poppyseeds: 2 posts

Apricot Poppyseed Cake

The smell of a ripe apricot is mesmerizing enough to make me want to give up perfumery and tend an orchard instead.   It smells of cream, sweet orange, bitter almond, and a hint of rose. Unfortunately, unless you have access to an apricot grove, finding such a perfect specimen is difficult. Apricots are invariably picked green, and even if they soften, they never develop the perfume of tree-ripened fruit.

apricot-poppyseed2

There is, however, one technique to unlock some of the apricot’s fragrant potential. It’s to cook it. Even the hard supermarket variety becomes luscious and perfumed, especially if you add a touch of vanilla. I often sprinkle apricots with vanilla sugar and rosewater and roast them just until they start to turn jammy and tender. You can add cream, but that’s already gilding the lily. Or I make a poppyseed cake topped with apricots, an ideal late summer-early fall dessert.

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Ukrainian Wheat Berry and Poppyseed Pudding Recipe (Kutya, Kutia)

Wheat and poppyseeds

It is a quiet afternoon on Christmas Eve. I check on the last minute dinner preparations, light up the Christmas tree and take out my old mortar and pestle. Although I know that the food processor will be much faster and easier, there is something special about doing things the old way. As I pound the poppyseeds, the rhythmic movement of the pestle transforms the tiny grey-blue grains into a violet hued mousse. The aroma is nutty at first, then milky and sweet, like fresh marzipan. I want to dip my finger into the creamy paste; it must taste as delicious as it smells.

It takes all of my willpower to resist because on Orthodox Christmas Eve, the Advent fast can only be broken when the first star rises. Instead I continue to work, my body is here in this messy apartment—I still need to clean up before the evening feast—but my mind is with my grandmother on the other side of the ocean who has probably done the same thing earlier today. Kutya—or kutia, kolivo, colivă, koliva, sochivo, as this wheatberry pudding with poppyseeds is known in different parts of Eastern Europe—brings us closer together than any modern means of communication.

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