One of my apple trees is having a good season, enough to eat, preserve and share with friends. “Oh, I’ll make a pie!” my friend Ellie said, clutching her bag of apples, which took me by surprise. While I have canned and dried apples for future pies, mostly we’ve been eating them fresh by cooking apples with vegetables from the garden. Should this autumn find you rich with apples, here are 12 healthier-than-pie ways to serve them up with fall garden vegetables.
First a quick reminder to use lemon water or a citric acid solution to keep apples from turning brown after you cut them up. Chilling apples before cutting them slows browning, too. Well-washed organic apples need not be peeled, but peeling removes most pesticide residues from conventionally-grown apples. Soaking whole apples in a solution of 2 teaspoons baking soda per quart of water for 15 minutes can clear apple skins of pesticides, too.
Cooking apples with vegetables can start with small plates. If you are still harvesting a sputtering of tomatoes or peppers, chop up a batch of apple salsa spiked with green onion and acidified with lime juice. Add a dash of salt and a light drizzle of honey for flavor balance, and cilantro if you have it. Or avocado. Or radishes. Whole cooked grains like wheat or rye berries can turn apple salsa into a meal, especially if you sprinkle sharp cheese on top.
Locally-made goat cheese is a treat at my house, which I love to crumble onto flatbread, cover with thinly sliced apples and red onions, and broil until the apples soften. You can caramelize the onions first if you wish, and should you have fresh figs, add fig slices, too. Or pecans. Sprinkle on some garden greenery while the flatbreads are still hot: scallions, parsley, or finely chopped fennel or kale.
Cooking apples with vegetables for creamy soups is a great way to use blemished parsnips or ugly apples, because eventually they vanish into a puree. Flavor-wise, you can combine apples with parsnips and garlic to stay on the savory side, or sweeten things up by pairing apples with butternut squash or pumpkin. Both soups are made the same way. Cook a large chopped onion in a little oil until soft, then add the apples and vegetables and just enough vegetable stock to cover. Simmer until done, about 20 minutes.
The tangy earthiness of a parsnip-apple partnership gets extra depth from chopped fresh garlic added to the steaming vegetables. Save the use of warming spices like ginger and curry for apple-pumpkin or apple-butternut soup, where they are expected and appreciated. When the cooked apples, vegetables and attendant spices have cooled slightly, puree them with an immersion blender or food processor. Return to a low heat, and stir in 1 tablespoon of flour mixed with 1 cup of milk. Stir until the soup bubbles. Serve with a swirl of yogurt, toasted pumpkin seeds, or crumbles of salty cheese.
Apple-Vegetable Salads and Sandwiches
Combining apples with vegetables in salads is easy, and I am somewhat addicted to arugula and apple salad with blue cheese dressing and toasted walnuts. When the arugula runs out I’ll move on to spinach and other garden greens. Crunchy Chinese cabbage or bulb fennel make great apple-cabbage slaws or salads, which can go Asian with a peanut dressing, or you might use a simple vinaigrette with caraway seeds for tossing with apples and chopped lettuce.
Care for an apple sandwich? Layer thinly sliced apples and kohlrabi with cheese for a big crunch lunch. Ripe peppers pair well with apples on sandwiches, too.
Roasting Apples with Vegetables
I wasn’t thinking about cooking apples with vegetables when I wrote Six Ways to Spice Up Root Vegetables a few years ago, but bringing in the tangy fruitiness of apples needs to added to the list for root vegetable roasts. All of the vegetables on the cutting board need not be roots. Apples are awesome roasted with Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, or big cubes of winter squash.
The procedure is simple. Cut the vegetables and apples into bite size pieces, and place them in a large baking pan. Add salt, pepper, and about 2 tablespoons of olive or canola oil, and toss the pieces until each is slicked with oil. Roast in a hot oven (425°F/ 220°C) for about 40 minutes. Every 10 to 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and stir the pieces with a spatula to insure even cooking. Be sure to make a big batch, because you will want plenty of leftovers.