Fall in love with apples

If you’re getting sick of Granny, don’t worry, because the Pink Lady will be here soon.

No, not your granny — and shame on you for even thinking that — but Granny Smith, those lovely tart-flavored, tart-colored apples that are always easy to find, always reliable and always … there. Not for nothing did your mother tell you that familiarity breeds contempt.

Through a long, hot summer of luscious stone fruit, the Granny Smiths and Red and Yellow Delicious have kept apples in the supermarket produce department, and for that we’re grateful to them. Or maybe for them. At any rate, those standards are about to be joined by the slightly more exciting seasonal varieties coming into the market.

"We’re getting in some of the customer favorites the first week of October," said Megan Murray, marketing supervisor at the Henderson Whole Foods Market.

The favorites, she said, include Honeycrisp and Pink Lady apples, both of which are expected in the next couple of weeks. Honeycrisps live up to their name in that they’re both sweet and crisp and also rather large. Pink Lady apples also are crisp with a taste sort of between a Gala and a Fuji. That textural characteristic makes them especially suitable for eating out of hand, or other raw uses.

Also coming to market in the next few weeks, Murray said, are Spartan and McIntosh apples, both of which are tart and whose sort of mealy texture makes them more suitable for cooked uses such as pies, or for juicing.

Which is not to say you won’t get plenty of enjoyment out of the ol’ familiar Granny Smith or Red Delicious. In fact, their very ubiquitousness makes them a good choice, especially for chefs, who rely on a year-round supply. Catherine Pawelek, co-owner and pastry chef at Elements Kitchen & Martini Bar, said her chef/husband, Jose Luis, uses Granny Smiths in one of his more popular entrees, portabella ravioli with a sauce of the apples plus coconut milk, curry and raisins.

"People don’t usually expect to see apples other than … with a pork dish," Pawelek said. The apples give the dish "a little tartness; the coconut milk and raisins are going to give it sweetness. He wants it to have a crisp element, and Granny Smith is perfect for that," she noted.

Richard Wells, executive chef of Canal Street at The Orleans, agrees that pork has an affinity for apples, and said he likes to use Gala apples with savory dishes. He’ll finish the pork with an apple glaze and top it with a salsa made with mangos, apples and red onion, plus a little red pepper for color. Or he’ll mix apples and mangos into a cornbread stuffing and roll it up in pork.

As for other types of apples, "I’ve used Braeburn," Wells said. "The kids like those. I’ll put them in salads or just give them to them for snacks. They’re sweet and they hold up well. They don’t crumble on you; they’re not mushy."

He also likes Jonathan apples, which can be used for snacks or baking, and Red Roma, which are somewhat tart and also good for baking.

Pawelek said she uses apples in strudel, pie, bread pudding and creme brulee. She likes to combine sweet and tart varieties, so she might use a Granny Smith and a Red Delicious or a Fuji. Lately, she said, they’ve been making homemade ice cream with diced Granny Smith apples, Saigon cinnamon and raisins in a vanilla base.

"You get the crispness of the apple, the chewiness of the raisins and the flavor of the cinnamon," she said.

An easy way to duplicate it at home, she said, would be to mix the apples, raisins and cinnamon with some Calvados and use the mixture to top French vanilla ice cream. Or soften the ice cream, add some grated apples, raisins and cinnamon, mix thoroughly and freeze very briefly (so ice crystals don’t form), serving it promptly.

Pawelek noted that when she bakes with apples, she leaves the skin on.

"It gives it a little more texture, a little more rusticness," she said. "And it helps hold the apple together a little more."

It also helps preserve nutrients.

"Eat them with the skin on, because that’s where the vitamin C is," said Joanna Gorman, a registered dietitian and certified diabetic educator with University Medical Center.

Gorman said the nutritional value of apples isn’t as high as some of the more colorful fruits, such as papayas, kiwi, cantaloupe and watermelon, which are rich in lycopene and vitamin C. But, she said, apples are rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids and polyphenols. Research at Cornell University has found that the antioxidant power of an apple is equal to 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C.

Flavonoids, she said, assist antioxidant and anti-cancer activity.

"They fight free radicals," she said. "Free radicals appear to contribute to the development of some forms of cancer."

They also contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, she added, with the soluble fiber — pectin– helping to prevent cholesterol buildup in the lining of blood-vessel walls, thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. The insoluble fiber, she said, provides bulk, holding water to help move food through the digestive system.

Gorman said the raw, whole-food use is best.

"People need to realize apples can be used in salads with jicama, or in coleslaw," she said. "People forget how cheap they are. Just scoop them out with a little bit of cinnamon and bake those babies."

Of baking and cooking, she said, "of course it’s going to affect some of the nutrition. But is a baked apple better than a couple of cookies?

"Of course."

PRESIDENT’S APPLE PIE

For crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons shortening

6 to 8 tablespoons ice-cold water

For filling:

5 tart apples (or any variety you like)

1 lemon

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed

2½ tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 to 2 tablespoons butter

Sugar for dusting crust (optional)

Make the pie crust first; it can sit in the refrigerator while you combine the filling. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and sugar with a fork. Cut butter and shortening into pieces into the flour mixture. Cut in butter and shortening using a dough blender or two knives held to together (my favorite way to do it) until the butter and shortening pieces are reduced to small pebble size. Then cut in 6 tablespoons of ice-cold water. The dough should be moist and pull away from the sides of the bowl, not crumbly but not sticky. Gather up the dough with your hands and gently, quickly shape into a ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 20 minutes or more.

Peel and slice the apples. (An apple slicer will make the job quick and give you consistent slices.) Soak the apple slices in water with the juice of 1 lemon; this adds flavor and slows the apples from browning. In a large bowl, mix the two sugars, flour, cinnamon and salt with a fork till well blended. Add vinegar and mix well until filling has a crumbly texture. Drain and dab a paper towel over the apples to remove excess moisture. Add apples to filling mixture; mix until completely blended. Set aside. (Juices will increase by the time you pour into the pie shell.)

Remove dough from refrigerator and cut in half. Flour your rolling surface, whether you use a cutting board or a fresh white flour-sack-type dish towel. Lightly coat your rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough into a circle, always rolling outward, not back and forth. Roll until large enough to fit a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan with enough to extend over the rim of the pan. Gently fold the dough in half and again in quarters. Place the point of the fold in the center of the pie pan and unfold over the pie pan. Using a fork, poke four times to allow the crust to ventilate while cooking.

Place apple slices in pie shell, lining the bottom in a uniform manner until all apples are placed. Pour remaining juice over the apples. For a buttery flavor, dab small bits of butter around the top of the apple slices.

Roll out the other half of the dough and fold in half and then quarters. Gently lift and place in center of apples and carefully unfold. Remove excess dough at edges if it extends over an inch or so. Crimp top and bottom crusts together and gently fold under edge so that the pie is sealed. Using your thumb and fingers, shape the edge in a wavy or zig-zag pattern. Cover edge with a small strip of aluminum foil.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. After baking, you can sprinkle a touch of sugar on the crust, if desired. Let cool before serving.

Serves 6 to 8.

— Recipe from Gilcrease Orchard

APPLE CABBAGE SALAD

1/3 cup honey

¼ cup lime juice

½ teaspoon grated lime zest

½ teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 Granny Smith apples

4 cups shredded cabbage

2 kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced

2 green onions, chopped

Lettuce leaves

In a large bowl, whisk together honey, lime juice, lime zest, mustard and salt to make dressing. Core 1 apple and cut into thin strips; add to dressing. Add cabbage, kiwi and green onion; toss well.

To serve, core and slice remaining two apples; arrange on top of lettuce. Mound cabbage mixture in center.

Serves 6.

— Recipe from the Washington Apple Commission

SWEET AND SOUR SHRIMP AND APPLES

3 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided use)

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 Golden Delicious apples, cored and thinly sliced

1 cup green onion, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 sweet green or red pepper, seeded and cut into strips

1½ cups fresh snow peas or 6-ounce package frozen snow peas, thawed

½ cup cold water

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

¼ cup rice wine or cider vinegar

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Rice or noodles (optional)

In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high heat; stir-fry shrimp until just pink. Transfer shrimp to large bowl and reserve. Add another tablespoon oil to skillet; add apples and stir-fry 1 minute. Transfer to bowl with shrimp.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet; add green onion, sweet pepper and snow peas; stir fry 2 minutes. Transfer vegetables to bowl with shrimp and apples.

In small bowl, combine water, brown sugar, vinegar, cornstarch, soy sauce and ginger; mix until well blended. Pour mixture into skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until boiling and thickened. Reduce heat to low, return all ingredients to skillet and heat through. Serve with rice or noodles, if desired.

Serves 4.

— Recipe from the Washington Apple Commission

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@review journal.com or 702-383-0474.

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