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Stone fruit are plum delicious

I did not give birth to culinary geniuses.

Sadly, this point was brought home again this past week when my son with the master’s degree in obvious says to me, “Hey mom, did you know that prunes are plums?”

Yes, I gently explained to the man who will never ever woo a woman with his cooking expertise.

This is the time of year when plums, peaches and nectarines are in their luscious ripe glory and anyone who doesn’t take advantage of their deliciousness is just plain silly. These stone fruits (the stone is the name for the huge rough seed in the middle) also include cherries and apricots and arrive in affordable style the end of July and beginning of August.

Just know that most of the time you can substitute the peach for the nectarine and that the plum and cherry are typically a little more difficult to substitute because of their water content and flavor. Just try mixing and matching depending on your preference and I’ll bet you’ll be cooking all the following recipes two or three times a week until the first apples and pears of fall are ready for picking.

Peach Berry Coffee Cake

Streusel topping:

4 tablespoons soft butter

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Cake:

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla 

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup milk or half-and-half 

2 cups peeled and sliced fresh firm, ripe peaches 

1 cup fresh raspberries, blueberries or blackberries or a mixture of all of them

Powdered sugar

Garnishes: blackberries, sliced peaches 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a spring form pan. Set it aside.

For topping: In a bowl combine the butter, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon and mix to combine. Set aside.

For the cake: In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter, vanilla and sugar and beat until smooth. Add the eggs and mix until totally combine. In another bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating it with the milk or half-and-half, starting with and ending with the flour mixture. Beat on a low speed as the mixture needs to incorporate each addition as it’s added. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Decorate the top with the sliced peaches and blackberries. (Note: For the total peach experience you can omit the berries and use three cups sliced peaches instead.) Gently drop small pieces of the streusel topping over the fruit and gently push it down (don’t push too much, just enough to make sure it stays in place). Bake for 65 to 75 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Cool on a rack until room temperature. Remove from spring form pan and sprinkle top with powdered sugar. Serves 8 to 10.

Grilled Chicken with Fresh Plums

1 cup chopped ripe plums (about 2 plums) 

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced 

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

4 (4-ounce) chicken breast cutlets

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 tablespoons brown sugar 

In a bowl combine the plums, jalapeno, basil, red onion, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix to combine and set aside. In another bowl combine 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, remaining salt, cumin and pepper. Mix to combine and then rub the mixture into the chicken breasts. On the grill or in a grill pan (with the oil) cook the chicken breasts until just done. Preheat the oven to broil. Place the grilled breasts into a glass dish and spoon the plum mixture over the top. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over the top. Place under the broiler for 1 minute just until the fruit mixture starts to sizzle. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Ricotta Cherry and Chocolate Parfait

11/2 pounds fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half

21/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon rum

1 cup whipping cream, cold

2 to 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla or cherry liqueur

1 cup ricotta or mascarpone cheese 

11/2 cups crushed Oreos

Cocoa powder for dusting

Chill the mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 10 minutes.

In a saucepan combine the cherries, brown sugar and rum. Cook on low, stirring every so often for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

In the cold mixing bowl whip the whipping cream until it has soft peaks. Slowly add the powdered sugar until combined. On low, beat in half the vanilla and ricotta cheese at a time. (You can add more powdered sugar at this point if it’s not sweet enough for your taste.) Put out eight parfait glasses. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of crushed cookies in the bottom of each serving glass. Top with a heaping tablespoon of the cooked cherries and juice and then spoon some of the cream mixture on top (your choice as to how much). Top with a cherry or two and a sprinkle of cocoa to garnish. Serves 8. 

Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at eztlog@gmail.com or write to The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802. 

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