Plum Torte and Jackson Heights

The past week was one of minor miracles. My husband recovered quickly from covid and knock on wood, I never succumbed! I have to confess that I was rather glad when it was time to commute to New York to teach at Hofstra; escape from the germ zone!

As a treat to Paul, I thought I would bring some Indian takeout back home; this would give me the opportunity to explore the vibrant Indian community in the New York City borough of Queens. I had heard about the neighborhood for years, but never had chance to visit the area.

A kindly cab driver motioned me into a parking spot that he was leaving and I took a picture of the street signs; no getting lost this week! From this point of reference, I started to slowly walk around the neighborhood, taking in all of the sights.

As I neared the entrance of the subway at 74th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, I was met by the sounds of popular Indian music blaring from a loud speaker in front of a store. As people pushed by me on all sides, I felt as if I could be in the middle of a bustling and vibrant movie set!

Enjoy this short video in front of the 74th Street subway station!

There were many thriving family businesses and clothing stores that displayed bold colorful fabrics.

The streets were lined with small grocery stores selling a wide variety of Indian spices, dals & grains and outside the stores, exotic vegetables were displayed on stands including Thai eggplants, small round purple eggplants, Bengali squash, gourds, and heaping boxes of hot green chilies. As I walked slowly through the neighborhood, a delicious aroma of garlic and spices wafted through the air.

Thai Eggplant

Bengali Squash

There were numerous cafes and Indian pastry shops with enticing displays of sweets.

The colorful and fragrant small desserts were like eye candy; I succumbed and selected a few small pastries to sample on the way back home.

I discovered that Jackson Heights is also one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in the United States with over 167 languages spoken, including Mexicans, Ecuadorians, Columbians, Argentinians, Tibetans and Nepalese. As I walked down the streets and looked at all of the different faces of the people, I sensed the beautiful mix of cultures with everyone seeming to comingle peacefully!

I started to look for an Indian restaurant to order our takeout dinner and was distracted momentarily by a display of colorful cakes in the window of a Mexican bakery and of course I had to go inside. The counter person was a lovely young woman who proudly showed me the different breads , cakes and pastries.

Just down the street I saw a Tibetan restaurant that looked interesting and decided that maybe some momos (Tibetan dumplings) would be good instead of Indian food. I made a rather large order to take home along with a few other dishes. Often my instincts are on the mark when choosing restaurants, but alas not in this case. The food was greasy, lacking in flavor & the momos were filled with tough pieces of meat. So, this restaurant will remain nameless! The good news is the I will definitely make more trips to Jackson Heights and I know the next time I will find great Indian or Tibetan food!!

Back in the car, heading home, I took out one of the Indian pastry treats and took a bite. The flavor was delicious with hints of cardamom, but shockingly sweet and it made my teeth ache; time to think about a dessert that was guilt free but also delicious!

In my blog, I made a decision not to dwell on health issues, but I will make an exception for this post. More then 15 years ago my husband was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and this caused us to make major changes to our diet. You may have noticed that many of the dessert recipes in my blog are made either without sugar and if a recipe needs a sweetener, I use either small amounts of monk fruit sweetener, stevia, or coconut sugar; all with a very low glycemic index. I find that now when I taste recipes that use regular sugar, they taste way too sweet and I enjoy the fresh taste of apples and berries without sweeteners.

Recently, I reinvented a plum torte that was made famous by the NY Times food writer Marian Burros. The original plum torte is rich and buttery and very sweet. For my guilt free version, I used the same batter that is in my Apple Strawberry Ginger Crumble Tea Cake, with the addition of almond extract and for an extra treat, I made a glaze for the top of the torte with a small amount of honey that I microwaved with cinnamon. You could also use sliced apples or apricots when they are in season. I hope you enjoy this recipe!!

Plum Torte

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup monk fruit sweetener

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 egg

1/3 cup canola oil

3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla soy or almond milk

10-12 Italian plums or you can use sliced apples or apricots in season- cut plums in half and remove pits.

Glaze:

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon cinamon

stir together honey and cinnamon and microwave for about 30 seconds until honey becomes liquid.

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees

Lightly butter a tart pan or large pie dish.

To make cake batter:

In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, monk fruit sweetener, coconut sugar and cinnamon.

Add egg, vanilla, canola oil, soy or almond milk and mix together just until the batter is smooth.

Pour batter into the prepared baking dish and place plum halves cut side down in a decorative pattern over batter.

Drizzle glaze over top of the batter and fruit.

Bake until fruit starts to bubble and a cake tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

ENJOY!!

This fall I have been watching a spider outside of my study window. It distracted me nicely as I avoided working on my oboe reeds! I was fascinated to watch how during stormy weather or heavy rain, the spider would retreat to a corner of the window and the web would be torn apart. When the weather cleared, the spider would slowly climb back out, repair it’s web and carry on; much like the resilience that our fragile democracy has recently exhibited!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“That was a close call”!!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Author: Judith Dansker

Professional oboist and chamber musician- member of Hevreh Ensemble and Winds in the Wilderness, Professor of Oboe Hofstra University; observer of people, art and nature; passionate food and travel explorer.

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