Monday, August 17, 2009


The brilliant light of a pristine August morning and the rubbings of the cicadas is the alarm that happily stirs me from a summer’s sleep. As kid it was a signal that I had another day ahead of me at the pool practicing my diving – envisioning myself an Olympic driver weighted down with metals. I was the first one through the turnstiles each morning and one of the last to leave. I burned calories all day long and yet I remember not a single thing about lunch. I cannot imagine I allowed myself a hotdog stripped with astringent yellow mustard but then I do not recall a soggy tuna fish sandwich shoved into a brown paper bag either. There definitely was a lunch. I mother might not have been particularly strict about breakfast, but lunch and dinner were musts. During the school year I have clear recollection of a various sandwiches: bologna with cheese, cream cheese and jelly, egg salad with celery. Each one of these sat on the bottom of the bag secured in its spot by the weight of an apple -- but not in summer.

My first real understanding and anticipation of the seasonality of food came during those chlorine washed days. The thick cut glass bowl that held the fruit my mother purchased on her thrice-weekly grocery forays was typically filled with bananas, apples, pears and oranges – from late July through August they had a usurper. On those warm days lolling on the chaise after a few hours of fantasy swim practice I knew the piece of fruit I was going to find, the plum. I can fully taste the juices of the Santa Rosa plum that was a constant resident of my mouth for a few fleeting weeks. Those along with the Italian prune plum were my favorite seasonal guests. I loved the tart-sweetness of the firm crunch of the Santa Rosa and appreciated the easily removal pit of the Italian.

I still get excited when I start seeing plums showing up the difference now is I am eating only local plums and the selection has broadened to included shiro, sugar, damson, elephant heart and green gage.

Believed to have originated in the region of southwestern Russia and the Caspian Sea these multi-colored fruits need to fully develop their sweetness on the branch. Once plums are harvested they will not continue to develop sugar though they will soften – we frequently confuse decomposition for ripening. The premiere eating variety has to be the green gage with its light celadon skin and yellowish meat. It has one of the lowest acidity levels that permit its sweetness to shine through. Though it is the red and black versions from Santa Clara that reins supreme in the United States (from a commercial production standpoint).

With the excitement I embraced the arrival of this stone fruit with my diving I resigned myself to the return of flattened sandwiches with the return of the first day of school.

Plum filled Raviolis – yields 10 servings
1-1/2 pound plums – pits discard; chopped
1 vanilla – split in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg - beaten
4 ounces (1stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 package of wontons

Place the chopped plums, vanilla bean, lemon juice, wine and 1/4 cup of sugar in a 1 quart pot. Over a medium low flam cook the plum mixture for 20 minutes with a lid slightly askew. Discard the vanilla bean and allow the mixture to cool completely.

Place a tablespoon of the plum mixture in the center of a wonton skin. Lightly brush the edges with the beaten egg and place another square on top. Pinch the two pieces together making sure to squeeze out any air pockets. Continue with the remaining wonton skins.

Heat a 10 inch sauté pan over a medium heat with 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter starts to get frothy add in the raviolis in two patches. They can be tightly packed, but should not overlap too much. Cook the raviolis for 4 to 5 minutes, and gently mix in cup 1/4 cup orange juice. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with some of the remaining sugar. Wipe out the sauté pan and proceed with the second batch. Serve immediately.

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