Revival’s Amy Murray Loves Apricots
Her honey lavender apricot salad incorporates gems of the season for a salty, creamy, crunchy, floral spring bounty.
Photo by pxhere.com
For Amy Murray, executive chef and owner of Berkeley’s Revival Bar + Kitchen, the arrival of apricot season is not to be taken for granted.
“I adore apricots; I like their texture;, I like their leathery, peach-fuzzy skin,” she said of the stone fruit, which appears locally between May and July. “But it’s a delicate fruit, a fleeting fruit — it’s here and then it’s gone. Typically it’s a very short window to get good local apricots, only around three weeks, so I feel like when we do get them, it’s a blessing.”
Not only is the fruit sensitive to rain and frost, but apricots’ presence in California (which grows around 95 percent of the country’s harvest) has plummeted from its heyday a half-century or so ago due to several factors, including competition from countries like Turkey and being replaced locally by higher-yielding crops like almonds, walnuts, and grapes. In particular, the famed Blenheim — a variety long prized for its intense flavor and which used to be grown all over Santa Clara Valley — is increasingly hard to find.
So grab ’em when you can, said Murray, not least because of how versatile they are in the kitchen. At Revival, she’ll use them for jam and in desserts such as sorbet and ice cream, muffins, and chocolate chunk apricot cookies. She uses them in mostarda, an Italian version of chutney, and incorporates them into sweet and savory sauces. They pair well with chicken and pork, they’re great grilled and stuffed with cheese, and make a nice complement to her house-made charcuterie.
One staple at Murray’s former restaurant Venus and now Revival is her honey lavender apricot salad. The dish unites similar-season crops like lavender, shallots, and little gems into a salty, creamy, crunchy, floral spring bounty, the undisputed centerpiece of which are the apricots. Those she sources from Berkeley farmers markets, whichever look best — Frog Hollow, Full Belly, and Woodleaf farms — are all trusted sources. She then halves, marinates, and lightly grills them to bring out even more flavor, an appealing mix of sweet with a backing of tart.
“Acid, you’ve got to have that acid,” said Murray of the hallmark of a great apricot.
If you do find quality, local apricots, Murray recommended against refrigerating them. Rather, consume them as soon as you can while their sun-kissed flavor and texture lingers.
“When you get an apricot that’s fresh and bite into it, it’s just astounding how much sweet juice it contains,” she said. “That’s what refrigerating them does — it ruins that burst of juiciness.”
When picking them out, look for fruit that yields to the touch but that’s not too soft or mushy. Also target vibrant yellow to orange color with no hints of green. Apricots can be left to ripen at room temperature out of direct sunlight or in a paper bag. Once soft, they can be stored in the refrigerator crisper for around a week.
“I love celebrating the delicate nature of apricots — you might get them and you might not,” said Murray. “They really are one of nature’s blessings. They’re worth making the effort.”
Honey Lavender Apricot Salad
From Amy Murray of Revival Bar + Kitchen
Honey Lavender Vinaigrette
1 cup fine diced shallot
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 cup lavender honey (OK to substitute regular honey)
1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons dried organic lavender
1 3/4 cup neutral oil like almond or pomace oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
Macerate the shallots in the vinegar with a pinch of salt and let sit 15 minutes.
Whisk the honey, dried lavender, lemon juice together, add the shallots and vinegar and slowly whisk in the oil. (Do not use a blender as it makes the shallots taste too sharp).
Cut in half, marinate in a little dressing, and lightly grill.
Mix gems with dressing, season, arrange.