To the North of San Francisco, beyond wine country lies a town called Winters. Here, sugar plums, the precursor to the prune is grown. The fresh fruit that hangs off the branches of the tree is deep red in color covered with a thin powdery white coating. Taste a fresh fruit and it is juicy and sweet.
The prune’s journey is interesting, as I learned when I got to visit the orchards in California with the California Dried Plum Board. The fruits are collected by shaking the branches till the ripe plums fall off and are collected in large wooden boxes. They are then spread out in a single layer and left to dry to create a somewhat large wrinkled fruit that’s now richer and more concentrated in its flavor than it was once before. It is now a prune that will make its way to your doorstep. Not all plums become prunes but all prunes are plums. These prunes are steam washed and packaged before they make their way out to our grocery shelves.
I’ve noticed that prunes also retain a bit of moisture and this makes them excellent when trying to build up richness in a dish, you can cut back on the fat and utilize the moisture content of the fruit.
How to use a prune? Well there are so many different ways to use them. You could use them in desserts as a pastry filling or put them into a cake or even into a clafoutis or let them sit in a bit of vodka to make a flavored spirit. But they have savory potential too. You can chop and sauté them in hot oil and fold them into pasta, add them into a salad, add them to a tapenade or you could make this couscous where it adds a richness with a bit of sweetness amidst the fresh herbs and spritz of lemon and then serve it as a side with a bit of fresh seafood or a roast vegetable dish.
spiced california prune couscous
makes 2 servings
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
½ cup prunes, chopped
2 Tbsp sliced almonds
2 cups cooked pearl couscous *
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté for about 4 to 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and chipotle and cook for another 45 seconds. Stir in the prunes and almonds and cook for 1 minute, until the prunes start to swell a little. Fold in the couscous and season with the salt. Add more salt if necessary. Add the lemon juice and fold in the parsley. Transfer to serving bowl and serve warm as a side.
Note: * 1 cup of couscous should yield 2 cups cooked but I’ve refrained from giving cooking instructions because I’ve noticed different manufacturer’s give different cooking times and directions. Follow with the manufacturer writes on the box. I will however, recommend using a good flavorful stock to cook the couscous instead of water.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by the California Dried Plum Board, however, all opinions expressed are solely my own.