Though Juneau is far from the rolling, golden orchards and bountiful roadside stands of New England's apple country, apples, from Sansa to Golden Delicious, are in season and well-priced in local stores right now. Chef Linda Cohen, who is known for the innovative, health-conscious apple-combinations she prepares for daily lunches at Rainbow Foods, gave this interview on the fruit that keeps the doctor away.
Empire: Out of all the apple varieties available, are there any that you prefer?
Cohen: A recent taste test at Rainbow Foods put the Summerfeld on top as a sublime combination of texture and sweetness. The Summerfeld apple is only one of 2,500 varieties grown in the U.S. and one of 100 grown commercially. Golden and Red Delicious are the most common. We also tried Gala, Ginger Gold and Sansa.
Empire: What are those other types like?
Cohen: The Gala apple is a cross between a Golden Delicious and Kids Orange Red. Our taste testers thought this was a great apple for lunch boxes due to its small size, crisp texture and excellent apple flavor. The Ginger Gold apple has a distinct ginger flavor, but the texture is a bit soft for eating out of hand. Ginger Golds are great in baked deserts and warm salads. Sansa apples have a complexity of flavors including a balance of sweetness, tartness and a touch of vanilla. This apple, I think, tastes just like an autumn day.
Empire: What are some tips for choosing an apple at the supermarket?
Cohen: To choose your apples, I would first head to the organic section of your grocery store. There, you will find apples with clear non-waxy skin that are free of pesticides. Organic apples also help support sustainable agriculture which will keep our air, water and soils clean for future generations. Generally, pick apples that are unblemished, firm, and have a secure connection to the stem. The first thing you want to go for, if you are using the apple raw, like in a salad, is flavor, whether sweet or tart, and crispness. For cooking and baking, you can use softer, more flavorful apples, as the texture matters less. What you like in an apple, of course, is ultimately a personal decision.
Empire: Nutritionally speaking, what is the value of an apple?
Cohen: Apples are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium and calcium, as well as soluble and insoluble fiber. This fiber can help reduce your chances of heart disease and will help keep your digestive system working. The flesh directly under the skin contains the highest amounts of vitamins so it is a good idea to eat the peel.
Cohen is in the process of writing a cook book with many of her Rainbow Foods favorites. She provided the following fall menu with an apple theme:
Warm apple kale salad
4 Gala apples
1 bunch kale
1 small onion
1 tablespoon minced ginger
12 cup olive oil plus 2 tablespoons. oil
14 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Core and slice the apples into wedges. Dice the onion into small pieces. Combine the onion and apple with the two tablespoons of oil on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Meanwhile, wash and cut kale into bite-size pieces. Whisk the rest of the oil, honey, vinegar, salt, ginger and pepper in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and then turn off the heat. As soon as the onion and apples come out of the oven, combine them with the dressing and kale. Toss well and serve.
Pork roast with apple-cranberry chutney
4 to 5 pounds pork roast
4 Summerfeld apples
1 cup cranberries (fresh, frozen or dried)
2 cups apple juice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
12 teaspoon cloves
12 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cayenne (less if you prefer)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
12 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Use two tablespoons honey and the olive oil to coat roast. Place on roasting pan in oven, turn oven down to 350 degrees. After an hour, turn the roast over and cook for another hour or until the internal temperature is 170 degrees. Let the roast stand for one half hour before carving.
While the roast is cooking, core and dice apples. Combine all remaining ingredients in medium-sized saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook for a half an hour on low heat. The apples should remain slightly firm in this chutney. Serve the chutney warm over slices of pork roast. This pork roast works well with mashed potatoes.
Maple baked stuffed apples
6 Granny Smith or Ginger Gold Apples
1 cup raisins re-hydrated
1 cup toasted and chopped filberts
12 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Core the apples. Combine the rest of the ingredients and stuff into the apple centers. Place on a baking sheet. Cover with foil and bake for a half hour at 375 degrees. Serve warm, with ginger or vanilla ice cream.
Serves 6 people.