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cookbook review: Plum Gorgeous by Romney Steele + Honey-Glazed Duck Breast & Couscous w/ Cherry Salsa

Publisher: Andrews McMeel
Hard Cover: 178 Pages
Photos: yes

Chapters/Sections: oranges of memory, still life with berries, plum gorgeous, beauty & windfall

Cool Features: Absolutely gorgeous, enchanting photography...I get lost in the pages...just want to run my hands over the paper in hopes that I will be transported directly into the book.  The stories and memories woven throughout make this more than "just a cookbook".

(a few of the) Recipes Destined for my Kitchen: cherry clafoutis, honey lavender lemonade, moroccan orange salad, spiced plums, wild plum lavender jam, buttermilk panna cotta with moscato apricots, plum gorgeous almond tart

My Thoughts/Review:  I adore this I said, I want to stroke the pages. From the moment I read Steele's tale of passion for the "colors, textures, shapes, and flavors of select fruits" in the introduction (entitled a gate at the window), I knew I'd be a sucker for anything that followed.  It is obvious that this is a labor of love about fruit and using it in its growing season.  It is a visceral memoir with recipes, quotes, and mesmerizing photos.  Steele encourages using her recipes as guides...substituting with what is local and in season for you.  I want to leave you with a small portion of the introduction; hopefully you will feel that pull that I do to pick up this book.
"Plum Gorgeous is surely a book about the sensuous and enchanting nature of fruit and what to do with it in the kitchen.  But more than that, it's 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."
Magical...wouldn't you agree?

Recipes I have already tried: Honey-Glazed Duck Breasts & Couscous w/ Cherry Salsa
 Honey-Glazed Duck Breasts (& Couscous) with Cherry Salsa
2 boneless duck breasts
1-2 tsp. freshly ground coriander seed
salt & freshly ground black pepper
¼ c. honey
pinch ground cinnamon

cherry salsa:
½ lb. fresh cherries, halved, pitted, and some of them quartered
½ red onion, finely chopped
¼ c. almonds, toasted & coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded & minced
juice of 1 lime
⅓ bunch cilantro, leaves coarsely chopped
few mint leaves, cut into chiffonade

While they are still cold, score skin side of duck breasts.  Season w/ coriander, salt, and pepper.  Leave at room temperature, loosely covered, for 30  minutes before cooking.

Gently warm the honey with a pinch of cinnamon.  Reserve for basting the duck* and adding to the salsa.

cherry salsa: Meanwhile, make the salsa. Combine all of salsa ingredients in a bowl with about 1 Tbs. of the reserved honey.  Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper.

duck:  Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add duck breasts, skin side down, and then immediately decrease the heat to medium-low.  Cook until the fat is rendered (pouring off as you go) and the skin turns a deep golden color, about 10 minutes.  While cooking, brush the breasts with a little warmed honey. *Be very careful with this step.  The honey caramelizes extremely quickly when it drips down onto the pan, turning the skin very dark.  Turn breasts over and cook to medium-rare (130° F), a few minutes more depending on thickness.  Transfer to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest 5 minutes.

Slice breasts on the diagonal, arranging slices on plates.  Top with salsa, drizzle with any remaining honey, and serve.
Stir cherry salsa through cooked couscous and finish with a drizzle of olive oil...simply delicious.
*I received a free copy of this book to review from the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.

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