Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Summer of Tarragon

Despite the fact that I am currently under-employed, this summer has been a busy one. In the past few weeks I have joined friends in celebrating: 3 weddings, a birthday, an engagement, a graduation and the 4th of July. It's been nice, celebrating all these life-events with people I love, especially when my own life seems in flux in so many ways. There is something so grounding about all this happiness. In many ways, I could have been swept away this summer by upheavals in my personal and professional life as well as grief. But I have found that the ability to share in other people's joy has opened me up to the very real experience being joyful. Which is not to say that I am not sad, or anxious, or just plain tired sometimes. I am all those things. But sometimes I am also very happy.
This has also been the summer I have learned to love tarragon. Tarragon, much like it's other anise flavored friend, fennel, was never a favorite of mine. And yet, this summer I seem to be putting it in everything. I've been putting it in chicken salad, in green bean salad and now, in these delightfully summery plum-tarragon popsicles. Tarragon, like happiness and fennel, has crept up on me. Or maybe tarragon is happiness. Who knows? (I still stand firm, though, in my extreme hatred of black licorice and Araq and nothing's going to change that, gosh darn it!)
These popsicles, in any case, are what purple tastes like. They are absolutely regal, but also just a little bit mysterious and adult. Plums are roasted until they collapse upon themselves while tarragon is seeped in simple syrup. Then, after a quick blend, the whole concoction is swirled with yogurt, which gives it a creamy roundness and tang. Once frozen, these guys are near popsicle perfection.They are deep and tart and sweetly intense, with the underlying mellowness of tarragon playing like a bass line under a melody. So eat them slowly. Savor them. The days are long. There's time.

Plum, Yogurt and Tarragon Popsicles
Adapted from The Washington Post who adapted it from "Peoples Pops" by Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell and Joel Horowitz

First, a few notes: 1) The WashPo recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to be added to the plum puree before it is frozen. I found that my plums were tart enough as they were, and didn't need the lemon juice. If your plums tend toward the sweet side add in some of that lemon juice. 2) The recipe called for vanilla yogurt. I used plain and liked it that way. 3)The recipe makes enough plum-goodness for about 8 popsicles. I only have 3, so I froze the rest of it in a tupperware and ate it as frozen yogurt. So if you don't own popsicle molds (and really, you should own popsicle molds) or if you're just plain lazy, that works too.

1.5 lbs plums (about 6-8 large, 10-15 small) halved, but not pitted
14 tablespoons (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) simple syrup
2-3 sprigs of tarragon
2 tablespoons lemon juice (optional)
1/2 cup yogurt (plain or vanilla)

1)Preheat the oven to 350 f.

2)  Make the syrup. Place a cup of sugar and a cup of water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer about 5-6 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is slightly syrupy.

3) Arrange the plums, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Leave the pits in. Roast 20-40 minutes until they have softened and kind of collapsed.

4) While the plums are roasting, add the tarragon to the saucepan of simple syrup. Cover and bring to a lazy simmer. Cook for 5-6 minutes and then turn off the flame. Let the tarragon seep while the plums are roasting.

5) Once the plums have cooled off enough to handle, remove the pits and transfer them to a food processor and give em a whirl (alternatively, you can do as I did, and transfer them to a 2 cup measuring cup and use a hand blender). You don't need to get the puree perfectly smooth. A few chucks won't hurt anything. You'll need about 1 2/3 cup puree. If you have more than that save the extra for another use (like your morning yogurt).

6) Remove the tarragon from the syrup and discard. Measure out 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of syrup. Add the syrup and the lemon juice (if using) to the plum puree.

7) Pour the mixture into popsicle molds. Freeze 4-5 hours or until set. Unmold. Eat.

And now, some practical matters. I am now on Twitter, where I can be found @rogueskitchen. So, feel free to follow me and say hi. I tweet about all sorts of things, not only food. Also, I will soon start blogging for the Times of Israel, I'll mostly be writing about food and other sundry things. So you can come visit me there, if you'd like, and say hi again.

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