An Apple a Day

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This time of year, thoughts and appetites are turning to apples. Fresh, crunchy whole apples. Apple cider. Apple pies, crisps, and dumplings.

According to the U.S. Apple Association, the average
American eats about 16.4 pounds of fresh apples a year, and 33 pounds of
processed apples. Imagine. Though there are about 2,500 varieties of apples
grown in the U.S., there are 100 varieties grown commercially, just a handful
of which have cornered the market: Granny Smith, Gala, Red and Golden Delicious,
Pink Lady, McIntosh and Fuji, to name some.

Apples are sometimes categorized by their suitability for baking or eating out of hand, but to my way of thinking, (and I like my apples crisp and tart), the Granny Smith, McIntosh, and Pink Lady have a pleasing balance of acidity and sweetness, and therefor work well for most purposes. (I've always thought that whomever named the Golden and Red apples "delicious" must have had too much hard cider to drink.)

Apples are grown in every state, meaning that most of us have access to fresh grown native apples, and possibly have a small orchard or two nearby. And did I mention apple festivals? Chances are there's an apple festival somewhere close enough for you to enjoy visiting for a fall outing.

In my area, for instance, the tiny Gold Rush town of Julian lies tucked away in the mountains of eastern San Diego County. Although its main street looks like a
Western movie set, at this time of year you may have to push aside hordes of tourists in order to see it. That's because at this time of year, Julian is trafficking in a different kind of gold: apples.

Not that you or I have to travel all the way to the next state to enjoy the many wonderful dishes that can be made from apples. I have a dwarf apple tree in my back
yard, as a matter of fact, and every year, I eat as many apples as I can right off the tree, but those that escape my greedy clutches have another fate in store for them: apple crisp. Since apples thrive in so many places, you probably have orchards somewhere near your home. You might even be able to make a day of apple picking. A trip to the country and a bag or two of freshly picked apples to take home.

Crisp is easier to make than apple pie. And requiring less gluten, for those in the gluten sensitive crowd. (I should add a note that I believe freshly milled whole wheat seems to sit far better with many gluten-sensitive friends than does the store bought whole
wheat flour. But that may be a subject for another blog. A delicious apple crisp can be made with apples, a minimal amount of sugar (I use organic brown sugar), some spices
(freshly ground, if possible), and some rolled oats. At times, I like to double the amount of crumbly topping for a lavish, almost cookie like crust. Try this recipe, from my book, The Gourmet Toaster Oven, out and see what you think.

The following recipe serves two people. Just double up or even triple up for more.

Apple Crisp

Apple Filling:

2 organic apples, cored and thinly sliced

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1-2 tablespoons sugar

dash of lemon juice

Topping:

¼ cup organic all purpose or whole wheat flour

¼ cup dark brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ cup rolled oats

½ cup walnuts

To make the filling:

Toss the apple slices, spices and sugar in a bowl. Add a dash of lemon juice if needed.

Spread the apples evenly in your baking dish.

To make the topping:

Add the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and butter to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the butter is in pea-size pieces. If you do not have a food
processor, cut all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Add the oats and walnuts and pulse just until thoroughly combined.

Spread the oat mixture evenly over the top of the apples and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 20-30 minutes, until the topping is crispy and brown and the apple slices are tender when pierced with a fork. Spoon the crisp into bowls or onto plates and top with ice cream or whipped cream or a non-dairy topping, if you prefer.