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The Art of Apples: How to Pick, Cook and Eat 'em

As the Art & Apples Festival rolls into Rochester, area chefs, health experts and home cooks share their secrets to making the most of honey crisps, galas and Granny Smiths.

When the weather turns crisp, Julie Fromm starts thinking about crisp apples. Fromm, a registered dietitian and professional chef at in Rochester Hills, is especially fond of a spicy Mulligatawny soup, brimming with chopped apples, as well as her homemade applesauce.

“My family and I make our own applesauce every year,” said Fromm, a resident of Royal Oak who grew up in the Troy and Rochester areas. “We use Michigan apples — usually honey crisps or galas for the sauce.”

The dietitian likes to use fresh apples in her dishes not only for their taste but also for their nutritional benefits. 

"Apples are naturally fat free, cholesterol free, rich in soluble fiber (which helps to lower blood cholesterol) and reduce the risk of heart disease,” said Bethany Thayer, director of wellness planning and strategies at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. “And with so many different kinds, there’s one suitable for just about any taste.” 

“There’s Granny Smith for those who like tart and there are the pink ladies, which are a little sweeter in taste. In our household, we do different kinds, but I like the pink ladies best,” said the Huntington Woods resident, who suggests such recipes as baked apples, curried pork with apples and slow-cooked sweet potatoes with apples (available at henryford.com/heart).

Sola’s Fromm, who teaches cooking classes at the spiffy Sola demonstration kitchen, also likes to experiment with apples in her cooking and recently pulled out her Mulligatawny soup recipe. “I added my own twists to it,” she said (recipe follows this story).

In the spirit of this weekend’s Art & Apples Festival in Rochester, Fromm and others recently shared their apple acumen. (Incidentally, Sola Life & Fitness will have a booth at the festival, where you can learn more about the facility’s unique way of melding fitness with nutrition, cooking classes and diet consulting.)

Avoid the mush

“I prefer a tart, crisp apple that won’t get mushy for the Mulligatawny soup,” Fromm explained, noting that most apples are good for cooking. “All but the Red Delicious, are great.”

“The Delicious apple belongs on a teacher’s desk or in your lunch,” she added with a laugh. 

To get the most out of a nutritional recipe, Fromm said to follow the measurements exactly. When chopping up the items for the Mulligatawny, keep the vegetables (onions, celery and carrots) all pretty much the same size. 

“You should sauté your vegetables first to develop the flavors, and then add your liquids,” she noted. “And garlic should be added later, after sautéing the vegetables, so that it doesn’t go bitter on you.”

The recipe calls for such exotic spices as garam masala, coriander and tumeric, “all with cancer-preventative properties,” Fromm said.

“Garam masala is a mixture of Indian spices and is similar to curry,” she said. “Dried spices can be added during cooking, while fresh herbs and spices should always be added at the end.”

The recipe also calls for dried lentils. “I like red lentils and found mine at Meijer in both the Middle Eastern and Asian sections,”  she said.

As for chicken broth, Fromm suggests using the brand with the least amount of sodium. “This is a healthy dish, so you want to keep it healthy through and through,” she said. 

The light coconut milk can be found in the Asian food section of the grocery store. And the piece de resistance? Apples, which “add crunch,” she said.    

Noting that the chicken needs to be pre-cooked, Fromm said there’s a reason for that. “Buy bone-in, skin–on and roast the breasts for about a half hour in a 375-degree oven," she said. "Cooking them first keeps the moisture in, believe it or not.”   

Baked beauties

Across town in Franklin, home chef Cindy Schiano is starting to think about her favorite recipes that use apples.

“I’ve been making Winter Apple Cookies (recipe follows story) every fall at about the same time the Franklin Cider Mill opens,” Schiano said.

The cookie recipe is from an old cookbook called The Heritage of Southern Cooking, by Camille Glenn.

“These cookies are moist and spicy and great for a fall or winter’s day," Schiano said. 

Artist Chris Unwin also appreciates the fruity and spicy aromas of apples baking in her home come autumn. “I make my own apple pie,” said Unwin, of West Bloomfield. “I don't do it often, just in the fall.”

Unwin swears by the premade, rolled-out crusts from the grocery store. “And I always add a pinch of nutmeg to the filling,”  she said.

owner and designer Tomy Lulgjuraj, whose hair studios are located in Royal Oak and Birmingham, likes to bake sliced apples with caramel topping and cinnamon.

His concoction calls for three large apples, cored, sliced (keep the skin on) and placed in a shallow baking dish. He then spreads about ½ cup caramel topping on the apples, and dusts with ground cinnamon before baking in a 300-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until tender.

“Serve it with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream," he said. "Yummy.”

Mulligatawny Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • cayenne to taste
  • 2 cups dried lentils
  • 2 quarts low sodium chicken broth
  • 14 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 15 ounces light coconut milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups chicken breast, pre-cooked without skin, diced
  • 2 cups Granny Smith apples, diced
  • 1 lime
  • salt and pepper

Process

Heat oil in large stockpot. Add onion, celery and carrot. Sauté until tender. Stir in garlic and spices and sauté until fragrant. Add lentils, broth, tomatoes, coconut milk and bay leaf. Simmer until lentils are tender, 15-20 minutes. Stir in cooked chicken and diced apples. Season to taste with fresh lime juice, salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Winter Apple Cookies

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, not too firmly packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup milk or apple juice
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped peeled apple
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider, apple juice, milk or brandy for glaze

Process

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and brown sugar thoroughly with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and beat again. Sift the salt, baking soda and spices with the flour. Add the flour to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk or apple juice. Stir in the raisins, walnuts and apple by hand. Work fast with the apple so it will not turn dark.

Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto a lightly greased or nonstick cookie sheet, placing them 2 inches apart, don't flatten — this is not a thin cookie.

Bake on the middle rack until cookies spring back when touched and are light brown all over, 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, blend the confectioner’s sugar with the cider or other liquid for the glaze. While the cookies are still hot, brush them with the glaze, remove the cookies to a rack to cool.

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