I have to admit, dessert is not the first thing I think about when I'm planning a meal. Of course there are those destination desserts... show stoppers when everything on the table is the big run up to the final blow-out. There are those times when I do plan the dessert first.. but they're rare. I think one reason I do this is because desserts weren't a big deal in our house when I was growing up. Dessert might most typically be a scoop of sherbert and a Stella D'Oro cookie.
If you grew up in an Italian household you'll know Stella D'Oro. I'll never forget sitting in my Nonna's kitchen listening to Italian ping ponging around me (which I couldn't understand) while the adults argued about the latest news in L'Italo, sipped small cups of strong coffee (I was given a large bowl of warm milk and coffee) and crunched Stella D'Oro Roman Egg Cookies. Sometimes the cookies would be accompanied by stewed fruit of some sort. What Grandma doesn't push stewed fruit? It was a perfect late afternoon treat, and it's the memories of that that led me to this classic Indian dessert.
Because after one is greasy with goat meat, and the only thing that will go down easy besides a "Lovers' Walk" is something light and aromatic, a delicate note was what was called for to finish the meal. So I decided to make Apricots in Cardamom Syrup served with some Almond Cardamom Cookies and a bit of sirkhand.*
*Sirkhand. Take a cup of yogurt and place it in a yogurt strainer suspended over a glass. Let it drain for at least 4 hours, or until it's slightly thickened. Mix in a bit of powdered sugar to sweeten it slightly.
One great thing about this dessert is that it can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated so that it's out of your hair the day you want to serve it. As long as you remember to bring it to room temperature before serving to avoid that charming "Grandma's-canned-apricots-right-out-of-the-tin-can-in-the-fridge" flavor.
Poached Apricots With Cardamom
Here's What You Need:
1 and 2/3 cups of dried apricots (get the best ones you can)
3 Tbs of superfine sugar
One 1/2 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
4 whole green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
Here's What To Do:
Soak the apricots in 3 cups of water in a large saucepan or handi for 4 hrs or until they puff up
Add in :
3 Tbs of sugar
One 1/2 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger thinly sliced
4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
Mix everything together well until the sugar has dissolved and bring it all to a slow boil.
When it boils, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook gently until the liquid has gone down by half and the remaining liquid has become a thick syrup.
Pour everything into a bowl and refrigerate.
Serve it up in small bowls.
I passed around the cookies.
Traditionally for very fancy affairs such as weddings, this dessert is topped with thin pieces of edible silver or vark. I used a dollop of simple, lightly sweetened sirkhand and served it all with warm Chai.
So, the idea of simple, stewed apricots is elevated by the addition of aromatic spices to a real dinner party treat. Fancy schmancy! I'm going to look for some edible silver from a bakery supply place, or not. On second thought I'm afraid it might take me into that freaky deaky Sweet Genius dude territory.
And I'll be saying stuff like, "A Truss! Ennui! Are you a Sweet Genius? Amuse me!" and then "Here, now incorporate this Ben Gay! You have 5 minutes!"
On second thought maybe I'll deep six the silver. I'm no Sweet Genius, that's for sure.
Coming up next, Spinach and a Fistful of Shitakes is not a spaghetti western but a great vegetarian dish. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori