Add zing to pork chops or lamb

The Standard Journal - - Food: What's Cooking? - By MARIALISA CALTA

Farm­ers mar­kets seem to be ev­ery­where. Huge cities, small towns, and sub­ur­ban neigh­bor­hoods -- you are al­most guar­an­teed to spot a sign that says “Farm­ers Mar­ket, Fri­day.”

In some com­mu­ni­ties, they have taken the place of the vil­lage green -- or even church -- as the gath­er­ing to meet neigh­bors once a week.

And while the talk at any com­mu­nity meet­ing might run from pol­i­tics to lo­cal gos­sip, it is of­ten about recipes, about how to cook those broad beans/ summer squash/smoked pork chops that you’ve just pur­chased from the grower or pro­ducer.

Brian Ni­chol­son, a third-gen­er­a­tion fruit grower from up­state New York, no­ticed this. “Our mar­ket stand of­ten feels like a walk­ing, talk­ing cook­book,” he writes. So he and writer Sarah Huck have obliged their cus­tomers and pro­duced an ac­tual cook­book. “Fruit­ful: Four Sea­sons of Fresh Fruit Recipes” pro­vides in­spi­ra­tion for us­ing fruit in ev­ery sea­son, in ev­ery course, at ev­ery meal.

Eat­ing fruit, for many of us, is never a chal­lenge; you buy it, you eat it. Fresh fruit, in sea­son, seems like a slam-dunk. Who needs a recipe to en­joy a ripe peach? But if you have a bushel of ripe peaches, you will want some help. Ni­chol­son and Huck give it.

Of the many recipes that in­trigued me, I was most drawn to those that fea­ture apri­cots -- prob­a­bly be­cause I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a re­ally good apri­cot.

Ap­par­ently, I’m not alone. Apri­cot trees, Ni­chol­son writes, are “ter­ri­bly tem­per­a­men­tal” and “stub­born.” They need “tem­per­ate cli­mates with chilly winters” and welldrained soil with full sun. They are sub­ject to mal­for­ma­tions, rot and bac­te­rial in­fec­tion. They suf­fer in hot, hu­mid weather and are sub­ject to sun­burn. Most of the apri­cots I have eaten are what Ni­chol­son would de­scribe as “bad” apri­cots: ripened af­ter pick­ing, “dry, mealy and a lit­tle bit tart.”

But a “good” apri­cot? Ni­chol­son waxes po­etic: “A dead-ripe apri­cot, one that has fully ma­tured on the tree (like ours) is so soft that you can pull apart the vel­vety halves with your fin­gers, give a gen­tle squeeze, and watch pearls of de­li­cious, sweet apri­cot nec­tar per­co­late up.

Its skin is sat­u­rated sun­set orange with lightly freck­led scar­let cheeks.” The apri­cots of Red Jacket Or­chards (Ni­chol­son’s farm) have been praised by taste-set­ters at Gourmet magazine and The New York Times.

Should I ever en­counter such won­der­ful apri­cots, I’m go­ing to eat them, right then and there. But it has been my ex­pe­ri­ence that less-than-stel­lar fruit can be vastly im­proved by cook­ing.

This recipe -- and many oth­ers in the book -- can work with “or­di­nary” fruit, whether pur­chased at the su­per­mar­ket or the farm stand.

Like­wise, this dish will turn out fine with su­per­mar­ket pork, but while you are out trolling for those tree-ripened apri­cots, you might keep your eye out for some high qual­ity, lo­cally raised pork (or, as Ni­chol­son sug­gests, lamb) as well. The com­bi­na­tion will be stel­lar. Oth­er­wise, it will just be darn de­li­cious. CHARRED PORK CHOPS 1-ta­ble­spoon ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil, plus more as needed

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion Kosher salt, as needed 2 gar­lic cloves, finely chopped

1 ta­ble­spoon minced, peeled fresh ginger

1 tea­spoon finely chopped fresh rose­mary leaves

1 pound ripe apri­cots, pit­ted and diced (2 1/2 to 3 cups)

2 ta­ble­spoons orange juice 2 ta­ble­spoons wa­ter 1 to 3 ta­ble­spoons goodqual­ity honey, as needed

Freshly ground black pep­per

4 (8-ounce) cen­ter-cut, bone-in pork chops, 1 inch thick

Pre­heat a cov­ered gas or char­coal grill for di­rect grilling over medium-high

fresh heat, or pre­heat a stove­top grill pan.

Mean­while, heat 1 ta­ble­spoon of oil in a heavy­bot­tomed saucepan over medium heat.

Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, cov­ered, un­til the onion is soft and translu­cent, 5 to 10 min­utes. Un­cover and stir in the gar­lic, ginger and rose­mary; sauté for 2 min­utes.

Stir in the apri­cots, orange juice, wa­ter and 1ta­ble­spoon honey. Sim­mer un­til the fruit breaks down to a chunky-smooth con­sis­tency. Sea­son to taste with salt and pep­per. Stir in more honey if de­sired. Cover the pot and keep the sauce warm over low heat.

Sprin­kle pork chops gen­er­ously with salt and pep­per and brush with oil.

Trans­fer to the grill and cook, cov­ered, un­til un­der­sides are golden brown, about 5 min­utes.

Turn the pork chops and con­tinue to cook about 5 min­utes more, un­til their in­te­rior is no longer bright pink and an in­stant-read ther­mome­ter in­serted into the thick­est part reads 145 de­grees.

Re­move pork chops from grill and let them rest on a plat­ter, loosely cov­ered with foil, for 5 min­utes. Serve the pork chops with warm apri­cot sauce spooned over top.

( Recipe from “Fruit­ful: Four Sea­sons of Fresh Fruit Recipes,” by Brian Ni­chol­son and Sarah Huck; Run­ning Press, 2014.)

Photo: Steve Legato

Fresh apri­cots pro­vide top­ping for pork chops or lamb.

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