Oregon strawberries are amazing. They’re so soft, red all the way through to the core, and bursting with juicy sweetness. Each year, I look forward to strawberry season, it’s my favorite time of the year. My husband loves strawberries too. We like to pick our own, and we eat so many before we even get out of the field, we make ourselves sick. Yesterday, we drove all the way out to Sauvie Island for u-pick strawberries, but the strawberries weren’t ready yet. I almost cried. I had even called ahead to check, and I was assured that they were ripe. Several eager strawberry eaters were stooped among the rows, picking. But thanks to some unseasonably cool weather, the strawberries were tart, and most certainly not ripe. Almost ripe, but not ripe. Unlike all of those other people, I am willing to wait for the perfect strawberries and will go back next week.
But the farmers market did have apricots. My consolation prize. How is it that the strawberries weren’t ready, but they had apricots at the farmers market? Never mind that. Their aroma was so intoxicating, I just had to have some. Many of the apricots were already bruised and mushy. I took my time picking through the pile looking for perfect specimens, ripe but still firm. I got about a dozen before I sensed my husband’s patience wearing thin. He was already at the front of the line to pay. I didn’t plan on making anything with the apricots. I just like to eat them fresh, out of hand. And anyway, I figured they needed a day or two to get sweeter.
I didn’t plan on making anything, but I guess I had baking and, more likely, dessert, on the brain. It’s a good thing I keep homemade tart dough in the freezer. Before I knew it, I had made apricot-custard tartelettes.
The happy byproduct of the making the tartelettes was the apricot poaching liquid. And to think, I wasn’t even sure if I would bother keeping it. Until I tasted it. It was even more delicious than the tartelettes. I put soda water and vanilla ice cream on the shopping list.
Miraculously, the unseasonably cool weather cleared up and the sun smiled on us just in time for us to drink our floats!
Apricot Ice Cream Floats
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
4 small apricots, ripe but firm
1 quart vanilla ice cream
2 cups soda water, chilled
Combine the sugar, vanilla bean paste, and 2 cups of water in a small saucepan. Heat until the sugar dissolves. Halve the apricots and remove the pits. Add the fruit and pits to the pan, bring to a bare simmer, and simmer gently for about a minute, or until tender. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Discard the pits. Puree the apricots in a food mill using the finest disc. Add the poaching liquid to the puree and chill.
Scoop the ice cream into 4 chilled glasses. Blend together the apricot mixture and soda water and divide among the glasses. Add straws and enjoy right away.
Makes 4 servings. Apricots that are slightly tart are perfect here, as their acidity will balance the sweetness of the syrup and ice cream.