You Put An Apple Where?

Imagine a wall of candy the length of three cars and as tall as the arms can reach, in a sprawling suburban drug-store.  You’re 4 feet tall and 8 years old, and you’re told you can choose any candy you want, but just one.

This is torture. And it’s the scene I would find myself in after a visit to the doctor.  It was not meant to be painful, it was meant as a treat by my mother to relieve any pain I’d just withstood. But the anxiety-inducing, paralyzing dilemma that I would experience would always come down to this: do I go with the red Twizzlers that I know I love or try Almond Joy or Oh Henry and risk wishing I’d stuck with Twizzlers.

This is how I feel when buying apples.

There used to be three (Mac, GrannySmith and Delicious), and now there are thirty (actually there are over seven thousand).  Apples have come up from the cellar and into the light. At my local market, one vendor had set up a table and stuck a toothpick into the sides of fifteen apples (one representative from each variety) with the name on the little toothpick flag and sample slices at the apple’s feet.   The apples stood proudly on their apple stage, like beauty pageant contestants with sashes across their chests, asserting their heritage, declaring their talents, inviting judgment.

But unlike the wall-of-candy, at the apple stand there are no limits. So I buy two each, of six different kinds (that’s twelve) – actually I buy three of the HoneyCrisp since HoneyCrisp are my Twizzler of the apple world.   But when I get home, they’re all mixed up and my only concern now is putting them to use.  So the apples start to go where they’ve never gone before – like into my eggs.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but there is something incredibly exciting about introducing two unlikely ingredients and having the connection just work. The unexpected creation was an Apple Sage Zucchini Omelet. Divine.(Don’t judge it til you see it!)  Photos and recipe.

So this is fascinating about apples — not until the 1900’s did apples in the US, become celebrated as a health food.  When Johnny Appleseed was spreading seeds in the early 1800’s the apples were for alcoholic cider*.  Frontiersman later learned how to graft and grow eating apples, but apples were still largely used for alcohol and then prohibition hit and the future of apples was at risk.  So a savvy marketer, riffing on an old English proverb**, came up with the much improved, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” and apples were forevermore – a health food.

Apples have a lot going for them but they are actually very low in Vitamin C (not even in the top 10 foods list), though they are high in antioxidants, fibre and phytochemicals. (Read this only if you want a dizzyingly comprehensive argument for their goodness.)

Unfortunately though, they are one of the most pesticide intensive crops and much of the pesticide stays in the skin –  a primary source of nutrients and flavor.  So buy organic if you can, and wash the skin with soap if you buy conventional.  But don’t peel it!  2/3 of the fiber is in the peel.  If you’re buying conventional apple juice, look for the words “US grown apples” since China is the world’s largest producer and their pesticide standards are questionable.

So get cooking! And share with us your favorite ways to use a dozen apples.

* From Botany of Desire, one of Michael Pollan’s earliest books and still my favorite.
** “To eat an apple before going to bed will make the doctor beg his bread.”

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  • Mimi

    That recipe looks incredible! Love the way you showed all the ingredients in one photo … Heading straight to the market … on list: apples, sage and zucchini …

  • christinachan

    In a salad! I love fruits in salad! Thank you for the info! xxx

  • Jillian

    Honeycrisp are TOTALLY the Twizzlers of the apple world! You hit it dead on. Thanks for that divine analogy.

  • Lisa

    That is the most gorgeous photo of sage on the recipe page! I never really think to use fresh sage, but after seeing that photo I’m putting it on my shopping list.

  • Roxanne

    My daughter just showed me a blog with an apple recipe. I don’t think you’d ever make it, but I’ll tell you about it, just for fun.

    You take a couple of Granny Smith apples and mix with equal parts of chopped Snickers bites, presumably “leftover” from Halloween. Then you fold in a cup or so of Cool Whip!!!

    This was all in an effort to get kids to eat some fruit in addition to their Halloween candy. Some people are just not thinking. Clearly.

    • Michelle

      If a Snickers came in my door, it would get eaten well before it ever made its way into the apples.

  • organicgal

    Mmmmm…apples! I’d skip washing with soap. The articles I’ve read say that the possible remaining soap is not so good either. Cornell Univerity’s studies on produce washing say to wash as vigorous as one can without damaging the produce for the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice (same goes for hands) and you’ve got off most of what you’re going to get off. I think Consumer Reports also did a thing about veggie washing products and recommended…water only…waste of money otherwise (unless you’re talking about unscientifically based peace of mind). If you want to get more exotic there are soakings with food grade hydrogen peroxide or bleach solutions but as organic as I am…screw that. Local Apples rock! If you don’t want to use pesticides check out the book The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist by Michael Phillips. Give it as a present to a farmer who does (if you know them well enough where they wouldn’t get offended).

    • Michelle

      Agree that you have to be careful with soap “remains” and not trade off one toxin for another! – especially if it’s a soap with strong grease cutting agents and fragrance. I have a very mild hand soap next to my sink that I use and rinse it super well.

  • Juliana

    We planted HoneyCrisp and GingerGold our two faves, the only problem is that they both mature in August / September and don’t keep that well. Would love to find fantastic later varieties!

  • Gordon

    All of your past “beets” have been wonderful to read and I keep thinking…How can the next beet be as good as the last one?…Then you produce the Apple Beet…hello…AMAZING! Kids are getting apple in their eggs this morning:) XO

  • penny

    i love to take apples and core them, put them into a covered baking dish, stuff the cores with dried fruits, nuts, and spices (typically i will stud the inside of the core with one clove each and mix a small amount of preferred sugar and cinnamon or pumpkin pie spices), then just bake them at 350d-f until they’re getting soft but not mushy. when we take them out of the pan, a favorite way to serve the smaller varieties is in a martini glass with a dollop of frozen yogurt.
    it’s really a lot like apple pie, but so much simpler without the crust and much less sugar… i like to use walnuts and dried cranberries (be careful not to get the ones super sugar-fied) … delicious!

    • Michelle

      Salivating … I love the idea of the “walnut, cranberry” filling that tumbles out of the middle, like a treasure, when you dig your fork in. I suppose you could also add some oatmeal and a speck of butter so it’s more like the topping of apple crumble, but on the inside.

  • Sara

    When you said apples in your eggs I was very skeptical–but those photos are totally convincing! It looks both beautiful and delicious.

    • Debbie

      I absolutely agree with you! At first I thought “Oh, this sounds a little out there”, but after checking out the ingredients and photos… I’m in!

  • Bob Ianson

    We particularly love grilled veggies with a chopped apple or two. A little olive oil, sea salt and a generous dash of cajun spice and onto those great foil grilling trays one picks up at Costco. Ahhhhhh….delicious!!

  • Alex

    We are currently cooking our way through a half bushel we are starting to wish we hadn’t picked! The big hits so far are the apple muffins from The Joy of Cooking and a version of this:
    The stuffing with apple & sausage from The Joy of Cooking was a nice once in a while dinner too.

  • Rick

    Michelle – your articles are always thought-provoking. A NEW Omellete to try!

    I’ll never forget a week we spent in the Italian countryside – wonderful people for a whole lot of reasons – but the point is that we had Fritatas every morning – plain Fritata, Oh how I yearned for the hostess to pop something into it; alas we spoke no Italian!

    My favorite Omlette is a Spanish Omlette – FULL of tomatoes, turkey bacon, onions, sage …

  • Stoney

    Love me some Honeycrisp but I haven’t yet met a more delicious apple than the Pink Lady. Hells bells!

  • Sylvia Burgos Toftness

    Thanks so much for this recipe, and for the post. You’ve hit on it again…the pesticide issue. Would you happen to know if growers are also using systemic pesticides, the type applied to the roots and which end up throughout the fruit?

  • Debbie

    Thanks for helping me look outside the box when it comes to mixing and matching foods. Like an earlier poster commented, just when you think the Beet post couldn’t get any better… it just did! So very glad that I found your blog :)

  • Lisa G

    Love your photos!

    • Michelle

      Thanks Lisa. Before food gets anywhere near our mouth, we taste first with our eyes!

  • elizabeth

    I love honey crisps and will have to give that omelet a try. Looks delicious. I thought that the saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away came from an effort to combat rising colon cancer cases – that the peel of apples helps combat the causes of this particular cancer.

    • Michelle

      The peel of an apple has a ton of fiber which I know is considered very good for colon-health, but the modern expression (derived from the old english one) was really a marketing ploy to sell apples!

  • Dariane

    Another fabulous apple/sage combo from Donna Hay: Pork steaks with brown sugar apples.

    4 pork steaks
    2 tbsp olive oil
    2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    2 tbsp chopped sage
    2 small sweet red apples, sliced
    1/3 cup of brown sugar
    1 tbsp butter

    Place the pork in a shallow dish with the oil, vinegar and sage and set aside.
    To make the brown sugar apples, press the apple slices into the brown sugar. Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add butter and apple slices and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden and soft. Keep warm. Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add the pork to the pan without the marinade and cook for 3-5 minutes on each side or to your liking. Serve the pork with the brown sugar apples and steamed green vegetables. Serves 4.


    • Michelle

      I have had this and can vouch for the fact that it is incredible!

  • kimiko

    ambrosia apples are my absolute fave – they are divine! honestly, not much beats this apple being eaten straight up, but a favourite snack is dipping it in almond butter (or pairing w/ a nice aged cheddar!)

  • Emily Elizabeth – Kisses for Breakfast

    I know exactly what you mean about the feeling you get when you experiment with unlikely ingredients and have success. So much fun! (It makes up for all the no so successful experiments in my case!) Lovely photographs!

  • frances

    Inspired by this post I threw a cut up apple in with the potatoes (tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper, folded into a foil packet) on the grill the other night. Fabulous! Not only were the apples yummy, they also sweetened the leftover oil, which then made a great soaker for my bread.

    • Michelle

      Yum! And I am so jealous that it’s November — and you’re grilling …

  • Elliot

    great site, Edamame – love it but who knew that it had so much protein. Apples – so many varieties,but the best line was “HoneyCrisp is my Twizzler of the apple world” lots of fun – good luck michelle

  • Kim Green

    Yum. I’m a honey crisp girl too.
    Here’s my favorite apple/egg breakfast recipe: absolutely indulgent. Don’t remember where I found it several years ago….

    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    2 teaspoons sugar
    1 sweet apple such as Fuji or Gala, peeled, halved, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
    3 large eggs
    (2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
    2 tablespoons dulce de leche* )
    OR goat cheese (maybe mixed with a bit of cream)
    Garnish: confectioners sugar for dusting (optional)
    Melt butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Add sugar and cook, stirring, until dissolved, about 1 minute. Add apple and cook, turning slices over once, until golden and just tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Whisk together eggs with a pinch of salt. Pour eggs over apple and cook over moderately low heat, lifting up cooked egg around edge occasionally with a heatproof rubber spatula to let raw egg flow underneath, until omelet is set but top is still slightly moist, about 2 minutes. Dollop creme fraiche and dulce de leche across center of omelet. (OR can dollop goat cheese on top). Fold bottom third of omelet over filling using a heatproof plastic spatula. Holding skillet over a plate, carefully tilt skillet until omelet slides out and almost half is touching plate, then turn skillet upside down, as if trying to cover plate, to make omelet fold over itself. Cut omelet in half and divide between 2 plates.

    • Michelle

      Caremelized apples AND sugar AND creme fraiche! Can I have this for dessert AFTER breakfast? :)

  • ctb

    My newest favorite way w/ apples is to slice them thinly, toss w/ lemon or lime juice & dehydrate them in our recently purchased inexpensive dehydrator until they’re crispy – as addictive as potato chips, but way better.

    • Michelle

      Love that idea….I wonder if rather than buying a dehydrator, could you just put the slices on a cookie sheet in the oven on very low heat?

  • MommyLisa

    I did a brown rice, white wine, onion, rosemary, garlic, apple pilaf that was KILLER.

  • Tomas

    How about “apple enchiladas” for breakfast? This came from a Georgia girl who was our camp cook one summer.

    For 1 person:
    1 med. apple, diced, saute in butter over low heat. Add a few chopped walnuts, maybe a few raisins. Add cinnamon or other spice, and a sweetener. I use either brown sugar or molasses. Continue to saute at low heat, stirring to prevent the sugar from burning. Do not let the apples get mushy. Split the mixture between 2 warmed 8″ flour tortillas. My favorite breakfast. And if you have some whipped cream in the house, don’t hold back on it!

    • Michelle

      Breakfast?! Dessert! Sign me up …

  • Unami

    When I cook a whole roasted chicken, I always fill the cavity with cut up apples. It really makes for a moist and flavorful chicken.