3 quick ways with PLUMS

by Chris Halpin

Photos by Camie Leard

While many varieties of plums fill the farmer’s market stalls this fall, there are only two basic types of commercially cultivated plums: The Japanese plum, which is round, soft-fleshed and juicy, and the European plum, which is oval, firm and richly flavoured. At this time of year, it’s easy to find all sorts of locally grown small harvest plums in all sorts of wonderful varieties you won’t find at any other time of the year. My favourite place to explore is DJ Market.

Charred Fortune Plums and Halloumi with Black Pepper Balsamic Drizzle

Grilled halloumi cheese is gooey and crispy, all at the same time. Pair it with a peppery, sweet, smoky plum, and wow! I am using gorgeous fortune plums here.

To make the balsamic syrup: Mix together in a saucepan, 1 c. balsamic vinegar, 1 c. sugar, 4 black pepper corns and 1 bay leaf and place the pan over high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has come to a rolling boil. Boil rapidly for 2 minutes, stirring from time to time. Remove from heat and let cool before using. This can be made ahead of time and will keep for at least six months in the fridge.

To make cheese and plums: Halve and pit 2 plums, sprinkle a pinch each of sugar and salt on the flesh side, then liberally grind black pepper over this. Cut 2 half-inch-thick pieces of halloumi. Place a large pan over medium-high heat and let it get very hot. Don’t add any type of oil or butter to this pan. To the hot, dry pan, add the halloumi and place the plums cut-side down in the same pan. When the cheese has become crispy and brown, flip it over and brown the other side.

While you are waiting for the cheese, arrange some arugula on two salad plates. Once the cheese is crispy on both sides, place in the centre of each plate, then arrange the charred plums. Finally, drizzle with the balsamic syrup. Serves 2.

Charred Fortune Plums and Halloumi with Black Pepper Balsamic Drizzle

Fried Halloumi and Plums

Ulster Weavers apron $27.95, Mepal cirqula bowl  $21.95, Garnier Thiebaut tea towel $29.95

Pork Chop Braised with Black Plums and Green Olives

This is a wonderful, easy, autumnal braise. As it cooks at a very high temperature, I can have my pork done medium and crispy and also braised. It’s perfect with a creamy polenta.

To make the marinade: To a bowl add ½ c. red wine vinegar, ½ c. brine juice from green Spanish olives, 1 c. brown sugar, and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Place 2 pork chops in a casserole dish and pour the marinade over them. Place in the fridge for 1 to 4 hours.

To braise the pork: Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the pork from the fridge and arrange 3 black plums cut into quarters, 1 c. drained green Spanish olives, packed in brine, ½ c. rough chopped cilantro, and pepper to taste. Mix to evenly coat everything and place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. At about the 20 minute mark, baste the tops of the pork and return to the oven until the chops look crispy and a little charred. Serve hot.

Pork Chop Braised with Black Plums and Green Olives

Plum-braised Pork Chops

Mepal cirqula bowls $19.95 & $21.95, Swedish Dishcloths $7.00, Now Designs ripple tea towel $9.95

Italian Plum Frangipane

Frangipane is an Italian almond torte that has some sort of stone fruit baked into it. Here is my fuss-free version with plums. Preheat the oven to 375°.

To make the crust: In a small bowl add 1 egg yolk (keep the egg white in reserve for the filling), 1 t. cider vinegar, 2 T. water, then whisk to incorporate; set aside for later. In a food processor, add 1½ c. flour, ½ c. sugar and a pinch of salt, pulse to mix, then add ¾ c. unsalted butter, cut into cubes. Start to blend, and when the mixture is looking crumbly, add the yolk mixture and continue to blend until it starts to form a ball of dough. Press the dough into a 10-inch torte form with fluted edges and a separate bottom. If you don’t have one of these, then use a pie plate. I find it easiest to first press the dough up the edges and then press the remaining dough on the bottom. Once you have an evenly pressed crust, put this in the fridge to chill the pastry while you are making the filling.

To make the filling: In the same food processor bowl that you used for the pastry, put ½ soft unsalted butter, ¾ c. sugar, 1 c. almond flour, and 1 t. dried ginger and pulse until well-mixed and crumbly. Then add 2 eggs, plus 1 egg white and ½ t. vanilla and process until smooth. Remove the chilled crust from the  fridge and pour the filling into it. Halve 6 Italianplums and arrange them on top of the filling, domed side up. Generously sprinkle 2 T. sugar over the top and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the centre is firm and the tops looks evenly browned. Serve warmor at room temperature.

Italian Plum Frangipane

Plum Frangiapane

Jupiter glasses $13.95, Rosti utensils $5.25,
Ulster Weavers apron $27.95

Beautiful kitchenware provided by Savour Fine Foods and Kitchenware in Inglewood

Chris Halpin has been teaching Calgarians to make fast, fun urban food since 1997 and is the owner of Manna Catering Service. mannaonline.com. Recipe photos by Chris Halpin.