In Season: Apricots
BY ALEX CANTATORE
No one’s sure exactly where they come from. But there’s no doubt that apricots are delicious.
They were a favorite of Alexander the Great, who introduced the apricot to Greece. William Shakespeare wrote of the purported aphrodisiac in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” citing apricots as a key ingredient in a love potion. And the Chinese associate apricots with medicine; physicians are sometimes referred to as “Experts of the Apricot Grove” in honor of an ancient doctor who required no payment, but asked patients to plant apricot trees in his orchard.
It’s quite a storied history for a humble apricot, a drupe that’s a close relative of the peach and nectarine.
Like most drupes, the apricot thrives in the Central Valley. More than 17,000 acres of apricot trees are planted in the Valley, producing more than 95 percent of the nation’s total crop.
This healthy fruit is chock-full of beta- carotene, vitamin C, and fiber. The apricot is as good for your eyesight as the famed carrot, and fends off inflammation as well.
The apricot’s kernel is just as valuable as its sweet flesh. Those kernels are used to flavor amaretto liqueur and some biscotti.
If you have a hankering for apricots, act now. These delicious, nutritious treats are available for just a few months of every year, leading to the Egyptian saying “In apricot season” – a witty riposte to unlikely predictions.
Perhaps the Turks had it right it with their saying “the only thing better than this is an apricot in Damascus.” In other words, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Italian Apricot Jam Crumble Tart
2 cups flour
1⁄2 cup sugar
7 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sifted baking powder 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
apricot jam (see below)
In a bowl, combine all ingredients and knead until dough looks crumbled. Line a round baking pan with wax paper, then fill with 3⁄4 of dough. Crush the dough together to create a crust. Spread jam evenly over the crust. Form lattice strips and an edge using the remaining crumbs. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.
4 cups diced apricots 1/8 cup lemon juice
3 cups sugar
Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
Boil for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and fill sterilized canning jars.
Moroccan Chicken with Apricot and Olives
1⁄4 cup honey
1⁄4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice 2 teaspoons ground ginger 1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
8 chicken thighs
4-5 fresh apricots, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
20 green olives, pitted
Whisk honey with lemon juice, canola oil, and all spices. Cover chicken with marinade, turning to coat. Refrigerate for two hours.
Place chicken on a rimmed baking sheet, saving leftover marinade. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes at 400 degrees.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet and cook shallots until soft (6 minutes). Add apricots, olives, and marinade; simmer until marinade thickens and glazes apricots and olives (2 minutes).
Grill chicken over moderately high heat to lightly char and crisp skin (6 minutes). Top with relish and serve.