They're crunchy and delicious out of hand. Not to mention crazy nutritious. But autumn's favorite fruit is even more spectacular when it plays nice with others in dishes -- both sweet and savory. Think sliced, then tossed into a salad with fresh greens and salty cheddar cheese, roasted until super-sweet, and pureed into a velvety soup or fried into a doughnut dusted just so with sugar and cinnamon.
Come fall, you also can't beat a good apple pie.
Of course, you could always make one yourself, along with any number of apple dishes. This is shaping up to be a pretty good apple season, says Carolyn McQuiston of Dawson's Orchard in Enon Valley, Lawrence County, Pa. It is, however, running a little early, the fourth-generation farmer says, because of a wet June, and hot and dry summer.
Whereas Ginger Golds make the perfect pie-baking apple, the biggest seller remains Honeycrisp, a crisp modern variety developed by the University of Minnesota for cold-climate growers. Sweet and juicy, "it's just a great eating experience," says McQuiston.
Ashley Johnson, whose husband, Steven, is a sixth-generation apple farmer at Apple Castle in New Wilmington, Lawrence County, also is seeing great demand for Honeycrisp, along with old-fashioned favorites Jonagold and McIntosh.
"People really enjoy hard, sweet apples," she says, adding that her customers seem to be eating a lot more apples than baking with them.
FALL GREENS WITH APPLES, PECANS AND CHEDDAR
12 ounces assorted chicories, such as radicchio, Belgian endive, watercress and spinach
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped herbs or fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces aged cheddar, crumbled (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup fried or toasted pecans
1 green apple, cored, quartered and shaved on a mandoline
1 red apple, cored, quartered and shaved on a mandoline
Wash greens and spin dry. Refrigerate in an airtight container, with a damp paper tower over them to absorb any lingering moisture, until ready to use or up to overnight.
Put greens in a large bowl and scatter the shallot and herb mix over them. Drizzle oil and vinegar over salad, and season with salt and pepper. Add cheddar and pecans, and toss.
Divide salad among 4 plates and arrange apples over the salad, covering it. Drizzle a little oil and vinegar over the apples, and season with salt and pepper.
-- "Battersby: Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Kitchen" by Joseph Ogrodnek, Walter Stern and Andrew Friedman (Grand Central Life & Style, Oct. 2015, $35)
PUMPKIN AND APPLE SOUP
3 pounds sugar pumpkins, seeded and halved
Oil for greasing pumpkin
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small white onion, chopped
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
.3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup unfiltered apple cider
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Candied walnuts, for garnish (I used pecans)
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and finely diced, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil the inside of the pumpkin halves, and season with salt. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin meat is fork-tender. Remove from the oven. When it's cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop out the roasted pumpkin. Set aside.
In a large pot, melt butter over moderate heat. Once butter begins to brown, add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add apple, garlic, brown sugar, cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg and cayenne, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the roasted pumpkin, broth and cider, stirring to incorporate, then season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the cream and let cool for 10 minutes.
Transfer soup to a blender (or use an immersion blender in the pot) and puree until smooth. If needed, add additional water or broth to reach the desired consistency. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Serve warm, and garnish with freshly diced apple and candied walnuts.
-- Food & Wine
SPAGHETTI IN TOMATO-APPLE SAUCE
I know. Pairing apples with tomatoes sounds so weird. But when restaurateur and Grand Dame of Italian Cooking Lidia Bastianich assures you something is good, you tend to believe her. Somehow this pasta sauce -- full of texture and flavor -- works. Even better, it's so easy, featuring standard pantry ingredients and minimal cooking.
This is a tart-sweet sauce, so don't skimp on the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Its saltiness balances out the pucker.
28-ounce can (3 cups) Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large stalks celery, cut in 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound tart, firm apples, such as Granny Smith
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing
Pour the canned tomatoes into the food processor or blender, and puree until smooth.
Pour 4 tablespoons of the olive oil into the skillet, set it over medium-heat, and strew the chopped celery and onion in the pan. Cook and stir the vegetables for about 5 minutes, until they wilt and start to caramelize.
Stir in pureed tomatoes. Season with salt, and heat to a bubbling simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or so. As the tomatoes perk, peel and core the apples, and remove the seeds. Shred them, using the coarse holes of a shredder or grater.
When tomatoes have cooked about 5 minutes, stir apples into the sauce. Heat again to a simmer, and cook the sauce, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then, until it has reduced and thickened and the apple shreds are cooked and tender.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti, and cook it's until barely al dente. Drain spaghetti for a moment, and drop it into the warm sauce. (Reheat, if necessary.)
Toss pasta with sauce for a minute or two, until all the strands are coated and perfectly al dente. Turn off heat. Sprinkle grated cheese over the pasta, and toss well. Drizzle the remaining olive oil, toss once again, and heap the pasta in warm bowls. Serve immediately, passing more cheese at the table.
-- "Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy" by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Knopf, $35)
Forget about pumpkin spice. The perfect fall flavor marries apples with cinnamon, personified in these easy fried doughnuts.
Be sure to check, and re-check, the temperature of the oil -- any higher than 375 degrees and the dough will burn before it cooks all the way through. And don't be afraid to have a heavy hand with the sugar topping. It'll help sweeten your coffee when dunking.
2- 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1- 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon, plus 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup apple juice or cider
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
1 cup powdered sugar
In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and soda, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Make a well in the center.
In small bowl, cream sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in egg. Add apple juice, milk and vanilla; beat until combined. Pour into well of dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Stir apple into the batter. Cover and chill dough for 1 hour.
Place dough on floured board, knead lightly and roll out to approximately ?-inch thick. Cut with a floured 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter (I used two concentric biscuit cutters). Reroll scraps and cut a few more.
Pour at least 2 inches of oil into a large wok or skillet and heat to 375 degrees. Without crowding, fry doughnuts for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Repeat until all doughnuts have been fried, reheating oil to temperature as necessary. Drain on paper towels.
If desired, sift 1 cup of powdered sugar with remaining tablespoon ground cinnamon and sprinkle over warm doughnuts.
Makes 20 doughnuts.
-- "The Apple Cookbook: 125 Freshly Picked Recipes" by Olwen Woodier (Storey, 2015, $14.95)