Grilled Apricots with Cardamom Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

Dear Oven,

It’s not you, it’s me. I’m not saying we should fully break up, but maybe just take a little time off? Perhaps see other appliances?

You’re really awesome and I have so much fun with you, but recently things have been tough. Every time we come together I get all cranky and sweaty and you kind of just sit there, pushing all that heat into an already hot room.

I know there isn’t much you can do about that so maybe we’ll just come back together in the fall when we’ve each had some time to cool off?

Let me know,

Sarit

It’s too hot. Or at least it was this past week. And all my cooking plans melted away as I lay around wishing for a cold pool to magically appear. (It didn’t)

Instead, I turned to the stovetop to grill up these amazing farm-fresh apricots.

Grilling fruit is always a good idea. It caramelizes the surface and transforms the texture. Peaches, plums, pineapple…seriously everything.

I wanted to create a perfect summery bite that was savory and sweet. I’ve been experimenting for different dinners and events coming up, and I’m happy to report this recipe is a keeper.

What I love about this recipe is that it straddles the line between salad/app and dessert. The pepperiness of the arugula and basil meet with the sweetness of the fruit and honey. The cheese makes it hearty and creamy and the nuts add texture and the bridge between savory and sweet. You can tell, I’ve thought a lot about this.
In making this, I had one of those really great neighbor moments. When I was pulling my ingredients together, I couldn’t find my cardamom pods. I turned my kitchen inside out, but they didn’t surface. I texted Ari who replied “I don’t remember ever seeing cardamom pods”. Then I wondered if I made them up. So I reached out to my friend and neighbor asking her if she had what I needed, and she did! I popped over and fell all neighborly as I borrowed her jar of cardamom.

Of course, later that night when I was cleaning up the kitchen I found the pods hiding in a bowl I would never have checked. Maybe it’s time to get more organized?

Speaking of neighbors, the honey I used for this came from a friend (and sort of neighbor…in NYC at least) who keeps bees in Brooklyn. It’s so cool (and delicious) to use “homemade” honey. High fives for awesome friends!

These bites are perfectly summery and would go with anything. Fo reals.

So have you been to your farmer’s market recently? What have you bought and what summery foods are you making?

Grilled Apricots with Cardamom Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

 
Grilled Apricots with Cardamom Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts
Ingredients
  • 6-7 apricots
  • Olive oil
  • Sea Salt
  • 4 oz goat cheese, left at room temp for half an hour
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1.5 Tbsp honey
  • ¼ cup of hazelnuts/filberts, toasted, peeled, and crushed
  • Basil (8-10 leaves)
  • Arugula
Instructions
  1. Fire up your grill or griddle (I bet a George Foreman would work too) to a medium heat.
  2. Slice apricots top to bottom and remove pits. Brush the cut side with olive oil and lay on the griddle cut side down. Let it cook 8-10 minutes. It will release itself when it's done. If it's done but won't come off the grill use a little more oil on the next batch. As they come off the heat, sprinkle a little sea salt over them. Set aside to cool.
  3. Place your goat cheese in a large bowl and, using a hand mixer, beat it for a couple of minutes until it breaks down and becomes creamy. Add the cardamom and ½ Tbsp of honey to the cheese and blend together well.
  4. Using a teaspoon measure, scoop out little balls of cheese and stuff the apricot halves. Crack a little fresh black pepper over each half.
  5. Tightly roll up the basil leaves together and cut thin ribbons.
  6. Place arugula on a plate and arrange the apricot halves with cheese on top. Sprinkle the hazelnuts and basil over the apricots and arugula. Drizzle remaining honey over the dish. Serve warm or at room temperature. If you refrigerate these, let them come to room temp before serving otherwise the goat cheese will be more crumbly and less creamy.

Summer Cherry Salad

Things that come from the ground are my friends. All year round I’m steaming, frying, roasting, chopping, and devouring tons of fresh produce. Salads however I have a complicated relationship with. I rarely crave a simple salad unless it’s over 90 degrees outside. I’m a little envious of the people who actually look excited while in the lunch line for their custom salad creations.

But when it gets hot, all I want are salads.

Total side note: Mark Bittman put something together years ago that’s still my summer salad bible. Behold: 101 Simple Salads for the Season

Cherries have arrived, and as my favorite summer fruit (well, they tie for first with blueberries), they get plenty of special attention.

When Ari and I visited Turkey a couple years back we got to know cherries through new eyes. They were used in so many recipes, drinks, and candies and even as fresh fruit chasers after downing a shot of raki. Many of my favorite Turkish dishes were perfectly crafted combinations of sweet and sour, or sweet and tart. Cherries fit that profile so nicely and this salad is a twist on a Turkish one.

The salad also has pomegranate molasses in it, which if you haven’t read many of my posts, is one of my all-time favorite ingredients (which I first learned about in Istanbul).  I really recommend stocking your pantry with it, you’ll find so many delicious uses for it!

Something else you might have heard me sing the praises of is a cherry pitter. Once upon a time I thought it was a silly kitchen tool that I didn’t need cluttering my precious drawer space. Oh how I was wrong! This little tool has come in so handy both with cherries and with olives. It keeps whatever you’re pitting intact and beautiful. Trust me. Get it. You’ll use it.
The original recipe calls for a chili that I’m not familiar with (and can’t find), so I’ve substituted jalapeño’s which add a good heat to what’s already sweet, tart, savory, and fresh. (Is fresh an ok word to describe cilantro? Only answer that if, to you, cilantro doesn’t taste like soap.)
I’m adding this salad to my list of good things for outdoor eating. Well, maybe not for the White Picnic (my grace+cherries = irreparably stained clothing), but for all other gatherings in parks and backyards. Happy Summer Salad Season to all!
Summer Cherry Salad
Ingredients
  • 1lb cherries, pitted
  • ⅔ cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped
  • ⅓ of a bunch of cilantro
  • ½ a jalapeño, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1.5 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Mix together the cherries, walnuts, cilantro, and jalapeño in a large bowl.
  2. Add the dressing components directly to the bowl and stir together.
  3. Chill for an hour before serving. Restrain self from eating  the whole bowl.

Mint Syrup and Mojitos

This post was supposed to be about mint meringue cookies, and it’s not. Instead, this is a post about mint simple syrup and how to use it to make the best (that’s not hyperbole) mojitos. Clear out some refrigerator space, you’re going to want to keep this syrup on hand.

The creation of this syrup was fueled by wanting to make mint meringues that actually looked like mint meringues. Not that you wouldn’t believe me if I said a white meringue was mint flavored, but I wanted the cookie to visually match the description. Also, I don’t cook with food coloring so making them green that way wasn’t an option. 
Growing up we had mint growing around our house in different small patches that my father would cultivate every year, helping them to grow and spread. We used mint in cooking and especially for tea. In the ways of our family living in the Middle East, we would steep mint leaves in hot water and sugar to make mint tea, the perfect end to a big meal. Very quickly, the mint leaves got darker and by then end of the night they were muddy colored in little heaps at the bottom of the glass.

Mint turns black quickly once chopped or cooked. That’s why you’re often advised to wait till the last second to use it on your dish if you want the bright green color. I wanted the bright green color so I thought about blanching and set off online to look for advice or thoughts on blanching mint and making mint syrup.

I ended up reading a great article about making vibrant green mint simple syrup. I made the syrup and then when I was ready to make the meringues I prepared them Italian style which meant pouring super hot syrup into the egg whites as you’re beating them. I upped the sugar in my syrup, brought to temp, poured it in, made incredibly light and fluffy meringue, sloppily used a plastic bag with a corner cut off (I think I really need to invest in a basic pastry bag and tips), and piped out some mini mint meringue drops.

They were so delicious right out of the oven. The delicate wafer-like crispiness when you bit into them gave way to a beautiful mint flavor.  Then I left them to dry. And that’s when I learned I had failed.

Without thinking it through, I had made meringues on what would be the beginning of the most humid week we’ve had so far. The humidity didn’t let the cookies dry and as the wet in the air increased throughout the afternoon the cookies became sticky piles of egg whites and sugar melting into themselves. Hopefully, I’ll redo them one day to share the recipe. Failing in the kitchen is never fun.

As I mourned this mess the next couple days, it was becoming increasingly humid, hot, and straight up gross outside. So…mojitos.

Even though it’s a little extra work up front in making the syrup, once that’s done you’ll have it hanging out in your fridge and then putting together a mojito can happen incredibly fast. I was so excited by the recipe that I made a bunch throughout the week for friends who stopped by. Because who can say no to a mojito?
Here’s to summer and all the wonderful warm (and hopefully not too humid) days ahead!
Mint Syrup, adapted from this Food Republic recipe
*The original recipe calls for a 2:1 ratio of sugar and water to make a sweeter syrup. I prefer my drinks less sweet and a 1:1 ratio was spot-on! I often find mojitos to taste way too sugary, but this was really well-balanced and perfectly sweet.
Mint Syrup and Mojitos
Ingredients
Mint Syrup:
  • 7-10 sprigs of mint
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
Mojito (measurements for 1 drink):
  • 1 oz lime juice (about 1 lime well juiced)
  • 1 oz mint syrup
  • 2 oz white rum
  • 5 mint leaves torn up
  • Ice
Instructions
Mint Syrup:
  1. Make the simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small pot, and over medium heat, stir till the sugar is fully dissolved. Immediately remove from it from the heat and allow it to cool a little.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. While it's boiling prep a bowl with ice and cold water and set to the side.
  3. Using tongs, grip the mint stems and submerge the leaves in the water fully for 15 seconds. Remove them and immediately place them in the ice bath to cool. Leave them in the water for 1 minute.
  4. Take them out and remove the leaves from the stems, place them on paper towels, and pat dry.
  5. Combine the blanched mint leaves and simple syrup in a blender and blend on high until it's super well blended and you can't see any visible leaves (about 1 minute). Strain the syrup through a fine strainer and keep the syrup refrigerated until you're ready to use it!
Mojito:
  1. Combine the lime juice, mint syrup, and rum in a shaker with ice. Tear the mint leaves and add it to the shaker. Shake the ingredients well and strain over a glass of ice. Garnish with mint or lime and serve!