Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I’m pretty picky about using recipes only from reliable sources, and so most of the ones I make are from cookbooks, magazines, or blogs I read regularly. But sometimes, thanks to the vast, wonderful randomness of the Internet, I end up following a string of links, arriving at a good-looking recipe, bookmarking it, and later having no memory of how I ever found it to begin with. Often I never work up the courage to make recipes with such unknown provenance, but this one—originally from Elly Says Opa! but repeated on a number of other blogs, always a good sign—just looked too tasty to pass up, and I’m so glad I took the chance, because: yum.

I already have a chicken-in-pita and three other-things-in-pitas-with-yogurt-sauce recipes in my repertoire, so I was a bit worried this would be too similar, but it had its own distinct identity—and it tasted like an ultra-fresh version of real, restaurant chicken gyros. The effect was helped immensely by my lucky decision to invest in the delicious, pillowy (if slightly pricy) Greek pitas I spotted at the farmers’ market, so I highly recommend seeking out some good-quality non-pocket pitas—or making your own, something I plan to look into promptly (I tried to make pocket pitas once and it was a flop, but I’m guessing non-pocket ones might be easier). I liked the flavor of the chicken marinade—the vinegar and the yogurt were especially nice touches—but next time I’ll amp up the flavor a bit: unlike most marinades, the original recipe didn’t call for salt, adding it to the chicken later instead, and I found the result slightly underseasoned; also, I’d consider marinating longer if time allows and using smaller pieces of chicken (breast tenders, maybe) to allow more marinade coverage. I definitely recommend using Greek yogurt for the tzatziki, which allows you to skip the yogurt-straining step, but next time I’d add the optional lemon juice to compensate for the fact that Greek yogurt tends to be less tart than normal plain yogurt. I was tempted to use just regular yogurt and not strain it, as in all my other yogurt-sauce recipes, but I ended up loving how thick and creamy, and thus more authentic-seeming, the sauce was--so don't fear; the Greek yogurt/straining and cucumber shredding/squeezing are totally worth it.

I’ll be making this again really soon..like as soon as we get back from our upcoming vacation, and probably all summer long. It’s light, it’s easy, and A and I both loved it.

For chicken:
1¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, or a combination)
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
For tzatziki:
16 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt (if you can’t get Greek yogurt, use plain whole-milk or part-skim normal yogurt and strain it in a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl for several hours or overnight to remove as much moisture as possible)
1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded
3–5 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1–2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
For gyros:
Sliced red onion
Sliced tomatoes
4–5 Greek-style (pocketless) pitas (original recipe called for 4, but ours came in a package of 5 and we found we had enough chicken and toppings to make a fifth gyro)

1. To make the chicken marinade, whisk together the 4 cloves minced garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the chicken and rub the marinade in. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

2. To make the tzatziki, grate or shred the cucumber, wrap it in paper towels or a dish towel, and then squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Mix together the cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, white wine vinegar, lemon juice (if desired), and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate tzatziki for 30 minutes or more, so flavors can meld. Before serving, drizzle a little olive oil over the top if desired (I didn’t do this).

3. When ready to cook the chicken, preheat the broiler (or grill, or pan on the stove). Cook the chicken until cooked through, allow to rest for a few minutes, then slice into strips.

4. Heat your pitas for a few minutes in a warm oven or in a skillet on the stove. Top the pita with the chicken, tzatziki, tomatoes, and onions, then roll up and enjoy.

Serves: 4–5 (1 apiece)
Time: 30 minutes, plus at least 1 hour of marinating
Leftover potential: Good (store chicken, tzatziki, pita, and toppings separately, of course). Tzatziki has even more flavor on the second day.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Now this is a quinoa and corn recipe I definitely like! (As opposed to my previous attempt at one, which was just OK.) This was the first time I’d used quinoa in soup, and even though it’s really more of a stew, or even an extra-brothy version of a regular quinoa pilaf (especially in the leftovers, the quinoa absorbs a lot of the liquid), it’s getting me inspired about other ways to use my new favorite grain.

The recipe is from Lorna Sass’ Whole Grains for Busy People (which I’m tempted to check out the next time I’m at the library), via the Seattle Times, via Cheap Healthy Good. It’s extremely easy and quick, making it one of those rare summer-weeknight soups, and has a nice flavor reminiscent of tortilla soup. The avocado and lime are what really do it for me; in particular, something about the creamy texture of the avocado with the toothsome quinoa, the crisp corn, and the savory broth pleased me immensely. I was also impressed that the avocado retained its shape and greenness even after several days in the refrigerator followed by reheating in the microwave. I’ve got to admit that A wasn’t as enchanted, but he also doesn’t really like avocado much unless it’s in guacamole. But it’s a testimony to how much I liked this soup that I’m not too bothered by his lukewarm reaction: this is one of those recipes I’ll keep on making anyway, because he’ll tolerate it well enough at dinner and then leave all the leftovers for me.

Since I’m a lime fan, I altered the recipe slightly so that the lime juice is added to the soup at the end, instead of just using lime wedges as a garnish. I figured this would help prevent the avocado from browning in the leftovers, and it also tasted darn good. I also used lots of salsa and cilantro, and more than 1 cup of corn because I had two big ears of the fresh stuff. I might use a bit more broth next time, just to make it more soup-like. Otherwise, perfect!

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
⅓ cup chunky salsa, or to taste (I used more)
1 large ripe but firm avocado, diced
Salt to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, or to taste (I used more)
Juice of 1 lime, plus extra lime wedges for serving if desired

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring broth to a boil over high heat. Add quinoa, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook (still boiling) 15 minutes.

2. Add corn and salsa. Stir. When the soup comes back up to a simmer, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner. Add avocado and lime juice and stir gently. Add cilantro, plus salt and pepper to taste. Stir again.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I…think I like this salad?

I’m not a potato salad fan, but I seem to have a continuing fascination with the non-mayo-based varieties. Mostly, I was entranced by the colorful photo accompanying this recipe in Cooking Light with its bounty of summer vegetables, particularly the holy trinity of corn, tomatoes, and zucchini. Even better, it’s a warm salad (I have a weird aversion to cold food sometimes); the potatoes are roasted until crisp and brown. So is the corn, which I was skeptical about at first (30 minutes? But corn kernels are so tiny!), and indeed the corn gets quite worryingly browned, but that actually makes it taste even better (as I discovered when I found myself compulsively snacking on the seemingly burnt corn detritus left behind on the baking sheet). However, the dressing: it really tested my growing tolerance for mustard (2 tablespoons is a lot), and I think there’s a reason that I hardly ever use tarragon—its licorice taste was strongly present here. So, on the plus side, this is a beautiful, healthy, fresh salad bursting with tasty vegetables and strong flavors…but I’m not sure I necessarily loved those flavors. A was enthusiastic, though, and the online reviews are all great so far, and I like that this is light enough for a side dish (we had it with prosciutto-and-basil-wrapped chicken, my go-to accompaniment for labor-intensive or unproven salads) but substantial enough for a vegetarian main, so I’ll probably make it again. I am tempted to cut back on the mustard slightly or swap in parsley or rosemary for the tarragon, but maybe that would be messing too much with what gives this salad its zest and zip. Is it time for me to learn to stop worrying and love tarragon?

1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
2 pounds fingerling potatoes (use a mix of red, purple, and yellow for maximum effect), cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup sliced red onion
¾ cup diced zucchini
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Place corn and potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet (for easy cleanup—the corn tends to stick—I recommend coating the baking sheet with parchment or foil), drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, and toss to coat. Bake for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Add onion and zucchini and cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

4. Combine tarragon and next 5 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add 1½ tablespoons oil, stirring constantly with a whisk.

5. Place potatoes and corn in a large bowl and drizzle with dressing while still warm; toss gently to coat. Add zucchini mixture and tomatoes and toss gently to combine.

Serves: 6
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: OK; can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or chilled

Friday, June 11, 2010


Further proof (as if I needed it) that David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop is an invaluable investment: A few weeks ago, two friends of mine visited me from Minnesota and we took a short roadtrip up to the central coast. For sustenance, we brought along a large bag of oranges from the farmers’ market—but then we stopped for dinner at a mutual friend’s parents’ house in Santa Barbara and they gave us a lovely parting gift (in the manner of Southern Californians) of a huge sack of oranges and lemons from their backyard tree, so even after three days of snacking, we came home with more oranges than we’d started with. I like eating oranges, but with strawberries and cherries and peaches and nectarines all coming into season, they’re not the first thing I reach for when I want some fruit. So I needed some sort of tasty recipe that used up a lot of oranges (sure, I could just juice them, but where’s the fun in that?), and naturally I thought, “I wonder if I could make orange ice cream?”

Of course I can, and The Perfect Scoop has the recipe. Now, orange is not my favorite fruit flavor. When I was a kid, the orange popsicles were always the last ones left languishing in the variety pack, getting sticky and syrupy in that weird way old popsicles do, until I would reluctantly finish them off (or foist them on unsuspecting friends) because my parents insisted that I finish the box before they would buy another. And don’t even get me started on the sad occasions at a relative’s house when the promised “ice cream for dessert” turned out to be just orange sherbet, which as far as I was concerned was practically health food in disguise. But I did have a soft spot for Creamsicles (or Dreamsicles, as we used to call them—was that just the knock-off brand? If so, it no longer seems to exist). Sure, I’d rather have a Drumstick or an ice cream sandwich any day, but if those weren’t available, a Creamsicle still made a worthy frozen treat, superior to the lowly everyday Popsicle. I still buy them occasionally, for that nostalgic vanilla-orange taste (plus there are now raspberry ones, which are even better).

So I was excited to see that not only did Lebovitz have an orange ice cream recipe, but he was comparing it to a Creamsicle. And indeed, although a whiff of vanilla would amp up the similarity, it does taste like a creamy orange popsicle—but even better, of course, what with the freshly squeezed orange juice and lack of corn syrup. At first I was ambivalent; it tasted quite sweet and…well, intensely orangey. But to my surprise, by the time we’d finished off the batch, I’d fallen in love. This is precisely the kind of unique recipe that makes it so thrilling to have an ice cream maker. I’d still probably turn down storebought orange sherbet if it was offered to me, but I ended up making this two times in a row. It’s refreshingly citrusy yet without the pucker of lemon, and (in California at least, with our juicy, plentiful oranges) you can make it cheaply all year round. Orange you glad I gave it a try? (Sorry; couldn't resist.)

I don’t know if it’s because the temperature’s on the rise or just because it contains fruit juice instead of a puree, but both times I made this, it came out of the ice cream maker fairly runny, rather than thick and fluffy like my first sour-cream-based ice cream. I was worried this would lead to a melty or icy finished product, but I stuck it in the freezer anyway and was rewarded with perfectly textured ice cream; I think the alcohol saved the day by preventing it from freezing too hard.

⅔cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 oranges, preferably unsprayed
1¼ cups freshly squeezed orange juice (from 4 or 5 large oranges)
1 cup sour cream
½ cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or another orange liqueur

1. In a blender, pulverize the sugar and orange zest until the zest is very fine. Add the orange juice, sour cream, half-and-half, and Grand Marnier and blend until the sugar is completely dissolved.

2. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then process it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Yields: About 1 quart
Time: 15 minutes of active work, plus chilling and processing time
Leftover potential: Good

Thursday, June 10, 2010


After discovering a love for quinoa, I started searching online for interesting, good-quality recipes that used it. But I didn’t find as many as I expected, mainly because most people seem to use quinoa as an improvisational platform—throw some random vegetables and herbs and maybe a dressing on there and call it a day. There’s nothing wrong with that, but (a) as a quinoa newbie and habitual rule-follower I was looking for specific instructions; and (b) most of these quinoa creations began to look suspiciously similar after a while. Who knew it might be so hard to find fresh and unique quinoa ideas? This one from Gourmet jumped out at me initially because I always get obsessive about eating fresh corn at this time of year, and secondly because the honey-butter dressing sounded strange and intriguing.

The method here is a little annoying; the quinoa is first boiled and then steamed, which the recipe claims will ensure “an unbelievably light and fluffy texture.” I’m not sure I noticed that much of a difference from quinoa cooked the regular way, although admittedly most of the pain of the steaming method came from my worries about which sieve to use—I have to use my fine-mesh one for rinsing raw quinoa because the raw grains are so teeny, but that sieve is too small to hold the quinoa once it’s cooked and expanded, so I had to use the colander/pasta insert that fits atop my saucepan, and I kept worrying that the grains of quinoa would fall through the larger holes, but mostly they clumped together obligingly and stayed put. Once that was resolved, it was a little awkward, but not terribly time-consuming, and in all other respects the recipe is fairly easy (although I hate cutting corn kernels off the cob—they fly everywhere!). I did fear that the dressing plus the corn would make for a too-sweet concoction, but that wasn’t the case; actually, it had a really subtle (almost too subtle?) flavor, mostly of mint and corn. It’s not my favorite quinoa dish (that honor goes to quinoa tabbouleh), but it’s light, pretty, refreshing, and versatile (it can be eaten warm, room-temperature, or cold, making it a nice work lunch or picnic dish), so I’ll probably make it again at some point.

Two tips: Thanks to this recipe, I now always boil my corn in the husk; not only is the corny flavor intensified this way, but it’s easier to shuck afterward (you don’t have to tug as hard to get the leaves off, and the silk seems to behave itself more instead of sticking to everything). And also, as you can see in the photo, I threw some crumbled feta atop this and it was quite good.

2 ears corn, shucked
1½ teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1½ teaspoons mild honey
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup quinoa (about 5 oz)
2 scallions, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
Crumbled feta (optional)

1. Put corn in a deep, wide pot, then add water to cover and bring to a boil, covered. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer corn with tongs to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, cut kernels off cobs with a large heavy knife.

2. Meanwhile, bring salted water to a boil in a 2-to-4-quart pot for cooking the quinoa.

3. Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a large sieve each time. Add quinoa to boiling water and cook, uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve, then fill the same pot with 1 inch of water, bring to a simmer, and set sieve over pot (water should not touch bottom of sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then cover sieve with a lid (don't worry if lid doesn't fit tightly) and steam until quinoa is tender, fluffy, and dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand (still covered) 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, whisk together lemon zest and juice, butter, honey, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until combined.

5. Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in corn, scallions, mint, and salt and pepper to taste. Top with crumbled feta if desired.

Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


I’ve made these four or five times without managing to post them here, partly because I was still tinkering with the process and partly because I could never really get a good-looking photo of them. But now that I’ve recommended them as a side dish for BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches, I’d better get on with it. I feel a little shaky giving direction on this one because I cobbled it together from a couple of different recipes and can never quite remember the exact steps I’ve followed from one batch to the next, so it turns out a little different every time and the method is more intuitive/improvisational than my usual approach. OK, it’s not like making sweet potato fries is rocket science: Throw some sweet potato pieces in an oven with some oil and you’re probably going to get something pretty tasty unless you burn them. There are a million oven-fried sweet potato recipes out there, and individual tastes vary so widely regarding fry thickness, crispness, brownness, etc. that there’s no way to claim this is as by any means the “best” approach. But it suits me, so here we go.

When initially struck by the sweet-potato-fry craving, I turned to Mollie Katzen’s recipe in The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without (Serious Eats has it online here). On the plus side, Katzen’s clever trick of finishing the fries in a low-temperature oven to dry them out and crisp them up ensured that the end results were distinctly fry-like, rather than just being roasted sweet potatoes in disguise. But the downside was significant: Scrupulously following Katzen’s ¼-inch sizing guidelines yielded fries that were much too thin for my taste. They were crispy all right, but verging on desiccated, with the same crunchy texture all the way through, whereas I like a good balance between crisp shell and tender interior. Their sweet potato flavor had subsided into the browned, anonymous taste of veggie chips. They weren’t necessarily unpleasant—except for the ones that got outright burnt, a hazard of too-thin pieces—but they didn’t quite satisfy my desire for sweet potato fries either.

For the next round, I tried a recipe from Pinch My Salt that featured a number of useful improvements. Leaving the skin on helped give a more rustic, fry-like flavor, texture, and appearance and perhaps a tiny bit of extra fiber, with the welcome side effect of simplifying the prep work. Even though it dirtied an extra bowl, tossing the fries with the oil (for some reason Katzen just oils the baking sheet, not the actual potatoes) helped immensely in making me feel like my fries had been actually fried, not just dried. The fries were thick enough to maintain their soft orange interiors and avoid burning. Still, at the end of the cooking time I found myself lowering the temperature and crisping them up a bit per Katzen’s method. And as for the rosemary-garlic paste, it was good, but not amazing enough for me to go through the extra effort every time; a lot of the added flavor got lost for me once the fries had browned.

So, in the end, I use Katzen’s oven temperatures with Pinch My Salt’s skin-on, slightly-larger, oil-and-salt-tossed method, but I use my own judgment as needed. I can be inconsistent in slicing my fries, so they vary somewhat in size (¼ inch is definitely too skinny, but sometimes ½ inch just looks too chunky, although it’s good to remember that the potatoes do shrink somewhat while baking), and inevitably some of them verge on too browned while others lean toward too soft, but I kind of like the variety—that way there’s something for every taste! And the majority of them are just right.

One final tip: These are plenty good plain, but if you want a dipping sauce, forget the ketchup. Sweet potato fries + barbecue sauce is where it’s at.

2 medium-large sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)
1 to 1½ tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil (optional, but helpful).

2. Scrub sweet potatoes and cut them lengthwise into (approximately) ½-inch-thick slices. Stacking two slices together, cut them into (approximately) ½-inch-thick strips.

3. Put the sweet potato strips into a large bowl with olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Toss well to coat. Arrange the fries on the baking sheet in a single layer.

4. Bake for 10 minutes, then use tongs or a spatula to turn the fries over, rotate the pan, and bake for another 10 minutes or until tender and browned. If you like softer fries, taken them out of the oven; if you prefer crisper ones, turn the heat down to 200 degrees and bake for up to 20 minutes more, until they have shrunk and dried a bit. Watch them closely during the whole baking process and be sure not to let them burn.

5. Remove fries from oven and salt to taste.

Serves: 2
Time: 35–45 minutes
Leftover potential: Poor, but not hopeless. These are best when fresh from the oven, and it’s rare that we have leftovers, but A has satisfactorily reheated them in the microwave the next day (although I'm sure the texture becomes more like roasted sweet potato than like fries), so do save them if you can’t finish them.

Friday, June 04, 2010


I rarely make sandwiches, except for grilled cheeses and BLTs, but something about summer and all the accompanying glossy magazine photo spreads of picnics and barbeques makes me long for breezy, crowd-pleasing, down-home, checkered-tablecloth fare. This recipe from Cooking Light fit the bill admirably; it’s fast and easy enough to throw together on a weeknight, not too junky, and thoroughly delicious, with a complex sweet-sour-spicy flavor. (The original recipe title was “Black Pepper and Molasses Pulled Chicken Sandwiches,” but I've changed it because (a) it'll never get called that around our house and (b) it's odd to me that black pepper gets marquee billing when it's not especially prevalent in the sauce.) A few recipe commenters griped that the sauce wasn’t spicy enough, but mine had plenty of kick, probably because I substituted chipotle chili powder for part of the regular stuff, which I highly recommend for added heat and smokiness. I’m definitely glad that I took the advice of the majority of commenters and doubled the original sauce-to-chicken proportion; everyone who didn’t complained that there wasn’t enough sauce. (I’ve incorporated that change, and a few related method tweaks, into the recipe below.) I actually quadrupled the sauce quantities because I was doubling the amount of chicken—the thighs I bought came in a 1½-pound package and the commenters said the chicken mixture freezes well, so I figured what the hell? But the rolls we bought at the farmers’ market (so tasty!) were larger than 2 ounces, like small hoagie rolls, so we ate more chicken per serving than Cooking Light dictates, and A enjoyed the meal so much that within a few days, all the leftovers were gone before I could even freeze them. Upscale sloppy joes FTW!

This meal was so successful that I’m already planning to make it again just two weeks later (yes, I’m behind on my posting; I was on vacation!)—complete with sweet potato oven fries on the side, which are perfect for dipping into any leftover sauce.

6 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons prepared mustard (i.e., not mustard powder; I used Dijon)
2 tablespoons molasses
1½ teaspoons chili powder (swap in chipotle chili powder for ½ teaspoon of the regular if you like)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces (I just realized I totally neglected to do this the first time around, but they turned out just fine anyway; I think it just helps them cook fast enough to meet Cooking Light’s “30-minute meals” criteria)
4 (2-ounce) sandwich rolls, sliced in half horizontally
Dill pickle slices

1. Combine all ingredients except rolls and pickles in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes or until chicken is done and tender (you can cook longer if you wish). If sauce looks too thin, simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Remove chicken from saucepan with a slotted spoon, reserving sauce in pan. Place chicken on a cutting board and shred with two forks. Place chicken in a bowl and mix in reserved sauce (start with ½ cup) until desired consistency is reached. (Any leftover sauce makes a good dip for sweet potato fries!)

3. Place chicken on rolls and top with pickles.

Serves: 4
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: Good (obviously, store leftover chicken, pickles, and rolls separately!)

Thursday, June 03, 2010


Until I moved to California, I had never tasted a fresh apricot. I’m not sure I’d even seen one before. I may not have even given a thought to their existence, although if I’d considered it, of course I would have realized that the dried ones had to come from somewhere. But it’s not like I sit around eating dried apricots all the time anyway.

Nowadays I’m getting to be an old pro at this Californian thing, so I get happy when fresh apricots start showing up at the farmers’ market in the spring. I’ll admit, however, that my happiness springs less from my and enjoyment of the apricots themselves and more from the fact that they herald the beginning of stone-fruit season. It turns out that I think fresh apricots are OK, but they don’t hold a candle to nectarines or peaches or even plums in my affection. Still, when I suddenly realized that I need to start making ice cream in all the fresh fruit flavors of my dreams NOW NOW NOW before it gets too hot, I turned to apricots because they’re the most genuinely in season. And of course, David Lebovitz had a recipe for fresh apricot ice cream in The Perfect Scoop. And it involved almond extract, my favorite!

Lebovitz encourages you to use super-ripe, squishy apricots, but I may have been a little early in the season because I had trouble finding ones that weren’t hard. Yeah, I could have waited a few days for them to ripen, but I wanted to make the ice cream right away because I had time that day and I’m impatient like that. So I asked the fruit-stand proprietor if he had any overripe apricots and he pointed me to a box behind the counter where the softer, bruised and dented specimens were tossed. Even those weren’t crazy ripe, mostly just bruised here and there, but I got them for the bargain price of 80 cents (as opposed to the normal price of $2.50)!

The ice cream was easy to make (slice apricots, simmer in water, stir in sugar, blend with other ingredients) and churned up nice and fluffy. At first I was a little disappointed with the flavor—it was on the tart side (maybe because of the ripeness issue) and I couldn’t taste the almond, just intense apricotiness. But after a few days—I don’t know if the flavors developed in the freezer or if my mood just shifted or what—I started to really love it. It was so fresh, unique, and summery; it’s like I finally understand what fresh apricots are for, and I feel lucky to have access to them.

1 pound squishy-ripe fresh apricots (10–16, depending on size)
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 drops almond extract
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Slice the apricots open and remove the pits, then cut each apricot into sixths. Cook them with the water in a covered medium saucepan over medium heat until tender, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

2. Puree the apricots and any liquid in a blender or food processor until smooth. (If there are little fibers left, you can strain the mixture through a sieve.) Stir in the cream, almond extract, and lemon juice. Chill mixture thoroughly.

3. Process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Yields:1 quart
Time: About 20 minutes of active work, plus a few hours of chilling, plus processing time
Leftover potential: Good, for about a week