As I have all these Emerald Beaut plums to enjoy, I thought I’d better get on to finding other ways to enjoy them besides out of hand as a snack.
So, as a result, here is a green salad with them, some Moyer plums, which are a purple-skinned and dark amber-fleshed prune-type (the elongated kind) and some ingredients from my little herb garden around the patio.
My basil went in late this year – early June, I think – but no matter, it’s August now and it’s lush and beautiful. I planted seven kinds, which is more than I can possibly use in the kitchen, but the joy is not just in eating it, but also in sweeping my hands across it and raising a delicious cloud of scent, or bringing a bouquet to a friend to enjoy, or just looking out the kitchen window at it.
This summer I planted Genovese, ruffled, purple, cinnamon, lemon, lime, and mini-basil. Though I’d grown some of these before, the lemon, lime and cinnamon were all first-timers for me this year. I’ll pass on the lemon next spring – it smells, in an unfortunate way, like lemon furniture polish – but the lime and cinnamon are definite keepers. I didn’t plant any Thai basil this year – I couldn’t find any seed as late as I got started – and I’ll definitely trade out the purple one I grew this year for that. The Thai had a far better flavor.
Anyhow, my thinking on this dish was that the sweet plums would like the herbacious anise notes of the multiple basils’ flavor, especially the cinnamon one, and would work well when married with a sweet dressing. I took cuttings from my Genovese, ruffled, purple and cinnamon basils for this salad.
My original inspiration, actually, was this Plum Caprese salad (and I have enough plums that I still might make that) but decided to take it in a green salad direction to use the lettuce I had at hand from our CSA box.
For the dressing, I threw caution (or at least the Proposition 65 warnings) to the wind and made a vinaigrette with some 10-year-old balsamic vinegar, sweetened with Black Mission figs (from Marchini Sisters at the farmers’ market) and with a touch of cinnamon and anise to match up with the basil. If I had had a shallot or two in the house, I might have added a sauteed shallot or two, but not having any, I made an allium-less dressing for once. I did garnish the salad with some garlic chive blossoms from the garden, though. They’re tiny and cute, but they’re like that little cartoon character that knocks the big guy flat – they pack a garlicky punch.
While I was working on this, I used one of my favorite dressing-making tips I learned more than a decade ago from my friend Ana, a CIA grad who is a dressing master (mistress?): when you’re tasting dressing as you’re making it, don’t taste it on a spoon – because you won’t be eating it from a spoon, will you? Dip a lettuce leaf (or whatever green or other item you’ll be using it on) and taste it that way. That’ll tell you what your end result will actually be like, and you won’t have one of those "but it tasted great in the kitchen" moments at the table.
And when all was said and done and it was plated, Chimp gave it all an enthusiastic review. On the Chimp Scale for Dressings, he said the fig balsamic ranks even with his longtime favorite Whole Foods Red Pepper Ranch. I thought that was high praise. I usually choose the dressing flavor, as I’m the one making it, and my favorites are garlic-herb-oil mixtures, but I should probably, to be fair, set aside my love for those once in a while and indulge his preference for a sweeter dressing more often.
8 c. red leaf lettuce
24 basil leaves, torn if large (a mix of basils is best if available, including cinnamon, purple, lemon or lime)
2 Emerald Beaut plums, slivered
4 Moyer plums, slivered
garlic chive flowers for garnish
Fig Balsamic Dressing
6 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1/2 T. sherry vinegar
3 Black Mission figs, chopped
1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. pepper
1/2 t. sugar (optional)
1/4 t. cinnamon
pinch anise seeds
For dressing: Combine all ingredients in the workbowl of a food processor. Process until combined. Allow to stand for a half-hour to allow flavors to marry. (Trust me, it makes a difference!)
For salad: Combine lettuce, basil leaves, dressing and toss. Divide among four plates. Place plums on salad mixture and toss again gently. Garnish with garlic chive flowers if desired.
Makes four large servings.