Thursday, September 29, 2011

Surely the Apple is the Noblest of Fruits*

Last weekend my darling girl made a trip to a local apple orchard and requested a recipe or two for apples. Ahh .. the apple ... little kids love the juice, grown-ups love pie ... so many recipes, so little time. I especially had fun this week researching this lovely fruit, and learned many new things! 

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 focus on 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). 

Applesauce is just about the easiest thing to do with your apple, other than cutting it up and dipping in caramel sauce or peanut 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 wanted to take it a step further, but still be something easy. I had in my mind that for this exercise I wanted to show you something savory, rather than sweet. Start to finish, my active time on this dish was probably about 30 minutes. After I finished making it I decided that I was hungry and cooked up a pork chop. (Which by the way only cost about $2.50. Bone-in pork chops are around $4.99 a pound and usually come in a package of two.) A culinary match coined by W.C Fields and perpetuated by Peter Brady, of the Brady Bunch: “pork chops and applesauce.” Anyway, into the frying pan my chop went, seasoned lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. Basically in less than an hour I was eating my lovely dinner. 

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
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. 
My onion is quite huge, and as you can see just half of it yields well over a cup. Go ahead and chop the half, but you will only use 1/2 cup for this recipe. I placed the rest in 2 zip lock bags for another use. 
Sweat the onion on medium heat for about 5 minutes with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. (Lets talk briefly about “sweating”: in a previous recipe I described “caramelizing” the onion, making it golden brown. For this recipe we are only going to “sweat” it,  or just bring it to a soft stage. It’s another cooking technique, this time giving you a mellow flavor to the onion.) Add the garlic and soften as well, 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!
I refrigerated the leftovers that night and the next day it tasted even better. By the way this dinner came in under $5.00!

I hope you like this recipe, please feel free to send me ideas and thoughts on my blog. I’m looking to give it some personality and a new name! 
Buon appetito tutti!

* Henry David Thoreau

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