For a light lunch or a dinner first course:
chicken and rice salad with apricots. Photo
courtesy Rice Select.
It’s apricot season! Full of beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber, fresh apricots are one of the early signs of summer. They’re in season in the U.S. from May through August. Check your local farmers markets for the sweetest, tree-ripened fruits.
Relatives of peaches, apricots are small, golden orange fruits, with velvety skin and flesh. A good apricot is sweet with a flavor that is described as somewhere between a peach and a plum.
Apricots are an excellent source of vitamin A and a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, copper, dietary fiber, and potassium, as well as other vitamins and minerals.
The fruit’s phytochemicals (carotenoids, powerful antioxidants, including lycopene) help to prevent heart disease, reduce LDL (“bad cholesterol”) levels and offer protection against some cancers
WAYS TO ENJOY APRICOTS
As a hand fruit, for snacking.
Slice atop hot or cold cereal or granola.
Chop into pancake batter.
Add to a green salad or cooked grains (barley, couscous, quinoa, etc.).
Churn into ice cream or sorbet.
Make into a dessert sauce.
Soak in wine and cook with duck or pork.
Give a Middle Eastern flavor to chicken or vegetable stews.
Dip in chocolate.
Add to oatmeal cookies, white chocolate chip cookies, bar cookies, muffins, scones, breads and pastry.
Chop and added to stuffing.
Dried apricots are available year-round, and are handy to:
Apricots are also distilled into brandy and liqueur. Essential oil from the pits is sold commercially as bitter almond oil.
Try this Chicken Apricot Rice Salad from RiceSelect.com. You can make it with fresh or dried apricots (or a combination of both, for varying tastes and textures). Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 25 minutes.
RECIPE: RICE SALAD WITH CHICKEN & APRICOTS
½ cup lime juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon ginger
6 cups cooked Texmati Light Brown Rice*, prepared with
Ingredients For 6 Servings
low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked
1 cup chopped fresh or dried apricots
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
¾ cup raisins
*Texmati Light Brown Rice, from Rice Select, is the quicker-cooking alternative to traditional brown rice. It cooks like white rice, yet tastes like brown rice and appeals to the nutrition-conscious consumer. You can substitute white rice or wild rice, or use another grain (barley, couscous, quinoa, etc.).
Fresh apricots are a fleeting summer treat. Photo courtesy Washington State Fruit Commission.
1. WHISK together lime juice, oil, honey and ginger in small bowl; set aside.
2. COMBINE rice, chicken, apricots, onions and raisins in large bowl. Chill at least 1 hour. Just before serving, drizzle dressing over salad.
3. COVER individual plates with lettuce leaves and top with salad.
Like peaches, apricots are originally from China. They arrived in Europe via Armenia*, where they have been cultivated since ancient times. Their botanical name is Prunus armenaica. (The Prunus genus of trees and shrubs includes the stone fruits: apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and plums, plus almonds.) The Greeks called apricots “golden eggs of the sun.”
The first American apricot tree arrived in Virginia in 1720, but it was thanks to the Spanish missions of California that the crop became widely planted, beginning around 1792. The sunny California climate is perfectly suited to the tree, and most tree-ripened apricots sold in the U.S. come from California orchards. Turkey, Italy, Russia, Spain, Greece and France are other leading growers.
*Armenia is a mountainous country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia. It is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to the east, and Iran to the south.