Blame my premature Christmas spirit, but I have become this season’s tireless Champion of Unloved Foods. Anchovies, for one. Cabbages, too, which I have been eating slawed and braised and stewed and sautéed and pickled and sliced like an apple. Plus fruit cakes, a genetic inheritance from my mom that only recently surfaced (and I’m so glad it did).
And now? Prunes.
Max winced on Sunday night as a 1.36 kilogram bag of California pitted prunes landed in our grocery cart. I believe his verbal reaction was something like you are disgusting. And then he asked: how would I possibly eat them all? A better question: how would I possibly not eat them all?
I don’t hold a grudge against my otherwise liberal-minded housemate. He, like many of us, was conditioned from early days to dislike prunes. I mean, strained prunes – what an unfortunate name for anything, let alone a sticky brownish puree fed to toddlers. And they are not much prettier pre-blending. Plus, no one wants to admit she likes a fruit that’s celebrated by grandmas everywhere for its laxative properties. My digestion-happy naturopath aside, we just don’t talk about poop.
(Too much information? I’m sorry.)
But eat a “dried plum” and try not to melt into a puddle of prune-induced happiness. Don’t waste your time on a dusty chew-toy prune dug in a clump from the bulk bin – eat a proper, silky, moist prune. A good prune is complex. Open a fresh bag, stick your nose in deep and you’re met with a range of heady scents – mulling spice, jam, cedar, leather, port. It’s the closest thing I know to a beautiful red wine in food form.
If it’s still too much to enjoy the goods straight up, then make these truffles. You read that right. Hardly a traditional truffle, but I’m not getting fussed over technicalities. They’re made with a versatile base of prunes, rolled oats and nut butter. For those familiar with Larabars, prune truffles are their moodier, smarter, rounder cousin. Swapping in prunes for a standard date base makes the truffles more assertive, and rolled oats lend a smooth, dense texture. I like them best bare, but dipped in dark chocolate and wrapped with a pretty bow, they’re a holiday present for your naturopath, your large intestine, and everyone else.
Makes 12 truffles, 20g each
A note on add-ins: the basic formula for the base is oats + prunes + nut butter, but so many additions are possible. Think of these as actual truffles and combine: chia seeds, ground nuts, coconut, chopped chocolate, cocoa nibs, coffee, dried cherries, cinnamon, cardamom, citrus zest, mint extract, etc. Use about a tablespoon dried add-ins and no more than a tablespoon wet so as not to affect the texture. Spices and zests should be used to taste.
For the holidays, these are delicious a little boozy, which pairs well with the prune’s natural wine notes. Add a tablespoon of whiskey, bourbon or a liqueur like Kahlua or Frangelico.
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup soft dried prunes – they should be pliable, black and shiny
3 Tbsp crunchy nut butter - e.g. peanut, almond, cashew
1/4 tsp fine sea/kosher salt – if nut butter is already salted, omit
In a food processor, gently pulse rolled oats and prunes until the batter sticks together in a big clump. Transfer to a mixing bowl and incorporate nut butter by pressing in with a spatula until evenly combined. The batter will be slightly glossy and firm. Form into balls about one-inch in diameter and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Freeze until set, about 2 hours, then transfer to a container for freezer storage. Enjoy straight from the freezer, or bring up to room temperature for serving.