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Food

Seasonal Eats: A is for Apple!

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Roma Delicious in the orchards at Los Rios Rancho (Heather Parlato/LAist)
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Fall is in full swing, and so is apple season! Here in Southern California, we're lucky enough to have apple orchards in some of the higher elevation mountains surrounding the city, one of which is Oak Glen, above Yucaipa. During apple season, the orchards are open 7 days a week, though self-picking is only available on the weekends and tapers down as the season wanes. I went apple picking last year at Los Rios Rancho which is all-kinds of fun, resulting in the freshest, crunchiest, most flavorful apples you'll ever get. However, if a day trip isn't in the cards for you, there are lots of delicious apples at the farmer's market too.

Apples are the most widely cultivated tree fruit, having origins in Western Asia brought to North America by European colonists. They have had widespread significance in the mythologies and religions of many cultures, including Norse, Green and Christian traditions. Apples have a glycemic load of 3, and are a good source of dietary fiber and Vitamin C.

Apples are most frequently eaten raw, which is the best way to get the most vitamins from the fruit. If you prefer a cut apple, add a squeeze of lime for a tangy, refreshing snack. They also make great additions to fresh fruit smoothies, for both the fiber and the sweetness. If you find yourself with an abundance of apples from a tree or a trip to the orchards, they keep very well in the fridge, but you might also preserve them as apple chips or cook them down into this sweet and chunky apple butter.

Sticking with the raw fruit, apples add a sweet crunch to salads. Try a sliced fennel and apple salad with cider vinaigrette, or make a tasty winter green apple salad. Pair the sweetness with spicy vegetables, like radish, apple and onion salad, amplify the sweetness with apple, beetroot and cheddar salad, or use them pickled, as with shredded collard greens with walnuts and pickled apples. For a salad that eats more like a meal, try insalata alla bourguignonne or grilled apple and chicken salad with cider maple vinaigrette.

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For creatively savory ways to use apples, they can be substituted and used with potatoes for some new spins on side dishes. Next time you think of potatoes, try out apple, potato and onion hash, or cook them into curried apple and potato soup, or serve them up as norman potato salad with apples. They can also give depth and flavor to some of your meat dishes. How about smoked salmon and apple carpaccio? Have you tried cutting them into your roasting veggies, like roast turkey with apples, onions, fried sage leaves and apple cider gravy? What about doing up this variation on pork chops & apple sauce, with brined pork chops with apples? And finally, outstanding find of the day: pork and apple pie with cheddar-sage crust!

There are really too many fantastic apple desserts to mention, so I'll concentrate on a few different styles. For one, my very favorite apple and dried cranberry pie. Go French with apple tarte tatin. Ditch the crust but keep the ice cream with apples no pie, a la mode. Cut them up with honey and nuts in a traditional holiday charoset. Two tasty freezer projects include sorbetto alla mela verde and this apple celery granita.

I'm working on a thanksgiving menu that includes this apple cherry galette, a rustic take on my favorite apple dried cranberry pie, with a local substitute of dried cherries for cranberries.

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Apple Cherry Galette (Heather Parlato/LAist)
Apple Cherry Galette

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1 stick butter


3⁄4 cup white flour


3⁄4 cup wheat flour


1 tb raw sugar


3 apples, mixed variety, sliced to 1⁄8-inch thick


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juice and zest of 1 lemon


1 tb honey or raw sugar


1⁄2 tsp cinnamon


1⁄3 cup dried cherries

Place sliced apples in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice & zest, honey, cinnamon, and cherries, and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate. Process butter, flour and sugar in a food processor or cut butter into flour with a dough scraper, until it reaches a crumbly consistency. Sprinkle ice water over mixture 1 tsp at a time and process in pulses until the dough resembles moist chunks that just come together in your hands. Push into a ball and chill 1.5 hours.

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Preheat oven to 350º. Roll dough out to a 12-inch circle on a floured work surface. Transfer to a baking sheet and spoon the apple mixture into a mound in the center, leaving about 3 inches around on all sides. Fold the sides up and around the apples, crimping and pinching the corners as you go. bake at 350º for 45 min. (See recipe variations & vegan options here.)