We had a dinner party last week to celebrate my friend Sanda being in town with her family. For those of you who don’t know her, Sanda is a talented photographer and a fantastic cook. Oh, and she happens to be the voice behind the beautiful food and lifestyle blog Little Upside Down Cake. No pressure.
I invited several Seattle friends to join us, including other accomplished cooks and food aficionados, and set about crafting my menu.
I knew that there were several food allergies and restrictions to take into consideration. It was only when I tallied them up that I began to doubt the genius of my plan. Between the 10 of us, there were half a dozen major dietary restrictions.
Full disclosure: I am an inveterate omnivore. There is nothing I don’t or won’t eat. (Well, tripe and I have some issues, but that’s another story…) I know there are LOTS of people who don’t or can’t eat various foods these days. But somehow I don’t really have any of them in the circle of friends I cook for often. And so I’ve been sailing along cooking and eating whatever I please and not thinking twice about anyone’s special dietary needs.
Until last week.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that working out a menu without wheat or dairy or corn or oats or pork or alcohol that was at least kid-friendly-ish was more of a challenge than I expected. Perhaps no one knows this better than Beau, who had to listen to me whine and moan about it for at least a week beforehand. (Have I mentioned what a good husband I have?)
I was jolted awake late one night by thoughts of dinner party disaster and proceeded to spend the next several hours “brainstorming”. Beau found me at 6 the next morning, huddled under a pile of cookbooks on the couch muttering vaguely about gluten-free desserts and how to put together an appetizer course without charcuterie. He pried the cookbooks from my hands and ushered me back to bed.
Eventually, I decided I was being ridiculous (even by my own weird and obsessive standards) and that I needed to stop freaking out and just do my best and hope the dinner would go over well.
I think it went over just fine. I ended up making dishes from all over the Mediterranean--lamb with pistachio-mint pesto, roasted beets on white bean hummus with fresh herbs, heirloom tomatoes with a currant-pine nut vinaigrette. And for dessert, I decided to keep it as simple as possible and came up with these Cardamom-Roasted Plums.
I halved ripe plums from the farmers market and tossed them with brown sugar and a little fresh orange juice to highlight their sweet and sour character. Then I added a cinnamon stick and some ground cardamom because plums + cardamom = deliciousness. I finished with a drizzle of olive oil to ensure a silky texture and roasted the plums in a hot oven until they released their juices and made a gorgeous jewel-toned sauce. I spooned the warm plums and sauce over vanilla ice cream for the dairy lovers and this really delicious frozen cashew cream for those not so into dairy.
They were my favorite part of the meal.
Besides the company, of course. And the reminder that challenges often yield the sweetest rewards.
Cardamom-Roasted Plum Sundaes
- 1 ½ lbs plums, halved (or quartered if large) and pits removed
- Juice of one large orange
- 6 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ cup light brown sugar (loosely packed)
- Pinch kosher or sea salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Vanilla ice cream, to serve
*Notes: You can use any kind of plums or pluots you like. Feel free to mix for variety of texture and flavor.
- Don't stop at ice cream. Roasted plums are delicious on yogurt, fresh ricotta, oatmeal, rice pudding... And if you add a bit less sugar, I bet they'd be quite nice on roast pork or duck, too.
Preheat the oven to 450° F.
Place plums cut-side-up on a parchment-lined rimmed sheet pan. Pour the orange juice and water over the plums. Sprinkle the brown sugar, cardamom and salt over the plums. Nestle the cinnamon stick down among the plums and drizzle the olive oil over the top.
Roast in the preheated oven until the plums are soft (you want some to be falling apart) and their juices have thickened slightly, 15-25 minutes. The time will vary depending on the size and ripeness of your plums.
Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
To assemble the sundaes, scoop the vanilla ice cream into bowls or cups. Top with warm plums and sauce and serve immediately.
Makes enough plums for 8 sundaes.