Saturday, June 28, 2014

Low-Hanging Fruit --- Backyard Plums, Over-The-Fence Loquats and a Plum Clafoutis Recipe

Our neighbor's loquats
I cook, I don't garden.  I know with some bloggers you get a kind of two for one.  Not here, you don't.  To be honest, this column is about our accidental fruit.

We don't really do anything for the plums, they just grow and drop. The plums are about the size and color of a cherry tomato and they are sweet-tart. They are too small to do too much with so we occasionally snack on them, but usually they feed the birds. What I really love about them is the early Spring blooms, pale pink and white and just lovely.

The loquat branches drop over our side fence. The loquats taste like an apricot crossed with a lychee with a firmer texture and a slightly astringent skin. There is not a lot of flesh on each fruit.  Inside are two large seeds.  We don't get too many of these, since after all the tree is on the other side of the fence.

Unlike the plums, they are freestones so they are easier to eat or use in recipes.  The fruit bruises easily and you rarely see it commercially available.  I've had a great loquat vinegar (by Lulu, I think), other than that I don't know of any processed foods using them.

I have a soft spot for loquats because my sons attended a preschool with a loquat tree in the yard and they would come home splattered with loquat juice thrilled by the experience of picking and eating them.

Backyard plums swaying in breeze
If you are not fussy about pitting them, the plums would work well in a clafoutis,  just warn folks to watch for pits. Try this recipe, which is egg and dairy free, and which first appeared in the j weekly.  If you have small,  hard to pit plums like the ones at left, leave them whole and warn eaters to be aware.

The clafoutis (pronounced without the final s) recipe is very adaptable and can be made with any other fruit.  I frequently use cherries (easiest if you skip the pitting) or berries.

It's a nice brunch dish or dessert on it's own or try serving it with ice cream and or whipped cream (vegan or not).

Plum Clafoutis
Serves 6

2 Tbs. oil, plus extra for greasing pan
1 lb. fresh Italian prune plums or other small, sweet plums (about 20)
1 cup flour
3 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup unflavored, unsweetened almond milk
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8” x 12” baking pan. Halve and pit the prunes and place evenly, cut side up, on bottom of prepared baking pan.

Stir together flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in small bowl. In large bowl mix eggs, almond milk, almond extract and vanilla extract until well combined. Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg one, whisking well until very smooth. Pour over plums. Bake for 50-60 minutes until firm and golden.  Let cool slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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