Amanda Hesser's Warm Chicken Salad
Lisa Ades' Syrian Beef Kebabs

Frankie's Spuntino's Wine-Stewed Prunes and Mascarpone

Seeing this recipe printed in the New York Times made me jump with joy (well, really I only sort of leaned forward in my ergonomic office chair and squealed - under my breath - but you get the point). Because if you haven't been to Frankie's Spuntino in Brooklyn or on the Lower East Side because you live outside of New York (which, frankly, is the only excuse you'd have for not having already dined at these places), now you too can enjoy one of the most understated and yet delicious desserts I've had at a restaurant in a long time. I'm so happy for you!

At a recent girls' dinner there, we plowed through the menu - feasting on perfect little salads and steaming bowls of meatballs with sauce, all mopped up with the crustiest, chewiest bread imaginable. None of us had room for dessert, but we couldn't resist ordering one plate of stewed prunes - with several spoons. Gumming around happily on that one plump prune per person, we were the picture of contentment. The sauce was so fruity and nicely spiced that I figured the recipe would be far more involved than just a bit of wine, some sugar and a cinnamon stick.

But I was wrong! You take a bunch of prunes (just buy a Sunmaid package - they're moister and softer than at any gourmet store - take my word for it), and dump them in a saucepan with some sugar, some wine and a cinnamon stick (I halved the recipe), bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to let it all simmer together until the sauce has reduced to a thin caramel. You smear a bit of mascarpone on a plate, top it with a few prunes and drizzle the wine reduction all around. I let my batch reduce a bit too much, but the flavor I'd so admired at the restaurant was there, in my very own kitchen.

I love it when restaurateurs get it: that good food is simple food and vice versa. The smooth blandness of the mascarpone was a nice foil to the prunes - texturally and flavorwise - and did a nice job of gussying up what is essentially a no-fuss dessert. After all, there are only five simple ingredients in the whole dish. I actually find this to be quite a rich little end to the meal, so I'd serve a lot less per serving than the Franks do - maybe just three prunes per serving instead of six, but you know your guests better than I do.

Wine-Stewed Prunes with Mascarpone
Serves 6

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 pot over medium-high heat. When mixture boils, 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 6 prunes and drizzle with syrup. Serve immediately.