Monday, January 16, 2012

Try a new apple

Pinata apples. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 Sometimes apples are the star of the show - think apple pie, apple cake, applesauce, and apple dumplings. So many dishes revolve around the excellence of the apple, it's easy to forget what an accommodating supporting player a crisp and sweet apple can be.

Recently, Stemilt Growers of Wenatchee, Washington, sent me a sample of a new apple variety called Pinata. The red and yellow fruit is a cross between two European favorites, Cox's Orange Pippin and Duchess of Oldenburg, and an American tried-and-true, the Golden Delicious. Pinata is a high-sugar, high-acid, versatile apple, suited for eating out of hand (although I would peel the slightly thick skin first) and like its ancestor the Golden Delicious, ideal for cooking.

Pinata apples will be available in stores from right about now through April. While looking for ways to  highlight the versatility of the Pinata apple, I remembered how good apples are in a supporting role, lending sweet notes and crispiness to a salad or mellow flavors and textures to a braised dish. The first recipe I made was inspired by a new cookbook that happened to arrive the same day as the apples - "Welcome to Claire's" by Claire Criscuolo (Lyons Press, 2012). It's a vegetarian cookbook packed with great ideas for fresh produce. I adapted a recipe for "Connecticut Cole Slaw" to ingredients I had on hand - the cabbage, the apples, dried cranberries and pecans. The slaw is delicious and light, just right for light lunch or as a side dish to a sturdier meal.

Cabbage, apple, pecan and cranberry slaw. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Slaw with cabbage, apple, pecans and dried cranberries
adapted from "Welcome to Claire's" by Claire Criscuolo (Lyons Press, 2012)

1/2 head green cabbage, coarsely shredded
1 medium crisp and sweet apple, such as Pinata
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey (to make this a vegan dish, use agave nectar)
Salt and pepper

1. In a medium bowl, place cabbage. Peel apple and slice into 1/4-inch matchsticks. Add cranberries and pecans.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, olive oil and honey. Pour dressing over slaw ingredients and toss together. Serve immediately. Store leftovers in covered container in refrigerator.

The warm version of cabbage and apples is this braised dish, adapted from David Tanis' excellent cookbook "Heart of the Artichoke" (Artisan Books, 2010). The apple is peeled and cooked with cabbage and onions, melting into tender savoriness.

Braised cabbage and apples with pecans. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Braised Cabbage with Apple and Pecans

adapted from "Heart of the Artichoke" by David Tanis (Artisan Books, 2010)

1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
 1/2 head green cabbage, sliced into 1/2" ribbons
1 crisp and sweet apple such as Pinata, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup low-salt chicken or vegetable broth, homemade preferred
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add the onions and salt and pepper and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.Add the sugar and vinegar and stir. Add the apple chunks.

2. Add the cabbage gradually, gently salting with each addition. Add the broth and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover the pan and let cook for about 30 minutes, checking regularly. Dish is ready when cabbage and apples are tender and flavorful. When ready to serve, garnish with toasted pecans.

Text and images copyright 2012, Lucy Mercer. 

Thanks to Stemilt Growers for the sample of apples. My kids got a kick out of the package - a double nest for the fruit:

Pinata apples in their nest. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books.

(Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I received no compensation other than a sample of two Pinata apples from Stemilt Growers.)

For more recipes that use apples, check out these stories:

French thin-crust apple tart
Classic apple dumplings
Short-cut apple dumplings
Apple Crisp
Apple Blondie, aka German Apple Cake

Three more recipes that use apples:

Morning Glory Muffins
Kid-friendly sushi

Text and images copyright 2012, Lucy Mercer.


LBMahana said...

Great article Lucy. It calls for a stumble!

Angela said...

I recently tried this variety and really enjoyed them--great texture and level of sweet flavor.

Lucy Mercer said...

Thanks for visiting, friends!

Unknown said...

I haven't tried the Pinata yet, but I recently discovered Pink Ladies and was immediately hooked. I'll look for these next time I'm shopping - thanks!