Monday, 6 July 2009
simple, with freckles
I've been thinking about simplicity a lot lately.
Just as a concept, really. What it means to different people, how it affects people's lives, how we can cultivate it as we move through the world...maybe I've been thinking about it so much that paradoxically, it's become complicated.
It's kind of the same idea as living in the moment. My mom knows all about this: whenever she forgets something (frequently), she just claims she's "in the now." Clever, yet somehow annoying that she can get away with that excuse.
But finding those moments, the simplest of moments, and acknowledging them as real and important, is beyond valuable.
Take the apricot, for instance. A perfectly ripe apricot, delicately orange with a pink blush and little brown freckles, so juicy when broken open that the pit slides right out into your palm - that is simplicity at its best.
As many times in the past, my inspiration came from Molly of Orangette. She had written about an apricot tart years ago that she had tasted at Zuni Café here in San Francisco. A tart that consisted of pastry, apricots, and no extra frills beyond the delicious caramelized juices released as the apricots warmed in the oven.
When I read the post, I was in Scotland - it was winter, and it was raining. A fresh apricot (that wasn't imported from the West Bank or from South Africa) sounded like heaven to me, and the thought of an apricot tart was enough to send my mind reeling off the deep end.
And now, here we are: apricot season.
My family always gets our apricots from The Apricot Lady at the Healdsburg farmer's market. That's not really her name, but just what we've always called the woman who wears big floppy hats loves to feed us samples of her amazing apricot jam. And we always get the Blenheim apricots. Yes, they have the cute little freckles, but they also have a rounder flavor than her other types of apricots - a bit more floral, a bit less syrupy. Smaller than other, more commercial apricots, they are also incredibly delicate when ripe (making them hard to transport and thereby only sold by fabulous commited people like The Apricot Lady).
Baked into a simple pastry crust that came together the night before to be ready for the morning's breakfast, the apricots were the epitome of simple beauty and deliciousness.
Here's to the cultivation.
Simple Apricot Tart
found on Orangette, adapted from The Zuni Café
Prepare the Crust:
4 tbsp ice water
3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
9 tbsp cold butter, cut into small cubes (I used salted, unsalted works too)
In a small bowl combine water and vinegar.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt (or in a food processor). With a food processor or with a pastry cutter pulse or cut until the butter is pea-sized. Slowly add the liquid, pulsing/cutting as you go. You may need to add an extra teaspoon of water if the dough looks dry.
Turn the dough onto a clean surface. Press and shape into a disk about 1 1/2 inches thick, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, or overnight.
Prepare the Apricots:
1 pound apricots (the best you can find)
1/3 cup sugar
3 pinches salt
Cut the apricots in quarters, removing pits as you go. Gently toss fruit with salt and sugar. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. My crust fell apart because I was impatient with my rolling, but it tasted great in the end anyway, so don't worry it it looks a bit shaggy. Press tart into a large pie pan. Don't worry if the dough extends over the edge, just fold the extra back over to make a thicker more supportive crust.
Arrange fruit in tart shell, however looks pretty to you. Make sure to pour all the extra juices and sugar over the fruit, even if it seems like a lot (this is where the caramelization comes in).
Bake the tart at least 45 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apricots are browning nicely along their edges. Darkness is goodness. Let cool, so the juices can thicken into a glaze over the fruit.
Serve, and embrace the simplicity.