My tastebuds experienced a mild shock just the other day at my local farmer's market in Park Slope, Brooklyn. One of the local producers had a little tasting of its apples for customers passing by. There were four varieties, including my favorite -- the Gala apple from New Zealand. As I'm not one to generally eat apples out of hand, but much prefer them sauced, baked, broiled, sauteed, baked in a muffin, or in a pie, I would occasionally buy a Gala for myself and eat it on the spot. But it was another apple last Saturday that stole my affection: the Honeycrisp. Am I the last to know about them? My daughter immediately bought six and at $3 a pound, instead of $2 for other varieties, this autumnal offering was not inexpensive (as apples go), but we have thoroughly enjoyed every bite. Cutting each carefully and arranging them on a pretty plate had a kind of Zen feeling about it -- for they are perfectly imperfect -- a little too sweet, a little too acidic, a little too delicious. The Honeycrisp apple was an experiment created by the University of Wisconsin Experimental Station -- a cross between a Macoun and a Honeygold (which itself is a hybrid of a Golden Delicious and a Haralson). In the forest of varieties that informs the apple industry, there are local favorites in every zip code, and many imports, including the Fuji apple from Japan, that vie for attention. As a kid, a Granny Smith apple was a special treat -- with an exciting tartness and crisp texture so different from the standard bearers way back then. But this year, on my holiday table (Rosh Hashanah) will be a plate of Honeycrisps to begin a new tradition.
The seasonal salad (recipe below) is one of my favorite concoctions -- with edible punctuations – a mustard seed, sun-dried cranberry, or a nugget of toasted walnut – in every mouthful. But it is especially celebratory with ultra-thin slices of Honeycrisp apples. Ideas for apple desserts, using any apple, are offered below. Enjoy!
ENDIVE, WATERCRESS & HONEYCRISP SALAD WITH MUSTARD SEED VINAIGRETTE
This can be assembled in less than five minutes! The dressing is also suitable for mesclun greens and for tender leaves of spinach. You can easily turn it into a main course salad by topping with a plump grilled chicken breast drizzled with a little more dressing.
5 large Belgian endive, about 1-1/2 pounds 2 bunches watercress 2 medium Honeycrisp apples, cut into very thin wedges 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 1/2 cup olive oil 1-1/2 teaspoons mustard seed ½ cup each: toasted walnuts and sun-dried cranberries
Trim ¼-inch from bottom of each endive. Laying each endive on its side on a cutting board, cut across the width into 1-inch pieces. Place them in a large bowl.
Wash watercress, removing bottom half of stems. Dry well and add to bowl with endive. Add apples.
Put mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until the dressing emulsifies. Add mustard seeds and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Pour over greens and toss gently, making sure to coat all the leaves. Adjust seasoning. Transfer to a platter and scatter walnuts and cranberries on top. Serves 6
And Great Ideas for Any Apple
Saute wedges of peeled apples in butter and sugar until caramelized, then splash with Calvados. Top with vanilla ice cream.
Peel apples and cut in half. Poach in apple cider with a cinnamon stick until tender. Remove apples and reduce cider to a syrup. Pour syrup over apples and top with crème fraiche.
Try an apple cobbler: Toss peeled apple wedges with sugar, orange juice and cinnamon. Top with a mixture of granola mixed with butter. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.
Peel and core apple. Fill inside with vanilla sugar. Wrap in a square of thawed puff pastry dough and brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
Fill cavities of large apples with a mixture of crumbled gingersnaps, honey and pecans and dot with butter. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
Try a new-fangled applesauce by adding fresh strawberries or raspberries and a splash of red wine to apples while cooking. Sweeten with an aromatic honey, like leatherwood.
Make an apple fool: Cook apples with cinnamon-sugar until soft and the consistency of applesauce. Let cool and fold into sweetened whipped cream.
Make toffee apples: Melt a package of caramel candies. Stick a candy-apple stick in each apple and dip the apple three-quarters into caramel. Let sit on waxed paper to harden.
Try three kinds of apples in your next apple pie. Add some grated sharp cheddar cheese to the crust.