prunes, what he calls, “some X-appeal”, and he re-created my pal and baking guru Nick Malgieri’s X-Cookies, using a gift from his ex. Hmmm…he looks like he’s become an X-pert in cookie-making.

Ulrike made a stunning Couscous Tabbouleh with Glazed Prunes, a trans-Atlantic combination of organic California Prunes cooked up in Germany. (Check out the swirly Apfelrezepte carving off to the side of the blog too!) Ulrike wasn’t the only one who looked to the Middle East for inspiration…

Another Scottish import (seems like a trend, Scottish food bloggers!), Iain, presents a Beef in Beer with Guiness-Soaked Prunes that looks like just the thing for that blustery winter coming soon to Scotland.

Over in LA, Rachel makes one of my favorite snacks, Dried Plum Financiers and offers an explanation of their mysterious journey from ‘prunes’ to ‘dried plums’.

Sarah Lou from Canada made a flaky Moroccan Basteeya Pie, which is one of my all-time favorite dishes; layers of filo dough brushed with butter then filled with shredded chicken, cinnamon, and a touch of sweetness.

Michele said I gave her the courage to tackle prunes in a Lamb Tagine with Prunes. While I appreciate her kinds words, I think comparing me to her grandmother in her post means I deserve some delicious gift, don’t you?
Perhaps some salted-butter caramels Michele?

And Melissa said , “Okay, David, you’ve won. Then she came out with a lovely Whiskied Prune and Custard Tart that features a juicy prune filling spilling out from a flaky tart filling. She did mention she still felt unease when cooking with prunes (wait ’til tomorrow if you want to feel uneasy, Melissa…)

When I’m not using his blog for my socio-political rants, fish-headed Brett stewed up a lovely melagne of Masala Chai Poached Prunes which combines sublime Indian spices with smoky Assam tea, creating a nice warm bath for his prunes from Casa Gispert in Barcelona, one of my favorite food places in the world.

I will forgive Fatemeh for calling me neurotic (after all, Woody Allen’s made a career out of it…why can’t I?) Especially since she’s driving me across the Bay Area soon in our pursuit of the best Chinese dim sum soon. So I was afraid she might make Prune dim sum, but instead found inspiration in a recipe from her childhood, which Prune Blogging Thursday happily rekindled: Toss Kabak, a savory Meat and Prune Stew with the addition of quince.

Molly of Orangette, I thought, would dip her prunes in delicious dark chocolate, but instead stewed up a storm with Stewed Prunes with Cinnamon and Citrus, which she’s going to “stew us into submission” with. Glad she overcame her friend’s giggling fits when she told them about prunes. I mean, when her friend gets old and wrinkly, I hope no one’s giggling at her!

And a few late entries…

Cathy sent in her recipe and photos for Prune Bread from her blog at My Little Kitchen.

Spicy Prune Mole from Jocelyn at Brownie Points using Dagoba organic chocolate, which is one of my favorite chocolates.

Alanna from A Veggie Venture has a Prune Tsimmes.

And from Barrett at Too Many Chefs, Bleu Cheese, Prune, and Onion Tart, and from Meg, who actually loves prunes and is under 60 years old (it was our visit to the farm expo here in Paris that prompted prune-madness) and posted her idea of The Best Thing To Do With Prunes. Find out for yourself at Too Many Chefs.

And from Elizabeth, there an Icelandic Prune Layer Cake and a savory Chicken (or Lamb) Couscous with Prunes and Apricots from another part of the world. Prune lovers unite!

Ok…and finally…
Prune Blogging Thursday gave me the courage to perfect my recipe for making chocolate French-style Macarons with your choice of a creamy chocolate ganache filling, or an Armagnac-scented prune filling.

Whew!
Thanks again to everyone for participating in the first, the original, (and the only) Prune Blogging Thursday.

(PS: All my chocolate macarons are gone! They were quickly wiped out at my friend Heather’s 30th birthday party this weekend. Thanks for asking.)