Cooking in hot weather

It’s been hot in here today. The home office has felt like a sauna as the still air envelops the skin with humidity, the fan in the other room teasing the writer with its sound, though said writer can’t feel a bit of the benefit.

Still, I’m making a point to not complain about the heat. After all, it’s a rare treat to enjoy summer like this in Seattle. And, after all, Walla Walla–where I spent the weekend wine tasting with my mom–is a whole lot hotter than this.

A lot of people try to avoid cooking when it’s hot out. They seek out summer recipes like Mark Bittman’s 101 Simple Salads for the Season or 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less. They’re probably wise. But sometimes it’s just a joy to cook. Especially in bulk. Last Thursday I made a plum compote. An hour of simmering on the stove produced a lovely burgundy-colored compote spiced with cinnamon and vanilla bean, the perfect accompaniment for something creamy like ice cream. Or ricotta.

After some other summer cooking–penne with ricotta and zucchini blossoms–I had some extra ricotta on hand. Good thing, because a little bit of hunger one day gave me a grand idea: top the ricotta with some plum compote, stir it around, and enjoy a sweet snack with all the satisfaction of a dessert (it’s reminiscent of cheesecake) with the sense of eating something much healthier.

Try it. The recipe’s easy. It’s delicious. I’m still enjoying it, countless servings later.

Spiced Plum Compote
This comes together easily–just buy a bunch of plums and cook them according to the directions below. However, if you prefer more specific proportions and instructions, here’s the recipe on Epicurious I adapted it from. Enjoy!

A couple of pounds of plums, quartered and pitted (it’s okay to leave the skins on)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split, with the seeds scraped out and reserved
1 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients–including the vanilla bean pod and its seeds–in a large pot and heat over low to medium-low heat for about 45 minutes until the fruit has fallen apart and thickened.