Thursday, September 8, 2011

plum dumplings

plum ford, 6"x6", from 2010
italian prune plums
buddleia (butterfly bush)

I've finished several new works, but can't post pictures yet because I've temporarily lost the cable to connect my camera and computer. In the meantime here are three purple themed photos and a fond meditation on plum dumplings.
To me, they're another form of art, the kind that fills my belly while linking me to my culinary heritage. But mostly, they taste good and I like making them. My mother learned how from my dad's mother, who brought the recipe from Vienna when they came here in 1938 (my dad was 3). Of us five children, 3 of us love them, 2 are indifferent, and about half of their own offspring are fans. We eat them for dinner (and breakfast), even if some people may insist they resemble dessert. To each his own, I say.
You can make the dumplings with dried apricots or, as I tried recently with fine results, fresh sour cherries, but the classic calls for plums. The small Italian prune plums that surface only from late August through September, so it's a short season during which we'd prepare them as often as possible. There's nothing like cutting into a soft warm dumpling with your fork, releasing a burst of quinacridone crimson plum juice, to make my heart brim with contentment. I think many people have a family recipe that warms them like that.
Here is the method:
12 small firm Italian prune plums, halved & pitted
7.5-oz pkg farmer cheese
1 egg
2 tbs softened butter
2 tbs milk
2 cups flour
2 cups plain bread crumbs
2 or 3 tbs oil
Heat the oil in a big pan and lightly brown the bread crumbs. Set aside. Fill a big pot with water and bring to boil while doing the following. In a bowl, combine cheese, egg, butter, and milk, mix well & add 1 3/4 c flour. Mix with fork, then knead just til dough forms, you may need more flour, I use nearly 2 cups. Roll out dough to 1/4" thick on floured wax paper and cut 2.5" circles. A rolling pin and cookie cutter are nice, but a wine bottle and an inverted glass work fine. Spoon 1/4tsp sugar on each circle and top with plum half, cut side down. With dry hands, pinch dough closed over top of plum, bring in sides and pinch together so that plum is enclosed, no holes or they will open in the water. Drop dumplings in boiling water and boil for about 10 min. You will have to sample one to make sure they are ready, so lift one out with slotted spoon, place in pan of bread crumbs and roll to cover. Place on plate, sprinkle with sugar and taste (it will be hot and hopefully juicy). It should give tenderly beneath your fork, and be warm and sweet. Remove the rest of the dumplings and roll in bread crumbs. Eat as soon as possible. They can be reheated but will not retain the same degree of succulence.

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