Warm Sweet and Sour Apricot Salad with Violas, Black Mustard Seeds, and Couscous.

O primeiro artigo que publicámos para um site internacional, espero que gostem e desculpem lá o inglês … mas o pessoal lá fora não fala a língua de Camões 🙂

It´s a tricky business writing about food and cooking, what seems natural and appealing to us, may not be exactly what the people who read your work enjoy. So when writing, I do it mostly for myself (pardon my selfishness). The act of cooking is something that always has been natural in my home. I learned from my mother, grandmother and aunts… when I was a kid, cooking wasn´t  a guy thing… nowadays it´s different, everybody wants to cook, even if they´re lowsy at it. Being a chef as reached the status of rock star worldwide, and cooking schools have never been so looked up for training.

Still I think everybody should know how to cook, trends aside, even if it’s just the basics. The world is changing, things aren´t so easy to come by, cooking may well be the one way to fend for yourself.  People have forgotten the basics of life, and now look at things such as fishing or hunting with a sense of ‘hmm…ok. How does this work?” Someone who forages might be considered a hippie with a bad sense of hygiene. Truth be told, getting things as natural as possible is healthier. It’s free of genetic engineering, chemicals, and probably higher in nutrition. At the same time you do natural exercise when you go off to find your food, hiking, picking, carrying your load along the way.

I´ve heard kids saying eggs come by way of magic in cardboard boxes. How sad is that?

Today I’m not going to write about meat or fish, I´m writing about apricots and violas. I remember growing up in my parents’ farm, and by the end of May we´d harvest them at their  ripest. It´s a wonderful experience to take the fruit straight from the tree, the flavour is at its best, warm and golden from the sun, sweet and with that zing of acidity that makes apricots so unique. Apricots are rich in beta carotene this promotes healthy eyes and skin, they are high in fiber and potassium, feeling drained? Eat a couple of apricots! Violas are very attractive flowers, you might think they are just used as a garnish. You might be thinking, “why the hell eat flowers?” Violas, in particular, are a good source of vitamin C, they also contain rutoside, a bioflavonoid, which helps neutralize the effects of free radicals, and helps lower Low density lipoprotein (LDL) in the body. Don’t judge, eating violas is smart not emasculating.

I´m sad to say that the apricots didn’t come from the family farm, they weren´t  sweet…actually quite acidic, (fruit stand lady took me for a ride!). I didn´t pull out my white flag, and found a way to go around it, by making a Warm Sweet and Sour Apricot  Salad with Violas, Black Mustard Seeds, and Couscous.

Most of my dishes I make them up with what I have available, so be sure to have the following ingredients:

–          300 g of apricots;

–          50 g of organic viola flowers (set aside few pieces for garnish);

–          50 g butter;

–          2 tbsp maple syrup;

–          1 tbsp balsamic vinegar;

–          1 tbsp black mustard seeds;

–          1 cup couscous;

–          Salt;

–          Olive oil;

–          Fresh basil;

Wash the apricots, and deseed them with a sharp knife, cut them in halves and place the butter in a skillet. When it reaches temperature add in the apricots and sauté them for a while until they become soft and  golden. Then add the maple syrup and let it simmer a little, when it starts to caramelize just add the balsamic vinegar and the mustard seeds. Season with a pinch of salt and some ground pepper.

Meanwhile soak the couscous with hot water, be sure to use the same proportion of water to the couscous, add some olive oil and salt, and violas. Mix it with a spoon.

Serve the apricots on top of the couscous, like in the photograph and garnish with some fresh basil and violas.

Here are tips on using edible flowers.

  1. Never get them from a florist or nursery unless they are certified organic. Grow them yourself or pick them wild. Make sure you have an edible flower guide some flowers may look similar but are not edible.
  2. Never get them from the road side. The exhaust from passing vehicles has already compromised them as far as being safe to eat.
  3. In the case of violas you can eat these varieties: Viola papilionacea, Viola tricolor, Viola odorata. The flowers and the leaves are edible, but do not eat the roots. Essential Oil from violas have been used to flavor pastries and liquer. Violas can have a lettucy to sweet taste.

Hope you have as much fun as I had cooking this, enjoy! Stay tuned for recipes showcasing other wonderful fruits and edible flowers.

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