Prunes are nature’s most unhip fruits. Perceived as dry and wrinkly, they elicit snickers and jokes about old people and regularity. But cast the bad reputation aside, and you’ll see that they’re unsung jewels. Sweet as candy, they’re also packed with fiber and vitamin A. They’re not leathery either; prunes are some of the moistest, softest dried fruits around.
Stewed fruits are such common low-fat desserts that I forget how good they are. In this week’s L.A. Times, David Lebovitz provided a recipe for tea-poached prunes with citrus. It’s deceptively simple (just boil prunes in sugar-water for 10 minutes), but the flavors are complex: the rich, plump prunes are brightened up with just-tart enough oranges.
You can eat these by themselves, but they’re a wonderful backdrop for creamed cottage cheese ice cream; plain frozen yogurt; homemade ricotta cheese; or fresh, puréed tofu, above. (If you have a soy milk machine, making tofu is simple. You don’t need to buy a tofu mold or any mysterious chemicals. While the milk is still hot, just stir in a small amount of Epsom salt [which you can get in a drug store] or lemon juice, and drain in a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Epsom salt produces a softer tofu, and lemon juice a tangier one, but they’re more accessible than magnesium chloride, the best coagulant.)
Tea-Poached Prunes with Fresh Orange Segments
Active time: 15 min
Start to finish: 40 minutes
2-3 tablespoons sugar (depending on your sweet tooth)
1 strip of lemon or orange zest, about 1/2-inch wide and 2 to 3 inches long
2 bags of Earl Grey or any black tea, tags removed
20 to 25 prunes
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, zest and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Add the tea bags and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the prunes and continue to gently simmer for about 10 minutes, or until they’re tender. If the prunes are large or especially dry, they make take longer. If necessary, add a bit more water to keep them covered.
Once the prunes are tender, remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Remove the tea bags and gently squeeze them to extract additional flavor before discarding them.
Serve with oranges and the snowy white “cream” of your choice.