slumped, an apricot tart
After a few weeks of strange weather, pouring rain and the like which we don’t often see in spring here, summer has finally arrived, whooshed in really, hot and full and a bit oppressive. The heat, I mean. I love it, really I do, it’s just that I’m not used to it yet, and it makes me want to loll about, taking naps and eating granita. In actuality, I’ve been working hard in spite of the heat, especially focused on the garden at the moment. Beans and trellises for them and tomatoes and melons and zucchini and eggplant, basil, parsley, cucumber, sunflowers, pumpkin, hydrangeas all went in a few weeks back and they are doing well. Gardening is really a trial and error, for me at least, and I finally feel like I’m understanding what works to grow here and what doesn't. It’s all good fun though, and very rewarding work.
We only have one summer bearing fruit tree in our yard, a Santa Rosa plum, its trunk as twisted and gnarled as arthritic old hands, what my mom scared me into imagining mine would be like when she used to warn me against cracking my knuckles. It makes damn good plums, but I’m greedy and want all sorts of fruit, especially apricots, one of my favorites. Good apricots these days are hard to come by. Grocery store ones and even sometimes ones from the farmers market can be pale and taste disappointingly insipid. When I was small, we used to drive out to my grandmother’s friends property and pick her trees. They were Royal Blenheim apricots, which are sunset orange with shoulders that looked like mine after a day at the river, freckled and burnished. They have an intense honeyed taste with the perfect balance of tart and sweet. Her trees were old, old ones, and they made teensy fruit, some smaller than a walnut. We’d line wooden lugboxes with newspaper and pick them full of fruit, little orange treasures. My mom’s kitchen would buzz in a flurry of canning and baking as we raced against time to process them before they rotted (very quickly for this variety). The pit has intense flavor, like a bitter almond, and my mom would put one or two in each canning jar for flavoring.
Royal Blenheims, a very old European variety once grown extensively in California, have sadly been grown less and less over the years, as many farmers rip them and other orchards out and turn to growing nuts here in California. Nuts are less risk and more reward than stonefruit and the market for nuts has boomed especially as non dairy milk products become more popular. But you can still find these apricots here and there if you know where to look, and a local to us farm has some trees that you can pick alongside strawberries. We took a drive out there and picked them both, the teeniest most fragrant strawberries and those apricots, too. It was hot, even though we went in the morning, sweat dripping and stinging eyes as we picked, backs aching, the hot sweet smell of the sun bleached earth and grass heavy in the air. I said a silent little prayer of gratitude for all the farm workers who do this thankless, hard labor day after day.
We got home and I made this tart, simple as usual, to really taste the apricots, still warm from the sun as I halved and pitted them. It was meant to be, really, only a handful on the tree were ripe enough, and so I only brought 7 home, but they fit exactly perfectly in my tart pan, not too much nor too little.
Even if you do not bake, you can make this. It’s very easy. First, make your favorite single crust tart or pie dough (if it’s the rolling out of dough that scares you, this press in one works a treat) and line a tart pan with it, spread the bottom with a glossy, thin layer of apricot jam, and layer halved apricots over it, cut side down. Sprinkle a few pistachios in between the negative space and some sugar over that, more if your apricots aren’t perfectly ripe or sweet, less if they are. You will know how much. Then slide into a hot oven and bake until the juices are bubbling and the crust is lightly browned, with the apricots wrinkling and slumping in the pan. Let it cool before slicing, I always think when it’s hot it’s just not as full flavored, also the juices won’t set before then.
a few thoughts- you could definitely do this with other small stone fruit, plums come to mind, although if your fruit is very juicy, I recommend tossing a bit of cornstarch with the sugar or spreading a thin layer of marzipan over the crust so it doesn’t get soggy. The pistachios are optional, but beautiful and delicious. And if your crust is browning too fast before the fruit is cooked fully, cover with aluminum foil folded around the outer bit.
apricot and pistachio tart
a batch of single crust pie/tart dough, chilled and ready to roll
a tart pan
a few spoons apricot jam, I like Bonne Maman
7-10 ripe, soft apricots, enough to fit your pan
sugar to taste, I used 1-2 tbsp
a small handful shelled, raw, unsalted pistachios
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Roll the dough out in a circle a bit larger than your tart pan. Lay the dough into the pan and press into the edges, trimming as necessary. Spread a thin layer of jam over the dough. Halve the apricots and place them, cut side down, snugly into the pan. Sprinkle the pistachios around them and sprinkle over the sugar. Pop into the hot oven and cook until the pastry is golden and the juices are bubbling thickly and apricots are wrinkled and a bit slumped. Let cool on a cooling rack before slicing.