Apples of my Eyes
It’s no secret when it comes to autumn cuisine, apples are the star of the show. For generations in the south, we’ve centered an entire season around this versatile fruit, making memories and family traditions in celebrating its harvest, from apple picking at the orchard to churning apple butter. I’ve rounded up some of my favorite quick, easy and (most important) delicious ways to enjoy fall’s favorite piece of produce, from hors d’oeuvres to desserts. And with these yummy recipes racking up the recommended apple a day, we should expect to keep the doctors at bay for quite some time!
My first and most underappreciated way to enjoy an apple is the simplest way- raw! There is hardly anything more satisfying than the tart-but-sweet snap of a perfectly ripe slice, but when perfectly paired with a gourmet cheese it’s positively heavenly. A classic duo that belongs on any cheese board has to be Granny Smith with Stilton bleu cheese. Whether you’re caught off guard by an unexpected visitor or aiming to impress a house-full of guests, serving up this quick and easy appetizer is sure to satisfy. Pop open a bottle of fruit-forward Prosecco, lay out a variety of water crackers and enjoy!
Salads are also a great way to incorporate apples into your menu. When serving my fruits against crisp greens, I like the addition of something a bit chewy for a softer mouthfeel; thankfully dried cranberries are another seasonal flavor that plays nicely with apples. Lately I’ve tossed together a few healthy handfuls of spring mixed greens, a diced tart apple, and sprinkles of dried cranberries (or raisins), pepitas (or pecans, or walnuts) and goat cheese. This harvest fruit-n-nut salad is perfect the way it is or add a piece of protein for a complete meal! You can either drizzle your favorite bottled balsamic or whip up your own dressing using EVOO, apple cider vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, and cracked salt and pepper.
When it comes to weeknight entrees, I stay so busy that “quick with minimal cleanup” is my top priority. And while I typically don’t eat a ton of pork, a guaranteed way I will enjoy it is cooked with apples. Enter this deliciously easy one-skillet dish. Frankly, the marinade for the pork is almost identical to the above salad dressing, which goes to show just how versatile these classic flavors and pantry staples can be. Just generously salt and pepper a 2-3lb pork tenderloin, then whisk together 3T olive oil, 3T Dijon mustard, 1/2C brown sugar, 1T minced garlic and 2T apple juice. Rub the pork with the mix, then cook it in a preheated medium skillet for about 10 minutes, turning every so often to ensure even cooking. Slice 2 apples into wedges and add those to the skillet and cook until pork is white and cooked through. Garnish with fresh thyme when serving.
If apples don’t need to be the star of the meal, they always make a welcome side dish. One of my favorites growing up and now is classic cooked apples. My grandma used to make these and they are spectacular in their simplicity; just butter, apples, brown sugar and spice! I found a recipe online that adds a bit of nutmeg and vanilla extract, plus cornstarch water at the end to thicken, but that’s all optional. Play around and make these your own!
I also love to add diced apples to a box of Stove Top when I’m cutting corners during the holidays. I make my entire meal from scratch, but one time-saver I thoroughly enjoy is boxed dressing, dressed up with my own secret ingredients. Just dice up onions, celery and apples, boil with 1 can of chicken broth and half a stick of butter per box, then when everything is boiling and softened stir in the boxed dressing mix, cover and set for 5 minutes. Just before serving dinner, I like to scoop it into a glass baking dish and bake in the oven about 15 minutes so the top gets nice and crispy. The mix of sweet and savory never makes the guests question its authenticity.
Finally, one of my ultimate fall favorites- apple crisp. To me, there is nothing that warms the soul better than a big bowl of apple crisp straight from the oven, topped with vanilla bean ice cream. While any apples will do, in my opinion honeycrisp is the way to go here. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, greese or butter an 8x8 dish and set aside. In a bowl, mix 6 peeled and chopped apples, 2T granulated sugar, 3/4tsp cinnamon and 1 1/2tsp lemon juice and transfer to greased baking dish. Next combine 1C light brown sugar, 3/4C old fashioned oats, 3/4C all purpose flour, 1tsp cinnamon, a pinch of salt and 1/2C cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes. Use a pastry cutter or fork to cut the butter into the mix until its broken down to pea-sized balls, then spread it evenly over the apples in the dish and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Serve in a bowl with a fat scoop of quality vanilla bean ice cream and snuggle up with your favorite scary movie.
In the way of beverages there’s no shortage of ciders on the market, but I really love liquid apples in mimosa form. Using my juicer, I fresh juice apples and add a splash to bubbles at brunch, served in a caramel rimmed champagne flute. If you don’t have a juicer or just don’t want the hassle, a half gallon of your favorite apple cider will work just as nicely.
I hope these recipes serve as inspiration for adding some apples to your own meals in the coming week! Feel free to experiment and share! I truly believe there’s no better way to show love than by feeding someone a home-cooked meal, especially when it’s made with fresh, seasonal ingredients.