It’s apple season again: crisp, juicy apples of all varieties, some sweet, some tart, but all healthful and nutritious. Most of us think of either a brown bag lunch addition or something sugary, baked for dessert when we see the new fall crop. But aside from a tasty, portable snack food, apples are a natural pairing with pork, good with duck or chicken, and make a delightfully crunchy salad addition.
For the most nutrient dense use of apples, don’t peel them first, even when using them in your favorite pie recipe. Many of the nutrients are found in and just under the skin, a great argument for organic fruit. If the peel is hard to chew, slice the apples thinly to retain nutrients. The skin provides insoluble fiber in the intestinal track which promotes fast transit of foods through and cleanses the digestive system. Soluble fiber such as apple pectin helps to prevent cholesterol accumulation in the lining of blood vessel walls. The antioxidants in apples fight LDL cholesterol; boron, a trace mineral, helps to strengthen bones; malic acid fights indigestion.
Add chunks of apple with walnuts and blue cheese to a salad of romaine and watercress or arugula, and toss with a dressing made with cider vinegar. For a light lunch or easy appetizer, add thin slices to quesadillas with brie cheese and wilted spinach, the tortillas spread with a mixture of 2 tbsp. mustard and 1 tbsp. apple cider. Simply heat in a dry cast iron pan to melt the cheese and crisp the tortilla, then cut into wedges to serve. Instead of applesauce, lightly sauté unpeeled apples in a little butter with cinnamon, and serve with pork chops.
Add chunks of apple and onion to a pan of cubed butternut squash. Toss with salt and pepper, grated fresh ginger, ¼ tsp. cardamom and 2 tbsp. apple cider. Roast at 450° for 20-30 minutes until tender, and serve with roast chicken or turkey.
For a different take on dessert, roast at 375° 6 coarsely chopped apples tossed with 1 tsp. cinnamon, ½ tsp. ground allspice or ground cloves, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Meanwhile, heat ½ cup buttermilk, ½ cup mascarpone cheese, and honey to taste. When the apples are soft and golden, serve them in bowls with the sauce drizzled over the top.
Apple Coffee Cake
1 pkg. cream cheese (8 oz.)
1 ½ cups sugar, divided
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp. almond extract
1 ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. flour, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup milk
4 cups sliced apples
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. cinnamon
Combine cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, butter, eggs and almond extract. Mix well. Combine 1 ¾ cup flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Blend into cheese mixture alternately with milk. Pour into greased 9×13 baking dish. Dip apples into lemon juice and toss with 2 tbsp. flour, ½ cup sugar and cinnamon. Arrange slices on coffee cake and bake at 350° 50-60 minutes. Serve warm.