A syrup made from water, sugar, and honey turns fresh apricot wedges into a traditional Greek sweet.
Apricot Spoon Sweets
MAKES 4 cups
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS The serving of “spoon sweets” in Greece and parts of the Middle East is a long-standing ritual. A special jar of fruit with a spoon hanging from its neck appears whenever visitors arrive. Each visitor takes a spoonful of the sweet fruit straight from the jar. We wanted a recipe for this welcoming treat using apricots. While traditionally an all-honey syrup is used to preserve the fruit, we found it to be far too sweet. We settled on a syrup made of water, sugar, and honey that we boiled until it was thick enough to coat the apricots when serving. Once the syrup was reduced, we added the apricots and lemon juice and simmered them briefly to achieve the perfect texture for the fruit. The acidity of the lemon juice balanced the sweetness of the syrup and also helped to prevent the apricots from oxidizing, or turning brown. Select apricots that yield slightly when pressed.
1½ cups sugar
1 cup honey
¾ cup water
1½ pounds ripe but firm apricots, pitted and cut into ½-inch wedges
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Bring sugar, honey, and water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until syrup measures 2 cups, about 10 minutes.
2. Add apricots and lemon juice and return to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until apricots soften and release their juice, about 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let cool completely.
3. Transfer apricots and syrup to airtight container and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving. (Fruit can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)
Dried Fruit Compote
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS We set out to create a delicately spiced, naturally sweet compote of succulent figs, supple apricots, and tangy cherries that could provide a polished finish to a slice of Olive Oil–Yogurt Cake or a bowl of Greek Lemon Rice Pudding , but that was robust enough to hold its own as an elegant, understated dessert with a dollop of yogurt or crème fraîche. We started with whole (rather than sliced or chopped) dried fruits and simmered them in a light syrup composed mostly of water with just a few tablespoons of honey. A couple of cinnamon sticks and some ground coriander added a uniquely woodsy-floral aroma. We simmered the dried figs and apricots together before adding the cherries toward the end of cooking to ensure that each component was cooked to perfection. As the mixture cooked, the fruit became plump and tender, breaking down just enough to create a lush, flavorful sauce. Use large Turkish or Calimyrna figs in this recipe; Black Mission figs are too small and dense. This compote can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
4 cups water
3 tablespoons honey
2 (2-inch) strips lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
2 cinnamon sticks
1¼ teaspoons ground coriander
2 cups (12 ounces) dried Turkish or Calimyrna figs, stemmed
¾ cup dried apricots
½ cup dried cherries
1. Bring water, honey, lemon zest and juice, cinnamon sticks, and coriander to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until honey has dissolved, about 2 minutes.
2. Stir in figs and apricots and return to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until fruit is plump and tender, about 30 minutes.
3. Stir in cherries and cook until cherries are plump and tender, figs are just beginning to break apart, and liquid is thickened and syrupy, 15 to 20 minutes. Off heat, discard lemon zest and cinnamon sticks and let mixture cool slightly. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.