An Ode to the Apple
Autumn is tricky business. Lovely eye candy though it may be, with its splashes of crimson and gold, an awe-inspiring collage of color that inspires long drives and baking adventures, it's also a precursor to early sunsets and a reminder of the inevitable descent into the abyss that is winter.
I know, you'll argue that autumn is something of a culinary paradise, a smorgasbord of seasonal ingredients to play with and embrace. As much as I enjoy roasting pumpkin, braising sweet potatoes and exploring the nuances of parsnips, I am reminded of snow and ice and my annual countdown to spring. But as I mentioned, this autumn thing is a tricky tightrope, and the only thing that keeps me from tipping over is the apple.
Ah, the pomme. She is my diamond in the seasonal rough, my spark of light, a reminder of warmer, sun-filled days, the air filled with apple blossom perfume. She blushes, she bites back, she makes noise when you bite back, yet she protects and nurtures, providing the body with a slew of nutrients and disease-fighting compounds.
The pigments found in apple skin contain something called quercetin (how's that for a Scrabble word?), an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory as well as antihistamine properties, which means she's Nature's poster child for fighting asthma, colds and respiratory infections. Her flesh is loaded with soluble fiber in the form of pectin, which helps lower blood cholesterol levels and keep blood sugar levels in check. Plus, there's been talk in research circles about apple's super-power potential to protect brain cells from degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
But most of all, I love the apple for the way she makes me feel.
From late September (when peaches have left the scene) until late February, I eat an apple just about every day. Sometimes two. It is my equivalent of a sun visor, a happy pill, a mood swinger-upper (who needs Zoloft when you got these?).
And with every autumn, it seems, my love for the fruit deepens and widens, as I discover more ways to play with her in the kitchen.
Some of my favorite cold-weather desserts are apple coffee cake and a flourless apple-almond cake. I am eternally enamored with her ability to soften and sweeten in an oven, transforming into melty bits that soothe and warm the belly. I am forever awestruck by her friendly nature, at ease with a variety of savory ingredients, including Brussels sprouts, onions, potatoes, pork, rosemary (do try this in your next apple pie), sage and every known root vegetable.
She doesn't mind being pureed and thrown into cake batter as a fat substitute, nor does she complain when we shred her into salads, with walnuts and blue cheese. We bake her, we crisp her, we dip her in caramel, we fritter her, and she keeps going, offering her best with grace and integrity.
As my friend Susan writes in a recent e-mail, "Apples do go on forever." And that, is precisely why I can get through the winter.
Share your love for the pomme in the comments area below.
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