• Stir It Up: A fruitful way to cook
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     | July 25,2014
     
    Photo by Steve Legato

    Fresh apricots melt into a rosemary-scented sauce, a delicious topping for pork chops or lamb. The photo and recipe are from “Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes,” by Brian Nicholson and Sarah Huck.

    Farmers markets seem to be everywhere. Huge cities, small towns, suburban neighborhoods — you are almost guaranteed to spot a sign that says “Farmers Market, Friday.” In some communities, they have taken the place of the village green or even church as the gathering to meet neighbors once a week. And while the talk at any community meeting might run from politics to local gossip, it is often about recipes, about how to cook those broad beans/summer squash/smoked pork chops that you’ve just purchased from the grower or producer.

    Brian Nicholson, a third-generation fruit grower from upstate New York, noticed this. “Our market stand often feels like a walking, talking cookbook,” he writes. So he and writer Sarah Huck have obliged their customers and produced an actual cookbook. “Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes” provides inspiration for using fruit in every season, in every course, at every meal.

    Eating fruit, for many of us, is never a challenge; you buy it, you eat it. Fresh fruit, in season, seems like a slam-dunk. Who needs a recipe to enjoy a ripe peach? But if you have a bushel of ripe peaches, you will want some help. Nicholson and Huck give it.

    Of the many recipes that intrigued me, I was most drawn to those that feature apricots — probably because I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a really good apricot. Apparently, I’m not alone. Apricot trees, Nicholson writes, are “terribly temperamental” and stubborn. They need temperate climates with chilly winters and well-drained soil with full sun. They are subject to malformations, rot and bacterial infection. They suffer in hot, humid weather and are subject to sunburn.

    Most of the apricots I have eaten are what Nicholson would describe as bad apricots: ripened after picking, “dry, mealy and a little bit tart.”

    But a good apricot? Nicholson waxes poetic: “A dead-ripe apricot, one that has fully matured on the tree (like ours) is so soft that you can pull apart the velvety halves with your fingers, give a gentle squeeze, and watch pearls of delicious, sweet apricot nectar percolate up. Its skin is saturated sunset orange with lightly freckled scarlet cheeks.”

    The apricots of Red Jacket Orchards (Nicholson’s farm) have been praised by taste-setters at Gourmet magazine and The New York Times.

    Should I ever encounter such wonderful apricots, I’m going to eat them, right then and there. But it has been my experience that less-than-stellar fruit can be vastly improved by cooking. This recipe — and many others in the book — can work with “ordinary” fruit, whether purchased at the supermarket or the farm stand. Likewise, this dish will turn out fine with supermarket pork, but while you are out trolling for those tree-ripened apricots, you might keep your eye out for some high-quality, locally raised pork (or, as Nicholson suggests, lamb) as well. The combination will be stellar. Otherwise, it will just be darn delicious.



    Charred Pork Chops With Apricot-Rosemary Sauce

    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

    ¼ cup finely chopped red onion

    Kosher salt, as needed

    2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

    1 tablespoon minced, peeled fresh ginger

    1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

    1 pound ripe apricots, pitted and diced (2½ to 3 cups)

    2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

    2 tablespoons water

    1 to 3 tablespoons good-quality honey, as needed

    Freshly ground black pepper

    4 (8-ounce) center-cut, bone-in pork chops, 1 inch thick



    Preheat a covered gas or charcoal grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat, or preheat a stovetop grill pan.

    Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, covered, until the onion is soft and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Uncover and stir in the garlic, ginger and rosemary; saute for 2 minutes.

    Stir in the apricots, orange juice, water and 1 tablespoon honey. Simmer until the fruit breaks down to a chunky-smooth consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in more honey if desired. Cover the pot and keep the sauce warm over low heat.

    Season the pork chops generously with salt and pepper and brush with oil. Transfer to the grill and cook, covered, until undersides are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the pork chops and continue to cook about 5 minutes more, until their interior is no longer bright pink and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 145 degrees. Remove pork chops from grill and let them rest on a platter, loosely covered with foil, for 5 minutes. Serve the pork chops with warm apricot sauce spooned over top.

    (Recipe from “Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes,” by Brian Nicholson and Sarah Huck; Running Press, 2014)



    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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