Sunday, February 21, 2010

When Life Gives you Apples...Make Applesauce!

Produce of the Week: Apples

While I have tried for the past few weeks to focus on vegetables that often get a bad rap, I could not ignore the twenty-pound box of apples that replenishes itself every two or three weeks sitting in my garage. I mean, who does NOT like apples? So, here we are with some tantalizing recipes that use this little sphere of delight.

Apples are the quintessential lunch fruit. The daily dose of fiber and sugar that will keep the doctor away. They are one of the top cultivated species of tree fruit and span approximately 7,500 varieties. Today, we stick to a few major flavors, like Red Delicious and Granny Smith, but the market is expanding to include a wider selection (I think Pink Ladies take the cake). This popular fruit originated in Central Asia, probably in Turkey, and has been a staple in Asia and Europe for millennia, it didn't make it out to the North American continent until the 17th century. I could expound upon the history and qualities of apples, but you are probably here for the recipes. To learn more, visit Wikipedia or go hunt down Botany of Desire on DVD or in print.
Old picture of applesauce!

While apples aren't the most nutritious fruits around, they are delicious, and can be used in so many different ways. Applesauce is probably my favorite end product of bruised or otherwise marginalized apples. I feel no need, whatsoever, to add sugar to these stewy fruits:
5-7 (depending on size) Fuji and Gala apples. Coursely chopped with skins on (can peel if you want but the skins provide extra flavor)
1 cup water
Cinnamon to taste

1. Bring water and apples to a boil in a large-ish sauce pan. Lower heat to low.
2. Add cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon.
3. Let simmer/stew with lid mostly on until fruit is really soft (about 1-1.5 hours)
4. If you like chunky applesauce, mash with a spoon or fork. If you are an immersion blender addict like me, go wild!
5. Revel in the delicious flavors of homemade applesauce!

However, there is only so much applesauce a person can eat. So let's expand our apple adventures to a more mainstream course. Kugels are sort of the Ashkenazi Jew's version of a pudding - meaning it could include anything from noodles or bread to simply eggs. This Comforting Cabbage-Apple Kugel was adapted from "Passionate Vegetarian" by Crescent Dragonwagon (a monstrous tome and vegetarian bible).

1 small cabbage head (I used purple, but it left the kugel with an unappetizing bluish hue)
1/2 large onion, diced
2 medium apples, peeled and finely diced
2 tbs honey (I preferred it savory and would have left out the sweetener)
1 tsp salt
2 cups cubed and toasted whole wheat bread (I used my slightly stale sourdough baguette)
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup potato starch
1/3 block of firm tofu, smashed or pureed*
1/4 cup coconut milk w/1 tbs tapioca starch and 1 tsp baking soda dissolved*
1 tbs olive oil

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cabbage. Cook for about 20 minutes, until cabbage is starting to get tender and onions are translucent.
2. Add sweetener, salt, and apples. Cook for another 10-15 minutes. Take off heat.
3. While cabbage cooks, place bread in casserole dish and pour boiling water over. Let it soak until cooled enough to handle. Squeeze out and discard water.
4. Mash soaked bread with milk mixture and potato starch. Stir in cabbage mixture and tofu.
5. Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes or until starting to firm up. Let cool slightly before serving.

*The original recipe called for 3 large eggs, separated. The final dish is supposed to be kind of souffle-like, so if you want to keep the eggs, mix in the yolks for the coconut milk mixture. Beat the whites to stiff peaks and fold in at the end.
Apple pie, pre-crumble topping
Caramel (from my leftover vegan salted caramels) crumble apple pie!

And, then, there is always a classic apple pie! Make a simple vegan pie crust - I like to add a bit of food-processed brazil nuts to add a little oomph.

3-4 apples, chopped
Lotsa cinnamon
1 tbs honey or other liquid sweetener

1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3-1/2 cup canola oil

Um, pretty straight forward. Make pie crust. Roll out and transfer to pie pan. Fill with apples. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, until apples getting soft. Add crumble. Bake at 325F for another 15-20 minutes until browning and apples are soft. Drizzle with caramel if so desired. Let cool. Enjoy!

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