After a year spent living on her friend's mountaintop orchard in Big Sur, Calif., the seeds were sown for author Romney Steele's next cookbook project. Steele wanted to write more than a traditional cookbook. She wanted to share the memories, dreams, places, and poetry that inspired each recipe. About this she says, "The stirring of a pot of rosy colored raspberries with rose petals and sugar matters not only for what it becomes--a lovely jam--but also for the story it unfolds and reveals." Did I mention she's from Northern California?
Plum Gorgeous is as romantic however, as it practical and inspiring. Steele takes something like a simple sable cookie, and infuses the dough with orange zest and ground pistachios. Recipes and stories throughout the book draw on experiences Steele has had in professional kitchens, on her friend's orchard, and traveling around the world. There is the recipe for raspberry jam mentioned above, with rose petals and rhubarb, and kumquats and toasted couscous with halloumi cheese.
The photography throughout the book is stunning enough to mention. Some photos are just of ingredients. A bowlful of limes, a tree heavy with apricots, or a pot full of sliced plums. Lovely, yes. Helpful, not so much. Others photos show composed dishes, which are much more useful in showing the reader what the completed recipe should look like. And some, like the almond meringue with rose cream and red currants, look good enough to eat.
In addition to recipes for jams, gelato, and tarts, there are recipes for savory entrees and salads. Steele has created interesting flavor and texture combinations, like a salad of tomatoes, peaches, and burrata cheese. And lavender-brined pork chops with grilled spiced plums. There are sidebars for simple creations like fruit sauces, or information about an heirloom variety of fruit. Plum Gorgeous will make you want to find the best fruits of the season and include them with every meal of the day.