See Related Recipe: Dark Chocolate-Prune Bar Cookies
A functioning sustainable kitchen relishes a challenge, be it using up leftovers creatively, finding just one more way to use zucchini, or recycling bones and veggie scraps into stock. In this endeavor, flexibility and creativity are just as essential as cooking knowledge. My spirit of industriousness was daunted, however, by the arrival of a very large box of prunes over 7 years ago. Lisa had requested a few prunes for a photo shoot in New York. Well, after she extracted a few beauties for her story, we were left with 30 pounds of perfect prunes (or shall we say, dried plums, in this day of sexy marketing language?).
Lisa took this in stride, emphasizing that dried fruit can last for years. But 30 pounds! I have to admit I did not share Lisa’s delight in this surplus. Though I love plums, my affection did not overflow to prunes, or dried fruit of any kind for that matter.
Becoming a seasonal cook changed all that. Over the years I’ve learned to walk past the expensive berries that arrive from other continents in winter, choosing instead the wonderfully flavorful, more affordable frozen and dried versions for my cooking and baking. Of course, during those shopping trips, prunes were the one item I never had to buy! Last week I finally used the last of those prunes (we’d moved to Oregon with them, can you believe it?) in our now beloved Dark Chocolate-Prune Bar Cookies. Even prune non-believers love this treat—tart and tangy fruit against bittersweet chocolate ganache and buttery streusel, what’s not to like?
By putting my creativity to the test, I discovered that I really do love prunes. Over the years we’ve made Moroccan tagines with chicken and prunes, beef brisket with prunes and apricots, all manner of hot cereals with prunes, prune-filled sticky buns, prune “newtons”, prune-chicken liver rustic pâté, pork loins simmered in cream with prunes, cheese-stuffed bacon-wrapped prunes, brandied fruit compote for ice cream. Yes, we have made prunes a “regular” part of our diet (sorry, I’d held off on the pun for as long as I could…).
I went to the refrigerator today expecting them to be there—my old friends—and they are gone. Sigh. I’ve got to go the store and actually buy prunes. But they’ve taught me so much…that the journey to becoming a seasonal cook is just as rewarding as the feast on the table.
What are some of the most creative ways you’ve found to use leftovers? What were your biggest challenges?
Lisa Bell is a freelance producer, writer and editor. She spent the first fifteen years of her working life as a pastry chef, recipe developer, test kitchen director, food stylist and print editor. She has also taught cooking classes, run a small cooking school, and worked as a food scientist. Nicole Rees currently works as a baking scientist. She is also a food writer and cookbook author specializing in baking science. Her most recent book Baking Unplugged, is filled with simple, scratch recipes that require no electric gadgets beyond an oven.