I’m finally starting to see the downside of being surrounded by really good, local produce. Yes, the fruits and vegetables are plentiful here, and they all taste amazing. However, you are a little bit limited in what it is you can get. I found this out the hard way last week when I went to make white chocolate covered strawberries for Canada Day. The only strawberries I could find were one pint of beyond ripe berries, that rotted before I had a chance to eat them. Boo.
Also, Z had requested the delicious smoked salmon asparagus pasta for his birthday dinner – only there is no more asparagus. I finally found some at a specialty store, but they weren’t as good as what we were eating a month ago. In Calgary, I could get any fruit or vegetable I wanted – only nothing tasted particularly good.
The other side of it is when something is in season, there is a lot of it. Like, a lot. I recently experienced an overwhelming abundance of apricots. Since I have a newfound love affair, I bought a tub of the stuff going for pennies apiece. Just the next day, a neighbour brought over a bag of even more apricots. And when I say a bag, I mean like a plastic grocery bag filled to the brim. We had at least 60 apricots, all ripe and in danger of rotting.
I took the challenge to make use out of every single one of those apricots. In the end I lost three – not too shabby. And in the meantime we’ve been eating a lot of delicious apricot goods, some of which is now chilling in my freezer.
Everyday Apricot Tart
Courtesy of Martha Stewart
1/3 cup cornstarch
5 large egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup honey
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
5 apricots (about 3/4 pound), pitted and sliced
2 tablespoons apricot jam (oddly enough, I had no apricot jam, so I used a cherry jam I got from the farmer down the road. It added a little bit of pretty to this already lovely dish)
Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl. In a medium saucepan, off heat, whisk together cornstarch and egg yolks. Whisk in milk and honey until cornstarch is dissolved. Whisking constantly, cook over medium until the first large bubble sputters. Reduce heat to low; cook, whisking, for a minute. Remove from heat; immediately pour into bowl. Press plastic wrap on surface of pudding; refrigerate 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt, and butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if needed, add up to 2 tablespoons ice water). Do not overmix.
Press dough evenly into a 9-inch tart pan, starting with the sides. Freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake until golden, to 40 minutes. Let cool completely.
Whisk chilled pudding until smooth; spread in cooled tart shell, and top with apricots. In a small saucepan, heat jam over medium-low until liquefied; gently brush apricots with jam. Refrigerate tart in pan an hour.
Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Honey and Vegetable Couscous
I didn’t want you to think you can only make sweets with apricots. This Moroccan dish (modified from original recipe by Emeril) takes the delicious flavours of the ingredients and takes them up a notch with the spices of the palette. While this meal ended up being pretty work-intensive (I was surprised at how long I ended up in the kitchen!) it was a huge all over favourite. X wasn’t just lapping up his veggies but also eagerly asking for more lamb. It was inspiring. Also a perfect way to use up a large amount of veggies (which it just so happened I needed to do.
For Lamb Tagine
1 ½ pounds lamb tenderloin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cardamon
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups diced onions
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup beef broth
8 threads Spanish saffron, crushed
16 fresh cilantro sprigs, tied together with a cotton string
1 cup fresh apricots, pitted and sliced
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish
Moroccan Vegetable Couscous
1 red bell pepper, halved
1 onion, peeled and quartered
4 small carrots, peeled and chopped
½ head broccoli florets
4 tomatoes, chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound fine-grain couscous, (dried but not processed)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup sliced almonds
This recipe also gave me the chance to use for the first time some saffron that’s been burning a hole in my pantry. I can’t believe I haven’t cooked anything Spanish recently and realize I need to rectify this. Anyway, on to the recipe:
Cut lamb into 1 1/2-inch cubes and place in a medium-sized bowl. Season the lamb with turmeric, cardamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Heat a large pan over high heat. Add 2 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and the seasoned lamb. Cook the lamb until browned on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the diced onions. Cook, stirring to get the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth, saffron, and cilantro bundle and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat, place it on a clean plate, and keep warm. Bring the remaining liquid in the pan to a simmer. Add the sliced onions, apricots, honey, cinnamon, ground pepper, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Return the liquid to a simmer and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until mixture is slightly thickened. Add the cooked lamb back into the sauce and cook to heat through, about 2 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs.
Moroccan Vegetable Couscous:
Make the couscous according to directions.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pan and heat over high heat. Add the vegetables and stir fry until softened. Add the garlic, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and pepper and stir until fragrant. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley, and cover to keep warm.
In a small skillet heat the butter over medium heat. When foamy, add the almonds and cook until toasted, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Arrange the couscous on a large serving platter and top with the vegetable mixture, tossing gently. Sprinkle toasted almonds over the top and serve immediately.
This is what happened to the last of the apricots – the ones I was stressing I wouldn’t be able to finish in time. I made a honey-infused compote, with the help of Martha Stewart (Martha Stewart is just awesome when it comes to produce-related recipes, btw). I didn’t add any yogurt at the time. What I do is spoon this over yogurt just as I’m serving it to X – it’s like stirred yogurt, only way better than the store bought stuff because I can control the amount of sugars, there’s no weird chemicals and it’s made with wild forest honey from Switzerland – cool. It’s super easy.
1/4 cup honey
3 tbsp water
Pinch of salt
6 ripe apricots, pitted and sliced into eights
In a small saucepan, bring honey, water, and salt to a simmer over medium; stir until honey dissolves, 1 minute. Add apricots. Raise heat to medium-high and simmer, stirring often, until fruit is soft and liquid is syrupy, 10 to 12 minutes.
For a nice, homey dish, I made an apricot rhubarb crisp. I had a massive amount of rhubarb frozen from a few weeks ago and now seemed like the perfect time to use it. I made several crisps and put some aside for later, when I’m craving apricots again (not going to lie, it could be awhile!)
Courtesy Recipe Spark
2 cups diced rhubarb
2 cups sliced pitted apricots
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the rhubarb and apricots with the lemon juice and set aside. Combine the rolled oats, sugar, and butter and mix thoroughly. Remove 1 cup and set aside. Add the water to the remainder and mix until crumbly. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan lightly with a nonstick spray. Pat the oat mixture into the pan. Spread the apricots evenly over this and top with the reserved crumb mix. Bake 35-40 minutes, until the top crust is lightly browned.
Mmm, apricots. What’s your favourite apricot recipe?