Wednesday, October 3, 2007

An apple a day

Yes, there actually was a 19th century figure planting apple orchards throughout the mid-west, which inspired the story of Johnny Appleseed. Though the history of this fruit-baring tree goes back to its origins in north-central Asia, and perhaps had its greatest role in the Garden of Eden.

For us today, the apple is one of the fruits that starting showing up in late summer, and carries us through the winter – be it fresh, dried or juiced. It has become the iconic fruit of the United States and no wonder for apples are grown all in fifty states -- though an apple pie on the 4th of July would never do for me. The first apples that come to market are always a sour variety like the Lodi then cooling nights of autumn brings on a legion of apples – in fact there are over 2500 different varieties grown in the US alone. My personal favorite s a Black Twig – it is on the smallish side, a mottled red with a rock-candy hardness and sweetness that I covet. It is however, elusive showing up in the market sometime in October and in very limited quantities. I am patience and diligent, and refuse not to have my annual fix.

I personally do not prescribe to certain apples are used for baking and others just eating – if you find a variety you like employ in every corner of the kitchen. Store the apples at room temperature for a week, and if holding on to them any longer store them in the refrigerator. Be aware that the apple gives off prodigious amounts of ethylene gas, which is naturally occurring and facilitates ripening. This is fantastic if you want that avocado to soften, but if you don’t want your bananas to brown so quickly store them in separate bowls.

Smoked Trout Salad - yields 4 servings

1/2 pound smoked trout
1 head frissee lettuce (Chicory)
1 Mastu apple (or other tart apple)
1 small celery root – peeled
1/8-cup apple cider vinegar
1 red pepper - roasted, skinned and julienne

For Dressing
1/8-pound blue cheese
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4-cup sherry vinegar
1/8-cup chives - chopped
1/4 cup walnut oil
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Wash the head of lettuce, but keep the leaves intact. Flake the smoked trout. Slice the celery root a very fine julienne, and then toss in apple cider vinegar to prevent it from turning brown. Slice the apple into thin slices, and hold in some water also to prevent them from browning.

Make the dressing by placing all the dressing ingredients in the food processor and blending until smooth and incorporated. Correct seasoning.

Assemble the salad by placing some of the frissee greens on a plate sprinkle some trout along with some celery root and red pepper. Fan the apples on the side of the plate. Drizzle with dressing. Serve.

Apple Crisp Towers - serves 6

2 cups sugar
1-tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-teaspoon ground allspice
1/2-teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 medium size apples (such as Cortland, Jonagold, Empire)
1-pound phyllo dough
1/2-pound butter - melted

3-inch cookie cutters
pastry brush

1 pint vanilla ice cream

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice together.

Peel the apples and using an apple corer remove the seed center. Cut the apples into rings 1/2-inch thick - wanting to get five rings from each apple. Toss the rings with the spice mixture to coat well.

Lay the phyllo out on a clean work surface and cover with a damp kitchen towel (when phyllo dries out it gets very brittle and can not be successfully worked with).

Take a sheet of phyllo, and lay it out separately. Brush with some butter starting at the edges as they tend to dry out first. Then lay another sheet on top of the buttered one, and still a third. Brushing each addition with butter. Cut out disks that are just slightly larger then the apple rings, approximately 3 inches in diameter. Use a cookie cutter or a wide enough glass as your template.

On a baking sheet place one disk with an apple ring on top, then cover with a second phyllo disk. Sprinkle with some of the left over spiced sugar, and drizzle with a little butter. Lay out the phyllo and in this manner until you’ve used them all.

Cover the phyllo-apple disks with a piece of parchment paper and place another baking tray right on top of the parchment paper to lightly weight down the phyllo-apple disks. This will help prevent the phyllo from curling while being baked. Place in the oven and bake golden and crisp 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the baking sheet while still warm as the caramelized sugar tends to stick as it cools on to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Assemble by sandwiching two to three layers of the phyllo-apples together with ice cream between each layer.

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