PRODUCE PICKS: APPLES AND FALL SEASON CHOICES

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Apple recipes included

By Greg Dunne

October 26, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – Let’s compare apples to apples. The change of the season from summer fruits, to fall and winter apples is under way. The start of the new crop apples begins the middle of October and will run through early May. The variety of apples we see in the markets are increasing all the time. Some of the relatively new varieties include Opal Apples, Sweetie Apples, Envy Apples, Ambrosia Apples, Ginger Gold Apples, Autumn Glory Apples, and Sweet Tango Apples.

These new apples are all tasty in their own rights. My favorites are Ambrosia, Sweet Tango and the Pacific Rose, which I did not mention in the list of new apples. Pacific Rose apples are definitely one of the favorites from the response I get from customers. I give this apple a slight edge over the rest of the crop of apples. Pacific Rose is sweet and crisp, refreshing and makes you say “I’ve got to get some more”. Originally from New Zeeland, the Pacific Rose first appeared on the markets in the US in 1996. It is now harvested in Washington State where it thrives in the rich, fertile soil of the Pacific Northwest. Look for these apples to come into season in November and last through April.

Eating Apples vs. Baking Apples. A list of a few of the old favorites we see in the markets on a daily basis are the Honey Crisp, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, McIntosh, and Jonagold. The Honey Crisp and Fuji are the kings of eating apples; Crisp, crunchy, juicy and very sweet. The Granny Smith is the go-to apple for baking - great for pies and for baked apples. Jonagold and Fuji Apples also make wonderful baked apples, they hold up well in the oven. The McIntosh is also a perfect baking apple, the white flesh a bit more tender with a sweet-tart taste. McIntosh apples are best at the beginning of the season but tend to lose flavor and don’t hold up well as the season progresses.

Organic Apples vs. Conventional Apples? What to buy and why. I like to buy organic apples when in season. The price of organic apples has always been expensive but the prices are coming down as more growers that are organic have been on the market. Pesticide spraying of conventional apples is heavy and apples are one of the “dirty dozen” produce items to be aware of when choosing organic vs. conventional. Again, organic apples are still more expensive than their counter-part, but are a lot closer in price than they were just a couple of years ago. Apples compared to other fruits are low in sugar, high-fiber, and a great healthy snack. Check out the organic section (the season is starting) and pick out some apples.

Now for my list of favorite top 10 eating apples in order and some recipes from my wife Dianne. A tie for first place, #1 Pacific Rose and Honey Crisp. #2 Sweet Tango, #3 Ambrosia, #4 Fuji, #5 Pink Lady, #6 Gala, #7 Jonagold, #8 Envy, #9 Sweetie, #10 Red Delicious. Happy Halloween and enjoy the pumpkin season.

From the kitchen –

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is not just an old proverb.  Apples contain a natural aspirin (salicylic acid).  One apple contains the equivalent of a five-grain Bayer aspirin and is healthy and risk-free.

Apples are great as a healthy snack, paired with wine, cheese and crackers for a delicious appetizer or used in a variety of dessert recipes.  Apples are also great as a side dish paired with pork chops, pork roast, or pork tenderloin.  Growing up my older sister’s favorite meal was grilled pork chops served with sautéed apples or applesauce and paired with Great-Grandma Mauser’s recipes for creamed spinach and potato pancakes.  Baked apples have also been a family favorite, either served warm with vanilla ice cream or by themselves – any leftover baked apples never went to waste as they are also delicious served chilled.

Pork Tenderloin with Seasoned Rub.  This recipe comes out moist and fork-tender every time but be sure not to overcook.  Allowing the tenderloin to come to room temperature after rubbing thoroughly with seasoning ensures that the pork is well seasoned throughout.  My recent favorite rub has been a BBQ Rub and Seasoning with Coffee and Garlic that I found at Trader Joe’s.  However, a long standby follows:

  1. Mix together equal parts garlic powder, dried thyme, dried oregano, and add fresh ground sea salt.  Make enough to be able to rub over all sides of the tenderloin.  Sprinkle over pork and rub in with a dry hand – pressing gently so the seasoning adheres well to all sides.   Cover and set aside until ready to cook – searing the meat and baking will take about half an hour total but allow a little time to cool before slicing and serving.
  1. In a large skillet over high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.  Put seasoned tenderloin in pan and cook about ten minutes, searing each side using tongs to turn the meat.
  1. Transfer meat to a roasting pan and bake at 450° for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, slice and serve.

Sautéed Apples.  Not all apples are ideal for cooking as some become too mushy. Granny Smith and Jonathan apples tend to be tarter while Fuji and Pippins have a sweeter flesh.  All are excellent baking apples and exchangeable in the apple recipes below.  Honeycrisp Apples are also great for baked apples.

Ingredients

¼-cup butter

4 large Granny Smith apples – peeled cored and sliced ¼-inch thick

2 teaspoons cornstarch

½-cup cold water

½-cup brown sugar

½ to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. In a large skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add apples.  Cook, stirring constantly, until apples are almost tender – about 6 to 7 minutes.
  2. Dissolve cornstarch in water and add to skillet.  Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon and boil 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and serve warm.

Baked Apples Stuffed with Oatmeal and Brown Sugar.  Below follows a basic recipe but I have added raisins and chopped dates to the baked apples pictured here.  Other optional extras include grated lemon or orange peel. Chopped nuts, grated or candied ginger or other dried fruit are a great addition.  For a Vegan treat, skip the butter.

Ingredients

Four medium Fuji Apples

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup rolled oats

½-teaspoon cinnamon

¼-teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch ground cloves

1-cup hot water

1 tablespoon butter, divided in four

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° with rack in lower-middle position
  2. Remove core of each apple, cutting to within a half-inch of the bottom of apple, being careful not to pierce through at bottom.  The well should be approximately ¾-inch wide.  I use either a melon baller or grapefruit spoon but this is easy to do with an apple corer or paring knife.
  3. Mix the brown sugar, oatmeal and spices and any extras in a bowl.  Divide this mixture between the apples, packing the wells firmly.  Arrange the apples in a baking dish, add water and cover loosely with foil.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and remove foil.  Top each with a pat of butter and continue baking uncovered until the apples are soft and the brown sugar has melted, an additional 20 to 30 minutes.  A paring knife should slide into the apple easily and the skin will become wrinkled and soft.

Grandma Mauser’s Creamed Spinach.  In the past, it was a timely procedure to clean and prepare bunches of spinach for cooking so we would use a large can of drained spinach for this recipe.  Spinach is now available at a reasonable price in bags cleaned and ready to cook.  I use approx 16-20 ounces of fresh spinach in the following recipe.     

Heat butter (or oil) in skillet and sauté approx ½ cup chopped onion.  In a small bowl, stir together one-tablespoon flour, salt and pepper.  Add flour to skillet and stir.  Mix until well blended and add about ¼-cup water – stirring fast before it thickens too quickly.  Reduce heat and stir in spinach and a good-sized pinch of nutmeg.  Heat thoroughly.

Potato Pancakes.  Any leftover pancakes my husband loves cold as a quick snack.  Potato Pancakes are great served with applesauce or warm cinnamon apples.  Makes approximately a dozen potato pancakes.

  1. Combine and set aside: 2 tablespoons flour, 1½-teaspoon salt, ½-teaspoon ground pepper and ¼-teaspoon baking powder. 
  2. Wash and grate four medium potatoes – about 4 cups grated.  Grate ½ onion and add to grated potatoes.  Place both in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl beat two eggs and add in flour mixture until well blended.  Add to potatoes, onions and 1 tablespoon minced parsley to egg mixture and mix thoroughly.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon over medium heat – about 350° in an electric skillet.   Spoon approximately 1/3-cup for each pancake into heated skillet and cook until golden brown and crisp.

Cooking notes:  After combining all ingredients I like to set this aside for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.  This allows the potatoes to form some juice to add to the mixture.  I use an ice cream scoop for measuring out the pancakes – mixing well between each pancake to re-distribute the juices.  When placed in the pan they will appear as large mounds.  Allow the juices to start to set and then use a fork or the edge of a spatula to smooth the pancakes down to an even thickness.