Side, Appetizer, Summer, Snack, Dairy Free, Gluten Free

Plum Salad

Is there any other way to return to NYC than to hit the ground running? I’ve barely been back two weeks and it already feels like a month has passed. I missed this business, this full calendar, the multiple train rides in a day. I missed NYC.

Before I flew to Alabama (2 months ago) I moved into a new apartment. I had the luxury and curse of having too much time to search for a new place. Luxury because I could see as many apartments as I liked before moving out of my old room. Curse because I could see as many apartments as I liked before picking the one that was just right.

Call me Goldilocks, I tried nearly every neighborhood and every price range before finding the unit that fit. It was the right size, the right location, the right price- you know the story. I jumped for it. I moved in right away, with nothing more than a bed, some clothes, and my cooking gear. I unpacked my kitchen first, hanging pots from the ceiling and mounting my gear to the wall with tool-shed supplies in a surprisingly butch streak. As for the rest of the apartment, it remained empty. My parents would be moving out of their apartment a few months after I signed my new lease, and their furniture was destined for my floor, but until then I’d just have to wait.

So I waited, like a squatter in my own apartment. My living room was dressed in a pile of shoes and a few boxes. It was a desperate sight. I left for Alabama with an empty house, promising my sublessee (Kelly, a dear old friend) that furniture would be delivered on the fifth day of her stay. And, indeed, that furniture arrived. In one of my more anal-retentive moments I had taped little notes on the walls and floors of my unit before leaving: “Couch, here,” “Bookshelf, here,” and so on. Kelly telephoned to tell me that the shelves, and tables, and chairs, and boxes had all found a place in my home. It was a most surreal experience.

I lived in Alabama for two months knowing what both the furniture and my apartment looked like separately, but having only an imaginary concept of how the two fit together. I was obviously anxious to get home.

And when I did, I opened the front door onto a completely furnished apartment. It was my own, un-taped, episode of Trading Spaces. I’ve since spent the last two weeks moving into my already moved into apartment. An odd experience, to say the least.

Of course, before I started opening boxes I spent some time in the kitchen. I can’t be expected to do any heavy lifting without the promise of a mouth-watering reward waiting in the fridge.

On my first trip back to the Park Slope Food and Insanity Co-Op I was greeted with a fresh delivery of plums from one of my favorite farms. I bought a sack of prune plums, cloudy purple on the outside, yellow flesh within, and trotted home with a tiny smile. I would not bake these. No, they were too wonderful to be withered by heat. I would make a fruit salad, a light, quick, and simple treat.

Let me first say this: conventionally assembled fruit salad is too violent, too mixed, too free spirited and too clueless to intrigue me. Pineapple, watermelon, canteloupe, strawberry, blueberry, banana and grape? What is this? An orgy? Have some sense when assembling your salad dear friends, have some sense.

My rules for a fruit salad:

  • No more than three different fruits (and three is outrageous)
  • Within one fruit family, variety is golden (Plums: Friar, Prune, Red Heart, Santa Rosa, etc…)
  • Always add herbs
  • Sprinkle sugar, only if necessary

This particular salad is as simple as can be. In the bottom of a large bowl I muddled ¾ cup of sliced basil leaves with a sprinkling of sugar (the sugar crystals help break down the herb). To that I added two pounds of sliced prune plums and the zest of ½ lemon. Stir, and let the fruit sit. It juices itself in an hour or so, and the results are glorious. I never bothered putting the salad on a plate, I attacked the bowl with fork in hand. The plums were devoured with joy.

Darlings, this summer expect more from your fruit. Throwing a wild variety together in one bowl assures only one thing: that your salad will taste of nothing specific and everything vague. Leave the generic mix to bad hotels, spend some time with individual fruits, dressed in fresh herbs. They’ll dance on your tongue in return.

Annnnd, I’m back.