Baking & DessertDinner

By Suzanne Lehrer | May 16, 2011

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer

Although perhaps sometimes perceived as a peach’s less-cool kid sister, apricots hold their own with a mild tartness, a fierce amount of both Vitamin A (good for the eyes) and beta-carotene (good for the heart), and a lower juiciness quotient than peaches (good for the environment-less napkins required for eating).

Depending on what source you choose to believe, apricots-just coming into season in the U.S. this month-are originally native to either China (not what you were expecting, eh?) or Armenia. These are two very different origins, but I guess things might become a little cloudy concerning a fruit whose existence predates both paper and steel; apricot seeds were once discovered while excavating a site dated as far back as the Copper Age (3500-2300 B.C.E.). After Alexander the Great (who I’m quickly coming to believe would make a killing today as a forager-see: saffron) introduced apricots to Greece after coming across the fruit in his travels in Armenia, apricot cultivation spread throughout Europe, and were considered in their dry form to be one of the most important commodities along the Persian trade routes.

APRICOT-WHITE CHOCOLATE COOKIES Recipe

While the U.S. has a plethora of well-known and accomplished chefs that home cooks everywhere turn to for tried-and-true recipes, I would like to submit for your consideration an Australian import who serves as my personal go-to: Donna Hay. Ever since I first came across Donna Hay, I fell in love with her straightforward, yet inspired cooking style instantly, and have since spent hours poring over her multitude of cookbooks. I have yet to find one of her recipes that doesn’t make me want to race into the kitchen. In addition to her cookbooks (which all include stunning photography-a plus for me since I have a need to see pictures with recipes), Hay has a bi-monthly magazine (that you can subscribe to from the U.S.) and a website featuring many of her recipes.

While looking for a way to feature apricots in a dessert, I came across this recipe for apricot cookies with coconut and almonds, and decided to add in white chocolate chips for some extra pizzazz-I find chocolate-less cookies to be somewhat sacrilegious. After overloading them with ingredients, I re-dubbed these “cookies with lots of things in them,” since that was what I found to be the easier way to describe them to coworkers. The dried apricots in these cookies keep them from being too sweet while adding something unique not found in your everyday, run-of-the-mill cookie. Plus, you can always pretend that the addition of fruit makes these “healthy.”

From Donna Hay

Makes 25 cookies

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer

APRICOT-MUSTARD CHICKEN Recipe

I will go ahead and say that this is one of my favorite dishes I have made to date for this column. I wanted to make a chicken dish with apricots that would prove to be quick, easy, and not too sweet, yet one that featured fresh apricots as opposed to dried. The use of mustard in this recipe cuts the fruit flavor, while the fresh apricots become tender and lend a fresh quality to the dish that might otherwise be lacking if you just used preserves. The end result felt warm, comforting, and summery all at the same time.

Makes 2 Servings

For Cookies:
  • 1 cup flaked almonds
  • 1 cup self-raising flour(note: neither Whole Foods nor Trader Joe's sold this, but my local Morton Williams did)
  • 1 cup dried, shaved coconut
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
For Chicken:
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup and 1 tbsp natural apricot preserves
  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into 1-2 in. pieces
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 3 fresh apricots, chopped

Directions

To Make Cookies:

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Mix flour, sugar, almonds, coconut, and apricot in a bowl. Slowly add egg and butter, followed by white chocolate chips, and mix until the ingredients are well combined. If you find the batter will not stick together, try adding a touch more of egg or melted butter.

2. Form 2-3 tablespoons of dough into flat rounds and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. The recipe calls for 8-10 minutes of baking, but I found my cookies needed 15-20 minutes. When fully baked, bottoms should be golden brown-and as the recipe specifies, look to the bottom of the cookie and not the top to avoid over-baking.

To Make Chicken:

1. In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, preserves and garlic. Sprinkle pieces of chicken liberally with salt and the thyme, and then coat them with all but 3 tablespoons of the mustard and preserves mixture.

2. Coat the bottom of a non-stick pan with olive oil, and over medium heat cook the coated chicken pieces until just barely cooked through, about 4 minutes a side. Remove the chicken, leaving any of the liquid in the pan.

3. Add one more tablespoon of preserves to the mustard mixture, and add the remains of the mixture, along with the fresh apricots to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, before returning the chicken to the pan as well. Cook the apricots and chicken together for about 5 minutes on low heat, until the apricots are tender.

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