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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Apricot & Pecan... or, "The Armenian Plum and the Hickory"

Apricot & Pecan
...or, "The Armenian Plum and the Hickory"

There are two things I do as soon as I get a new list of ingredients.

A testament to being a total food nerd, the first is a little research. Roll your eyes - but this geeking out often turns up some nifty insights and amusing factoids.

Who knew that the scientific name for apricot, prunus armeniaca, literally translates to "Armenian Plum"? And the pecan tree is actually a species of hickory. Your fun facts for the day! (You can thank me when you're asked on trivia night).

"I just like the sizzle"

The second (and admittedly more fun) thing I do is buy a bunch of the key ingredient and fry it. I see this as one of my charming quirks as a member of the Simpson's generation... we're all a little bit Homer.

Unappetizing fried apricots

I'll spare you the suspense. Fried apricots are disgusting.

...disgusting when they're breaded in flour or coated in corn starch...
...disgusting when they're dusted with salt or sugar...

To quote a very wise Marge Simpson on the subject of compulsive frying, "I didn't say they couldn't... I said that you shouldn't!"

"...to dry, or not to dry"  

So frying was out.  But drying? 

Maybe it's just me, but when I hear "Apricot", I immediately think of the dried and chewy incarnations with a neon orange glow. I don't think I had ever tried a fresh apricot before this week. 

But that's not the result of successful marketing by the people at Sun-Maid, as they branch out from raisins and prunes. Dried apricots are a traditional preparation the world over.

Chef's Note: That bright orange color of the dried apricot... that comes to you courtesy of a hefty dose of sulfur dioxide. Naturally dried apricots, by contrast, are a murky brown color. Tasty.

So which ingredient to use? Stick with the fresh fruit - a soft fleshed, somewhat tart 
"mini-peach"... or the dried stuff? Which is the real apricot?

... to be determined... but if I go the dried route, I'll be doing it myself.

As for Pecans and Caramel that round out this week's list of ingredients... talk about an internal struggle! A riff on a pecan pie... or turtles... or pralines... or pralines... or pralines (*hint hint *wink wink).

 Check back Thursday to find out more of what's in store.

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