03 July 2010

I've never thought of myself as "cheap" before

Not that kind of cheap!  I mean cheap as in thrifty, a penny-pincher (or as we say in Canada, one who can "squeeze a nickel 'till the beaver farts").  We're a classy bunch, aren't we? :-)

I've always been cursed with expensive taste, an appreciation for the finer things in life. That said, I was also raised by a veteran bargain hunter, a woman who can spot sale signs anywhere, even in a foreign country in a language she does not speak.  Sis, mom and I often e-mail, text or call one another to brag about our sale finding prowess; "Gorgeous dress, 100%silk, regular $185 on sale for $29 bucks!"  "Oh yeah?  Check out my shoes, Cole Haan's regular $280, I got them for $40."  We boast about bargains the way fishermen brag about their size of catch.  Sometimes though, it's a case of you get what you pay for, and price must be sacrificed for quality.  I choke at the thought of paying more than $50 for a pair of jeans, but I don't even flinch at the $200 price tag on a Kasumi knife.  Maybe it's more about what I'm paying for than how much. After all, I've been known to pay what some consider an obscene amount of money for sugar cubes.  In my defense, these were not just any ordinary sugar cubes - these were sugar works of art I discovered in Paris, the likes of which I had never seen.  Just take a look for yourself, then we'll see;
Oh no, these are not for coffee, silly!
These are saved for special occasions, to put on cakes and such.
So when I see that peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries - all kinds of juicy, fresh orchard fruits, are finally and briefly in season, I gotta say, I wish they weren't quite so expensive.  But when something's only available for a few weeks each year, there are only two options: pay up or go without.  I was eyeing  Ranier cherries at the grocery store recently, the ones that are the exact colour of a tropical sunset.  My mouth watering just looking at them, but I just couldn't justify the $7 per 100g for them.  It would cost me a fortune just to make one pie!  Suddenly, at $2 per 100g, the dark red Bing cherries seem like a steal, as did the apricots.  I loaded up my shopping basket and headed to the checkout before I got buyer's remorse.

It occurred to me when I got home, that I have never had fresh apricots.  How weird is that?  I've had more than my fair share of dried apricots, but not fresh.  Maybe if I had grown up in the Okanagan region of BC, where all of these things are grown, things would be different.  Here in Alberta, our climate's better at producing berries, corn and beef than orchard fruits, kiwis or grapes.  Well, one of the best things about being a foodie is trying new things - letting your taste buds be adventurous and discovering new delights.

I decided that a simple tart would be the best way to showcase these delicate and fuzzy little guys.  I pressed some pâte brisée into a tart pan and slid it into the oven to bake up.  I sliced up the apricots, and threw them in a bowl.  I wanted to do something a little more inspiring that simply tossing them in sugar, when I spied the bottle of ginger syrup mom brought back from Hawaii.  That and a little bit of vanilla was all that was needed to make this tart something special.  And what better to serve it with than ice cream? 

For the past couple of weeks I'd been wanting to make some matcha green tea ice cream, and this seemed like the ideal opportunity. I didn't have time to run down to chinatown for some authentic matcha, but I remembered seeing it sold at the local juice bar.  I no sooner walked into the juice bar and I was walking out empty-handed, however, eyes wide at the $28 price tag on a small tin of tea.  Yikes!  Talk about sticker shock!  I've since learned that this is an average cost for this glorious green powder, especially since the world has learned of it's seemingly endless health benefits.  As luck would have it, I found an inexpensive cheat at the grocery store a few days later: a tetra pack of Tazo Green Tea Latte mix.  I love an ice cold green tea frappucino on a hot day, and the flavour would be perfect for ice cream.  This time I made a simple Philly-style ice cream, combining the sweet green tea mix with a little milk and some cream.  After churning in the ice cream maker, I folded in some sliced cherries and put it into the freezer.  A few hours later, dessert was served.

One thing completely took me by surprise, was discovering that I am not a fan of the smell of fresh baked apricots.  There's just something odd about the fragrance, or perhaps it's the mix of ginger, pastry and apricots... whatever it was, I found it a little confusing to be put off by the smell of such a delightful dessert.  Once the tart was fully cooled, I was able to enjoy it more, just not when it's fresh from the oven.  Weird.  Have you ever encountered something similar?  Or the opposite - do you find the scent of a certain food to be intoxicating, while the actual taste is less than delightful?  

If you want a simple summer dessert, bake up a few empty tart shells on a rainy day.  When inspiration strikes and fresh seasonal fruits beckon to you from the produce section, you can have an elegant and flavourful dessert on the table in about 20 minutes.  Of course, there are lots of other delectable fillings you can have in a tart, but that's another post entirely....

Until then, Happy Baking!

Oh, and as for recipes, this time there really aren't any.  Follow my recipe for Pâte Brisée, then add in some sliced fresh fruit, tossed with just enough flavourful syrup to make them glossy and about 1.2 tsp of vanilla and bake until the fruit is just starting to soften.  As for the ice cream, combine green tea latte mix with some milk and cream to taste and run it through the ice cream maker.  Add some sliced cherries and freeze.  This dessert was all about baking to taste...


FireintheBreeze said...

I love apricots - I've never realized that they had a "smell" before, how interesting! Beautiful pictures

Valentina said...

I so envy people who are good at spotting bargains.I'm not.damn.I find it a gift and a good one.the sugar cubes are absolutely gorgeous.I had never seen anything quite like it.lovely dessert.Very summery.love fresh apricots.the other day made some nice upside down apricot cake.

Maranda said...

Hi! I found you on the DB forum and was drawn in by your picture. I love your hair! LOL! So I followed the link and am very pleasantly surprised by your blog! It's wonderful!!

I used to spend every summer at my grandma's house in Lawton, Oklahoma. She had a huge garden connected to the back yard and she had an apricot tree. We used to eat the freshest apricots. And she made the most delicious desserts with them! I hope you snagged a taste of the fresh fruit before you baked it. This tart sounds so delicious! I'm so jealous of what you created. I may have to try it, sans cherries since I don't like those. Thanks for sharing!

Oh, and your pictures are gorgeous!

Jamie said...

Am I registering?

Jamie said...

No! I just left a comment about your fabulous, mouthwatering green tea ice cream that I want a bowl of right this minute and it disappeared! Ugh! How cruel!

But I love reading your charming, funny posts and I miss you!