How to Solve the Apricot Problem

September 11, 2014

Every other Thursday, we bring you Nicholas Day -- on cooking for children, and with children, and despite children. Also, occasionally, on top of.

Today: All apricots need is a little TLC to go from zero to hero.

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Apricots are the most unreliable of all fruit. They’re like Rodney Dangerfield in reverse: all they get is respect, but all they give is grief. 

You’re constantly told that apricots are amazing -- to get a food writer badge, there’s a required essay about how apricots are amazing, which is why there are so many of those essays out there -- but the apricots you actually eat are awful. They’re mealy, or parched, or just oddly tasteless. At best, they’re underwhelming. At worse, there’s a moth ball where the flavor should be.

Or at least the apricots I got. But then we moved to Buffalo! You weren’t expecting that, I know. You were expecting something like, Until we moved to Santa Monica! 

But Buffalo is just beneath Niagara County, the climatically-sheltered fruit belt of New York State, and the stone fruit is superb. This is not what I expected, because it is not a rational thing to expect. It’s like moving to Antarctica and discovering there are fantastic mangoes grown off the coast of the Weddell Sea.

More: Waste not, want not -- here's how to use the pits of stone fruits.

There’s a farmers market stand here where you can buy quarts of seconds -- fruit that’s already bruised and oozing. This is fruit that’s mid-fermentation; they really should be carding at this stand. All this year I’ve been buying the seconds and roasting them as soon as we get home. Then the children eat it all by the bowlful and have to be hosed off outside. 

This technique works well for peaches and plums. It works miracles for apricots. Outside of Superman in a phone booth, there may be no transformation as dramatic as the uncooked apricot into the cooked apricot. Even if your apricots are underwhelming, they stand a decent chance of getting to at least whelming once cooked.

All this is why my new favorite summer dessert is stone fruit two ways: apricots very briefly simmered, with a little sugar, into a thick compote, and then folded into whipped cream. This would be enough; this would be a fool, technically. But there’s a brilliant twist, which I have stolen from Edward Giobbi and Eugenia Giobbi Bone's very charming Italian Family Dining: you serve the apricot fool on top of freshly sliced peaches.

I love the conceptual eccentricity of serving stone fruit with stone fruit. It’s like pairing cake with cake. But it works perfectly: the sweet acidity of the peaches balances the apricot fool, which on its own is almost synapse-rewiringly intense. If you have been looking for a child-friendly, fruit-based, low-sugar, less-effort dessert, this may be your answer. Because despite all those qualities, it is deeply, gloriously decadent. 

Apricot Fool with Fresh Peaches

Serves 4, lushly

6 apricots, halved and pitted
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
4 ripe peaches, sliced

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Mark Weinberg

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    Nicholas Day
I'm the author of a book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World. My website is; I tweet over at @nicksday. And if you need any good playdoh recipes, just ask.


dchu September 15, 2014
ha, ha... I've always felt the same way about apricots--that they're far better cooked (or dried) than raw. And I've had them straight off the tree, so I'm not talking supermarket fruit here. I've never been to Buffalo, but if I ever get the chance I'll check out that fruit stand! When is apricot season in your neck of the woods?
fiveandspice September 11, 2014
I very much like the idea of pairing cake with cake. (And then putting the peaches and the apricot fool on top. Dinner? Dinner.)
Nicholas D. September 11, 2014
I pair wine with wine, personally.
fiveandspice September 11, 2014
A classic pairing, to be sure.
Christycreme September 11, 2014
I live in Buffalo (did you hear me squeal when I saw our fair city mentioned in this awesome post??) and I would LOVE to know where this fruit stand is, please!
Nicholas D. September 11, 2014
Hello there! It's the Dan Tower stand at the Bidwell market.
weekend A. September 11, 2014
Hey Nicholas, you probably mean Tom Tower (yet another WNY person chiming in here). If you get the chance, you should take the drive up into Niagara County and visit his farm market in Youngstown right outside Lewiston!
Nicholas D. September 11, 2014
I'll get there! But for the seconds, you do want Dan Tower's stand -- across the market, halfway down from Tom's.
weekend A. September 11, 2014
are they related? i'm intrigued.
Nicholas D. September 11, 2014
I don't know -- they're both in Youngstown, so I'm guessing... probably?
weekend A. September 11, 2014
So weird, I've lived here almost 8 years (we live smack in the fruit belt along the Lake Ontario shoreline) and only ever knew of Tom. I have been duly educated.
MattieK September 11, 2014
Apricots, shoved under a broiler for five minutes while I make my coffee, paired with Greek yogurt and sliced peaches, were a favorite breakfast all summer long. I highly, highly recommend it. As you have here.
Nicholas D. September 11, 2014
Well then. As you were.