My favorite apricot memory goes back about five summers, when I had the good fortune to "house sit" for two weeks in Sante Fe. The house was large and comfortable, but the great cause for celebration was the enormous apricot tree in the side yard.
When I arrived, I spotted a bed of fallen apricots beneath the majestic tree. A tall ladder standing nearby invited picking the luscious fruits from on high. I had never eaten an apricot off the tree before, and I quickly clambered up the ladder before unpacking my suitcase. Indeed, I went slightly insane for the first few days, eating the luscious fruits about as fast as I could pluck them from the tree. The intense "apricotness" of this experience left a lasting impression.
There were literally hundreds of these dense textured, fruity orbs at the peak of perfection and screaming for attention. After I could eat no more, I starting halving, pitting, and drying the apricots in a slow oven. I made apricot pies, apricot compotes, apricot cakes, and apricot muffins. I made new friends in the neighborhood for the sole purpose of finding good homes for my apricot creations. Then I stocked the freezer with home-baked goodies for my generous hosts. And still there were more apricots...
In New York City, where I live, there is a fruiting fig tree in a garden on the Lower East Side, and we all know that a tree grows in Brooklyn, but I can assure you that it doesn't bear apricots. And the painful truth is that it's near impossible to find a good fresh apricot in this otherwise great town. Every few years, when I'm feeling particularly optimistic on a glorious summer's day, I get a yen for fresh apricots and buy some. After taking a few bites, I vow never to do so again: the apricots we get in this part of the country suffer terribly from jet lag.
That is, unless they are dried apricots. These days, I get my apricot fix by indulging in intensely sweet, creamy organic dried apricots from California. These delights are brownish, not the bright Halloween orange of apricots whose color is garishly dyed by chemical preservatives.
Try them in this bulgur pilaf scented with the spices of North Africa. The pilaf goes well with roasts and grills. It's good warm or at room temperature.
Heat the oil in a heavy, 2-quart saucepan. Add the onions and cook over medium-high heat until they are translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the coriander, cardamom and cinnamon, and cook another minute. Stir in the bulgur and coat it with the oil. Continue coo king, stirring frequently, until the bulgur emits a faint toasted aroma, about 3 minutes. Stir in the carrot, 2 1/4 cups water, salt, and the lemon slices.
Bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and cook over medium-low heat until the bulgur is tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steam for 10 minutes, or until ready to serve.