Sunday, June 14, 2009

dried apricots = better than the real thing

apricots are one of the few fruits i actually prefer dried over fresh. i just found that out this week. we've been getting apricots in our farm box lately, and while i appreciate their rich, tangy flavor, i actually find myself wishing for the chewiness of dehydrated fruit rather than the kind of mealy fleshy fruits themselves. sorry apricots, your texture gives me the creeps.
thankfully, aryn owns a dehydrator, which i was able to borrow last night after our dinner party celebrating the end of school (oakland public schools, that is).
dehydrating apricots is a nice sunday morning activity. the process goes like this:

juice a lemon or lime and add about a quarter cup of the juice to one cup of water. this is your dipping bath for the apricots to prevent oxidation (browning when exposed to air). cut your apricots in half - they come with a convenient guiding cleavage down the one side which makes this process even easier. remove the pit. you can chop them up smaller at this point, but i prefer a good mouthful of apricot, so i left them in halves.

grab each half and pop it inside out, meaning give the skin side a good poke with your thumb. this is called "popping the back" and i guess it helps it dry more evenly. my halves ended up more flattened than inside out, but i can see how that would be helpful. let them soak in the citrus bath for about 5 minutes, and lay them out on your dehydrating racks. if you don't have a dehydrator to borrow you can theoretically dry your apricots in the oven - if your oven gives you the option to go as low as 120-150 degrees fahrenheit, or even in a sunny window if you happen to live somewhere particularly hot and not humid.

from what i've gathered online, if you're using the dehydrator you'll want to set it between 120-140 degrees fahrenheit. you can start it out on the high temperature end, for an hour or so and then turn it down for the remaining time (somewhere between 12-48 hours). you'll be able to tell they're done when they are leathery with no pockets of moisture, and if you tear them in half and see moisture beads along your tear line you'll know you need more time.
for now, the dehydrator is pumping out a soothing hum of hot air and apricot smell into my kitchen and i'm enjoying it immenseley.

Monday, June 8, 2009

raising pea shoots

i bought some fresh peas from the korean grocery the other day, thinking i'd sprout them and have some pea sprouts to sprinkle on salad. plus i'm really enamored with growing vegetables in the house since i popped a couple mung bean sprouts in a pot on the kitchen window sill and was amazed to see them grow into real plants that even bore little bean pods.

when they started sprouting i realized i had confused pea sprouts with peanut sprouts (which are actually my favorite), and i wasn't really sure what to do with the pea sprouts. then i remembered how much i love pea shoots - they seem like such a gourmet delicacy on salads. so i punched holes in the bottom of an aluminum potluck pan (it already had a hole so i figured i wasn't ever going to make a casserole in it anyway), filled it with soil and sprinkled a couple handfulls of sprouting peas into it.
a few days later i came to terms with the fact that i really wasn't ever going to eat any of the sprouted peas, so i made two more planter trays with the remaining sprouts.

and they grow like crazy. they were tall enough to harvest in less than a week. here are some good instructions on when and how to harvest pea shoots. they say you can harvest every 3-4 weeks, but my peas are growing so fast i'm harvesting every few days. they are so responsive to light you can almost see them bend backwards when i spin them away from the window. they make me really happy.

in fact, if i were going to say something about them, it would be this:

um, sort of.

i was surprised (i dont' know why) by how much they really taste like peas. i've been clipping them and adding to somen salad - which, by the way, is the best potluck dish ever. people love it. hit me up for the recipe if you want it.