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Short & Sweet : Summer Signals the Brief, Glorious Season of the Apricot

July 06, 1986|BETSY BALSLEY | Betsy Balsley is food editor of The Times.

One sure sign of summer is an abundance of fresh apricots, a golden fruit that's rich and juicy. The apricot's growing season is short, so good cooks everywhere ready their recipes and capitalize on each day of it, finding ideas that let fresh--and cooked--apricots star.

A member of the rose family--as are other stone fruits such as plums, peaches and cherries--apricots were first mentioned in Chinese writings that date to 2000 BC and were introduced to Southern California in the 1700s by the mission padres.

Modern cooks have devised a number of contemporary uses for this delicious fruit; Carol Peterson's Apricot Cheese Custard Pie is a fine example of how apricots are used today.

CAROL PETERSON'S APRICOT CHEESE CUSTARD PIE 2 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon salt cup shortening 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 5 eggs 1 1/2 cups milk 10 to 12 ripe apricots, halved and seeded 1/2 cup apricot preserves 1 tablespoon Cointreau, Triple Sec or orange juice

Combine flour, salt and shortening in large bowl and mix with pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle 6 to 8 tablespoons water over top and shape into ball. Roll dough out on floured surface then place in 10-inch pie plate. Crimp edges and set aside.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and 1 egg until creamy. Beat in remaining 4 eggs and milk until custard is smooth. (Mixture will be thin.) Pour into pastry-lined pie plate, place on baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 to 40 minutes longer or until center is set. Remove pan to wire rack to cool.

Arrange apricot halves on top of cooled pie. Heat preserves until melted, then remove from heat and stir in liqueur. Brush evenly over apricots. Chill 1 hour before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

FOOD STYLIST: CAROL PETERSON

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