An ode to the apricot, part one: savory version
Sometimes inspiration suddenly strikes in the most unlikely of places, for no known reason. Sitting in the metro line 9, riding home from work, I thumbed through the last few chapters of The God Of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy, but some back portion of my brain was concentrating on dinner.
My brain silently scanned the pantry as I read on about the escapades of Rahel and Estha in Kerala. Pomegranate molasses, yes… Chipotle perhaps? And isn’t there some mint? Dum dum…
Once home, I emptied the pantry for all the likely culprits who could help enhance my dinner. The vinegars, the oils – the nuts, seeds, dried fruits. The herbs already perched along the countertop watched and waited with anticipation as I threw bits and bobs into the blender.
The meal that evening (already-cooked couscous with turmeric cauliflower,) got lathered in this special sauce with a few additions (chicken drumsticks, roasted apricots, and basil,) and Eurkea! An idea for an excellent starter was born.
I give you this, to relish now while the apricots are abundant and ripe in the Northern hemisphere. If you don’t have a chipotle-peppers-in-adobo-supplier wherever you are, I’m sorry. Try Amazon.
Roasted Apricot Caprese with Pomegranate-Chipotle Sauce
1/2 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
juice of 1/2 lime
3-5 scallions, chopped (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 teaspoon date jam (date puree or chutney would work)
1 teaspoon dijon
salt, pepper to taste (about ½ teaspoon salt, 5 grinds pepper)
3-4 dashes of rice vinegar
canola oil (1/2-3/4 cup)
16 small apricots, just ripe
500 grams (16 ounces) fresh buffalo mozzarella, drained and sliced
2 sprigs of basil
freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F. Cut apricots in half and arrange cut-side up on a baking dish. Roast for 12-20 minutes (larger apricots will need to cook longer,) until they are just slightly browned around the edges and their middles look wrinkled. Let the apricots cool for 20-30 minutes before arranging the salad – you want them to be slightly warmer than room temperature, but not warm enough to melt the sauce or the cheese.
While you prepare the apricots, get the sauce ready. Put all sauce ingredients except canola oil in a small hand-held mixer or small blender (or alternatively, in a ceramic bowl and blend with an immersion blender.) Blend until all ingredients are well incorporated. Taste for salt and pepper, correct if necessary. Then pour canola oil in a stream while blending until you achieve the thickness of a consistent salad dressing (thicker than vinaigrette, thinner than American Ranch-style dressing.)
Arrange the roasted apricots on small plates with the mozzarella. Drizzle each serving with sauce, and garnish with fresh basil.
Serve with fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.