October is National Apple Month and the timing is perfection. Farmers markets and grocery stores are teeming with apple varietals, piled high in gleaming pyramids of green, yellow, and red. How important are apples to our produce economics? Consider this: In 1904, the celebration of the humble apple lasted but a week. The USApple Association is an advocacy and education group encouraging Congress to think all things apple, all the time. But all I’m advocating is for you to try some of these nifty apple recipes, because this versatile tree fruit can be baked, broiled, stewed, sautéed, fried, and eaten out of hand. It works in both savory and sweet dishes, and these recipes run the gamut from breakfast to dessert. Johnny Appleseed would be proud!
It’s baked oatmeal in an apple, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. Remember that not all apples are good for baking, so opt for a firm, tart apple like Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Mutsu, or Fuji that will hold up in the heat and not turn to apple sauce! Cored apples rest in a baking dish and are stuffed with a mixture of oats, milk, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon (an apple’s best friend). Pour in a bit of water, cover with foil, and bake until the apple is tender. Garnish with your choice of sweet (honey, maple syrup, brown sugar?) and cream (whipped, yogurt, etc.) and chow down.
Put this one in your holiday or weekend breakfast rotation; no need to stand in a long line at Walker Brothers! Sauté your apples in a cast iron skillet until soft, then pour the batter over the apples, sprinkle with brown sugar, and bake to puff. Dust it with powdered sugar and bring to the table in the skillet. One of the things I like about this blogger is she offers alternative ingredients (substitute almond milk for cow’s milk, or spelt or whole wheat for all-purpose flour). She’s adaptable and not preachy. If you’re making the effort to put something special on the table, that’s all that matters.
Smoothies are a quick and easy way to get vitamins and protein in your diet, and there’s much to be said about that. I’m a fan of “fast” when it comes to getting everyone out the door, including yourself. Just throw an apple in the blender with milk, yogurt, a few almonds, a little honey, and a dash of cinnamon and get down to the business at hand. If you freeze some cut up apples overnight, or throw in a few ice cubes, you’ll especially love the texture.
The original version first saw the light of day in the kitchen of NYC’s famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where it was composed of apple chunks, grapes, and celery and tossed in a mayonnaise-based dressing. Recently, I’ve seen versions with cranberries, chopped poultry (hello, chickens and turkeys!), and toasted walnuts. In this one, they’ve subbed in high-protein 2% Greek yogurt for the more caloric mayo, and I am here for that change. It’s lighter and fresher tasting. Also added are some Medjool dates, which provide a welcome chewy element amid all the crunch.
This is a lovely salad to accompany a puréed squash or cauliflower soup, and delightful on a lunch buffet. Here, spring greens mingle with Granny Smith apple slices, the ruby color pop of dried cranberries (you can also sub in jewel-like pomegranate seeds), a crunch of toasted pumpkin seeds, and crumbled soft goat cheese. Tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette with a bit of honey and mustard, this dish screams fall.
I’ve been making the Silver Palate’s Curried Butternut Squash and Apple soup for 30 years now, and it’s a keeper … but this one, built around cauliflower, the veggie of the moment, might just supplant it in the rotation. You’ll sauté onions and garlic, add the curry powder and cinnamon to bring out the essential oils in the spices, then throw in the cauliflower, apple, and broth. Once the cauliflower is tender, purée with an immersion blender, season to taste, and garnish with diced apples tossed in curry powder. This screams out for a grilled cheese sandwich.
This is a lighter version than many I’ve seen, and there’s no added sugar. For the love of God, I don’t want a caramel apple pork chop. That is an abomination. Here, the pork chops are seasoned and browned in butter, then apple cider is added to the pan and the chops are finished in the oven. The apples are sautéed separately, and when the pork comes out of the oven, mustard and sage are whisked into the pan drippings. Top the pork with apples, and pour sauce on top. Garnish with a few fried sage leaves (my recommendation!) and serve with roasted potatoes or rice pilaf to soak up the juice.
Now, you KNOW that I can’t do a recipe roundup without my gal Deb Perelman. This recipe is genius, and perfect for tailgates and big family gatherings, because you can get 18 generous slices from one recipe, and you only have to make ONE PIE. The filling is simply apple chunks tossed with apple pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice), lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt. Roll out two big sheets of dough, one for the bottom crust and one for the top, cut a few slits to vent, and slide into the oven. A quick glaze is drizzled over the finished pie. Another plus? It’s super portable.
While you’re getting your apple fix, take a moment to remember that not everyone has easy, regular access to wholesome food. Feed your stomach, then your soul by joining the fight to end world hunger.
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Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre. She and husband Josh are empty nesters since adult kids Adam and Leah have flown the coop. Rosie the Cockapoo relishes the extra attention.