When it comes to fresh apricots, using them in a recipe, rather than simply snacking on the fruit, isn't top of mind—but why not? When cooked, apricots provide a gentle sweetness that offers a contrast to savory or spicy ingredients; when used fresh in, say, a grain salad, they're a bit tangy. Feel free to use apricots in any recipe that calls for a peach but you're not in the mood to blanch and peel the fruit's fuzzy skin (or dislike the texture that skin maintains).
Of course, dried apricots are ideal for cooking and baking, so there's no need for any extra rationale there. Just be sure to treat the apricots, whether fresh or dried, with respect to ensure the fruit ends up providing the flavor that you seek.
General Tips for Cooking with Apricot
Cooking with Fresh Apricot
- Apricots are a stone fruit, which means it has a hard pit in the middle of it. To get rid of it, use a paring knife down the natural indentation in the fruit. Twist the halves in opposite directions, and it should easily separate. From there, you can just pop out that seed and discard it.
- Apricots may be substituted for their cousins (peaches and nectarines) in most recipes, so feel free to experiment.
- The perk of using an apricot is that most recipes don't require the smooth skin of the apricot to be peeled. However, should you need to peel them, simply blanch in boiling water for about 20 seconds and then plunge them into ice water. The skins should peel off easily.
- Remember that cut apricots will darken with exposure to air. Add them quickly after cutting to cooked dishes or dip them in an acidic solution (citrus or pineapple juice works well) if using apricots in fresh dishes.
- If you're feeling a bit exotic, apricots can star in Middle Eastern or Indian chutneys, which are a bit like chunky jams. Put cool yogurt raita on the side with a whole bunch of pita chips or toasted naan.
Cooking with Dried Apricots
- If your dried apricots have dried out too much, they may be softened in the microwave. Place the dried apricots in a single layer in a microwave-safe dish and sprinkle with a bit of water. Cover and microwave for one to two minutes, checking for pliability. They may also be steamed or soaked in liquid to soften them up.
- When chopping dried apricots in a food processor, toss in a bit of the recipe flour to keep them from sticking to the blades. When chopping them by hand, oil the blade of the knife or kitchen shears or dip the dried apricots in flour.