Ode to the Apple

Gourmet Girl - November 6, 2013

Apples are delicious any time of year, but they're really best in the fall...

'Tis the season of the apple–one of the world's healthiest foods. Maybe eating an apple a day can keep the doctor away, since apples reduce the risk of cancer, aid in weight loss and keep you healthy with a high dose of vitamin C. Ironically, eating too many apple seeds can be toxic as they contain cyanide (who knew?).

Here in Northern New Mexico, we're lucky to have apple orchards nearby and you can buy delicious, organic apples, as well as sweet locally-produced cider, at the Santa Fe Farmers' Market

Apples were grown in Asia and Europe for thousands of years and brought to North America by European colonists. The first apple orchard in America was planted in Boston by Rev. William Blaxton in 1625. Today, there are more than 7,500 known varieties of apples, cultivated for eating, baking and cider production. About 70  million tons of apples are grown around the world, with half of that grown in China. The U.S. is the world's second-leading producer, contributing more than six percent, followed by Turkey, Italy, India and Poland.

For centuries, apples have played a role in the mythology and religions of numerous cultures, including Norse, Greek and Christian. Apples provide eternal youthfulness to the gods of Norse mythology, and a diversion for the Greek mythology character Hippomenes in a footrace against Atalanta, who couldn't resist stopping to collect the golden apples he threw on the race path–thus winning the race and Atalanta's love. Apples also sparked the Trojan War after Eris, the Greek goddess of discord, threw a golden apple into a wedding party she was not invited to. The apple intended for “the most beautiful one” became a contest between Aphrodite, Hera and Athena. Paris of Troy was given the task of deciding which of the three goddesses in attendance would receive the apple and he chose Aphrodite when the Goddess of Love offered him Helen of Troy. The rest is history...er, mythology.

And who doesn't know the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, who shared an apple from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge and brought about the downfall of man and eviction from the Garden of Paradise? But did you also know that the term “Adam's apple” comes from the notion that a piece of the forbidden fruit remained lodged in Adam's throat?

Apples are delicious any time of year, but they're really best in the fall, when they're crisp and fresh, sweet and tart at the same time. They can be cooked with chicken, pork and other main dish ingredients or baked in a crisp, tart, cake or pie. Here are a few fall New Mexico recipes that showcase the amazing apple!

Roasted Squash Soup with Apple Brie (From “Santa Fe Kitchens;" Serves 8)

1 large butternut squash
1 carrot
1 medium onion
1 leek, white portion only
2 tablespoons butter
8 cups chicken stock
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
8 ounces Brie
Chives, snipped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut squash lengthwise and remove seeds. Place cut sides down in pan an bake until tender, about 45 minutes.

Chop carrot, onion and leek into 1-inch pieces and place in large pot. Gently saute in butter, but do not brown. Scrape flesh from cooked squash and add to vegetables. Add to stock an bring to a oil. Add apple, bay leaf and sugar an simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.

Remove bay leaf and puree soup in batches. Season with salt and pepper. Slice off outer skin of the Brie and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Place cheese in bottom of bowl and fill with hot soup. Garnish with chives and serve.

Dixon Apple Salad with Poppy Dressing (From Harry's Roadhouse Cookbook)

1 head romaine lettuce
2 Dixon apples
½ cup candied pecans
¼ cup raisins

1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons grated yellow onion and juice from onion
1 cup oil
1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds

In a blender, combine sugar, mustard powder, salt, vinegar, onion an onion juice and mix on low until combined. Slowly drizzle in oil as you continue blending. Stir in poppy seeds.

To make the salad, layer apples, lettuce, pecans on raisins on individual plates and pour dressing on top.

Honey Apple Pork Chops (From "Southwest Flavor" by Adela Amador; Serves 4)

4 boneless pork chops, about 1-inch thick
1 ½ cups apple cider
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients, except pork chops, and mix well. Pour marinade over pork chops in small dish, cover and refrigerate overnight, turning chops occasionally.

Grill or saute pork chops for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once and basting with marinade.

Green Chile Apple Pie (from New Mexico Magazine)

1 ½ quarts of tart apples, peeled and sliced
½ cup fresh New Mexico green chile, roasted, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup white sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup flour
½ cup butter
½ cup chopped pecans, walnuts or pinons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 9 or 10-inch pie plate.

Toss apples, green chile, white sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice together and place in a mound in pie plate. Rub butter, brown sugar and flour together until crumbly and pack evenly over apples. Sprinkle with nuts and press slightly to hold.

Bake for about 1 hour, or until apples are tender. You may want to cover the pie with aluminum foil toward the end of baking time so that the nuts won't burn. Serve and enjoy!

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