Italian Prune Plum and Fennel Pollen Mostarda

From a book review of Hive-Mind by Gabrielle Myers

plum-branchIn the dense heat of late summer, these sun-kissed sugar drops hang low from the plum tree’s limbs. At farmers’ markets, the Italian prune plums, milky with yeast, wait in baskets to be baked, dried, or eaten within minutes of purchase. If you cannot find the prune plums already sundried by the farmer, simply wash, cut in half, remove the pits (which are easily pulled from the flesh), and place the plums on a screen to dry in the summer sun.

Traditional mostarda takes several days to prepare and contains a significant amount of sugar. This version is quick and uses the natural sweetness of plums and balsamic vinegar as a base. Place a dollop of mostarda over roasted pork or ham, slather it over drunken goat cheese or Pecorino, or spread it over a slice of grilled sourdough. —GM

Yields: 1 cup

1 cup dried Italian prune plums, diced into 1-inch pieces
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup chenin blanc wine
½ teaspoon crushed garlic (about 1 clove)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1½ teaspoons yellow mustard seed
1 tablespoon fennel pollen, to finish
Salt to taste (about ¼ teaspoon kosher salt)

Place all of the ingredients except the fennel pollen in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Slowly bring the mixture to a low simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat, place the mostarda in a nonreactive bowl, and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to cool. If there is any excess liquid in the mostarda, pour the liquid off, place it in a saucepan, let it simmer until reduced to a tablespoon of liquid, and then mix the tablespoon with the mostarda. Once the mostarda has cooled to room temperature, mix in the tablespoon of fennel pollen, and serve.

fennelYou can prepare the mostarda a day or two ahead of time, but be sure to store it in the refrigerator, bring it up to room temperature before serving, and wait to add the fennel pollen until you are ready to serve it. If excess liquid forms in the mixture as it is stored, simply repeat the fifth step and proceed from there to serve the mostarda.

Editor’s note: Tony Inzana, a “far–East Bay” farmer of Italian extraction, grows many types of fruits at his Inzana Ranch and Produce in Hughson, including a couple of Italian prune varieties. Find his stand at Oakland’s Grand Lake, Montclair, or Temescal farmers’ markets.