Tuesday, September 23, 2008

what does an apple a day keep away?

for me, apples keep away the fall blues..i actually love fall..but am not crazy about winter..need sun and warm weather..clearly i was born and raised in southern california..the first few weeks of winter are great..love the snuggling and winter clothes and hot cocoa and the holidays etc..but, to me, it seems like winter lasts forever..and summer passes by in the blink of an eye...o.k., i know..i am way off topic..this post is about apples..but every now and then i need to rant a bit...do you love winter..tell me why?

back to apples..last week during the winter squash post i told you about california's indian summer..the day i wrote the post it was a cool 72 degrees..today, the second day of fall, it was 92 degrees...felt like i should be making a full-on summer menu..but it is apple week at the everyday food and away to garden food fests and..since i love apples...decided to prepare and post some summer-into-fall transitional dishes. i picked three recipes to feature..a soup, a salad and a dessert...how about roasted apple & caramelized au gratin soup, salad with apples, cheddar cheese & walnuts with balsamic/dijon mustard vinaigrette, and apple crostata with walnuts and dulce de leche sauce?
fresh apples are the perfect ingredient. they taste delicious on their own..last a long time..look beautiful in the fruit bowl, are good for you..high in vitamins/low in fat , have a high fiber content and are extremely versatile in both sweet and savory dishes..there are so many varieties that i find i never get bored. when i was a child my family used to love driving to the town of julian, located about 150 miles southeast of los angeles, and visiting the u-pick em apple orchards..of course we always had to have hot apple cider..even during the 95 degree indian summer octobers...we picked apples, ate apples..and always had lunch at the restaurants featuring apple dishes. for a so cal kid..it felt like fall was supposed to feel...

i made the apple crostata yesterday so peter could photograph it for this story..the smell of cooking apples and cinnamon instantly brought back those childhood memories (one day i will write about my grandmother's apple pie..the best ever!)..we had the crostata for dessert..then (don't tell anyone)..we had it again this morning for breakfast...apples rock!
the following soup is my vegetarian version of a classic french onion soup. the roasted apples provide a hint of sweetness, the caramelized onions are rich and buttery and..what can you say about the melted cheese/bread topping but delicious? i use a vegetable stock in place of beef stock, but the butter, olive oil, sherry and other ingredients give the soup amazing flavor and keep it vegetarian. this is one of my favorite soups either as a starter or as the main course for dinner.

roasted apple & caramelized onion au gratin soup
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 golden delicious apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
1 large yellow onion (peeled, cut in half, and then thinly sliced)
2 cups organic vegetable stock (if homemade is not available, i recommend the imagine brand of organic stocks)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dry sherry (i use a light manzanilla from spain)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 sourdough baguette, thickly sliced
extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
3/4 cup swiss cheese, shredded

preheat oven to 375 degrees. place 1 tbsp butter in small roasting pan and place in oven until butter melts. add apples and 1 tbsp olive oil and stir to ensure apples are coated in the butter/olive oil mixture. roast in oven until apples are lightly browned and very tender.(15-20 minutes). while apples are roasting, melt remaining tbsp butter in medium stockpot. add 2 tbsp olive oil and onions and stir to ensure onions are thoroughly coated. cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions are browned and caramelized..about 15 minutes. add apples, stock, water, salt and pepper to stockpot and bring to a boil. lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. add sherry and cook another 10 minutes. while soup is simmering, toast bread in oven until lightly browned..remove from oven and let cool. set oven to broil..assembly.. fill 4 heat proof/oven proof bowls 3/4 full. place a slice (or slices, depending on how large the pieces are) on top of soup and drizzle with olive oil. sprinkle with cheese to cover soup..and place bowls on a cookie sheet. place in oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling..and slightly browned..watch carefully and do not let cheese burn. serve immediately.
apples and cheese just seem to go together. i do not know who first paired up apple pie with cheddar cheese but what a perfect combo. i love to eat apple and cheese slices together as a snack. this salad combines both ingredients perfectly. as always, i make my salad dressings in a mason jar. quick, easy and delicious. try it..you will never go back to the bottled, store bought versions again...

salad with apples, cheddar cheese and walnuts
8 handfuls romaine lettuce torn in large (but bite sized) pieces
2 fuji apples..cored and large chop
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cut in matchstick sized pieces
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp italian parsley, chopped
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

combine first 5 ingredients in large salad bowl. toss. add approx 1 tbsp of vinaigrette per serving to bowl. toss. add additional vinaigrette to suit your preference but do not allow salad to get soggy. add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

balsamic & mustard vinaigrette
1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

place all vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar. cover tightly and shake until well blended. store remaining vinaigrette in refrigerator. bring to room temperature before using to allow oil to mix with other ingredients.
i love this apple crostata recipe. it is not very sweet, so it is perfect after dinner with the rest of your wine. i even have leftover crostata for breakfast the next day..perfect with a latte. if you prefer a sweeter dessert, increase the sugar by 1/4 cup.

apple crostata with walnuts and dulce de leche sauce
1 crostata crust (recipe follows)
6 green apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

juice from 1/2 lemon

1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup bourbon
2 tbsp unsalted butter, chopped
1 jar dulce de leche **

preheat oven to 375 degrees. place apples and the next 9 ingredients in a mixing bowl (everything but the butter and dulce de leche) stir to combine. place a silpat sheet or parchment paper on a rimmed cookie sheet. roll one disk of dough to a circle 11 inches in diameter. place dough in center of cookie sheet. spoon apple mixture to center of dough leaving a 1 1/2 inch border. fold sides of dough up and over to cover the dough border. this will keep apple mixture and the juices from spilling out. dot top of apple mixture with butter and bake for 40-45 minutes until dough is golden brown and apples are bubbling. place desired amount of dulce de leche in microwave safe bowl and heat until warm and runny. serve crostata warm or at room temperature drizzled with dulce de leche.

crostata crust (note, this recipe is from the barefoot contessa..i have used it for years..and it always turns out perfectly. if you have your own favorite recipe, feel free to use it here instead)
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated or superfine sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ice water

"for the crostata crust... put the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. pulse a few times to combine. add the butter and process until the butter is the size of peas (between 10-15 pulses). with the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together. turn the dough out onto a well-floured board, roll it into a ball, cut in half, and form into 2 flat disks. wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour. if you only need one dough, freeze the second disk." instructions from the barefoot contessa..
**a note about dulce de leche** if you have never tried this stuff you have no idea what you are missing..go out and buy a jar immediately..dulce de leche is a south american version of milk caramel sauce..but it is nothing like caramel sauces i have had before. most people i know have a hard time actually using it in recipes..they open the jar, take a spoonful..swoon..and keep eating it until the jar is empty.. (i have been known to do this on occasion!!) try some on the crostata..you could use another kind of caramel sauce..or skip it and eat as is..it is delicious plain..but adding the dulce de leche takes it to another level..try it..and please let me know what you think...
enjoy these apple recipes..and please share your favorites in the comments section of this post.
happy fall everyone!

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™
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Anonymous said...

I've got a bit of a thing about Onion Soup. It's one of my favourites, but I've never added apples. Have to give that a try.

I find that mine is always better the next day - so a good cook ahead dish.

Another of my favourite sites posted on it. She added brandy. Now, I've got to try that too! (Or both together.)

Such hard work this blogging stuff!

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hey sally,
i am with you re the blogging work..trying to post 3 times per week..my fall goal..wish me luck!

Anonymous said...

Hello, I came over to investigate the apple gratin soup after your twitter comment. It sounds delicious - kinda like a fruity french onion soup. Have bookmarked it to try later in the Autumn

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi sophie..and welcome..let me know when you try the soup..
i visited your blog..and posted a comment requesting your fig smoothie recipe..sounds delicious!

Anonymous said...

I love eating apples fresh or baked in desserts. I have never thought of using apples in soup. I am going to try your onion apple soup as soon as the weather cools down.

Anonymous said...

I have never heard of Dulce de Leche. Where can I buy it?

Anonymous said...

The apple orchards in my area are ready and ripe to pick. Next week,we go for our ritual apple harvest. When we bring home our bounty, I'll be sure to try your amazing gratin. This will be a first for me.

Anonymous said...

i echo the other comments about the gratin soup recipe. It definitely joins my "must make" list. All the recipes sound really good, but this one is the star.

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi fran,
thanks for the comments..please do let me know if you try the soup!

hi amy,
dulce de leche can be found in most better markets..i have found that to be true in california at least. there are many recipes for this also..i have yet to try but is on my list for a future experiment..


Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi jennifer, and welcome back. let me know what you think of the soup...seems to be the popular recipe from this post.

hello white on rice couple..one of my fav blogs!..enjoy your apple picking day..and do let me know what you think of the gratin..btw..i am posting this week about "putting up"..posting my fig jam and my persimmon jam. will also be using your recipe for the fig/balsamic reduction..of course i will give you guys the credit..and link to you...o.k.?