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Apple a day should be easy here

by: Barb Randall, 
Mark Randall planted a Golden Granny Smith apple tree last fall. It is producing beautiful sweet apples this season.

Researchers are tattling - we are not eating our apple a day. According to the Apple Products Research and Education Council, Americans are eating only about 65 fresh apples each year - which equates to little over an apple a week.

We really have no excuse for not eating at least an apple each day. Oregon grows over 250 varieties of apples with a wide range of sweetness, acidity, shape, color and texture. Fall is a perfect time to conduct a taste test and rekindle your hankering for a good crisp apple.

Some apples are ideal for cooking while others are better eaten raw. Some apples will turn to mush with heat, while others retain their shape and texture.

The texture of apples depends on three things: the thickness and composition of the cell walls, the amount of acid in the apple, and the amount of air between the apples cells.

The cell walls of an apple consist of cellulose and are held together by pectin. The crunchier, crispier varieties, like Granny Smiths, have more cellulose.

If you cut a Granny Smith and a Macintosh apple in half and take a good look at the flesh, you will see that the Granny Smith is definitely firmer; the McIntosh much softer. A bite of both confirms the textural difference and speaks volumes regarding their flavor and acidity. The Granny Smith is tart (more acidity); the Macintosh is mellower (less acidity).

Acid strengthens the pectin and keeps it from dissolving when heated. This acidity is keeps Granny Smith apples from 'cooking down.'

It's the air in apples that cause them to stay afloat for apple bobbing fun. That same air escapes when apples are cooked, which causes the apple to collapse, resulting in a reduction of volume and firmness. The less air an apple has to begin with, the firmer it will be, both before and after cooking.

Which would make better applesauce or pie? The Macintosh, or another apple with less cellulose.

Which may be a crunchier apple to eat? The crispier Granny Smith.

Our local apple orchards are boasting a bumpercrop of Gravenstein, Macintosh, Melrose, Gala, Jonagold, Mutsu, Criterion, and Gingergold apples, to name a very few. Pomology, the science of apple growing, has brought about many new varieties in recent years.

If you like a traditional apple, mark your calendar for the Hood River County Fruit Loop's Heirloom Apple Days celebration on Oct. 27 and 28. This is always a fun family outing. For more information visit www.hoodriverfruitloop.com .

Apples are fat, sodium and cholesterol free. They contain only 80 calories and are a great source of fiber. So why not eat more of them? Fresh or cooked, they are good for us.

Following are two recipes incorporating apples in two forms. The entrée recipe uses apple cider and apple vinegar. The salad calls for sautéed apples and will be a perfect accompaniment to the entrée.

Bon Appetit - Eat Locally!

Sauteed Chicken Cutlets with Mustard-Cider Sauce

Serves 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (6 to 8 ounces each) trimmed of excess fat.

With a meat mallet, pound breast meat to a uniform thickness. Tenderloins will fall off during pounding; remove and reserve for later use or cook them as you will with the cutlets. Breast pieces should be cut in half horizontally to form eight cutlets of even thickness.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mustard-Cider Sauce

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)

1 ¼ cups apple cider

2 tabelspoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the chicken: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat over to 200 degrees. Season both sides of each cutlet with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until smoking; place four cutlets in skillet and cook without moving them until browned, about two minutes. Flip cutlets and continue to cook until second sides are opaque, 15 to 20 seconds. Transfer to large heatproof plate. Add two teaspoons oil to the now-empty skillet and repeat with remaining cutlets. Cover plate with foil and transfer to oven to keep warm while making sauce.

For the sauce: Off heat, add two teaspoons oil and shallot to hot skillet; using residual heat, cook, stirring constantly until softened, about 30 seconds. Set skillet over medium-high heat and add cider and vinegar; bring to simmer, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits. Simmer until reduced to ½ cup, six to seven minutes. Off heat, stir in mustard and parsley; whisk in butter one tablespoon at a time. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; serve immediately with cutlets.

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Magazine, November 2003

Sauteed Apple Salad with Roquefort Cheese and Walnuts

Serves 6

¼ cup sherry wine vinegar or red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

6 cups mixed baby greens

3 cups trimmed watercress*

1 Belgian endive, sliced*

1 ½ pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½ inch thick slices

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese

½ cup chopped toasted walnuts

Combine vinegar and thyme in small bowl. Gradually whisk in ½ cup oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine greens, watercress and endive in large bowl. Heat remaining one tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and sugar and sauté until apples are almost tender, about 8 minutes. Increase heat to high and sauté until golden brown, about 5 minutes longer. Place atop greens in bowl. Sprinkle salad with Roquefort and walnuts. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Serve, passing remaining dressing separately. If these greens aren't available, use more mixed bag greens

Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 1993