Lazybones Appetizers: Stuffed Apricots
As we get into the holiday season, it is nice to have a few easy appetizers tucked away up your sleeve. You know, the ones that are easy to make with ingredients that are easy to find, but that look like you spent far more time on them than you did. And, as with most of my favorite holiday appetizers (like Brie en croute or a classic cheese ball), they involve cheese. Always, going on about the cheese.
As a side note, Mike gets frustrated beyond belief because I am constantly saying, “Now you’re cooking with CHEESE!” He insists that the correct idiom is, “Now you’re cooking with gas”, which it is. Technically. I must sound like one of those people who talk about, “The doggone days of summer”, or “Jumping on the band’s wagon”. However, I feel that cooking with cheese is infinitely more satisfying than cooking with gas, expedient though it might be, so I refuse to change my ways, much to his chagrin.
I don’t even know if I can call this a “recipe”. It feels like a hideaway from one of those old Betty-Crocker style books, where every recipe somehow manages to involve a packet of instant vanilla pudding or yellow slab cake mix. But healthier and less processed. That said, we could all use a bit of simplicity in our lives once in a while, and if that takes the form of fast and easy little bite sized appetizers, so be it.
One last note is that measurements are very approximate and will vary based on the size of your apricots. Plump, juicy dried apricots will obviously be able to hold more than the small, dessicated little dried apricots that sat for a year on the back of your grocer’s shelves, waiting to be bought. Not to be size-ist, but in this case, bigger is usually better.
Dried Apricots Stuffed with Brie and Almonds
- 2 dozen dried apricots
- 2 dozen whole almonds
- 4 oz Brie cheese
- 1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh thyme
Toasting the almonds is important as it really enriches the flavor with a robust nuttiness that borders on smoky or meaty. In fact, my father in law said to me, “I like the ones with the bacon!” In my opinion, things that taste loosely like bacon can never be bad.
Toast the almonds in a dry skillet set over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes, or until they are fragrant, darkened in color and…toasted. When you toast nuts in a pan instead of in the oven, they tend to get concentrated color where they touch the pan, as opposed to nuts toasted in the oven which colour evenly. However, I’m not going to turn on my oven for 2 dozen nuts, and even though these ones were just on the shy side of being burnt, they were absolutely perfect for the stuffing.
Let the almonds cool completely before use.
Tear the thyme leaves off and discard the tough and woody stems.
Each apricot will have a slit at some point along the seam of the fruit which is where the pit was removed. Locate the slit and gently coax the apricot open but make sure that you don’t tear all the way through.
Cut the Brie into small cubes, each about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon (depending on the size of your apricots). You want the cheese to be cold when you do this.
Lay an almond inside each apricot pouch. Squish on a cube of brie and drop a few thyme leaves over top. Flip the other side of the apricot over around the stuffing.
Dried Apricots Stuffed with Jalapeno and Goat Cheese
- 2 dozen dried apricots
- 1 medium size jalapeno
- 4 oz goat cheese
Start by slicing the jalapeno horizontally into rounds which are as thin as possible. If you can make them borderline translucent, all the better. And please ignore the thyme on the other side of the cutting board; I was multitasking.
Coax the apricot open along the seam of the pouch. Lay a slice of jalapeno inside and a goat cheese dollop, approximately 1/2 – 1 small teaspoon (plus or minus, depending on the size of your apricots), neatly in the centre. Fold the apricot pouch over like a well stuffed taco.
See what I mean about a simple and easy appetizer? Each one is only a bite, but it is a delicious and flavour packed punch of a bite.
These aren’t the prettiest pictures in the world, but such is life. It wouldn’t have hurt me to decorate the plate a little bit, for your sake if nothing else, but that’s not the lazybones way.
Stuffed apricots are so easy to do with a minimal number of ingredients, and very open to variation. Why not try an apricot stuffed with gouda and a scrap of bacon, or goat cheese and freshly torn basil? Cream cheese with candied cherry peppers or candied pecans for a sweeter treat? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and good taste.