The Minnesota Historical Society Press has been publishing an excellent series of regional cookbooks, under “The Northern Palate” imprint, that drill down into a single local ingredient. Want to go beyond the crumble with rhubarb? See Rhubarb Renaissance by Kim Ode. Pass by pancake topping with maple syrup? Modern Maple by Teresa Marrone. More than gnawing on the cob, with corn? Sweet Corn Spectacular, by Marie Porter. Other titles are devoted to squash and honey. And now, there’s Astonishing Apples by Joan Donatelle.
What’s so astonishing about an apple? For one thing, there’s the range of flavors across varieties, with new varieties being concocted all the time. There are more than 7,500 domestic apple cultivars grown worldwide.
And forget acai berries; apples truly do keep the doctor away. Apples contain a lot of — please excuse this sexy foodie term — soluble dietary fiber.
Donatelle, a Twin Cities cooking school instructor and caterer, includes recipes specific to some apples created through the apple breeding program at the University of Minnesota in Chaska, including newish cold-hardy varieties the SweeTango and the Zestar. The original Honeycrisp came from this program.
Donatelle’s recipes range from the basics (applesauce, apple butter) to gee-I-never-thought-of-that-before, from appetizers to main dishes and, of course, desserts. It’s easy to fall into the apple crisp/apple muffin rut. Because they’re easy. But there are more ways to dice an apple.
I liked the “Not Like Any Other Nachos,” spicy and sweet and loaded up with greens, chicken and Widmer’s cheddar (the apples appear in the salsa). A healthy quinoa-oatmeal-barley blend tarted up with apples and nuts is great start to the day. There’s more global inventiveness with an apple panzanella, an apple tabbouleh, and a Thai-style rice bowl with apples.
The SweeTango, an early September apple that’s a cross between a Honeycrisp and a Zestar, stars in Donatelle’s fresh take on a fall salad.
SweeTango Arugula Fennel Salad
2 SweeTango apples (other sweet-tart apples can stand in), cored, halved and cut into matchsticks
1 bulb fennel, sliced thin
4 ounces Manchego (Roth GranQueso) or Parmesan, cut into matchsticks
1 5 ounce package baby arugula, rinsed and spun dry
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup Marcona almonds
In a large salad bowl, stir together apples, fennel, cheese and arugula. In a small bowl, stir together sherry vinegar, salt, honey and garlic. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to blend. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss. Garnish with freshly ground pepper, parsley and almonds. Serves 4.
Reprinted with permission.