I offered to do the “Book Wisdom” meme, after seeing the delicious roasted chicken at Married with Dinner. My foodie books, unfortunately, are low on the pretty prose, high on the instructions. Strange, given I’m so purple-prosaic. But regardless, I’ve been researching recipes for chard (for a newly vegan husband of a close friend) and fava beans (for my CSA farmer, whose crop is almost ready). That means I have nearby the PNW gardening bible, Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon; my favorite Japanese cookbook, The Heart of Zen Cuisine: A 600 Year Tradition of Japanese Cooking by Soei Yoneda; and Fred Plotkin’s marvelous La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Guilia, Italy’s Great Undiscovered Region, which I bought after becoming enthralled by the banquets at a Joyce conference in Trieste a few years ago.
So I can bring you wisdom about using black wine barrels for solar greenhouses, mixing up miso for fried eggplant slices, or, the one that intrigued me the most this Memorial Day weekend, Sguazeto, a regional meat sauce.
But first, if you’d like to play along, please do the following steps and post in your blog:
1. Pick up the nearest [foodie] book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag 5 other people* and acknowledge who tagged you.
*Like Anita, I won’t tag anyone, because I find that annoying, but I’d love to hear from you if you decide to join me.
OK, now mine, and what it inspired:
Soak the prunes  in warm water until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain. Combine the pine nuts [1 heaping T.], sugar [1 scant t.], and cumin [1/2 t.] in a mortar and pound with a pestle until you have a fine powder.
Not much to work with there, eh? Believe me, the others were worse. I find, as a literature grad student, that books aren’t always wise, at least not in small chunks. The recipe is from Plotkin’s book, and as I mentioned above, it is for Sguazeto, a rich meat gravy used in the northeast corner of Italy. The ingredients above are then mixed and cooked gently with a cup of roasted meat pan juices. Plotkin suggests substituting prune jam (lekvar) or apricot butter for the dried prunes.
But look at the combination of ingredients: a musky, sticky, sweet dried fruit, pine nuts, sugar and cumin. Perfect for an unusual, fruity barbecue, no?
So I bring you my inspiration. I received a bag of early apricots in my CSA share this week, so I have apricots on the brain. I am sure it would be delicious on grilled chicken or tofu. You could even brush a bit of the sauce on the grilled object *just* before taking it off the grill. Don’t do it too early, though, because there is too much sugar in the sauce and it will burn on the hot grill.
Apricot Pinenut Sauce for Grilled Chicken or Tofu
Makes enough for a pound of chicken breasts (double or triple recipe for more)
6 dried apricots (or substitute 2 T. apricot butter)
2 heaping T. pine nuts, toasted
1 t. honey (our local meadowfoam honey or another dark, caramelly honey is best)
1 t. ground cumin
3 T. olive oil
2 T. chicken stock (or veggie stock)
1 T. white wine vinegar
1 T. chopped parsley for garnish
Soak dried apricots in warm water until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain. Combine the pine nuts, honey, and cumin in a mortar and pound with a pestle until you have a fine paste, or use a food processor. Before grinding, save a few pine nuts for the garnish.
Chop the apricot and add it to the mortar/food processor and pound/process until smooth. If you are using apricot butter, just mix it into the paste.
Heat 3 T. olive oil in a saucepan on medium, add the apricot mixture, the vinegar, and the chicken stock, and simmer to meld flavors, for about 10 minutes.
Grill your chicken or tofu (or even halved, fresh apricots) as desired, dressed simply with salt and pepper. Remove from grill and top with apricot sauce just prior to serving. Garnish with chopped parsley and few whole pinenuts.
Happy Memorial Day!