Wednesday, June 10, 2015

An ode to apricots, and some Sauvignon Blanc

Okay enough of the self analysis, it's time to talk about food and in particular apricots.

I love apricots although I know many consider them to be the red headed bastard step child of the peach family, and in fact they are related to peaches, but I actually rank the two on a par as my favourite stone fruits. Apricots are also hella good for you with whacks of vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants, in fact if all the stuff on this page is true you better stock up before they are declared the next superfood. We are in the middle of Californian apricot season and as the harvest moves north through Washington and the Okanagan we will have fresh apricots available until August, and then that's it, there is no import market for fresh apricots that I know of.

Apricots are great on their own, made into jam, baked in tarts etc. but my two preferred uses are :

1) Grilled

2) Apricot Salsa

The first method is dead easy, and works great with peaches as well, but is best if you are old school as I am and use a wood/charcoal burning grill. Since the grill retains heat for 15-20 minutes after the protein has come off why not use that heat to make dessert. I will just halve ripe apricots, rub the cut side with some neutral oil and slap them on the still warm grill. If the grill gods are with you by the time dinner is over you will have warmed, juicy, slightly charred apricots that can go with some vanilla ice cream, or yoghurt if you want a buzzkill, with maybe a bit of berry coulis and dessert is served. It's not fool proof, sometimes they burn but if so you can cook them down on the stovetop with some sugar and water and have a nice "charred apricot puree" to bring to your next hipster foodie gathering.

The second method is my fave though and was the result of some overly aggressive apricot purchasing in the Okanagan 7-8 years ago. Home for a week I was faced with a decision of what to do with all the apricots, decided to make salsa, and was happy I did. Because apricots are not as sweet as peaches they balance better with a little heat so I just chopped up some red onion, a jalapeno, a couple of cloves of garlic, some coarse sea salt, Italian parsley and a bit of vegetable oil and pureed the whole thing. The result is a slightly sweet condiment that gets a back end heat from the onion and chile and is tremendous with pork, chicken or salmon.

For years I ate the stuff alone as wife was not a sweet and savory person at all and daughter thought it looked weird and, since "Mom doesn't have to eat it so why should I", passed on it. Two weeks ago I grabbed a couple of pounds of apricots at market and made up a batch of salsa to go with pork tenderloin the next night, the salsa is always better the second day as the flavours get comfortable with each other. As I was prepping the pork I put out some salsa on the table then continued cooking. When dinner hit the table daughter  immediately asked "what is the sauce", I told her it was apricot salsa and she heaped some on her plate. I reminded her that she hadn't liked it in the past but she replied that "I might have pinky tasted it while I was setting the table" and proceeded to ravage it con gusto . Since then I've had to make a second batch and last night we learned that it not only was great with the salmon but made the boiled new potatoes taste much better as well.

Here's the recipe, such as it is, for apricot salsa: (please note this isn't a professional cooking blog so my recipes aren't really that accurate on proportions sometimes, cooking is art ... baking is science)

5-6 apricots, stones removed, cut in quarters
1/4 medium red onion chopped
1 mid sized hot pepper, your choice, diced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons Italian parsley chopped (you can use cilantro if you want to ruin the dish)
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 tablespoon neutral oil

Toss it all into a processor, blender or use a hand blender and process until it's a coarse puree, you want some definable texture. Try it with white meats or rich fish, particularly off the grill or pulled pork. I suppose it will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks but that seems unlikely in my house, I'm almost sure I saw daughter put some on toast this morning.

A quick wine note as well, with the salmon last night I had a really nice, inexpensive, Sauvignon Blanc from Chiile.

Now in the past I've often found Chilean SB to be lacking in substance but last night's bottle was very good. The wine is from Carmen and is part of their Wave Series of wines that are supposed to be dedicated to the ocean .........whatever the hell that means, and while I haven't tried the Right Wave Pinot Noir I can certainly recommend the Left Wave Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is medium bodied and favours the citrus, gooseberry aspects of the grape, not as assertive as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and more fruit forward than Loire Valley it has a crisp entry, good mouth feel and a nice long finish. It will be a solid addition to the summer bbq season wine rack, it's widely available and retails for $11.49, which after tax equals a million dollars .......... just kidding, all in with deposit a bottle will set you back $13.30.

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