Friday, June 26, 2009

Move Complete - Made It, Just Barely!

I'm so overwhelmed and touched by all your kind words, dear readers! It must be all your good wishes that have left me with a smidgen of sanity these past few days. I'll never forget your support ladies, and am so grateful for it. As of two days ago, I officially became a Connecticutan ... erm, Connecticuter? ... hmmm, maybe I'll just stick with New Englander for now. Ok, so about the actual move, I won't lie to you; things got pretty hairy. It'll have to be a tale for another time though, because I think if I repeat it so soon after the fact, I might suffer from an aneurysm. I managed to get through the packing, and am smack in the middle of unpacking - which, as some of you so wisely pointed out, is not any easier. For one thing, I've never seen my ankles so swollen. Not the most attractive look for me.

The kitchen in the new apartment is slightly bigger than a closet, but at least has a window where I get pretty decent light throughout the day. I haven't cooked anything in it yet (unless you count
boiling eggs), and my fridge is a barren wasteland. So right now I can only reminisce about the nummy apricot treats that I was gorging on while I was still in NY.
In my previous post I mentioned that the apricot jam/compote I made was the key ingredient in a new grilled cheese sandwich I was feasting on? Well here's what I meant. Warning: Proceed with caution, especially if your knees go weak at the sight of melty, cheesy, toasty goodness.

Apricot Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Serves 1

Click here for printable recipe

2 slices sturdy rye bread
Homemade apricot compote
Sharp cheddar cheese, sliced 1/8 inch thick
Smoked Gouda cheese, sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 tbsp Butter

1. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a non-stick pan over med-low heat. Spread a layer of the apricot compote onto one slice of the bread. Cover with one layer of the smoked gouda, then another layer of sharp cheddar. Cap it off with the second slice of bread.
2. Lay it in the pan, and press down for 3-4 mins with a panini press, or just use a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Turn up the heat a little to make sure the bread is crisped well on the outside.

3. Add the remaining butter and flip the sandwich over to toast on the other side, for another 2-3 mins. Then take it out, devour in under 5 mins, and go back to the kitchen to make another one. Don't deny yourself this precious gem, folks.

Verdict: I made this sandwich for my lunch for 3 days in a row, till the apricot compote was all gone. The smoked gouda isn't the best melting cheese, but the flavor it adds to this divine concoction is surprisingly fabulous. Plus, the cheddar melts beautifully anyway. The apricot compote, with hints of cinnamon, has just the right amount of sweetness to compliment the savoury cheeses. And really, who can turn down a perfect grilled cheese sandwich, with its mix of crunch and ooze?!

I'm really excited to send in a shot of these grilled cheese morsels to Jugalbandi's monthly food photography contest, CLICK: Stacks. Trust me, I have no delusions of winning any photo contests anytime soon, but it's fun to take part in something like this.

If you prefer to enjoy your apricots in a purer form, then maybe you'll go for the breakfast concoction I cooked up the other day. I simply sauteed a sliced apricot in a bit of butter and brown sugar, then topped off my oatmeal with it. I still prefer peaches for something like this, but it does cheer up a body to see that burst of sunset orange in your bowl first thing in the morning.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Attempted Ode To Apricots ... And An Announcement

I have something to confess, dear readers. There's a bit of news that I've neglected to share with you. You see, I don't think I was quite ready to accept it myself till just recently. *sigh* Enough pointless yapping, I'm just going to get to the point. I'm mmmmooo ... mmoooooooo ... mooovvvvv ... ACK! Spit it out already! Ok, here goes ... I'M MOVING TO CONNECTICUT!

Sorry about that yelling. It's still hard to say out loud. Dear readers, most of you know of my deep love for NYC and Long Island. I've lived here for the past 4 years, and now we're moving away to Connecticut by next month. I'm having a bit of a hard time realizing that I'll no longer have the same conveniences that I'm used to - like how
every kind of store was only a maximum of 10 mins away from my place, and all my favorite restaurants as well. And not to forget, we've made some good friends amongst our neighbors while we were here. Don't even get me started on how Manhattan was only 40 mins away by train, and how much I would look forward to my weekly trips there. Our apartment here was pretty big too, with lots of room for Ozzy to run around in. On top of it all, even if I get past all the sentimental stuff (and I will, I've never been one to dwell on the sad stuff for long), right now it's the packing that's getting to me! Four years of buying stuff is coming back to bite me in the @ss! The house is a disaster zone right now.

Thankfully, I can steal a few moments of sanity in my kitchen. The other day I bought some apricots, because there were so many of them at the grocery store, and they just looked so darn pretty! I'd never really used fresh apricots before (only the dried ones). So I brought them home, and proceeded to scour cyberspace for some interesting recipes. I made some delicious things, folks - three different goodies from one small batch of apricots. And I'll be honest with you, I'm still not sure how I feel about apricots. They're a little deceptive me thinks. When you first look at them, they steal your heart because they're so cute, and remind you of miniature peaches (and I WUV peaches). Same fuzzy texture on the outside, and adorable looks, like a baby's bottom! But they don't have quite the same intoxicating aroma as ripe peaches. They're also sturdier in texture and definitely not as sweet. So I personally didn't enjoy eating them raw. However, cooking them with a bit of cinnamon and sugar did the trick!

This recipe is courtesy of Ilva of Lucullian Delights, who happens to live in one of the most gorgeous places on Earth - Tuscany, Italy. Her healthy version of an apricot yogurt parfait was right up my alley, once again proving my point about Italian cooking - bringing out the absolute best flavors using very few, simple, quality ingredients. Someone should just make me an honorary Italian already! (and French, and Mexican, and Lebanese, and the list goes on)

'Cinnamoned' Apricots With Yogurt, Candied Nuts & Chocolate (see Ilva's original recipe here)
Serves 1

Click here for the printable recipe

3/4 cup plain yogurt or thick Greek yogurt
1-2 ripe apricots
2-3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp water
1-2 tbsp of chopped dark chocolate
Crumbled peanut brittle (I used store-bought)

1. If you have regular plain yogurt, you should thicken it up, by putting it in a sieve lined with cheesecloth, and leaving it there for at least half an hour. Most of the water will drain out and you'll be left with a smoother, thicker yogurt.

2. Chop the apricots. Put them in a small pan and add sugar, cinnamon and water. Cook it on med-low for about 8-10 mins until it becomes dense and jam-like. Set aside to cool.

3. Spoon some yogurt into a glass, followed by a layer of the apricot compote, bits of peanut brittle and chocolate. Repeat layer with the remaining yogurt, apricot compote and finish off with more peanut brittle and dark chocolate. Proceed to eat all of it, while daydreaming of a day when you might be vacationing in Tuscany.

Verdict: Tart and sweet. If that rocks your boat, then this is the dessert for you. And it's healthy enough that you could indulge in it every day. The peanut brittle was my favorite part because of the caramel-ly crunch it added to the luscious yogurt. And the dark chocolate was a surprising addition, because it's not the first thing you taste - it sort of creeps up on you, and adds a layer of depth and earthiness to the whole thing, making it taste more sophisticated. The cinnamoned apricot compote/jam was a revelation, because although I liked it fine in this dessert, it was a real hit in a particular grilled cheese sandwich (recipe coming up soon), that I've been having for lunch every day since!

This is going to be my entry for this month's Sugar High Fridays "Fruit and Nut" event, hosted by Mansi of Fun & Food.