June 26, 2015
I spent last week helping my parents move out of our childhood home. As you can imagine, it was an emotional time packing up thirty-seven years of life. I was prepared for tears, but not for the incredible bonding that occurred as my sisters and mother’s friends gathered around boxes filled photos. Black and white snapshots from my mom’s childhood in Belgium, old pictures of us as kids and family moments I’d never seen before. Stories and laughter became the rhythm of our packing. Boxing up past memories had gifted us with a beautiful new one of time together.
Coming back home to Santa Barbara, I was welcomed by a full tree of Blenheim apricots ready for picking. With my mind firmly planted on memory lane (and my body aching from all those damn boxes), I pulled out this recipe I put together for Food52 last year.
My mom’s childhood in the Belgium village of Wespelaar and memories of our summer visits there inspired this recipe. With fresh apricots in hand, I was ready to whip up the easiest, summer-tasting dessert imaginable…and hold onto that time with my family a little bit longer.
Back in the day, my grandmother would combine fresh fruit from the garden (in Belgium this meant apples, pears and berries), a dash of honey and creamy crème fraiche from the cellar or “kelder.”
After my mom moved to the states, she quickly discovered that her local Ralph’s didn’t carry the same basics of home. When she made this for my sisters and me, sour cream subbed in for that creamy crème fraiche. The honey was from that little plastic bear instead of from my grandfather’s honeycomb and she switched it up with stone fruit. My mom still remains giddy about the abundance of stone fruit available in Southern California — the Belgium climate is not conducive to juicy peaches and apricots.
It’s now come full circle as I recreate this dessert in the tradition of both my mother and grandmother— crème fraiche from Whole Foods and the honey and stone fruit from our own garden.
Recipes evolve with the generations, and with my telling of the story I’ve added the sweet crunch of amaretti cookies. The cookies add amazing texture and flavor to all that creamy goodness. It also pays homage to my other grandmother, an Italian who always had a red tin box of amaretti cookies in the pantry to dole out to us kids.
It’s crazy how one simple dessert can make you feel connected to so many things — the women in my family, my Belgium-Italian heritage, the joy of a garden and full-fat dairy along with the honor of passing down the taste of home to my girls.
Because isn’t that what home really means? Not a collection of walls or rooms, but family, memories, recipes, songs and scents that can make home happen just about anywhere.
Simply Delicious Apricot Dessert
These measurements are loose; feel free to tinker to your preferences.
6 small apricots (look for Blenheim) sliced into eight slices
4 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup crème fraiche
4-6 amaretti cookies, crushed
8 mint leaves, torn in pieces
Evenly portion the sliced apricots into shallow glasses or pretty plates and then top each one with a drizzle of honey followed by a tablespoon of crème fraiche, cookie crumbs and then mint leaves.