Plum Gorgeous is such a rich, sensuous book that one can almost inhale the aroma of fruit. Romney Steele brings a painter’s eye to the fruits we love, then adds her gift for words to bring stories, memories, and recipes alive. Plum Gorgeous is infused with her delight in creative changing gifts, and in cooking each seasonal fruit as it appears. Distil is a very charming book, filled with special memories of nature’s bounty and the happiness it inspired in Steele’s life. Steele says of the book that each recipe is “about the pleasures and joys of the table: my own ‘longing for a touchstone’ and a place to return to; the memories, maps and connections that abound around each recipe; and the stories and tales that come with each.” Plum Gorgeous is also filled with pages of inspiring photographs by Sara Remington, some of the prepared dishes, some of the orchards and some of that gift of nature the fruit itself.
Being a visual artist as well as a talented writer, Steele offers inspired recipes that bring all the sweetness of fruit to the table in ways that please the eye as well as the taste buds. The recipes reflect Steele’s taste for pure flavors and distal “an idea or recipe, and in this case, fruit, down it its essence.” She encourages the cook to use imagination and please his or her taste. The recipes allow the fruit flavor to emerge, not be hidden under excess sugar or not be so infused with herbs that the fruit taste is lost.
The book is divided into four main chapter, each with widely varied recipes:
– Oranges of Memory
– Still Life with Berries
– Plum Gorgeous
– Beauty and Windfall
Orange of Memory: This chapter contains citrus recipes that range from drinks to salads, poultry, fish, and, of course, some sweet desserts. You will find such recipes as Honey Lavender Lemonade; Honey-Basil Tangerine Compote; Marmalade Chicken; Moroccan Orange Salad; Grilled Sardines with Preserved Lemon Gremolata; Pink Grapefruit Cassis Granita.
Still Life with Berries: Steele offers recipes for our summer favorites, berries, calling them “these little gumdrops of flavor.” Again the recipes are imaginative, colorful, and flavorful. You will find berry recipes such as Strawberry, Nasturtium, and Cucumber Salad; Crimson Afternoon – Steak with Blackberries; Raspberry Rhubarb Rose Petal Jam; Gooseberry Yellow Plum Fool; Herb-Roasted Salmon with Wild Huckleberry Sauce; Almond Meringue with Rose Cream and Red Currant.
Plum gorgeous: Of autumn, Steele writes, “Late-harvest fog drifting through the orchard, heat subsiding, plums falling away.” For this seasonal selection of fruit, she offers recipes such as Wild Plum Lavender Jam; Spanish Dancer – Nectarine Salad with Haricots Verts and Cured Ham; Apricot-Mango Chutney; Honey-Lime Peaches with Creme Fraiche Clouds; Plum Gorgeous Almond Tart.
Beauty and Windfall: “Late summer and early fall bring together a still life of gorgeous fruits in earthy colors and voluptuous shapes: fleshy melons and inviting figs; apples, pears, and quince-like fruits of love and longing.” There are recipes such as Fig Relish and Ham Sandwiches (Panini); Sherry-Roasted Pears with Huckleberry Sauce and Sabayon; Quince with Rose Geranium; Cider-Braised Heirloom Apples with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream; Fall Salad with Smoked Trout, Apples, and Pomegranate; Persimmon and Chanterelle Tartines.
Plum Gorgeous is a book to sink into, one to enjoy while letting the mind wander and ruminate on the pleasures of life. After savoring its poetry, it is a book that offers imaginative recipes that treat all the senses.