Botanists believe that apricots originated in China, but people have cultivated this stone fruit for millennia throughout the Middle East and southern Europe as well. Apricots resemble peaches in colour and plums in flavour; when ripe, their sweetness offsets their mouth-puckering tanginess. That tangy flavour allows apricots to mix equally well into sweet or savoury dishes. The spices that blend best with apricots' flavour depends on where the fruits fall during the meal. An apricot-enhanced appetizer or savoury entrée goes best with certain spices than those used in a sweet apricot tart for dessert.
Primarily a dessert ingredient, vanilla blends naturally with apricot's sharper flavour. Apricot tart recipes traditionally call for this sweet, fragrant spice. Either fresh vanilla scraped from the pod or vanilla extract can impart a warm, mellow flavour to an apricot dessert. Drizzle vanilla-scented syrup over halved apricots for a fresh fruit dessert or bake the fruit with a dusting of vanilla sugar and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Cinnamon's dry, warm spiciness complements apricot desserts. Cinnamon, like vanilla, is almost exclusively a sweet spice in western European and North American cuisines, but Mediterranean and Indian dishes also use it in savoury dishes. Combined with apricot, cinnamon lends a sweet spiciness to lamb and poultry. In desserts, cinnamon and apricot combine in everything from ice cream to layered cakes and trifles. Apricot and cinnamon also meet in flavoured teas.
Cardamom's flavour profile is complex. The seeds of this East Indian plant are so heavily fragrant that perfumers use them to give their scents a warm, resinous aroma. The seeds taste as pleasant as they smell and enhance both the sweetness and the tartness of fresh apricot. Cardamom's mildly sweet flavour goes well with apricot dessert items, especially in combination with other spices. Stewing apricots with whole cardamom pods infuses the fruit with cardamom flavour; serve the stewed fruit with ice cream or by itself with the poaching liquid.
Tarragon contains notes of citrus and anise, both of which blend well with apricots. Chefs use tarragon with savoury pork and lamb dishes; combining the herb with apricot gives these entrées a sweet, tangy flavour. A constituent herb in the French herb mixture fines herbes, tarragon goes in more savoury dishes than sweet ones, but adventurous chefs add it to desserts to give them an unusual twist. Apricots and tarragon easily cross the borders between sweet and savoury dishes.
Warm, spicy and highly aromatic, fresh ginger adds piquancy to apricots in sweet and savoury dishes. Ginger's pervasive heat mellows as the root-like herb cooks; poaching fresh or dried apricots in a sugar syrup infused with ginger spikes the fruit with just enough warmth and bright citrus-like flavour to enliven it, but not enough to burn the mouth like raw ginger. Dice pieces of crystallised ginger and dried apricot together and mix them into plain vanilla ice cream for a dressed-up version of a plain dessert.
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