Apples are perhaps the most unsung heroes among fruits. We rely upon them for year-round snacking, and we take for granted that they are always there, in big perfect piles, in the produce section of our grocery stores. But apples are so much more than applesauce and apple juice. They’re one of the most diverse fruits in the world, with over 7,500 different varieties, and even though we think of apples as being American, the fruit originated in Central Asia and is a staple fruit crop all over Asia and Europe.
So while it doesn’t have the same social media appeal as dragonfruit or kiwi, the humble apple is a fruit to get excited about, especially this time of year. We think of apples as being a year-round sort of fruit, but in reality they are best in the fall. Part of the reason apples are so readily available throughout the year is because, under the right conditions, they store really well. But for the freshest apples, and for the widest variety of apple types, look for them in stores and at farmers’ markets right now. Even better, visit a local apple orchard.
But you may be wondering, beyond eating them out of hand or turning them into sauce or juice, where do apples fit into the greater scheme of your meal plan for the week? There are plenty of ways to incorporate apples into every meal in both sweet and savory preparations. Consider apples as an ingredient, and then ask yourself what apples bring to the table. They offer natural sweetness combined with floral flavors, and an appetizing crunch. Now take that knowledge into the kitchen and reach for apples when you need a hint of sweet and a bit of crunch. Below are five real world examples to get you started.
Mondays are tough for everyone, but dinner doesn’t have to be. Prepare a pot of quick-cooking quinoa and toss it with kale, chopped apples, and a simple honey-Dijon dressing or Hilary’s Apple-Fennel Dressing.
Your family is getting into the swing of the week, with appointments, after school activities, and other obligations. Keep everyone fed and happy with a Hilary’s Root Veggie Burger on a gluten-free bun topped with a big pile of apple-fennel slaw. Add plenty of acid in the form of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to balance out the sweetness of the apple and fennel.
Ah, that unfortunate day in the middle of the week. The glow of the previous weekend has faded, and the coming weekend is still just a tiny speck of light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel. Make dinner easy and welcoming with a grain bowl. Cook up a pot of millet or millet pilafand top it with roasted butternut squash and apples. Add some shredded kale and a drizzle of your favorite dressing to make a complete meal.
You’re getting so close! To the weekend, that is. Take a little extra time for a nourishing meal tonight and whip up an easy soup of sweet potato and apple. Just simmer sweet potato and apple chunks in vegetable broth until tender, then puree and add a touch of coconut milk for creaminess. Serve topped with fresh sage fried in a little olive oil.
Home free. Celebrate all the hard work you’ve done this week with a little something special for dinner. Pick up a box of gluten free pizza dough mix at the store, and top your Friday pie with thinly sliced apples, rosemary, your favorite creamy vegan cheese, and shredded Brussels sprouts. Don’t forget a big green salad to go alongside, topped with chopped apples, dried cranberries, and a creamy dressing.
Apples are diverse and delicious enough to play a role in almost any meal. Their sweetness, crunch, and floral flavor complements a whole host of dishes, and adding apples is an easy way to work more fiber into your life. Play around with different apple varieties as you cook. You never know–you might just become an apple connoisseur.
Megan’s abiding passion is culinary arts. Her career in food began on a small farm, transitioned to extensive food and cooking research, and finally led her to working for the iconic cookbook, the Joy of Cooking and with natural food brands across the country in her role at HEART: Creative Culinary Agency.