Saturday, July 07, 2012


Excellent Ingredient of the Week
Apricots — they are everywhere! In boxes on Agua Fria with signs that say "free please take them." This is the first year in a long time our fruit trees have produced fruit and it's a bumper crop. So what do we do now? Upside down cake, claufouti, apricot bars, apricot cheesecake, smoothies — you name it. Here are some other ideas:

Apricot-Raisin Chutney

Martha Stewart has minions to peel the apricots, but I can't be bothered.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 pound apricots, peeled, quartered, and pitted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup good-quality honey
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup cider vinegar

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Transfer onion to a large saucepan. Add apricots, sugar, honey, raisins, and vinegar. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened, about 25 minutes. Pour chutney into a large bowl. Let cool completely. Serve at room temperature. Chutney can be refrigerated in an airtight container, up to 1 week.

Apricots and pork work well together — why not make shish kebobs with red onion, apricot halves and adobo-marinated pork cubes. Or how about a great sauce to go with chicken?

Seared Chicken with Apricot Sauce

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds), trimmed and tenders removed
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon canola oil
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 medium shallot, minced
4 fresh apricots, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

Place chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Pound with a rolling pin, meat mallet or heavy skillet until flattened to an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned and no longer pink in the center, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover and keep warm. (If necessary, cook the chicken in two batches with an additional 1 tablespoon oil.) Off the heat, add wine and shallot to the pan. Return to medium heat and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add apricots and cook until the fruit begins to break down, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in preserves, tarragon and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return the chicken to the pan and cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce.

But if you have already had more then your fill of apricots I suggest canning them, either as halves in a sugar syrup or as a puree or a jam of jelly or cook them down into a membrillo or go all the way and make apricot fruit leather.

Apricot Fruit Leather

lemon juice
sugar (as needed)

Rinse the fruit. Take out the pits, chop the fruit. Taste the fruit before proceeding. Note how sweet the fruit is. If very sweet you will not need to add any sugar. If still a little tart, you may need to add some sugar in the next step. Place fruit in a large saucepan. Add a half cup of water for every 4 cups of chopped fruit. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the fruit is cooked through. Uncover and stir. Use a potato masher to mash up the fruit in the pan. Taste the fruit and determine what and how much sugar, lemon juice, or spices to add. Add sugar in small amounts (1 Tbsp at a time if working with 4 cups of fruit), to desired level of sweetness. Add lemon juice one teaspoon at a time to help brighten the flavor of the fruit. Continue to simmer and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the fruit purée has thickened, another 5 or 10 minutes (or more). Put the purée through a food mill or chinoise. Alternatively purée it thoroughly with a blender, food processor, or immersion blender. Taste again and adjust sugar if necessary. The purée should be very smooth. Line a rimmed baking sheet with sturdy plastic wrap. Pour out the purée into the lined baking sheet to about an 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness. Place the baking sheet in the oven, try to keep any plastic wrap from touch the sides of the oven or the oven racks. Also try to make sure that the plastic wrap hasn't folded back over on top of the purée. If this happens, the purée won't dry out. Heat the oven to a low 140°F. If you have a convection setting, use it, it will speed up the process and help dry out the purée. Let dry in the oven like this for as long as it takes for the purée to dry out and form fruit leather.It usually needs to cook in oven overnight, so about 8-12 hours. The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky, but has a smooth surface. When the fruit leather is ready, you can easily peel it up from the plastic wrap. To store it, roll it in its plastic wrap, put it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or freezer. 4 cups of fruit yield about one baking sheet of fruit leather.

So there you have it. If all else fails, throw them at passing cars!