Apricot season arrived about a month earlier than usual this year, with the first of California's crop showing up at local farmers markets the first weekend in May. It was just in time to delight my daughter Nicolle, who was visiting from her home in Mississippi, where she is apricot-deprived.
The state's crop this year is light, but the quality is outstanding, apricot farmers have reported. My first few bites confirm this; the apricots I've enjoyed so far have been fragrant, flavorful and succulent, with lots of juice and absolutely no resemblance to the sad out-of-season apricots we find in supermarkets in December and January.
Tree-ripened apricots have a very short life; some seem to go over the edge in the car on the way home from the farmers market. If you end up with an apricot or two that seems to have almost turned to liquid, don't toss it out. Instead, hurry it on its way by quickly removing the pit and pressing it through a sieve or potato ricer. You'll end up with a luscious apricot nectar that can be stirred into still or sparkling water or even an inexpensive sparkling wine. Add a squeeze of lime, perhaps, and a sprig of mint or lemon verbena and you have a delightfully refreshing summer drink.
If you cook outdoors over wood or mesquite, roast the apricots — cut in half, pits removed — over the dying embers for a delicious dessert, served neat or with a scoop of ice cream, a dollop of creme fraiche, a splash of balsamic vinegar or a little brown sugar and lime juice.
For apricot recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives, visit Eat This Now at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
Here is a simple salad, perfect for lunch, as a light dinner, a first course or an after-dinner salad that also serves as dessert.