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Playing With Pluots In The Kitchen

Ever heard of pluots?

Pluots are a hybrid fruit -- three quarters plum and one quarter apricot -- combining the best qualities of each. It's a trademarked name that's now owned by the developer who came up with the original cross 20 years ago. There are more than 80 varieties of the hybrid grown in the U.S., with California supplying most of the pluot market.

Dede Wilson, a contributing editor of Bon Appetit magazine showed on The Early Show Thursday, just what this fruit can do.

What does it taste like?

Crossing a plum and an apricot results in a deeply flavorful fruit that's like a plum in flavor and texture, but sweet and less acidic. Pluots are delicious eaten fresh, according to Wilson, as well as baked in tarts, crisps, and cobblers. They come in an impressive range of colors -- dappled, streaked, yellow, green, crimson, or plum. Wilson said pluot varieties have relatively short seasons; at the farmers' market, you'll notice the selection change as summer progresses. Like heirloom tomato varieties, pluots have whimsical names, such as Dapple Dandy (also called Dinosaur Egg), Flavor Grenade, and Flavor King.

Buying & Storing: A ripe pluot should be plump, firm, and fragrant, with rich color. It should give slightly when pressed gently at the stem end. Pluots that aren't quite ripe can be stored at room temperature in a loosely closed paper bag, where they'll ripen in a few days. On the counter, ripe pluots will keep for about three days; they'll keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Health & Nutrition: Pluots are a good source of vitamin C, and fiber, according to Wilson. He says eating them may help support immune and digestive-system health.

RECIPES:
Smoked Duck and Pluot Salad

Smoked duck is available at some supermarkets, specialty foods stores, and Asian markets. Smoked chicken or smoked turkey make great substitutes.
8 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS
DRESSING
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon wasabi powder (horseradish powder)*
1/3 cup peanut oil or vegetable oil

SALAD
6 oz frisée, torn (about 2 heads)
1/2 cup chopped salted roasted peanuts, divided
3/4 pound pluots (about 3 large or 5 small), halved, pitted, thinly sliced
3/4 pound smoked duck breast, sliced
5 large Thai basil sprigs or 3 regular basil sprigs, leaves torn, stems discarded
1/4 cup chopped green onions

*Sold in the Asian foods section of some supermarkets and at Japanese markets.

METHOD:
FOR DRESSING
Puree vinegar, shallot, ginger, and wasabi powder in mini processor. Gradually add oil; puree.

FOR SALAD
Toss frisée and 1/4 cup peanuts in medium bowl with enough dressing to coat. Divide salad among plates. Arrange pluots and duck over frisée. Spoon more dressing over salad. Sprinkle with basil, green onions, and remaining peanuts.

Pluot and Prosecco Fizz
Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine, and cava, a Spanish sparkler, both work well in this pink drink, which is as pretty as it is refreshing.
MAKES 8

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 lemons
1 pound pluots (4 to 6 small), halved, pitted, coarsely chopped
1 750-ml bottle Prosecco or cava, chilled

METHOD:
Bring sugar and 1/2 cup water to boil in small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil 1 minute; remove from heat and cool.

Using vegetable peeler, remove lemon peel (yellow part only) lengthwise in eight 1/4- to 1/2-inch-wide strips and set aside. Juice lemons. Place pluots, 6 tablespoons simple syrup, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in food processor; puree until small flecks of pluot remain. Strain.

Measure 3 tablespoons pluot puree into each of 8 Champagne glasses. Fill with sparkling wine. Drizzle 2 to 3 drops lemon juice over. Garnish with lemon peel.

Pluot Pinwheel Tart
This gorgeous tart gets its slightly nutty flavor from almond flour.
8 TO 10 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS
CRUST
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup (or more) ice water

MERINGUE
1 large egg white, room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup almond flour or almond meal*
1 3/4 pounds pluots (about 5 large or 12 small)
1 tablespoon butter, melted

*Sometimes labeled "ground almonds"; available at specialty foods stores and natural foods stores.

METHOD
FOR CRUST
Whisk flours, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub in butter until coarse meal forms. Add 1/4 cup ice water, stirring until clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill 1 hour. Keep chilled. Let rest 15 minutes at room temperature before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place sheet of parchment on work surface; sprinkle with flour. Roll out crust on parchment to 13-inch round. Using pot lid as guide, trim dough to 12-inch round. Slide crust on parchment onto rimless baking sheet. Chill dough.

FOR MERINGUE
Using electric mixer, beat egg white in medium bowl until foamy. With machine running, gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, beating until firm peaks form. Fold in almond meal. Set 1 pluot, stem side up, on work surface. Working parallel to pit, cut 1/8-inch-thick rounds off both sides of pluot. Repeat with remaining pluots.

Spread meringue over crust. Arrange pluot slices, slightly overlapping, in spiral pattern atop meringue, beginning at outer edge and working toward center, turning any end pieces cut side up. Finish with 1 pluot slice in center.

Brush melted butter over pluots; sprinkle tart with 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake tart 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 400°F and bake tart until edges are brown, about 20 minutes. Cool tart slightly on pan. Loosen with spatula. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pluot Jam
This jam is terrific served on grilled baguette slices that are brushed with olive oil and topped with aged goat cheese.
MAKES ABOUT 1 CUP

INGREDIENTS
3/4 pound ripe pluots (about 3 large or 5 small), halved, pitted, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons (or more) balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon (or more) lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Pinch of black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

METHOD:
Place pluots, honey, 4 teaspoons vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, lemon peel, rosemary, coarse salt, and pinch of pepper in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until fruit has broken down and mixture is thick, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool. Adjust seasonings; add chives.