Prunes...excuse me, dried plums, are not the prettiest fruit in the world. They are wrinkled and black, wizened and dry like oversized raisins. They have a terrible reputation, too, as food for babies and the fiber-deprived. But it's a mistake to treat them as functional health food. Under proper treatment, prunes acquire a deep richness and silky soft texture, oozing sweet, dark plum juice. And when you combine that delicately tannic juice with red wine, well, they're downright indulgent.
I was inspired by Molly's recipe (in turn inspired by David Leibovitz) for stewed prunes. I made just a couple little tweaks, since I wanted to see what these would be like when stewed in wine. Ruby port (available for just a few dollars at Trader Joe's) is a wonderful complement to these prunes. When simmered down into a syrup it becomes even richer, like ripe red fruit.
The prunes literally melt in your mouth. They are warm and soft, totally appropriate for winter, and yet they hint of warmer times to come, and sunshine too. Serve them and their syrup over yogurt or a plain cake -- maybe a clementine cake. They make a wonderful dessert in a month when we're focusing on eating light.
Today I ate a bowl of my favorite steel-cut oatmeal, cooked with a little milk and cinnamon until creamy, and smeared a spoonful of prunes and their syrup on top. It's so delicious you hardly need any sugar at all.
Prunes Stewed in Port Wine
about 2-3 cups
1/2 pound dried prunes
1 clementine, sliced very thin
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup ruby port
2 tablespoons sugar (optional, to sweeten it up a bit)
Combine all the ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan. Add enough water to bring the liquid level just up over the prunes. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat for about half an hour, or until the prunes are very soft. Add more water as it simmers, if necessary.
Serve over yogurt, oatmeal, panna cotta, a plain cake, on toast, or anything else you can think of.
Related: Recipe: Cinnamon-Spiked Tomatoes
(Images: Faith Durand)