by Rosa Mayland
INCREASE YOUR GASTRONOMIC EXPERIENCE BY EATING IN SYNC WITH THE SEASONS
With the arrival of hotter weather, I am thrilled that some of my favorite fruits are starting to grace (super)market stalls. They are so fabulous that I can never get enough of them. Not one week goes by without me making either pies, pastries, cakes, trifles, crumbles, clafoutis or cobblers in my itsy-bitsy apartment kitchen.
Every year, the craze begins in May, when the first Swiss rhubarb (I know, it is a vegetable, but I mostly prepare it just like a fruit — that’s how I like it best) and strawberries are available. Then, at the end of June, they slowly get replaced by apricots, peaches, nectarines as well as all kinds of berries (gooseberries, redcurrants, raspberries, blackberries, etc.) and, finally, in August, after an endless and interminable year of waiting, lust really sets in: the king of all stone fruits makes its appearance, my beloved Italian plum. Not forgetting that not long after, they are very closely followed by grapes and apples (and so on)…
Ah, Nature is indisputably plentiful and perfect! It never fails to make our senses work, and month after month, it continues offering a vast array of wonderful produce, no matter the time of the year. Why would we want to buy vegetables or fruits that are not seasonal and stuffed with chemicals; that were grown with zero respect for the environment and have flown thousands of miles to reach us, thus contributing to polluting the air we breathe; that are overpriced and taste like meal even though they look so pretty, when we have the opportunity of supporting our local farmers, enjoying organic or chemical-free goods, treating our taste buds with respect, not spoiling our precious planet, and following the rhythm of the seasons without letting ourselves get overwhelmed by stupid and incoherent needs?
You see, I am getting sick and tired of seeing people who crave the wrong food at the wrong moment, who are so acutely detached from the Earth that they don’t know if what they buy is grown in “laboratories” or naturally in fields, who think that it is normal to be able to find what they want at whatever time of year they want it, and who just don’t give a darned about the effect it can have on their lives and that of others!
The beauty of consuming produce that is grown sustainably and in harmony with the environment is that you never get bored with it, as fresh produce isn’t generally available all year long in non-equatorial climates. Hence you can be assured that there will be new and different flavors and tastes all throughout the year. If you eat in sync with the season, you even look forward to the moment when the blackberries, strawberries, apricots, apples, etc. become available, because you had to wait for so long in order to finally be able to savor them. The unbearable longing as well as the extreme yearning induced by the unfathomable “break”, the sheer joy that you feel when you know that a fruit or vegetable will soon be in season again, and the sheer exhilaration you experience while taking your first bite of that highly anticipated vegetable or fruit is just incomparable and has to be cherished. “Deprivation” helps us appreciate them to a greater extent and to not take things for granted. Fulfillment doesn’t come through being spoiled, through having every flashing desire granted the moment you wish it…
So when I saw the very first Swiss apricots from Valais (some of the world’s finest apricots), I was overcome with immense happiness. After having indulged myself in rhubarb for the past few weeks, those amazingly fragrant, gorgeously juicy and vibrantly colored stone fruits offered a very welcome change.
Since my aim was to highlight their delightful sourness that is beautifully counterbalanced by their incredible nectarious quality, which are both coupled with breathtakingly musky and heady aromas, I chose to make a refined North-African- and Provence-inspired dessert with this sun-engorged treat.
I searched online for quite a while before I stumbled upon what I was looking for. “Baked Apricots Stuffed With Almond Paste” it was going to be. Of course, there was no way I would prepare my round and orange furry little babies without making a few adaptations to the original recipe. I always add a personal touch to every recipe I try, and I have a compulsion about increasing quantities as I’m always afraid there won’t be enough. It is a bit of an illness. My nickname could well be “Madame Never Enough”.
I kept the same amount of filling, but I decided to reduce the amount of fruit as well as to incorporate a few extra drops of almond essence and orange blossom water to the paste, and to get a more complex flavor combination, I thought it would be interesting to delicately infuse the syrup with a few lavender blossoms. An excellent decision it proved to be!
The unique combination of tart apricots, sweet almond paste, pungent distilled water, marzipan-tasting almond essence and balmy dried lavender is just out of this world. It results in an ambrosial and refined dessert which will get you hooked. Impossible to resist such an exquisite delicacy…
Click here for the recipe and more pictures.