Apricot Salad with Prosciutto and Burrata, Spotlight on Apricots and Stone Fruits, Danger with Refined Grains and Exercise for Your Mind
One of the most amazing benefits of traveling around the world and working with farmers for the Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Club is being able to sample many fruits right off the vine—and the tree. Among my favorites are apricots, sweet and brimming with flavor. This week’s recipe was inspired by apricots I enjoyed on a trip to Chile, a country known for its prolific fruit production. In fact, the Chilean stone fruit harvests, which typically begin in December, inform the timing of the olive harvest (olives are a stone fruit, too)—if the cherries and peaches are running a week or so late, I know that the olive harvest will as well. My olive scouts on the ground there are currently sending me photos of the olive groves overflowing with beautiful fruit for this May’s harvest!
Apricot Salad with Prosciutto and Burrata
- Apricot Salad with Prosciutto and Burrata
In the US, I love to shop farmers markets for the freshest produce, usually picked when ripe, so much tastier than fruit (and veggies) trucked across the country. Look for apricots in the next few weeks—May is the official start of the season in the northern hemisphere. As spring turns to summer, ripe peaches or nectarines are delicious replacements for the apricots in this visually stunning salad. Feel free to change the fruit to whatever favorites of yours are available seasonally where you live.
For the vinaigrette:
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white-wine or sherry vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
For the salad:
- 6 ounces baby arugula
- 4 ripe apricots, preferably freestone
- 8 ounces burrata or fresh buffalo mozzarella
- 16 very thin slices prosciutto
- Small fresh basil leaves
- Coarsely ground pink peppercorns
To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and honey. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To compose the salad, arrange a bed of arugula on a platter, or divide among four plates. Pit the apricots and slice into wedges, leaving the skin on for extra fiber. Drain the cheese and tear into bite-size chunks. If using burrata, tear directly over the platter or plates to catch any cream. Arrange the fruit, cheese, and prosciutto on the arugula. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, sprinkle with the basil and crushed peppercorns, and serve immediately.
Yields 4 servings.
Healthy Ingredient Spotlight
Apricots belong to the group popularly known as stone fruits because of a hard pit inside—the “stone” actually provides support while the fruit is on its tree. Apricots’ juicy cousins include peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries. When you see the word “freestone,” it means that the flesh is easier to remove from the stone than from “clingstone.” In general, stone fruits are good sources of potassium, vitamins A and C, and, if you leave on the skin, fiber.
Cherries are the earliest of the stone fruits and come in classic deep ruby red and in variations such as the blush-skinned Rainiers. They should have their stems on and be firm, plump, and free of blemishes. If you can’t eat them right away, cover them loosely and store in the fridge for a few days.
Other stone fruits may need to ripen before you can eat them. Keep them at room temperature on a kitchen counter, placed stem end down. You shouldn’t refrigerate them before they ripen, but you can place ripe fruits in the fridge although for no more than a few days.
There are literally thousands of varieties of stone fruits—more than 2,000 of plums alone—plus an ever-growing array of hybrids. Plumcots are equal parts plum and apricot, pluots have a 3:1 plum-to-apricot ratio, and apriums are the reverse, with a 3:1 apricot-to-plum ratio. Experiment to find your favorites.
Healthy Kitchen Nugget
While stone fruits are wonderful as they are, I also love them grilled, roasted, poached, and sautéed. Have an abundance? Purée them to use as a sauce or in mixed drinks like the classic Bellini—I love mine with equal amounts of champagne and peach (or nectarine!) purée. The best part is that you can freeze stone fruit purée in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop the purée cubes into a freezer bag for storage and defrost as needed—they’ll be a real treat next winter!
To make a fast purée, first peel the fruit—a 30-second dip in boiling water makes this a snap (the same technique used to peel tomatoes). Then halve the fruit, remove the stones, and process the flesh in a high-speed blender, immersion blender, or food processor.
For Your Best Health
Danger with Refined Grains
There’s more news about the harms of refined grains, from packaged white bread (the refined grain people eat most commonly) to standard breakfast cereals. A global study published in the BMJ found that eating a high level of refined grains was significantly associated with a higher risk of death, major cardiovascular disease events, and stroke, and that the more you eat, the higher the risk.
The problem with refined grains is that you’re not getting much in the way of nutrition. They’re low in fiber, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and phytochemicals—all great to boost health—because the nutrient-dense outer bran layer and the endosperm of the grain are lost during processing. This, in turn, means that the body digests refined grains too quickly, leading to insulin spikes, high blood sugar, and possible weight gain and belly fat.
There was one surprising exception in this study: white rice, which is a refined grain. One explanation could be that any negative effects of eating white rice are mitigated by the foods eaten with it, especially in Asian countries—think stir-fries high in veggies and sushi with healthy fish. Still, the researchers offer no green light to eating large amounts of white rice.
Exercise for Your Mind
You already know that exercise can keep body and mind healthy, with many studies showing it protects cognitive function—your thinking ability. New research found that it also protects against dementia. Researchers from the University of Queensland followed 16,700 people between the ages of 54 and 75 for over 13 years, measuring individual changes over time and using statistical techniques to suss out the impact of physical activity on cognition. “Our research determined weekly moderate physical activity increased older people’s cognitive function on average by 5% for men and 14% for women,” said Sabrina Lenzen, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland School of Economics and Centre for the Business and Economics of Health in Australia. “If a person scores 12 out of 20 in their cognitive function test and then started doing regular moderate exercise, we could see scores increase to 12.6 for men and 13.7 for women.”
The increase was even higher for those also doing higher-intensity physical activity, according to Professor Brenda Gannon, PhD, study coauthor and the school’s director of research. “We saw an increase in cognitive function of 8% for men and 15% for women if they were both moderately and vigorously physically active every week. Ultimately, we have found that physical activity has a potential, direct protective effect on cognitive decline and dementia, and women benefit more than men,” said Dr. Gannon. Think of moderate physical activity as a brisk walk and vigorous physical activity as a run. The researchers hope that these findings encourage people to be active from an early age in order to potentially prevent dementia rather than try to manage the disease when it’s “too late.”Get More Recipes In Your Inbox!