Apples: Proof That Fall Is Really Here

Apples are autumn. If you're feeling a bit low because the plums, cherries, and nectarines are gone - and summer with them - a trip to the greenmarket will get you into the autumn spirit. A bite of a new, crisp apple will have you breaking out the woolly sweaters, cheering the football team, and even raking leaves with enthusiasm for the season.

For Northerners who have gotten an agricultural inferiority complex over the summer, watching peaches, oranges, and bananas get shipped in from southern climes, the apple is your revenge. Apple trees thrive in places that have real winters.

There are literally thousands of kinds of apples, but you aren't likely to find more than a dozen of these in your local markets. To pick the best ones, familiarize yourself with the local varieties. I'm partial to Macouns and Galas. Avoid Delicious, both red and golden. (A particularly ornery apple farmer at my market says they taste like sweetened potatoes.)

While not the nutritional powerhouse that "keeps the doctor away," a medium apple delivers nearly 4 grams of fiber for its 80 calories. Its mild flavor and satisfying crunch make this fruit a favorite among even the pickiest eaters.

When you think apple, you usually think dessert: apple pie, apple cake, apple tart, apple brown betty. And while fall brings great baking weather, there are lots of other things to do with the new apple crop.

  • Try an apple-and-cornbread stuffing the next time you roast a turkey.
  • Apples and red cabbage are great together, either in a slaw or in classic red cabbage braised in red wine.
  • For breakfast, in a pot sauté chopped apple and cinnamon in butter; then add oatmeal and water, and cook.
  • Serve pork or chicken with an apple chutney.
  • Add diced apples, crumbled blue cheese, and toasted walnuts to a green salad.
  • Put shredded apple in potato pancakes.
  • Sauté an apple along with onion when making chicken curry.
  • Add apples to a fall soup - bean, squash, root - for a touch of sweetness.

Of course, you could drink your apples. Cider simmered with a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, and a star anise is excellent compensation for the end of summer.

Apple Brown Betty

8 slices firm white bread, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup margarine or butter (1 stick), melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 6 medium), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In 15 1/2" by 10 1/2" jelly-roll pan, bake bread pieces until very lightly toasted, about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Grease shallow 2-quart ceramic or glass baking dish.

2. In medium bowl, combine melted margarine or butter and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Add toasted bread; toss gently until evenly moistened.

3. In large bowl, toss sliced apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, ground nutmeg, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

4. Place 1/2 cup bread pieces in baking dish. Top with half the apple mixture, then 1 cup bread pieces. Place remaining apple mixture on top; sprinkle with remaining bread pieces, leaving a 1-inch border all around edge.

5. Cover dish with foil and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer or until apples are tender and crumbs on top are brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

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