Deep, dusky, purplish blues. Rich, ripe reds. Golden-tinged greens. Tart and tangy, sweet and juicy, plums are the most diverse of all summer fruit. With more than 140 varieties now being grown, plums not only provide superb eating right out of hand, but also retain their distinctive qualities when combined with other ingredients and are well suited to any number of cooking techniques. They're equally adaptable to being blended into a healthful breakfast drink, steamed for a luncheon salad with Oriental flair, poached with spices or brandy and served as an entree accompaniment, or churned into homemade ice cream. With ample quantities in supermarket produce sections throughout Southern California right now, there's no better time to enjoy these gems of summer.
FRESH PLUM ICE CREAM
4 cups (8 to 12 medium) quartered plums
2 cups milk
5 eggs, separated
2 cups sugar
2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
Puree 3 cups plums in blender. Stir in milk. Finely chop remaining 1 cup plums and add to plum-milk mixture. Set aside.
In large mixing bowl beat egg yolks with 2 cups sugar until thick. Slowly beat in whipping cream, vanilla and salt. Pour into 1-gallon ice cream canister. Mix in plum-milk mixture.
In chilled bowl, whip egg whites until stiff, gradually beating in remaining cup sugar. Fold egg whites into ice cream mixture.
Freeze according to manufacturer's directions. Makes 1 gallon. HEALTHY PLUM FRAPPE
1 cup (2 to 3 medium) coarsely chopped plums
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons wheat germ
3 ice cubes, crushed
Combine plums, yogurt, honey, wheat germ and ice in blender. Process until smooth. Makes 1 1/2 cups. CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD WITH PLUMS
1 pound (4 to 5 medium) plums
2 cups cooked strips of chicken breast
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
cup lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger, optional
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon sliced crystallized ginger
Cut each plum crosswise into 3 rounds and remove pits. Place slices in steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and steam 3 minutes or just until tender. Remove, cool and chill.
Combine chicken, celery, water chestnuts, green onions, lime juice, oil, salt, ground ginger, sugar, pepper and crystallized ginger. Marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours.
Line salad plates with greens. Arrange 3 or 4 plum rounds on each plate and top with chicken salad. Makes 4 servings. SPICED (OR BRANDIED) PLUMS
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
6 whole cloves
2 1/2 pounds (15 medium) plums
Combine water, sugar, cinnamon and cloves in saucepan. Bring to boil and cook until sugar dissolves. Pierce skins of plums with fork in several places. Add plums to boiling syrup. Cook 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat, cover and let stand 20 minutes. Remove fruit from syrup with slotted spoon. Remove cinnamon and cloves and discard.
Boil syrup until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour syrup over plums and refrigerate. Serve as meat accompaniment. Makes 5 to 6 servings.
Variation: Prepare recipe as directed, omitting cinnamon and cloves. Add 1/2 cup brandy to cooked plums along with thickened syrup. Refrigerate. COORDINATED BY LORRAINE TRIOLO