The Apple of my Eye

For the past several years, along with my usual brown bagged lunch of various cooked vegetables
and my hybrid herbal and black tea, I’ve also packed an apple for my daily midday meal. Early in
my career, my lunch consisted of a sandwich and some type of vegetable then eventually
morphed into cooked vegetables when the Mrs. felt that overindulgence during the annual
vacations led to unwanted waist expansion and she felt that we should simply consume
vegetables for lunch to balance the excesses over the past week or two. This eventually led to
daily vegetable consumption even if we weren’t returning from a vacation which meant
changing up the usual vegetable side course. Apples are available all year round so they
eventually replaced those carrot and celery sticks or steamed broccoli.

Does a Daily Apple Keep the Doctor Away?

A medium sized specimen of the variants of Malus pumila provide about 50 calories, 2 & ½ gm
of dietary fiber, mainly the soluble type of fiber that lowers cholesterol along with riboflavin,
pyridoxine, Vitamin C and K and manganese, phosphorus and potassium so by itself won’t keep
the doctor away but along with other healthy lifestyle habits will definitely contribute to
overall wellness.
And along with that pleasing crunch combining both sweet and tart qualities, also cooks down
to superb side dishes and desserts satisfying both the savory and sweet spectrum of the culinary

As Is

Over the years I’ve whittled down the types of apples carried in my lunch bag. First and
foremost usually is that evenly speckled sweet, fragrant and crisp cross of a Golden Delicious and
Kidd’s Orange Red created down under in New Zealand back in the 1930s. The Gala usually is
the perfect snacking size and when purchased at peak, it’s rare to find a mushy or mealy
specimen. Because it was first created in New Zealand, you can still find ideal specimens long
after Washington’s apple season has passed as New Zealand’s seasons are the opposite of those
experienced Stateside so they’re available at peak for most of the year.
That is until I sampled the Envy apple, a cross between a mutation of the Gala apple, the Royal
Gala and the Braeburn. And once again, it was created down under in New Zealand so it’s
available almost year round. With slightly more acidity that the Gala but a rounder flavor
profile and just as crisp the only issue was the size as the initial specimens available at our local
supermarkets were about as huge large Fuji apples. But recently I’ve seen prepacked bags of Envy
miniatures for that perfect snacking size.
Of course if I could, I would still select any apple freshly picked from Uncle Richard’s apple tree
on Whidbey Island over any apple from the supermarket. You see, Uncle Richard has just one
apple tree but he’s grafted almost a dozen different apples on that one tree so one section may
contain Jonathan apples while another section sprouts Jonagold and another Fuji an so forth.
And the one thing you never have to worry about with a freshly picked apple is a mealy or
mushy texture.
And when Uncle Richard had a bumper crop of apples and you consumed as many fresh apples as
humanely possible and still had several ziptop bags of sliced frozen apples, what do you do?
Make fresh apple cider of course via a recycled washing machine motor and crude slicing device.
Those sliced apples are then squeezed through a manual press to extract every last bit of fresh
apple juice. Of course, the next time we visit Uncle Richard, I’ll have my own recipe for brewing
some real hard apple cider!

With a Little Heat

It’s a little ironic of that phrase “as American as apple pie” despite China being the biggest
producer in the world growing almost half of the world’s supply of apples. But once you’ve had
your fill of fresh apples, the next step is to cook the leftovers and apple pie is usually the first
dish created with the overabundance of the season. And though I do enjoy a nice warm slice of
apple pie, the following dessert immediately became my favorite apple dessert after I first
sampled this mixture of fresh apples and an almost cheesecake like batter but with no guilt as
the original rendition called for fat free cream cheese which no longer is available but the
reduced fat version is almost as guilt free.

Cinnamon Apple Cake

1 & ½ c sugar
6oz reduced fat cream cheese
½ c butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 & ½ c flour
1 & ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ c sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
3 c peeled, cored, chopped apples (2 large or 3 medium)

Mix first four ingredients until smooth. Add one egg at a time until thoroughly incorporated.
In another bowl mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a third bowl mix ¼ c sugar and
cinnamon. Add 2 tbsp of cinnamon mixture to apples until well coated. Mix dry ingredients
into first bowl until smooth. Add apple mixture. Pour into 8 inch pre-greased (Pam)
springform pan. Top with rest of cinnamon mixture (may not use all of it). Bake in preheated
350 degree oven for 1 hr 15 minutes or until cake starts to pull away from sides of the pan. Cool
on rack. Cut into 12 wedges with serrated knife. Can be enjoyed warm, room temperature or
even cold.

Or if you’re still in the mood for apple pie, how about this freeform apple crostata. The pate
brisee dough recipe is from the domestic diva herself, Martha Stewart and is as simple as pie
dough gets. The hole in the middle of the crostata allows moisture to escape during baking but
also functions as a perfect holder for a scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Apple Crostata

2 & 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until
the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds. With machine running, add ice water in a
slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or
sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount
together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Divide dough into two
equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill
at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.

About 3 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
Cornstarch mixed with water

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a medium saucepan then add all of the ingredients except
the cornstarch. Once the apples have started to soften, stir in the cornstarch until the mixture
thickens. Remove from heat and cool.

After the dough has rested for at least 1 hour, divide it in half an roll out until it’s about ¼
inch thick. Spoon about one-half of the apple mixture in the middle of the dough then fold the
edges over the apples leaving a golf ball sized hole in the middle. Sprinkle with course sugar then
bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.