i made these lovely basil, goat cheese + marcona almond stuffed apricots wrapped in prosciutto a few weeks ago for a pool party at my parent’s house. they were a huge hit.
six years ago i finally went to europe. i had to conquer my fear of flying (at least for a day) to fulfill my european vacation dreams that were fueled by my junior high french teacher, an obsession with edith piaf and henry miller and watching the griswold’s adventures on the big screen when i was ten. you read more about my first trip to europe and conquering my fear of flying in this story.
after london and before paris, we took a short flight to san Sebastián on what i can only describe as the airplane version of the rickety bus joan wilder took through columbia in romancing the stone, you know the one with all the chickens, people basically sitting on top of each other and screaming babies. i spent an hour on the plane next to a man who did nothing but look at me and grunt in disgust because he thought i was taking up too much room on the armrest. then we got to san Sebastián, a little seaside town in the basque community in spain only 20 km from the french border.
to say san Sebastián is the most beautiful and friendly place i’ve ever been to is a gross understatement. the people are kind and welcoming. during my first few hours i ran into the grunting man from my flight. he apologized profusely, said he’d had a drink now and felt much better. then he invited me to go hear his band play that night.
the cobblestone streets are narrow and lined with the kind of buildings i’d seen only in history books. balconies and windows are full of flower pots and it seems you can’t toss a stone in any direction without hitting a church or a quaint spot for a drink with snacks laid out on the bar. these are not the type of snacks you get in an american bar. there were no bowls of already sifted through peanuts and pretzels, no crock pot on a table near the bathroom filled with crusty chili, no hot dogs and certainly no buffalo wings.
at the san Sebastián pintxo bars there is no menu, no ordering and no waiting. platters and plates full of bite-size pintxos (the basque version of tapas) await you under a canopy of dangling jamon legs. there is no bowl of ice under any of the fish, dairy or meats to keep them from spoiling. the jamon above you is unwrapped and in the open air steaming with fellow diners breath and cigarette smoke. growing up in house where any food item that sat out for longer than 15 minutes was then considered contaminated with bacteria and immediately thrown out, the lack of refrigeration was a bit difficult for me to ignore. my friend helen who’d traveled all over the world saw the look on my face and said, “i promise you’ll be fine, just eat.” and… i did. octopus ceviche. slices of bread with ham and hard boiled egg. salt cod tacos. wild mushrooms with foie gras mousse. briny olives. anchovies and pickled peppers. beef cheeks slow cooked in red wine. lots of tuna and copious amounts of paper thin iberico ham. i have always been a lover of appetizers but eating my way through the pintxo bars in san Sebastián brought my love of small plates to the level of religious devotion.
the newest addition to my ever growing repertoire of hors d’oeuvres are these basil, goat cheese + marcona almond stuffed apricots wrapped in prosciutto. they’re simple to make and if you have any pesky vegetarians on your guest list you can eliminate the prosciutto and they still taste terrific. if you can get your hands on some iberico ham feel free to substitute that for the prosciutto. for the true pintxo experience: close your eyes, have someone blow some cigarette smoke in your direction, play a recording of fifty people all talking at once in a language you can’t understand and take bite. it isn’t quite the same but it’s as close as you can get without being trapped in a plane with grunting men and screaming babies.
what to get:
chevre (soft goat cheese)
salt + pepper
what to do:
1. slice the apricots in half, remove the pits and lay them out on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt + pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they soften but are still somewhat hard.
2. chop the basil and add to the goat cheese in a bowl. Add salt + pepper. Mix well.
3. put a spoonful of the goat cheese + basil mixture in the hollow center of each apricot half.
4. place a marcona almond on top of the goat cheese.
5. wrap each goat cheese filled apricot with a thin strip of prosciutto.
*what’s your favorite summer appetizer?*
writing this made me miss san sebastian so much that i went through my photos from my trip six years ago. here are some of my favorites.