For those of you who don’t know me, I love to cook. My maternal grandmother was fabulous in the kitchen and some of my fondest childhood memories feature her prized offerings. I distinctly remember a succulent Leg of Lamb served with her homemade canned Mint Jelly; Chopped Chicken Livers (recipe acquired from one of my grandfather’s Jewish dental patients); deeply satisfying Eggplant Parmesan; and our fragrant, addictive, Christmas family favorite -- Peppernut Cookies (the only recipe I have that survived her death).
My grandmother was, for the most part, an instinctive cook. The memory of her tastes and the habit of her hands yielded the delights of her kitchen. I never saw her make a pie with measuring cups or spoons for the flour, fat, liquid or salt. Her culinary wisdoms came to her as effortlessly as her breath; she eyeballed, tasted, and felt her way through the kitchen.
For some, the prospect of cooking without specific measurements is intimidating. I’d like to help you become a more confident kitchen engineer, so I will occasionally offer recipes without precise calculations. The beauty of instinctive cooking is that you can customize your dishes to fit the preferences of your family and the inclination of your tongue. Do not be afraid; this will be fun!
I have a truly wonderful recipe to share with you – it is perfect for individual inspirations. Baked Apricots are versatile, easy to assemble, and delicious! I serve them as a side, but they could easily become a dessert when paired with a lovely scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream. This dish is great with salty ham or spicy pork, and terrific for brunch, dinner, or your next potluck.
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2-3 cans of Apricots, drained (I buy the Kroger brand when they run their 10 for $10 sale)
6-8 Tbsp. of Butter, melted
1 sleeve of Town House Crackers
1. Spray a 1 qt. baking dish with a cooking spray like Pam.
2. Make a layer with ½ of your apricots. Make sure the apricots are pit side up, so that the depression is facing the ceiling. Don’t crowd the fruit, but don’t leave big spaces between the apricots either.
3. Liberally sprinkle brown sugar into each of the wells created by the removed pit. Don’t be stingy here; use a liberal hand.
4. Crush ½ the crackers in your hand and layer them over the apricots. Do not use a rolling pin to crush the crackers. You don’t want uniform bits; instead you want large and small pieces of crackers. Just use your hand.
5. Drizzle half the melted butter over the apricots.
6. Repeat another layer.
7. Bake for 1 hour in a 325 degree oven.
You may dress these up for an adult crowd with a liquor or liqueur of your choice (bourbon, rum, amaretto, or hazelnut liqueur). Just drizzle a little over the apricots before you sprinkle on the brown sugar – easy does it; a little goes a long way to “amend” the flavor of the apricots.
You may serve this in a bigger pan. Just increase your apricots and other ingredients proportionately. For example, I’ve served these in a 9”x13” pan using 6-7 cans of apricots, 1½ - 2 sticks of melted butter, more brown sugar to taste, and (2) sleeves of Town House crackers.
Let me know what you think. Bon appétit!