Apricot Brûlée: Roasted and Caramelized Apricots with Greek Yogurt and Lemon

Apricot Brûlée: Roasted and Caramelized Apricots with Greek Yogurt and Lemon

This apricot dessert has a few secrets. Not only is it sublime, it’s healthy and relatively low-fat. Its secret ingredient is Greek yogurt – a wondrous whole milk product which is richly thick, creamy and tart. Its secret technique is to use ingredients which are simple, fresh and in season – which isn’t really a secret, but a golden rule for cooking. Freshness and simplicity showcase great natural flavor and preclude the need to over-fuss ingredients.

The sumptuous results belie the ease and healthiness of these brûléed apricots. A little sugar is sprinkled over each apricot half, which are broiled until the sugar dissolves and begins to caramelize. As this happens, the fruit softens and breaks down, virtually melting into itself, held together by its soft skin with a puddle of caramelized sugar pooled in the center. Whisked Greek yogurt, lightly sweetened and brightened with lemon, is spooned over the top or to the side of the fruit – you decide – serving as a cool complement to the apricot’s warmth. It’s a luscious and fresh end to any meal. Your guests will be licking their plates.

Apricot Brûlée

Serves 4 to 6

6 ripe but not too mushy apricots, halved and pitted.
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, plus extra for garnish
3/4 cup Greek-style whole milk yogurt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest, plus extra for garnish

1. Heat the oven broiler or prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat.
2. Mix the 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the brown sugar in a small bowl.
3. If broiling, arrange the fruit, skin-side up, in an oven-proof skillet or on a baking sheet. If grilling, arrange the apricots skin-side up on the grill or in a grill pan.
4. Grill until the apricots begin to turn light golden. Flip the apricots and sprinkle the sugars evenly over each half. Continue to broil or grill until the centers are bubbly and beginning to caramelize, 3 to 5 minutes. Divide the apricots between serving plates.
5. Whisk the yogurt, the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest together in a small bowl. Spoon a little yogurt over each apricot half (or spoon on the side of the plate). Sprinkle with a little brown sugar and extra lemon zest for garnish.

Apricot Tarte Tatin

Apricot Tatin tf

I love the rustic presentation of Tarte Tatins. When I think of rustic desserts I think of cobblers and crisps, trifles and crostatas. I think of families and recipes passed down through the generations, and I think of the countryside, whether it’s in Europe or the U.S.  Comforting and inviting, rustic desserts are like the favorite pullover you reach for on a cold afternoon: warm, cozy, tried and true.

Rustic baking is beautiful to behold in its own imperfect way. It isn’t fussy and and is forgiving in its portions. The food begs to be shared – plunked in the middle of a farmhouse table and served to a crowd of family and friends. And it also tastes good – really good. Caramelized and squidgy, buttery and crunchy are all adjectives that leap to mind. It’s the stuff that childhood memories are made of – comfort food at its best.

This apricot tarte tatin is a twist on the rustic French dessert that features apples. Apples are not required, however, for a delicious Tarte Tatin. Any fruit that can be slow cooked in butter and sugar without dissolving will work: pears, plums, peaches and apricots.

Apricot Tarte Tatin
Serves 10-12

This pastry is very easy to prepare. The finished result is crumbly and buttery, a perfect complement to the caramelized apricots. Sour cream may be substituted for the cream cheese.

For the cream cheese pastry:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/3 cup cream cheese

For the apricot filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
12 apricots, about 3 pounds, halved and pitted

1 egg, lightly beaten

Prepare pastry:
Blend flour, sugar and salt in bowl of electric mixer. Add butter and beat at medium-low speed until butter is pea-sized, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and beat until moist clumps form, 1 minute. Gather dough in ball, flatten and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour. (Dough may be made one day ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Let soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Prepare tart:
Spread butter over bottom of large oven-proof skillet (preferably cast iron) with sloping sides. Sprinkle 3/4 cup sugar over butter. Heat over medium heat until butter melts, sugar begins to dissolve and mixture begins to bubble, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Arrange apricots, skin-side down, in a circular pattern in the skillet. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar.

Return skillet to stovetop. Cook over medium heat until a thick amber colored syrup forms, repositioning skillet to ensure even cooking, 25-30 minutes.
While the apricots are cooking, preheat oven to 425 F. Roll out pastry on floured surface or parchment paper to a round shape to fit size of skillet. When the apricots are sufficiently caramelized remove skillet from heat and lay pastry over apricots. Cut 4 slits in top of pastry. Press pastry down around edge of skillet and apricots. Brush with egg.
Bake in oven until pastry is deep golden brown, 25 minutes. Remove and let rest one minute. Run knife around edge of tart. Place a large platter over skillet. Using oven mitts, hold skillet and platter together and invert tart onto platter. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Grilled Nectarines and Apricots with Greek Yogurt, Honey and Thyme

Grilled Nectarines and Apricot

It’s the final stretch of summer, and the month of August is digging in its heels as autumn approaches.  The days are slow and lazy, as the summer sun falls a little lower in the sky, casting lavender and peach hues in the steamy horizon.  Life is simple, and food is easy, cool and sweet, especially in the fruit department.  Eliptically shaped watermelons, weighing more than a stuffed picnic basket, are cut up and slurped for their refreshing liquid and sweetness. Ripe cantalope melons vie for attention, equally sweet and easy to eat – either dressed up, all fancy, on a plate with salty prosciutto or simply eaten by the wedge.  Stone fruits stack our bowls: Nectarines, peaches, apricots and plums mingle in teetering piles, perfumed, tangy, and juicy, begging to be eaten with the promise of a quick pick-me-up when the heat wilts our energy and appetite. Summer eating doesn’t get better than this with no fuss and no kitchen heat.  In fact, the only heat action, beyond the sun, is on the barbeque, where, not surprisingly, many of these fruits are quite compatible with our favorite summer activity: grilling.

Grilling fruit is not about cooking, but intensifying the flavor and sweetness of the fruit.  The grilling process enhances the fruit as the natural sugars begin to caramelize while the fruit browns.  Many types of fruit can be grilled, such as melon, stone fruit, pineapple, mangoes, apples and pears.  Have fun experimenting, remembering to lightly oil the fruit before grilling and not to let the fruit blacken too much, because it will become bitter.  Grilled fruit can be used with sweet and savory dishes, incorporated into salads and salsas or starring in a dessert such as this:

Grilled Nectarines and Apricots

Grilled Nectarines and Apricots with Greek Yogurt, Honey and Thyme
Serves 6

3 nectarines, halved, pitted
6 apricots, halved, pitted
Vegetable oil
Whole milk Greek-style yogurt, room temperature, stirred to soften
Thyme sprigs

Prepare grill for medium-hot heat. Halve the fruit and remove the pits.  Lightly oil the cut side of the fruit.  Place cut side down over direct medium-hot heat.  Cook until char marks appear, 3-4 minutes. Arrange fruit, cut-side up, on plates.  Serve with a spoonful of Greek yogurt.  Drizzle yogurt and fruit with honey.  Garnish with thyme sprigs.