Conscious Cook: Apples, apples everywhere

“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” — Robert H. Schuller

The tapestry of autumn in New England is tinged with splendor, as nature sheds its robe of green and garbs itself in the richly textured colors of fall. As leaves begin to turn deep shades of burnt orange, russet, gold, umber and burgundy, conscious cooks seek out lavish and luscious seasonal ingredients.

Apples are a beloved fall crop. Not only are apples a wonderfully nutritious, natural food, but picking apples is a marvelous way to enjoy a crisp autumn afternoon. Cooks will appreciate the full palette of flavors that apples provide, ranging from wonderfully winsome to all types of tantalizing tartness.

Each year seems to bring new varieties, as well as old favorites, to local orchards. My personal favorite is the Honeycrisp. With its’ crunchy bite and super sweet flesh, the Honeycrisp is an utterly perfect apple for salads, cheese plates, desserts, or baking. I also enjoy bright red Macouns, as well as the duskier, drier sweetness of pale yellow Mutsus. I recently sampled a new variety called Lemonade and found it to be sprightly and effervescent with a very pleasing snap.

Apples are fantastic in both sweet and savory applications, including sauces, salsas, syrups, cakes, breads, pies, tarts and chutneys. I love a fall salad of pungent greens, apple chunks, blue cheese and toasted nuts, tossed with a cider vinaigrette. Or layer thin slices of apple and fennel and dress with a creamy herb dressing. Or indulge in a classic Waldorf salad. Originally conceived in 1896, by an employee at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City, this uncomplicated concoction remains a simple, yet polished dish. Mix 1 cup of Granny Smith apples (or tart apple of your choice) with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Add 1 cup of chopped celery with ¼ cup of good mayonnaise. Mix together until well coated and serve on a bed of lettuce. Consider including a handful of golden raisins, dried cranberries or cherries, and toasted nuts, particularly walnuts or almonds.

A unique and healthy treat, eating an apple a day may indeed “keep the doctor away” and benefit the body in a myriad of ways. A delicious source of dietary fiber, consuming more apples may help with weight loss and aid digestion, and may also help with lowering blood cholesterol, improve bowel function, reduce heart disease, stroke, and asthma.

Incorporating more apples into your diet is as easy as adding apple cubes to your morning oatmeal or yogurt. Slice and serve apples with natural peanut butter or almond butter. Make a special lunch by spreading whole grain bread with chevre or cream cheese, add a thin layer of apple butter and top with slices of your favorite apple.

With dozens of varieties available locally, make apples, apples, apples everywhere,  part of preparing your delicious life.

Apple Pancakes

Serves 6

3 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

¾ cup flour (all purpose)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

3 tablespoons butter

2 of your favorite baking apples, peeled and sliced

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon or apple pie spice

confectioners’ sugar

Preheat a 10-inch cast iron skillet in a 425 degree oven. In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, flour, salt and nutmeg. Cover and process until smooth. Add 3 tablespoons butter to skillet, return to oven until butter bubbles. Pour batter into skillet. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until pancake puffs and edges are browned and crisp. While pancake is cooking, in another skillet, combine apples, 4 tablespoons butter, sugar and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until apples are tender. Remove pancake from oven, cut into 6 servings and serve with apples and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

For more information on Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, The Conscious Cook, go to theconsciouscook.net.