Apricots have a complex sweet-tart flavor that marries well to a wide variety of spices. Generally, fresh apricots reach their full potential when cooked -- roasted, poached, sauteed or incorporated into baked goods. Warming them brings both their sweetness and tartness to the fore. Apricots can be used in both sweet and savory dishes -- they work well as accompaniments to lamb, poultry and game. Dried apricots, too, take well to a range of spices.
The best spices to complement apricots are the so-called warm spices. Primary among them is cinnamon, which can be used in both sweet and savory applications. Try adding apricots to cinnamon rolls, add a pinch of cinnamon to your cobbler or simply poach apricots with a cinnamon stick. Or add it to a lamb and apricot stew. Ginger is another friend to apricots, its warmth bridging the tart and the sweet. Try this combination in apricot-ginger scones, in a cooked spiced puree similar to applesauce or accompanying a roast pork tenderloin. Cardamom is highly aromatic and an excellent partner with apricots. Poach apricots with cardamom and vanilla to appreciate this spice's character.
Vanilla can team up with apricot, its floral qualities enhancing the fruit's natural sweetness. A little vanilla extract used to flavor whipped cream can be served alongside poached apricots or an apricot cobbler, or as the filling in an apricot parfait. Or add a vanilla bean directly to the poaching liquid when preparing poached apricots. Citrus flavors -- lemon, orange and lime in particular -- also bring out apricot's sweetness while also complementing its tart notes. This combination lends itself well to savory applications such as saucing a chicken breast.
Many herbs work well with apricot, providing a woodsy, herbaceous note to balance the fruit's sweet-tart nature. Basil may not be an intuitive choice, but the herb's aromatic pungency works well with poached apricots or in an apricot-chicken salad. The floral flavor of lavender is a natural match for apricot's sweetness; try adding it to your favorite apricot jam recipe. Rosemary's resinous notes play off both the sweet and tart aspects of apricots. This combination is good in both sweet and savory dishes -- try apricot-rosemary shortbread or use the pairing to season a pork roast or chicken dish.
Apricots are closely related to almonds, and in fact their pits can be used to create an almondlike flavoring. So it should come as no surprise that almonds are a strong flavor complement to apricots. Try adding almonds to apricot muffins and scones. Other nuts, particularly pistachio and walnut, also work well with apricots. A simple dessert of poached apricots, Greek yogurt and pistachios makes a statement at the end of a meal. Generally not classified as a warming spice, mustard nonetheless has a similar spicy warmth that plays off apricot's sweetness. A mustard-apricot sauce enhances chicken wings and pork tenderloin.