Cider in jugs, fruit tumbling from baskets, air as crisp as a ripe Jonagold. Autumn belongs to apples.
The symbolic value of apples is exceeded only by their versatility. Raw, they're crunchy; cooked they're soft. Chopped or mashed, they're on the plate; juiced they're in a glass. And with flavors that run from sugar-sweet to downright puckering, they can find a place in every dish on your Thanksgiving menu.
"Garnish on the soup, sliced with cheeses, in the stuffing, as apple pie," says Andrew Dornenberg, co-author of "The Flavor Bible" and "What to Drink with What You Eat." ''It hits every single course of the day."
The apple's wide range of flavors, textures and responses to technique offers the cook myriad creative options. Added to shaved fennel it lends sweetness and highlights the subtle notes of anise. Tossed into a stuffing, its acid lightens the heaviest dose of sausage - and matches the sage, rosemary or other herbs note for note.
Apple accentuates the sweetness of vegetables such as peas, onion and squash, and mellows the assertive flavors of others, such as cauliflower and cabbage. Ground into a tapenade, its sugar plays off the salt of green olives. Baked into a pie or crumble it melts into the cinnamon and clove.
"Apples can go in all directions," says Lisa Yockelson, author of "Baking Style."
Even into your glass. Instead of wine, Dornenberg suggests serving cider - hard or soft, still or sparkling - to cut through the meal's richness. And for an extra-special dessert: apple sorbet. "It's light, cold, juicy," he says. "It's so easy to juice an apple and turn it into sorbet."
Apple Butter Peas
Saute 1 large sliced red onion in 1 tablespoon of butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 1 pound shelled peas and 1/2 cup of water, then saute until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup apple butter and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds.
Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 170 calories; 70 calories from fat (39 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrate; 8 g protein; 4 g fiber; 130 mg sodium.
Apple Cranberry Tapenade
In the bowl of a food processor, combine 1 peeled and cored Golden Delicious apple, 1 cup fresh cranberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 clove garlic, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 cup chopped green olives and 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary. Pulse until chopped. Season with salt and black pepper.
Makes 12 servings.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 35 calories; 15 calories from fat (35 percent of total calories); 2 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 6 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 1 g fiber; 160 mg sodium.
SOURCE: Recipes by Alison Ladman