Apricot season arrived early this year. I can't possibly let this time go by without buying loads and loads of these brilliant, coral gems. Their season is so short; I truly relish the time I have with them. Last year's crop was decimated by a late frost, so it's been two long years since I last bit into a fresh, warm apricot. And they are all the more sweeter for the wait. The sugary juice explodes in your mouth, and the velvety, soft flesh nearly dissolves on your tongue. Heaven.
I grew up under the branches of my grandfather's fruit trees. Tiny, rosy cherries and royal plums shared their space with an apple tree on the north side of the house. On the east were the brilliant, giant peaches and apricots dripping from curved branches. They shared the morning sunlight with another old, crooked apple and a dainty pear.
My kind, old grandfather cherished these trees, and cared for them so tenderly that you would have thought they were born of his own flesh and blood.
As children we played beneath their outstretched branches - bravely climbing high in search of forgotten fruit or napping peacefully in their dappled shade. Ever bold and strong, their arms reached toward the sun. As their fruit began to ripen, my grandfather would shroud the trees in giant nets, tied securely around sturdy trunks, to keep the hungry birds at bay.
I clearly remember the netted cherry trees. At times there were hundreds of blackbirds perched atop the nets, desperately pecking through the tight weave, fighting for the ruby jewels hidden deep within. It was as if they, too, knew this time was short, and they wildly desired the precious treat while it was here. Not so unlike me, I suppose.
We children would run to the trees, waving our arms, clapping, and shouting shoo shoo. But it wasn't until we actually began shaking the net and branches below that the hungry birds would reluctantly flee. Perching instead on the nearby fence to wait. The moment we returned to the house they were back, pecking and pulling at that loathsome net.
My grandmother would prepare amazing pies, tarts, crumbles, and crisps of all kinds with the bounty of these trees. And perhaps I became a bit spoiled, but if you've ever tasted a sun-ripened peach or apricot, fresh from the tree and warmed by the sun - so incredibly juicy you must eat it over the sink - then you know exactly how I feel.
I don't remember my grandmother ever creating a savory dish with her fruit, but I just love the combination. In this dish I added a hint of cinnamon to complement the sweet apricots, and I served it with a chilled rice salad. A fresh and easy summertime meal.
8 boneless, skinless organic chicken thighs
1 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp apricot preserves
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp cinnamon
8 apricots, cut in half and pitted
salt and pepper
handful of fresh, flat leaf parsley
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Season the chicken well with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken, in batches, in the oil. Remove to a plate and keep warm.
Add the onions to the pan and stir to deglaze. Turn the heat to medium and cook 5 minutes, until soft. Stir in the wine and boil until reduced by half. Add the chicken stock and whisk in the apricot preserves, mustard, and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer and add the chicken back to the pan. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Top the chicken with the cut apricots, cover and simmer 5 minutes longer.
Remove from heat and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Garnish with the chopped parsley, and serve with rice or crusty bread to sop up the wonderful sauce.
Shared with: Melt in your Mouth Monday, Mangia Mondays, Hearth and Soul, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Nap-Time Creations Tasty Tuesday, Full Plate Thursday, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Foodie Friday at Simple Living, Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Freedom Fridays, Weekend Potluck