This is my idea of a perfect recipe, and it's one that captures what I love about Italian food: a small list of every-day ingredients that transform almost effortlessly into something elegant, and delicious. The whole thing could not be easier -- it simmers unattended for the most part -- and the prunes, that most unglamorous of foods, become richly flavored and meltingly soft. They are then served with a topping (or underpinning) of mascarpone which provides a tart counterpoint to the sweetness of the prunes.
It's been on my list of things to make since I read about it three years ago on Luisa's wonderful blog The Wednesday Chef. The recipe originally appeared in the NY Times and comes from Frankies Spuntino, a Brooklyn restaurant. The recipe in the Times appeared under the title Wine-Stewed Prunes with Mascarpone but I notice on the Frankies Spuntino menu it's listed as Red Wine Prunes with Mascarpone which I think is a far better name. If there's one food that manages to sound even less glamorous than prunes, it's stewed prunes.
Red Wine Prunes with Mascarpone
1 pound pitted prunes (about 40)
1¼ cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2½ cups dry red wine
2 8-ounce containers mascarpone
1. Combine prunes, sugar, cinnamon and wine in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook 45 minutes, until liquid has turned to syrup.
2. Remove from heat, and rest at least 15 minutes. Spread a mound of mascarpone on each serving plate, top with prunes and drizzle with syrup, or mound mascarpone on top of the prunes. Serve.
Yield: 6 servings according to the recipe, about twice that many servings in my opinion.