Spiced Apricots with Cardamom and Rosewater

People generally think of farmers markets as benign places: frolicking children, adults enjoying the fresh air, smiling sunflowers.  But twice in the last couple years, my local farmers market has been a place where the worst side of our nature has come out, the innocence of that bucolic beauty marred by ugly violence.  Of course I’m referring to the trash-talking that precedes the biannual pie contest.

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I will admit to all the world that I am one of the ugly offenders.  I have a very specific sort of competitive streak; I’ve never been very good at sports, and I’m certainly not the strongest, fastest, smartest, or even funniest.  But I know what I am capable of, and in certain situations I will push myself relentlessly to achieve it.  So when I first found out about the summer fruit pie contest back in 2011, I immediately set my mind to winning.

My pie had to be memorable.  To stand out from the crowd, a pie needs one of two things, if not both: an outstanding crust, or a creative filling.  In this case the filling had to highlight summer fruit at its peak of perfection, but it needed a twist that would make the judges perk up in their seat a little.  My first attempt was indeed memorable, but not in a good way.  Wanting to play with the pie’s visual aspects and texture, I hit on the unfortunate combination of blueberries and tapioca, in a pie that elicited negative comparisons to fish eggs.  One look and I knew it was back to the drawing board.

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I mused over other, more radical ideas: what truly constitutes a pie?  What are the minimum characteristics needed to qualify for the contest?  What about a deconstructed pie–an inverted pie–a mathematical pie (oh the fodder for puns)?  Finally I asked myself: is it better to be clever or to be a good baker?  Did I want to make the judges laugh, raise an eyebrow, or reach for another slice?  And thus this simple apricot filling was born.

Apricots are a natural partner for cardamom, rosewater, orange blossom water, or anything with floral notes.  When cooked, their tartness and bright flavor concentrates into the essence of summer.  I poured these apricots over a pre-baked tart shell made with whole wheat pastry flour and flaked coconut, topped it with pistachios, and knew I had a winner on my hands.

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That’s when I became more or less insufferable whenever someone mentioned the pie contest.  I wouldn’t reveal my secrets–wouldn’t even divulge the fruit I was using–but I let everyone know they would have to step up their game.  Lest you think of me as a bully, I sure got as good as I gave (you know who you are).  And when the dust settled I think we all knew we had acted in ways that were unbefitting a farmers market–but also entirely necessary in such a serious situation.

Lately I’ve found that the recipe works equally as well on its own as it does in a tart shell.  We’ve eaten them with vanilla ice cream, ricotta, pound cake–you name it.  It’s also suitable for water-bath canning, so it’s a simple way to preserve a large amount of apricots with something more interesting than sugar syrup.  This past weekend I canned 10 pints of these lightly-spiced fragrant apricots, and I know that when we open them in the depths of winter, they will taste exactly like summer–and a little like victory as well.

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Spiced Apricots with Cardamom and Rosewater
For one 8″ tart:

1 lb. apricots, halved and pitted
1/2 C + 6 T water
6 T honey
1 cardamom pod
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 t rosewater

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cook until apricots are soft and just falling apart.  Remove apricots with a slotted spoon and reduce syrup until it coats the back of a spoon.  Remove spices, return apricots to the syrup, and simmer one more minute.  Pour into prepared tart crust and top with 1/4 C chopped pistachios.

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1 Comment

Filed under Recipes

One response to “Spiced Apricots with Cardamom and Rosewater

  1. Andrew

    Gabbi , your introspection should help you grow as an individual; we cannot all be perfect…
    We should also be getting together for some gin-based drinks soon!

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