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Cobble together plums and cherries for a summer treat

Recipe: Easy fruit creation's worth a little oven time

Cherries and plums are botanical cousins, so pair beautifully in an early summer cobbler.

Cherries and plums are botanical cousins, so pair beautifully in an early summer cobbler. Kathy Morrison

The paradox of summer: It's too hot to bake, yet it's the perfect season for some of the best fresh fruits to bake with.

So we adapt. This cobbler recipe takes just 32 minutes in the oven -- far less time than baking a pie. I prefer to bake at night, after dinner. Or very early in the morning. Either way, it's worth a little oven time.

I was given some gorgeous freestone plums that were sweeter than most. The inside resembled a red apricot more than a plum -- could they have been an early pluot? Aprium? Stone-fruit hybrids are very common now; there's even a fruit called a cherry plum.

Fruit in casserole
Fruit prepared and ready for topping

But we'll call this a plum because that's what the giver called them. This cobbler combines those unnamed plums and some dark red cherries, botanical cousins in the Prunus family.  Use whichever plums you like, and enough cherries to notice -- about a 2-to-1 ratio when they're pitted and sliced. Increase the sugar in the filling by a few tablespoons if your plums are quite tart.

Cobblers can have all types of toppings: rolled out, poured out or plopped on top. Basically drop biscuits top this one-- about as easy as it gets.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream for dessert, or all by itself for a summer breakfast.

Plum and cherry cobbler

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

4 cups prepared fruit (about 10 plums or purple pluots and 20 large cherries, pitted and halved or sliced)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Cobbler in the oven
Topped and into the oven.

1/8 teaspoon allspice

Zest from 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour minus 1 tablespoon (see instructions)

1 tablespoon fine cornmeal

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

baked-cobbler.jpg
The topping is golden and the fruit is bubbly.

1/4 cup milk, dairy or nondairy

1 egg, lightly beaten

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a 2-quart casserole dish or baking pan, gently combine the prepared fruit, sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon and allspice, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Set aside while the topping is prepared.

An easy way to handle the flour and cornmeal: Place the 1 tablespoon cornmeal in a 1-cup measuring cup, then fill it with all-purpose flour. (This eliminates the problem of scooping the flour out of the cup, which can be a mess. Ask me how I know.)

Pour the cornmeal and flour into a large bowl and add the 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder and the salt. Whisk together.

Work the cold butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, two knives or your fingers, until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Combine the milk and beaten egg in a glass measuring cup, then pour this into the flour-butter mixture. Stir gently until all the dry ingredients are moistened. 

With a large spoon, drop mounds of dough on the fruit in the dish, being careful to leave some space between the mounds. This recipe will yield about 6 good-size biscuit mounds.

Serving suggestion
A serving suggestion.

Bake at 350 degrees until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling all over, 32-35 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving -- that fruit is hot!

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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