Crispy, juicy apples are the stars of the produce aisle right now, and are popping up on seasonal menus across the metro as well.
Living History Farms is even hosting Applefest on Saturday, an event dedicated to the fruit.
As these recipes show, apples aren’t just for munching raw. Cooking apples for pies and other dishes is easy, and they can be sweet or savory.
Robert Sanda, chef and owner of Tally’s Restaurant Bar & Catering in Beaverdale, said to start by picking — literally — an apple that is firm and uniform in color, is smooth and symmetrical, and is devoid of bumps, bruises and dimples.
“If you twist and pull gently, a ripe apple will easily pull away from the tree, with the stem still intact,” he said. If you don’t have time to make it to the orchard, the same rules apply at the farmers market or grocery story — firm, smooth and uniform.
When cooking, Sanda said to first consider what you’ll be be making — red apples are usually sweeter, green are typically sour. Peel and seed the apples first, then cut them according to your recipe (such as in wedges for a pie). Use them immediately after slicing to prevent them from browning.
For a pie, boil them in sugar and water with almost any spice you like (follow the recipe you’re using for measurements) until tender. For applesauce, boil them with water, sugar and cinnamon or other spices until the apples break down into a sauce consistency.
Sanda suggests thinking past conventional spices, such as allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg, when cooking with apples (although, he admits, they create a tasty combinations). Try something more savory, such as cumin or cayenne pepper, two spices he loves to cook apples with.
For his roasted almond salad, he simply seasons with salt and pepper to balance with the other flavors in the salad.
Two local apple dishes to try:
Where: Tally’s Bar and Restaurant, 2712 Beaver Ave.
About the dish: Sanda prepares his roasted almond salad with tangy blue cheese, sliced sour apples seasoned with salt and pepper and shaved red onion, and serves it with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. $8.99 for lunch, $12.70 for dinner.
Where: Dos Rios, 316 Court Ave.
About the dish: For a sweet dessert, forgo the slab of chocolate lava cake for a seasonal treat made with cooked apples. First, apples and raisins are roasted until soft and flavorful, then folded into a tender Mexican tart with tomatillo marmalade and baked until light and flaky. On the side, a cooling scoop of goat’s milk ice cream adds a finishing creative twist. $7.50.