Astonishing Apples and Applepanzanella
So many fruits are divas, temperamental and finicky. Is that peach ripe, or will I cut into it and find it spongy? Is that mango ever going to ripen, or just turn from rock-hard to mushy overnight?
Not the apple. Buy a whole bag, put them in the drawer in the fridge, you don’t have to leave a post-it note to remember that they must be eaten by Tuesday. Of course, their siren song of tastiness will make you you want to eat them all up, but there is none of the pressure.
Apples are the perfect snack to carry, easy to stash in your bag, with no extra packaging. Sliced, they make the best dippers, a sprightly and crunchy base to top with nut butters or honey. Throw them in cereal, smoothies, salads, for an easy flavor boost.
But if you want to step beyond the raw apple snack, you might like to check out this book, Astonishing Apples, by Joan Donatelle.
In this handy book, Donatelle gives us some background into apples, educating us on the contribution made by Minnesota’s famed U of M Horticultural Research Center. With guides to the varieties grown in the Midwest, and good tips for selecting and cooking with apples, this will be a handy guide to check as you decide which apple to buy. There’s also good info on the amazing and yes, astonishing health benefits of apples.
But you will want to buy a copy just for the recipes. Donatelle takes the apple from breakfast to dessert, with sweet to savory flavor combos. Apple Bruschetta, Apple Salsa, Apple Cornbread and Gorgonzola Apple Pizzetti are all creative snacks that will make your friends and family smile.
An Apple Omelette? White Bean, Kale and Apple Soup? Those sound good to me. Ginger Apple Cake, Apple Panna Cotta, Apple Almond Biscotti, and Individual Apple Tart Tatin are just a few recipes that cover the dessert end of things. There are plenty of vegetarian options in the book, as well as dishes with meat, to please the omnivores in your crowd. There are also quick recipes, which everybody needs.
I had to try the Applepanzanella, which was delicious. It is a rustic, hearty salad for the season, combining the sweet-tart flavor of the roasted apples with the lightly browned, cabbagey goodness of brussels sprouts, toasted bread cubes, and sweet red onion. Nutty walnuts and creamy Gouda finish it (vegans can skip the cheese, with no loss of wonderfulness.) Cider vinegar is the perfect note of tartness, instead of the usual red wine or balsamic vinegar.
If your interest is piqued, and you are reading this in time, Joan Donatelle and I will be selling and signing books at the Golden Fig Fine Foods, in St Paul, on Saturday, December 12th, 10 AM to 1 PM. We will be joined by Amanda Paa, who will be signing copies of her book, Smitten with Squash, which I reviewed in a past blog, and posted a delicious recipe.
Joan recommends the Swee Tango for this dish, a stellar apple that came to be at the U of M. If you can’t find that one, look for a sweet, firm apple that will hold its shape after baking.
By Joan Donatelle, from Astonishing Apples (Minnesota Historical Society Press$17.95)
1 large apples, cored and chopped
1 cup chopped red onion
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
4 cups cubed ciabatta bread
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
4 ounced Gouda (Marieki) shredded
Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, combine apples, onion, brussels sprouts, ciabatta, and 2 tablespoons of the oil.
Spread on two baking sheets and roast for 20 minutes, switching the position of the pans halfway. When the apples are soft and golden, take out to cool.
Spread walnuts on a sheet pan and toast for about 10 minutes, let cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cider vinegar, honey and garlic, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and gradually whisk in the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil.
In a a large bowl, toss the roasted apples, vegetables and walnuts, and drizzle with the vinaigrette, toss to coat. Add the parsley and gouda (if using) and toss to mix, taste and add salt and pepper, if desired.