The Allure Of Apricots
I'm not tempted to cook most fruit. Summer fruit, in particular, is best just eaten fresh out of hand. For example, cooking a juicy, ripe peach seems almost doing it a disservice. Cooking, though, is a perfectly reasonable fate for an apricot. It's not that apricots aren't good raw; they are. But, compared to their summer brethren, they're firmer, drier, and spicier - they cook well.
Like peaches, plums, and cherries, apricots are members of the rose family. And apricots go way back - they've been cultivated in China for almost 4,000 years. Although the ones you're likely to find in the market are the yellow-orange color that bears the fruit's name, apricots come in shades from white to black. Sizes and flavors vary along with color.
If, for some strange reason, you're tempted to eat the pits, don't. As with almonds (to which apricots are related), apricot kernels contain prussic acid, which is poisonous to people. You don't have to worry about almonds, though; the prussic acid in them is neutralized by roasting.
Using fresh apricots isn't the only way to work the fruit into your meal. Apricot nectar, preserves, and the dried variety of the fruit provide more concentrated versions of the flavor. Take your pick.
- Toss chopped fresh or dried apricots and crumbled Stilton cheese in a spinach salad. Add some apricot nectar to the dressing.
- Sauté chopped dried apricots, slivered almonds, and chopped fresh mint with rice for a pilaf. Season it with pepper and cumin.
- Use apricots instead of apples in a crisp or cobbler. Add chopped dried figs.
- Apricots poach beautifully. Use a simple syrup flavored with ginger and vanilla. Poach them until they're soft; it'll take less than 5 minutes. Garnish with blueberries.
- Chopped dried apricots are a good substitute for raisins or currants in just about anything.
- Stir in chopped apricots as your oatmeal is cooking. This works particularly well for long-cooking varieties such as steel-cut oats - the apricots practically disintegrate and their flavor permeates the whole dish.
- Substitute apricot nectar for orange juice in a fruit sauce or glaze.
- Make a couscous with fresh apricots (again, you can also use dried), toasted pumpkin seeds, and sliced green onions.
3/4 cup water
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 small onion, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
6 oz. dried apricots (about 20 to 25 pieces), roughly chopped
In a small pot over low heat, combine water, vinegars, sugar, honey, ginger, onion, cloves, salt and pepper and simmer, uncovered for about 5 minutes, or until the onions have softened. Add the dried apricots continue simmering, uncovered until the apricots become quite soft and the liquid has reduced to a syrup, around 40 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving. This is a great recipe to make ahead, up to 2 days. Just keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator until needed which likely won't be too long as it's deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelicious!
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