Seasonal Chef: the Noble Apple

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Just Google the word “apple” and pages of links appear bearing stories, descriptions and recipes galore. So what is it about the apple that is so intriguing? We identify it as the “forbidden” fruit, yet it’s not specifically mentioned in the Book of Genesis. (They were painted into our consciousness by artists of the millennia.) Apples appear in Greek, Norse and Celtic mythology tied to gods and goddesses bribing, tempting and fighting over each other for them; Snow White bit hers and fell into a deep sleep; Irish folklore says a continuous peel from an apple tossed over your shoulder will bear the initial of a future beloved; in King Arthur’s mythical time the mystical isle of Avalon is believed to be the Isle of Apples; upon witnessing an apple falling from a tree Sir Isaac Newton developed his theory on gravitation, and an amusing one: Danish folklore says that an apple will whither around adulterers.

Let’s deal with today. Apples come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, 7,500 of them to be exact. Whether they are called mela, manzana or pomme it’s a yummy and delicious fruit – and oh so good for you. We’ve all heard the proverb “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Research suggests that apples may reduce the risk of many types of cancer and are a rich source of antioxidant compounds. The fiber contained in apples reduces cholesterol by preventing reabsorption, and (like most fruits and vegetables) they are bulky for their caloric content. We use them in all sorts of ways: snacking, desserts, sauces, juice and liquors. After reading many things about this ubiquitous ingredient I wondered what I could do that was just a little bit different?

First, lets take a look at just a few that you will come across everyday: Red Delicious,  a crispy apple great for snacking; Golden Delicious: an all purpose apple that has a rich flavor, great for baking and making applesauce; MacIntosh: tart and soft, great for apple pies; and last the Granny Smith: a crunchy, sweet and tart variety great for snacking (because it’s a little firmer and will take longer to to cook). Slow Food USA developed a wonderful resource guide about this noble fruit.

Applesauce is just about the easiest thing to do with your apple, other than cutting it up and dipping in caramel sauce or almond nut butter. All you need to do is peel, chop and place in a pan with about a half inch of water. Then cook over medium to low heat. Add a squeeze or two of lemon juice to keep the color pretty and a bit of brown sugar to sweeten it and voila! you have fresh applesauce.

I got to thinking this week about what I could do with this lovely ingredient that could be slightly different and came up with two easy dishes that I think you might like.

More after the jump … 

First I took the apple and sliced it paper thin and set in a bowl with lemon water. This will keep the slices from turning brown. I used my handy mandoline to accomplish this task.

Then arrange the slices over the salmon to look like scales and pop into the oven.

Just to mix things up a made a simple gastrique. Gastriques are basically a reduction of vinegar or wine with sugar or fruit. It’s a French sauce used for seafood or meats – the sauce combinations are endless. For this one I chose  to be very simple: cider vinegar, lemon and sugar. I wanted the beautiful apple and salmon flavors to come through with a slightest enhancement of flavor.

 

  

 

For my second dish I decided to rework an old favorite “taboulleh.” Taboulleh is a Lebanese salad that typically has bulgar wheat as the base and mixed with mint, parsley, scallions and cucumber.

Apple is the star of this dish with a little red onion to round out the flavor.

Just for  little “pop and crunch” I added arugula and hazelnuts. The finished product was not only beautiful but had amazing flavor!

I hope you enjoy these two simple recipes below and take advantage of all the wonderful array of apples the markets have to offer. Each has it’s own unique character and flavor.

Coming up with weekend I have a new class at Tarry Market in our Young Chef Series. Check the link for details. The new class calendar for October through December is being firmed up now. As soon as it’s set I will post on my wed site!

At the end of the month I will be participating in a ground breaking conference on weight loss and obesity. While the conference is geared to practitioners it is open to the community. They will be discussing various types of approaches to these issues through diet, exercise, medication and every day practical tools like smart-phone apps and cooking techniques (by me!) The woman who is spearheading this conference, Dr. Harriette Mogul, wrote a best-seller about woman struggling with mid-life weight gain and a two-pronged approach to help correct it. The book is called Syndrome W, A Woman’s Guide to Reversing Midlife Weight Gain. It’s a fantastic book (which I’ve read) and a must-read for any woman in her 40’s-60’s! It’s going to be a very informative conference. For details on the conference and registration click the link.

Until next week … Buon Appetito!

 

Apple-crust Roasted Salmon and Cider-Lemon Gastrique
Serves 4

Gastrique:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinch of kosher salt
Juice of 1 small lemon

Salmon:
11/4 lb filet of fresh salmon
Zest 1/2 lemon
1/2 Pink Lady apple, peeled and slice paper thin and set in small bowl of cold water and 1/2 lemon
Grapeseed Oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

For the Gastrique:
In a small saucepan add the lemon zest, sugar, vinegar and salt. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Reduce by 1/3. Remove form heat and stir in the lemon juice. If the gastrique is too thick carefully add warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to loosen it up. The finished product should be sweet and tangy, with the consistency of maple syrup.

For the Apple-crusted Salmon:
Brush the salmon with a little olive oil and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Remove the apple slices from the lemon water and drain on a paper towel. Using the most uniform looking slices arrange them over the filet in vertical lines like scales. Brush a little grapeseed olive oil over the slices. Place on a tray in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the filet is finished cooking. Remove from oven and cool slightly.

With a very sharp knife slice the filet into 4 pieces. (A very sharp knife will ensure a beautiful cut!) Drizzle with the gastrique and garnish with scallion, if desired.

 

Apple – Red Onion Taboulleh
Makes 4-6 servings

1 1/2 cups Bulgar Wheat
1 1/2 cups of boiling water
1/2 cup Red Onion, 1/4” dice
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 cup MacIntosh Apples, 1/4” dice
Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon, divided
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Thyme, roughly chopped and divided
1 cup Arugula, optional
1/2 cup chopped Hazelnuts, optional

Combine the bulgar wheat and boiling water in a bowl. Wrap tightly with plastic and set aside for about an hour.

Sweat the onion on medium heat for about 5 minutes with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add the garlic and soften for about 2 minutes.

Add the apple and juice from half of your lemon. Cook slightly and then turn off the heat, leaving the pan on the burner. The goal is to warm the apple through, keeping the integrity of the texture. (We don’t want mushy here!) Add in 1 tablespoon of thyme and let the pan cool.

Going back to our bulgar wheat. The bowl should be cool and the water completely absorbed in the grains. Fluff it up with a fork, then add the zest of 1/2 of the lemon, the juice of the other half of the lemon and 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of thyme, 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine.

Add in the cooled apple mixture and toss gently. Taste for seasoning. Add the nuts and arugula if you want at this point, serve, and enjoy!

Maria Reina is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Port Chester, NY. In her free time she loves hanging out at local Farmers Markets in Westchester County doing cooking demos with seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog you can follow her  on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

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About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

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