The apricot — all heady scent, velvet touch, supple bite — harbors a secret. Cut along its cleft line and twist to reveal brilliant flesh and heart of darkness. The rugged pit hides an almond-shaped kernel tinged with cyanide.
Boring the fan of murder mystery. The villainous chef would have to grind a lot of stones to prep any dastardly dish.
Still, the pit holds power. Consider the many alluring recipes for apricot-kernel custard, jam and gelato. Most begin by toasting the seed and end with a warning: The potentially toxic treat is best prepared by the pastry professional.
The home cook sticks with apricot flesh, which is wholly wholesome. Poached and chilled it makes a healthful breakfast, snack or dessert. And not that kind of just deserts!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 18 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
4 ripe apricots
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 vanilla bean
1 Slice: Rinse apricots. Halve each along its cleft line. Twist open. Lift out and discard pits.
2. Boil: In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, water and lemon juice. Split vanilla bean the long way; scrape out seeds with the back of a knife blade. Drop in seeds and pod. Bring to a boil; boil 1 minute.
3. Simmer: Slide in apricots; lower heat so that syrup barely shudders around the fruit. Cover and cook, turning apricots once, until they are tender and still hold their shape, a total of 5 to 10 minutes, depending on size and ripeness of the fruit. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out apricots (leave any skins in the water), and let the fruit cool.
4. Reduce: Turn up heat under saucepan, and reduce contents to a thick syrup, about 5 minutes. Strain into a glass measuring cup. Let cool a few minutes.
5. Cool: Pour syrup over apricots. Cover and chill.
6. Serve: Enjoy apricots, along with syrup, over yogurt, under whipped cream, alongside a slice of pound cake or solo. All good.
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