Sunday, January 10, 2010

Regrets, Resolutions, and Recipes - Dried Apricot Chutney

Apricot Chutney

For a gray, cold, and grim month, January bears considerable spiritual weight. We pass through a membrane of time as if we can walk through a wall. Remembrances of the year that was can be satisfying or sorrowful; often, they are both. Yet the first thirty-one days of another year, however briefly, have the supernatural power to keep our focus towards an unknown future while we reconcile the past. It's about taking stock. We get a chance to do it all over, correcting our missteps, and realigning our commitments.

This ritual applies to food, too. Especially food. There is no more prominent and daring a New Year's resolution than the promise to go on a diet after the celebratory feeding that technically starts at Halloween and stretches until The Feast of the Epiphany. It is a promise that most of us will break by Valentine's Day, just in time to break open that box of shapely, diminutive chocolates: a resolution that becomes a regret.

I do not regret the foods I have eaten over the last year, but I do regret the foods that showed such promise, yet failed to deliver. The most crushing disappointment of all was the criminally expensive local organic apricots, the most glowingly gorgeous fruit to ever light up my eyes. They were also the most tasteless, watery, and mealy mouthfuls I've ever had to spit out, a vast departure from the air-freighted, conventionally grown dried Turkish apricots that I stashed ages ago in my cupboard. These little shrunken ears, adorable as they are, certainly aren't the eye candy of the New York State-farmed femme fatales of last summer, but they didn't shame the pot of syrupy, vinegared spices they collapsed in for a quickly boiled-up chutney.

Glow Girls

Turkish Dried Apricots

Do I look forward to the year ahead, the harvests of wild, wonderful greens; color-crazy fruit; and sturdy, stalwart vegetables, which will punctuate the growing season here from May through October? Of course, I do. But there's sometimes to be said for the taking stock of what we have laid in for the long haul of these so-called barren months, as fiendish temperatures risen on dry, bitter winds slap and scratch our faces silly. During the ritual of the New Year, we are reminded that for however we go forward, the past is always with us.

Apricot Chutney
Gloss and Glitter. The gold-leaf coaster framing this dish
was a gift from Sra during her visit to New York last summer,
one of a handful of highlights to remember in 2009.


Dried Apricot Chutney - My own recipe, ingredients hand picked off the panels of my favorite retail products.

Ingredients

12 ounces dried apricots, chopped into irregular, small pieces (soaked overnight in water, then drained; soaking removes much of the sulfites often added as a preservative)
1/2 cup dried currants
1 inch fresh ginger root, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 small hot green Thai chiles, minced
4 cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water (or more, if necessary - see method)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Method

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chutney is done when apricots become limp, and mixture thickens. If it has reduced before apricots are tender, add 1/4 cup water, and continue simmering another 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. More vinegar or sugar can be incrementally stirred in to taste. Chutney will continue to thicken as it cools. Can be served either hot or cold; refrigerate leftovers promptly. Use within a few days. Makes 2 1/2 cups. --
Apricot Chutney

This recipe is for Haalo of Cook Almost Anything at Least Once, for her Weekend Herb Blogging # 215, an excellent place to launch another year of food blogging.

~~~~~~~~

Been There, Done That ~
Halvah Ice Cream with Poached Apricots in Orange Flower Water
Olive and Pomegranate Relish
Quick Eggplant Caponata

Other People's Eats ~
Rhubarb-Apricot Chutney
Lasun Chutney
Pumpkin Chutney

39 comments:

  1. Susan, I am awed and moved by your reflections... You brought tears to my eyes, and gave me much wisdom on which to meditate in the coming months. Thank you for your wise, powerful words...

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  2. A beautiful post and gorgeous chutney!

    Have a ghreat week!

    Cheers

    Rosa

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  3. Your chutney looks delicious and mouthwatering.I love the accompanying photos.

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  4. I was thinking of doing something similar with dates. Looks so good.Isn't that the worst feeling to see a piece of beautiful fruit and then bite into it , and be disappointed?

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  5. Oh how I wish I could write so prettily as you.

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  6. I actually think that it is not easy to find good apricots. Last summer I have had good apriums. Gorgeous photos, as always. Best wishes for the New Year.

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  7. I so so so loved the pics and the recipe Susan!

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  8. That looks so gorgeous!! Great pics.

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  9. I saw lots of pluots and apriums when I was there, apriums were new to me, I saw pluots on my earlier trip too! Reminded me of an animal I saw as a kid somewhere, body of a donkey and legs striped, we called it a zedonk! (In retrospect, an okapi, probably)

    Funny you should mention Turkish apricots, I just bought a small pack of them last evening, in the hope of better breakfasts - ties in well with what you wrote on this post.

    Glad to have been one of the highlights!

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  10. Oh YUM - this looks like a gorgeous accompaniment to curry...

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  11. Happy new year susan - hope you get some decadence in before that valentine box of chocolates :-)

    The best fresh apricots are fresh off the tree - those in the shops never measure up but I did have success with an apricot chutney using fresh apricots early last year - and found that there weren't many recipes for it on the web so I guess it isn't made that much - shame as I find turkish apricots too sweet but my mum makes great jam out of dried australian apricots

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  12. The chutney looks gorgeous, and all the photos are lovely. Love your writing style :)

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  13. I always look forward to your posts. The writing is reliably beautiful and you always have such insightful things to say. I too hate when expensive local produce fails to deliver. :-(

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  14. That is one yummy & interesting prep...... Chutney prepared this way... is without doubts yum! but this perfectly prepared & presented & captured......... makes this look so tempting & mesmerizing!!!!! BRAVO!

    Ash...
    (http://asha-oceanichope.blogspot.com/)

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  15. I know what you mean about disappointment--it often happens with strawberries for me. This past season we picked a bunch and they turned out to be blah, which has never happened to me when picking them on a farm. *sigh*

    The chutney looks great, btw!

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  16. It pains me to hear that I'm not alone in disappointment with supposedly seasonal fruit. We had a similar disappointment with peaches, tomatoes, strawberries AND apricots this past summer - beautiful to look at but tastefree.

    Your apricot chutney sounds wonderful. Bookmarked....

    -Elizabeth

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  17. Walking through a "membrane of time"? Wow. Not only your photography, but your writing brings me to my knees. And yes, your recipes as well! I've got some strawberry guavas someone gave me, and I've been thinking of making a chutney out of them. I think I'll tweak this recipe...

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  18. What a beautiful post. You capture the essence of the new year perfectly.

    I really like this idea for chutney. Now i can have apricot chutney year round and not have to worry about the fruit being in season!

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  19. Happy New year to you and beautiful write up, photos even more spectacular and a great recipe.. You have it going well..

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  20. Hey, I love the new look and as always, this post like others is a pleasurable read.

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  21. Love how you photographed your chutney, especially the choice to put the lovely orange morsels in a purple dish. Too bad about those organic apricots.
    LL

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  22. Lovely.

    What did you serve this beauty with?

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  23. My mouth is watering right now with what I just saw! This is a darling! I want to try this one!

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  24. Loved your apricot chutney ! Coincidentally I just recently experimented with dried apricot in chutney only mine was south Indian inspired :-) The next time I am going to try yours...

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  25. Apricot chutney looks fantastic Susan, indeed very flavorful!! Best wishes for the new year!

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  26. Dear Astra - You are too kind. It makes me very happy that others can resonate w/ my writings. Thank you very much.

    Rosa - Ta, always!

    Simply Food - Welcome! Thanks so much for your kind remarks. I appreciate your visit.

    Courtney - Thanks. I've seen date chutney on the blogs. Looks brilliant - all that natural, unique sweetness. Yes, disappointments w/ food are one of the worst feelings.

    Pam - So sweet, you. Thanks much. Yet, I think you underestimate your gifts as a writer.

    Thank you, Simona. - I know. Unless you pluck very specific non-commercial varieties from your own trees, it's unlikely you'll enjoy the best apricot fruits of your labor. I am more than happy to beat the drum for local comestibles, but I spent $8 on these, and they were unredeemably inedible. It angered and insulted me. Perhaps bad apricots grow on trees, but we work very hard for our income; it doesn't grow on trees. If I was that farm, I would not have pushed them into the marketplace, but rather written off the loss.

    Preeti - Thank you so much!

    Chakhlere - Thanks very much. : )

    ---

    Sra - I do believe the commercially-crossed hybrids are a better deal quality wise, at least here. Dried Turkish apricots and figs are stunners, but it's all a matter of personal tastes.

    Yes, dear girl, you were definitely a 2009 highlight. : )

    ---

    Hi, Robyn! - Thanks. Yes, curry always needs MORE spicy condiments to complete a meal. Why is that? : )

    Thank you, dear Johanna. I happen to adore Australian apricots; they are usually jammy preserved and plump in lovey presentations boxes - at least that's what we get here. They are famous for good reason.

    Wiffy - Thanks, sweetsa! : }

    Kelly - Thank you very much. Most dear of you to say. I'm glad to know others have had the same experience w/ local produce. Not glad, however, of misery loving company, but it's grounding that I am not alone in my assessment of quality issues among the local purveyors.

    Welcome, AshKuku! Thanks so much! Very pleased for your visit!

    Hi, Ruhama. - Thank you. Strawberries are tricky business; some of the fruit with the best fragrance tastes the worst. I've no idea how the typically gorgeous berries from Plant City, Florida will fare this February, considering the weird frosts and such, but I hold out hope nonetheless.

    Elizabeth - So good to see you! Thank you for validating my experience with local produce. Would that I didn't have to talk it down. Tomatoes suffered from a certain blight last year, but that is the only a scratch in surface of crop and harvest failures, alas.

    Toni - Thank you for your dear comments. Strawberry guavas - I've not heard of them. Hope you create a recipe to blog about. I'd love to relish it from afar.

    Hi, Joanne - Thanks so much. If you've got dried the fruit, there's a chutney to match. : ) Good to see you.

    Welcome, Nostalgia. - Thank you very much for your dear and encouraging words. Happy New Year!

    Cynthia - Ta always. : )

    LL - Thanks. Bad fruit happens. Live and learn.

    Kitchen Queen - Welcome! Thanks for your kudos. I am glad for your visit.

    L - Ta. I ate it on slabs of grilled paneer and thick, rustic toast, as well as spice-crazed bean dishes. Would work well with grilled lamb, chicken, and fish, but I woudn't know personally.

    Welcome, Usha! Thank you. I've going to stop by your blog to see what you've done South Indian style. I expect blissful coconut factors in there somewhere. : )

    Parita - Thank you very much. Cheers!

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  27. Dear Susan,

    Best Wishes for 2010 :) Your blog, the photos, the write-ups are simply awesome.
    Looking forward to your delicious recipes.

    Cheers,
    Rachana Kothari

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  28. I was wondering what to do with the leftover apricots(after I made a fruit cake !) in my pantry, Now I know the answer..Thanks Susan !Wish you a fabulous year ahead !!

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  29. I went into a reflective mood reading your post. How beautifully written.

    We buy and hoard (well almost)the turkish apricots from the farmers market. my elder daughter eats fistful of them as snacks and take them to school. They flavors, the ingredients and the color of the chutney reminds me of the so bengali chutney.. sweet, spicy flavored with panch foron.

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