Apricots are the quintessence of summer—colorful, luscious, and happy.
I have fond memories of going to the farmer’s market to buy apricots with my mother when I was young, growing up in France. She would pick up a piece of the fruit and squeeze it gently, testing for softness; then she would smell it, inhaling its subtle fragrance. My mother would never buy apricots unless they were fresh, in season, and ripened on the tree.
My mother was a teacher so she had summers off—and being able to spend that time with her was very special to me. We would bring the fruit home, our arms laden with flats of bright, sunny-yellow apricots, with reddish tinges—like rouge.
We would make jams and preserves together, and I would be her assistant chef. I would watch as she put them in a large pot on the stove in our kitchen and add sugar and spices—I can still smell their delicious sweet aroma as they cooked. It would fill our entire home and she would let me stir. In my family, we bought everything fresh and in season, and preserved for the rainy, cold days of winter—I suppose we were the original locavores!
Today, I prepare apricots in Boston with my own five-year-old daughter. Although I live very far from my mother, I never lose touch with all that she taught me about apricots.
Summer recipes shouldn’t be complicated
Summer dishes should be simple and feature fresh, local ingredients. What better way to celebrate the foods of mid-summer than by making a main-course salad and a mouth-watering dessert starring flavorful apricots. I chose these two dishes (although I toyed with including an apricot tart recipe as it is one of my all-time favs), because they are easy to prepare, offer a balance of savory and sweet, and are very juicy—brimming with the concentrated flavors of summer.
The salad extends the way we normally eat apricots—even think of them.
It’s almost counterintuitive to pair them with black rice and shrimp—although arugula goes with almost everything these days. The gorgeous colors of this dish create a beautiful presentation. And after you make this easy-to-prepare dish once, I predict you’ll be doing it again and again before apricot season ends.
The baked apricots dessert recipe features the citrus flavors I adore—lemon and lime together—in a creamy, dreamy sauce, soaked with the juices of the apricots. Serve the dessert with a little ice cream or frozen yogurt (and don’t skip it—although I also like plain yogurt with it)—the flavors will linger long after the dish has disappeared.
I like to think that preparing and cooking food together as a family or with friends is a wonderfully mindful tradition that enriches our lives tremendously. Although that might sound trite, it is nonetheless true. As I always say, food is love, and here is my latest offering. I hope you enjoy it. Salut, santé, et bon appétit!
Baked Apricots with Lime and Lemon Balm
12 apricots, pitted and halved
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 vanilla bean, split open
and seeds scraped out
Zest and juice of 1 lime
¼ cup blond cane sugar 2 tbsp heavy cream
(or coconut milk)
10 lemon balm leaves, finely sliced
Plain yogurt, or vanilla ice cream, to serve
Preheat oven to 400ºF and arrange apricot halves, cut face up, in a baking dish; set aside.
In a small pot, combine olive oil, vanilla bean and seeds, lime juice and zest, and sugar. Heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cream.
Pour sauce over the apricots and add the lemon balm. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until apricots are tender.
Serve with plain yogurt or homemade vanilla ice cream.
Apricot, Arugula, Black Rice, and Shrimp Salad
½ cup black rice (or use white or red, if you prefer)
Sea salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 inch gingerroot, peeled and finely grated
Juice of 1 lime (makes 2 tbsp juice)
7 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 tbsp unsalted butter
8 apricots, halved and pitted
½ tsp ground cumin
1 lb large shrimp (about 20), deveined
with tips of tail kept on 6 cups (5 ½ oz. ) arugula, washed
Cook rice according to package instructions. Let cool on the side.
In a small bowl, add sea salt, pepper, garlic and ginger. Stir in lime juice. Add 6 tbsp olive oil and whisk to emulsify. Add fresh cilantro, set aside.
In a frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add apricots and cook on each side for 1 minute. Set aside.
In the same pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. When warm, add cumin and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add shrimp and cook on each side for 1 to 2 minutes, until cooked through. Set aside and let cool slightly.
Divide the arugula between four plates. Add the rice, apricots, and shrimp. Drizzle with the dressing, toss gently, and serve.