Plum season

Plums have always held a special power over me. As a child, our family friend had low, branching plum tree, stretching with strong limbs towards the root cellar door with one arm and a set of creaky wooden swings with another.

Each fall, laden with fruit, it would hold out its hands to us with an offering. The plump, tender purple fruits would fall into our baskets, splattering sticky juice across our fingers as we fought for that first ripe orb.

I haven't visited the tree in season in years. I've seen it at Christmas, stark and bare, and perhaps in early spring, just breaking buds in the crisp air. But this week at the Cohasset farmers' market, it appeared again in my memory at the sight of the first homegrown plum of the season. They were prune plums, the busy seller told me, tart and firm—not the thick, succulent fruit of my childhood—but I bought a bag anyway, and headed home.

I left them to sit in the kitchen bowl for a few days, to let them ripen and soften. But eventually, I could no longer resist. I pulled out a baguette and tip-toed out to the porch to pick a handful of basil. The sandwich I had in mind would cut the tartness with a thick hunk of melted brie, the soft insides of the bread replaced by chopped plums and basil and a sprinkling of sea salt.

When the oven began to steam hot, I placed the stuffed loaf inside, plum and cheese teetering dangerously over the crust, and slipped shut the door. As I waited, dishpan hands scrubbing knife and board, the smell of roasting fruit and fresh bread overwhelmed the kitchen. I pulled it out, cheese bubbling, to find the tart plums finally tender.


Serves 4-6

Cut one baguette down the middle, scooping out some of inside bread if necessary. Stuff with 1 cup basil leaves, 2 cups chopped plums, and brie or other soft cheese to taste (Shy Brothers Hannahbells would work quite nicely). Preheat the oven to 350, place sandwich in baking pan, and bake until bread is crisp, plums tender, and cheese melted. Enjoy hot.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.