With apricot season up on us, we’re eating as many fresh ones as we can, making up pots of jam to bring early summer back to us in the midst of winter, and thinking about apricot ice cream topped with slivers of crunchy almond brittle. Even easier, but with a more complex, spicy, layered flavor is this riff on poached apricots. We like it best with Cocchi Americano, an Italian apertivo, made from a base of moscato wine fortified with brandy and then infused with gentian root, cinchona bark, orange peels and herbs, then aged in a wooden barrel for a year. It’s Lillet’s stronger, more complex, more bitter cousin. Poaching apricots in Cocchi Americano, vanilla, and spices makes a fantastic topper for ice cream. The poaching syrup isn’t half bad added to a cocktail, either. Try it while apricots are still in season; we think you’ll like it.
1 750 ml bottle Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc
3 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out and reserved or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
4 green cardamom pods, smashed
1 small star-anise pod
1 pound apricots, halved and pitted
Bring the wine, water, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds or paste, and spices to a simmer in a medium pot, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add apricot halves and cover surface with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the inside of the pot. Simmer just until apricots are barely tender when pierced with a knife, 6-8 minutes. Don’t overcook them. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked apricots to a bowl. Bring the poaching liquid to a boil and cook until it is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 40 minutes. Strain the spices from the reduced liquid, cool and add to the fruit. Let it all come to room temperature or chill in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Serve over vanilla ice cream or with a dollop of whipped cream.