There's something exotic about fresh apricots, especially when you find them on grocery shelves in the middle of January. Those showing up on produce counters now are from South America; they'll be available until the U.S.-grown crop starts appearing in April.
Wherever they come from, there's a lot to be said for apricots, nutrition-wise. They're low in calories (51 per 3 fresh) and have little or no fat, sodium or cholesterol, but they're high in potassium and especially rich in carotene, the plant form of vitamin A.
Here's a recipe for fresh apricots guaranteed to put a little sweetness and light into a midwinter meal. It's from "Cooking A to Z," by Jane Horn with Janet Fletcher, with recipes from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco (1988, Ortho Books):
Makes 4 servings
1 chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds) cut in quarters (reserve giblets for other uses)
salt and ground allspice (enough to sprinkle all chicken pieces to taste)
1 tablespoon butter (or margarine)
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, thinly slivered
1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cinnamon stick (2 to 3 inches)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1 lemon, thinly sliced, with seeds removed
4 fresh apricots, pitted and quartered
Sprinkle chicken lightly on all sides with salt and allspice. In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, melt butter with oil. Add chicken and brown well on all sides.
When chicken pieces are nearly browned on last side, discard all but a scant 2 tablespoons of the drippings. Then add onion and garlic around the chicken. Sprinkle with turmeric, ginger and coriander. Add cinnamon stick.
Add the water and honey. Arrange lemon slices in a single layer over the chicken. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until chicken is tender (45 to 50 minutes).
Remove chicken and lemons to a warm, deep serving platter and keep warm. Bring liquid to a boil over high heat, stirring to blend in brown drippings from skillet, and reduce until liquid is syrupy. Add apricots, turning them in the sauce just long enough to glaze and heat through.
Spoon sauce and apricots over chicken and serve.