Sunday, October 24, 2010

Eat, Drink, Cook: Apple Salsa

“I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend./And I keep hearing from the cellar bin/The rumbling sound/Of load on load of apples coming in…”

— From the poem After Apple-Picking by Robert Frost

Last night I roasted what will likely be the season’s last homegrown tomato. The forecast is calling for a freeze this week. The long and prodigious growing season is ending. But a salve for this is that apples are still in abundance. Lately I’ve started thinking about substituting apples for tomatoes in a salsa. It can be done by mixing two tart cubed apples, 4 T. lime juice, 1 Jalapeno pepper, 1 Anaheim pepper, ½ medium onion (finely chopped), 2 T. cilantro, ½ c. chopped walnuts (lightly toasted), a dash of fresh ginger and ¼ tsp. salt.

 I can see scattering this over a dollop of sour cream in a bowl of butternut squash or pumpkin soup. Or served with make-your-own chips. (Brush tortillas lightly with water and sprinkle them with a combination of one quarter cup sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, then cut them into wedges and bake them in a 400-degree over for 6 to 8 minutes until lightly browned.)

That idea reminds me of the baked pita chips personal chef Hethyr Pletsch suggested back in January to go along with her Curried Pumpkin-Chicken Chowder. As it turns out, Hethyr will be teaching a free holiday cooking class on Nov. 13 at Ranch Foods Direct. Her approach to the holidays is to mix tradition with a few new twists, simple surprises like a salsa made out of apples or a soup made out of carrots, something that celebrates what’s in season.

It’s not surprising that apples have often been the subject of books and poems. In Gary Paul Nabhan’s Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine, he describes visiting the forests of wild apples in Kazakhstan, where domesticated apples likely originated, rich with the unusual fragrance of so much ripe fruit. He recounts that the famous Russian botanist Vavilov found the apple forests evocative of the mythical Garden of Paradise. There, the diversity of apple-bearing trees and shrubs is unmatched, with at least 56 native variations. But even in that remote area of Central Asia, food production is being replaced by urbanization.