9.10.2009

The Local Food Report: sort of zany

The Giant Cape Gooseberry sounds like something out of a Roald Dahl book, don't you think? Like a cross between an everlasting gobstopper and James' Giant Peach—something the Wormwoods would have made Matilda eat in great, mounded heaps.

But really, it's just those funny looking fruits you see in the yellow checked napkin up there. They're a little smaller than a golf ball, a pale golden color, and wrapped in a tomatillo-esque paper husk. They taste sort of zany, like a kiwi-strawberry-pineapple-cherry tomato cross.

If you were hunting for their number, you'd find it in the tomato book. They're a relative of the tomato and the tomatillo—a member of the Solanaceae family, not the traditional gooseberry. (If you remember the rabble rouser, that Mr. Black Currant who we talked about a month or so ago, he's the real gooseberry cousin. You have to be a bona fide Ribes to claim any real gooseberry status, and he is.)

Instead, if the Giant Cape Gooseberry had to pick a little sister, she would be a ground cherry. Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry, if you were shopping at Clare Bergh's stand in Orleans—the sweet, bite-sized kind I fell for last year. She's the crazy tomato lady, or really the amazing lady who is very passionate about tomatoes, the one who grew 150 varieties of tomato seedlings for sale this spring. The Giant Cape Gooseberry and Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry are just two more relatives for the list.


Raw, straight from the wrapper, both fruits are delicious. They sort of dance on your tongue, a little hint of strawberry popping up here, a taste of pineapple there, a burst of sweetness to wash it all down. I'd had the fruits from Clare's stand and Andy Pollock's in Provincetown, but I'd never seen them growing until I went to edit today's radio show at my producer's house last week. He heard the first few sentences of the piece, stopped the sound, and dragged me outside. There in his front yard, growing out of an old boat, were a whole mess of ground cherry plants. We ate every last ripe fruit we could find.

Since then, I've decided that eating them raw is the best way to enjoy both fruits. I was hoping to tell you about the magic of a Giant Cape Gooseberry version of cherry clafoutis today, but after tasting the big fruits cooked, all I can say is that there is absolutely no magic to be had. The clafoutis was magical—the way cream, eggs, flour, and sugar came together into a soft, almost crepe-like pudding, but we picked every single Giant Cape Gooseberry out. As Alex put it, they tasted like unripe cooked tomatoes—not exactly what you're looking for in a dessert.


So instead, once you've snacked on all the fresh Giant Cape Gooseberries and Aunt Molly's Ground Cherries you can find, I recommend making a beach plum clafoutis for dessert. Technically, for a real clafoutis, you're supposed to use stone fruits anyways, pits in, so I suppose it's no surprise Giant Cape Gooseberries didn't work. (The Boston Globe is usually a very reliable source, but apparently, when it comes to matching strange fruits and baked goods, they're not entirely on point.)

At any rate, the idea behind leaving the stones in is that they are supposed to give the custard a rich, almost-almondy-flavor, and I can report after last night that it works. The beach plum clafoutis was everything I hoped the Giant Cape Gooseberry version would be, and then some. In fact, it took us through half a bad movie and two CSI episodes without Alex falling asleep, which let me tell you, is quite a feat.

Of course, this was partially because it was slow going getting those plum pits out, but I didn't mind that part. It was a good reminder, I thought, to slow down and enjoy dessert.

BEACH PLUM CLAFOUTIS

This recipe is adapted from one I found for Cherry Clafoutis in The Food of France, a Whitecap cookbook by Chris Jones, Maria Villegas, and Sarah Randell put out for Williams Sonoma. While my first version, the one with the Giant Cape Gooseberries, was an absolute flop, I could tell there was something to hold on to in the batter. Cherries are out of season here and the stone fruits at the markets, like peaches and plums, were way too big for a custard, but beach plums perfectly fit the bill.

The texture of the baked batter reminds me of a crepe—not quite sweet and perfectly smooth in a custardy, pancake-y sort of way. Be sure not to skip the sprinkling of powdered sugar over top, as it gives the tart plums the sweetness they need.

3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups beach plums, picked clean but with pits
1 tablespoon fruit liqueur (beach plum would be ideal, but as a substitute, use kirsch)
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla in a small mixing bowl and whisk together well. In a separate, larger mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs to break the yolks, then add in the sugar and flour and stir until evenly combined. Pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture, and whisk until smooth. Add the beach plums and the fruit liqueur, stir once more, and pour the batter into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the batter has set and the top is golden brown around the edges. Allow the custard to cool to room temperature, dust the top of with confectioners' sugar, and enjoy, taking care not to bite down on the stones of the fruit.

5 comments :

Bie said...

Thanks for another great recipe for beach plums. Sounds great.biee

Bie said...

Thanks for another great recipe for beach plums. Sounds great.biee

Kelly said...

I love growing Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry, such a tasty little treat in each husk.

I planted a beach plum this year, if I eveg get some fruit of it in the coming seasons I will try your recipe. Thanks for the great post!

Edible Living said...

I'm undecided where I stand on beach plums, but as for your writing, I firmly adore it.

Elspeth said...

Thank you, Biee! Can't wait to see you in November.xoxo

Kelly,

I am hoping to plant a patch of Aunt Molly's next year. Have you had good luck with them reseeding?

And Edible Living, Thank You! That is awfully nice of you, though I do think you should give beach plums a chance. They just need a little sugar, that's all.

All the best,
Elspeth

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