In the Triangle, the saying “an apple never falls far from the tree” is literally true. Our farmers markets are chock full of crisp fall apples. And from Red Delicious to Pink Lady, the crop didn’t have to travel very far.
North Carolina typically ranks seventh in apple production in the United States. Our state has more than 300 commercial apple operations, which contain 10,000 acres of orchards.
The U.S. Apple Association, the national trade group with links to the N.C. Apple Growers Association, is happy that we’re as American as apple pie around here.
Still, it likes to point out that the apple can take center stage in courses of a meal other than dessert. Here are two choices for soup, salad, entree and side — all starring the apple.
Smokey Apple & Butternut Squash Soup
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large onions, finely chopped (about 4-1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks (about 6 cups)
1 pound sweet apples, peeled and cut into chunks (about 3-1/2 cups)
1 cup apple juice (more if necessary)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat oil and butter in large saucepan; add onions and chili powder; cook and stir until onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Add squash, apples, apple juice, chicken broth, salt and pepper; bring to boil. Cover and cook on low heat until apples and squash are very soft, about 30 minutes.
Cool. Puree with an immersion blender or a food processor; return to saucepan. Add additional apple juice or broth, if needed. Garnish with toasted pecans, sour cream swirls and thin apple slices, if desired.
Caramelized Onion-Apple Soup With Blue Cheese Croutons
3 tablespoons butter
2 large white onions, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices (about 1-1/2 pounds)
3 cloves of garlic, minced (about 1-1/2 teaspoons)
4 cups pasteurized apple cider
Two 10-1/2-ounce cans double strength beef broth
1-1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 cups unpeeled, tart, green or red apples, cut into cubes
Blue cheese croutons (recipe on next page)
Melt butter in large heavy saucepan. Add onions and cook over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until caramelized, stirring and scraping bottom of pan often. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
Slowly and carefully pour apple cider into saucepan with onion mixture. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and gently boil over medium-high heat about 15 minutes or until reduced by about half.
Stir beef broth and Worcestershire sauce into apple mixture. Bring to a simmer. Add apple; gently simmer for 1 to 2 minutes or until apples are nearly tender. Remove from heat.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls; top with blue cheese toasts or serve toasts alongside the soup.
Makes four (1-1/2 cup) servings
Blue Cheese Croutons
Lightly stir together 2 ounces finely crumbled blue cheese (about 1⁄4 cup) and 1 tablespoon softened butter. Spread mixture evenly on 12
lightly toasted baguette slices. Broil under oven broiler or toast in toaster oven about 1 minute or until cheese is bubbly.
Makes 12 toasts
Apple, Green Bean and Bell Pepper Salad
3/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
4 tablespoons honey, divided
Pinch plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup light olive oil
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
4 ounces thin green beans, ends trimmed, or regular green beans, ends trimmed and cut into half lengthwise
2 Rome or Red Delicious apples, unpeeled, cut into matchsticks
2 heads Belgian endive, cut into matchsticks
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together walnuts, 2 tablespoons honey and pinch of salt. Spread the walnut mixture on a greased baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Parboil green beans for 5 minutes; drain and run under cold water to stop cooking; drain again.
In a food processor or blender, combine the vinegar, oil and remaining 2 tablespoons of honey, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Process until mixture is creamy and well blended.
In a large bowl, toss the bell pepper, green beans, apples and Belgian endive with dressing. Sprinkle each serving with honey-roasted walnuts.
Makes 6 servings
Marinated and Grilled Apple and Red Onion Salad
1/4 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup light salad oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Whisk the two oils together in a mixing bowl; add the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk lightly, just enough to blend the ingredients. Set aside.
1 small, red onion, peeled
2 eating apples
1 tablespoon light cooking oil
1 head romaine lettuce, cut into 1/4-inch-wide ribbons
1 apple, thinly sliced, for garnish
Slice the onions into thin circles and the apples into ¼-inch-thick rings. Place in mixing bowl, toss with 4 tablespoons of the dressing, and marinate for 30 minutes before grilling.
Place romaine lettuce ribbons in a large mixing bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Lightly oil grill. Drain onions and apples, then grill over low to medium heat for 2 minutes on each side.
Place grilled onions and apples in a mixing bowl, toss with 6 tablespoons of dressing, and refrigerate until cool. Toss lettuce and dressing and arrange on plates; drain the onions and apples and arrange on top of lettuce. Garnish with thin slices of fresh apple.
Makes 6 servings
Four 4-ounce skinless salmon fillets, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (normal table salt can be used)
1/4 cup apple jelly
2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup julienne-cut, unpeeled, Granny Smith or other green apple (1/4x1-1/2-inch-long slivers)
3/4 cup julienne-cut, unpeeled Gala or other reddish apple (1/4x1-1/2-inch-long slivers)
1/3 cup very thinly sliced and quartered leek (white and light green portion only)
Rice pilaf (optional)
Course-ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Fold each piece of paper crosswise in half. Cut 4 half-heart shapes 7 inches longer and 4 inches wider than the fillets (the fold edges will be the centers of the hearts). Open each paper or foil heart; set aside.
Lightly sprinkle salmon with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place each fillet near the center on one side of each heart.
Heat apple jelly over low heat or in a microwave oven just until melted. Remove from heat; stir in balsamic vinegar. Spoon mixture evenly over fillets. Toss together apples and leek. Place mixture evenly on top of fillets.
Fold opposite side of each heart up and over the fish and apple mixture. Starting at top of heart, fold edges to seal open sides by making small tight folds. Twist tip of hearts to close packets. Place packets on baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 12 minutes until fish flakes easily. (Carefully open packets to check doneness.)
To serve, cut packets open by slashing a large X on the top of each, then fold back paper. Transfer packets to dinner plates and serve with rice. Or, if desired, remove fish with apples from packets and place slightly on top of rice; spoon over juices. Season to taste with additional salt and the pepper.
Makes 4 servings
Bacon 'N' Apple Cheeseburger Sliders
1 pound 85% lean ground beef
2/3 cup coarsely shredded, unpeeled sweet-tart red apple
1/4 cup chopped red onion
3 thick slices applewood-smoked bacon, cooked and very finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
3 ounces thinly sliced Swiss cheese, cut into 12 pieces
Apple aioli (see recipe below)
12 cocktail buns or Parker House rolls, split
12 very small lettuce leaves or fresh baby spinach
Very thinly sliced, unpeeled, sweet-tart red apple
Preheat oven broiler. For burgers, mix ground beef, shredded apple, onion, bacon, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, salt and pepper in large bowl until just combined (do not overwork meat mixture). With damp hands, form mixture into twelve 2-1/2-inch-round patties.
Broil patties, on rack in broiling pan, 4 inches from heat for 8 to 12 minutes or until instant-read thermometer inserted near centers reads 160 degrees, turning patties over halfway through broiling. Or, grill patties on grill cooking screen or in grill basket directly over medium heat, uncovered, for 8 to 12 minutes, turning over once.
Place 1 cheese piece on top of each patty. Continue broiling (or cover grill and continue grilling) for 30 to 60 seconds or until cheese begins to melt.
To serve, spread aioli on bottoms of buns. Top with patties, apple slices and lettuce. Place bun tops on top to close sandwiches. If desired, hold sandwiches closed with wooden sandwich picks or 6-inch bamboo skewers.
Makes 12 sliders
Stir together 1/3 cup mayonnaise and 5 teaspoons frozen apple juice concentrate until combined.
Makes about 1/3 cup
Sweet Potatoes and Apple Cider Gratin
2 tablespoons butter
3 large sweet potatoes, thinly sliced for gratin
Freshly grated nutmeg, about 1/2 teaspoon
1-1/2 cups apple cider, reduced to 1 cup
Butter glass or ceramic gratin dish. Layer sliced sweet potato while seasoning with salt and nutmeg. Pour reduced cider over potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees until potatoes are soft and the cider is absorbed, about 1¼ to 1½ hours.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Apple-Cheddar Mac and Cheese
1-1/4 cup (5 ounces) dry elbow macaroni
1-1/2 cup small diced, unpeeled, tart green or red apples
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2-1/4 cups whole milk (lower fat milk can be substituted)
1 small bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dry sherry
Salt to taste
Ground white pepper to taste
1/3 cup plain panko (Japanese bread crumbs — regular bread crumbs can be substituted)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1-1/2-quart round casserole; set aside.
Cook pasta in large saucepan according to package directions until al dente. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking; drain well. Return pasta to saucepan. Add apples.
Meanwhile, melt butter in medium heavy saucepan. Add onion and cook over medium heat about 3 minutes or tender. Stir in flour; cook and stir about 1 minute or until fragrant.
Slowly stir in milk with wire whisk. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly. Add bay leaf. Reduce heat to low and cook sauce for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in 2 cups of the cheese and dry sherry. Cook and stir about 1 minute or until cheese is melted. Remove from heat; season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add cheese sauce to pasta-apple mixture; gently stir until well combined. Transfer mixture to prepared casserole. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup cheese and panko.
Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven about 30 minutes or just until heated throughand lightly browned. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 servings
Maple Cider Punch
1 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons maple syrup
4 cups apple cider, chilled
1 cup ginger ale, chilled
Pour the orange juice in a small saucepan, and stir in the maple syrup. Place over medium heat and bring almost to a boil. Remove from heat, stir once or twice, and let cool to room temperature. (Or, combine the orange juice and maple syrup in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for three minutes.)
Pour the apple cider into a pitcher and add the cooled orange juice and the ginger ale. Mix well. Serve over ice.
Makes 6 servings
Iced Apple Tea
3 cups apple juice or cider
3 cups boiling water
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon allspice
Apple slices, cut in circles, to garnish
Add tea bags to boiling water. Let stand 15 minutes. Remove and add allspice, honey and apple juice. Simmer over low heat until honey is blended, about one minute. Chill. Serve over ice with apple slices.
Makes 5 servings
Ginger Churros With Caramel Apples
1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups corn oil
1/4 cup sugar, for dusting
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for dusting
In a large saucepan, bring water, butter, salt, sugar, vanilla and ginger to a rolling boil. Over low heat, vigorously stir in flour all at once for about 1 minute or until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Using a stand mixer, beat in eggs until smooth.
Heat oil in heavy skillet. For authentic looking churros, spoon the dough into a piping bag with large star tip.
Squeeze 4-inch strips of dough onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Leave at least ¼ inch of space between each churro. Place churros in refrigerator for at least 10 minutes to set.
When ready to fry, place 3 or 4 strips at a time into hot oil and cook until golden brown, turning once; about 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels.
Mix sugar and cinnamon in bowl, and coat churros with mixture while they are still warm. Serve with apples and vanilla ice cream.
4 apples, cored and sliced into thin wedges
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ cup apple juice
1 quart vanilla ice cream
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in brown sugar and apple juice. After sugar dissolves, add the apples to the ginger-sugar and cook for 4 minutes or until apples are soft. Serve warm with ice cream and churros.
Apple Almond Tart
1 sheet frozen pie crust
1/2 cup (5 ounces) almond paste
1 large egg
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup sugar
5 cups apples, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons apricot preserves, heated
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Press dough out on rectangle baking sheet. Prick dough all over with fork tines to prevent bubbling. Bake until it begins to brown, about 10 minutes; remove from oven.
Meanwhile, in food processor, combine almond paste, egg and sugar. Process until smooth; fold in 2 cups apples. Spread mixture over dough. Layer top with remaining sliced apples. Brush with apricot preserves; broil on high until apples begin to wilt, about 1 minute.
Cut into squares and serve.
Makes 8 servings