Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ode to a prune

I'll let you all in on a little secret - prunes are awesome, and I love them. I know the have a bad rap - as nature's laxative and food for old people, but they can be spectacular.

I say this especially of Pruneaux D'Agen, which are prunes from the south of France near a town called Agen where they take their name. These babies are large, tender, and delicious - they remind you that they used to be a fruit. I firmly believe that even prune haters should at least give them a shot. Unfortunately, they can cost quite a bit - a brief internet search comes up with prices around $16/lb. (!!). Luckily for New Yorkers, Fairway market sells them in bulk for $6.99/lb. Sweet. Literally. They're worth it, too - one taste of these and you'll never go back to Sunkist.

Pruneaux (that's French for "prunes") D'Agen have Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) from the E.U., meaning that if they are labeled "Pruneaux D'Agen" they are from a specific region in France and are subject to production oversight. They are naturally dried with no added preservatives, so I recommend keeping them in the fridge and warming them up to room temperature before serving, but keeping them at room temperature is okay, too.

Like all prunes, if you eat a bunch of them, they can have a laxative effect. This is because they contain a good bit of dietary fiber (about 6% by weight) like most dried fruit and also contain a naturally occurring laxative called dihydrophenylisatin.

I love to just eat them, but they are also great in recipes. They can be cooked with red wine or liquor and used as a topping for ice cream, a filling for pastry, etc. Maybe my favorite prune recipes is this one for Brandied Prune and Chocolate Chunk Cookies from The Kitchn. It mimicks a candy that I loved as a kid and still adore - chocolate covered prunes. We used to get them from the Polish shop in our neighborhood and called them Sliwka (pronounced schleev-ka) - Polish from plum. These cookies have that great chocolate and prune taste, with just a little added booziness. Yum!

Enjoy your prunes!

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