|(Essdras M Suarez/globe staff)|
It's unfortunate that prunes are so often associated with their laxative properties, rather than their taste. Like other dried fruits, prunes, which are simply dried plums, can be used in countless ways to sweeten meats, stews, soups, oatmeal, and desserts. And they've made quite a comeback on restaurant menus. Devils on horseback - crispy, bacon-wrapped prunes - are all the rage at gastropubs. Prunes stewed and sweetened in wine have been around for ages, but only recently have popped up at popular restaurants. At Frankies Spuntino in New York, sweetened prunes simmered in whole spices are nestled in mascarpone, the creamy Italian cheese, and served for dessert. You can also top this no-fuss recipe with vanilla ice cream or heavy cream. If serving whole prunes is something you never imagined, it's time to send them to the table. Winter is the perfect season.
|1 3/4||cups dry red wine|
|3/4||cup tawny port|
|3/4||cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar|
|3||whole allspice berries|
|Grated rind of 1 lemon|
1. In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the prunes, wine, port, 3/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and star anise. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently about 45 minutes or until the liquid turns syrupy. Cool slightly. Remove the cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and star anise from the liquid.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the mascarpone, lemon rind, and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. On each of 6 dessert plates, place a 1/3-cup mound of mascarpone. Using a spoon, spread it into a wide well. Set 5 prunes in the center of each well and top with syrup. - Jill Santopietro