Beyond Apple Pie

From gourmet dishes to creative kids’ meals, apples are advantageous.

Valley Hospital’s Apple, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad.

“Apples are a nutritious, whole food that adds texture, color, and sweet or tart flavors to dishes. As far as varieties, the options are endless during apple season here in the Northeast. I could use six different types of apples a day and still not make a dent in what’s available,” says John Graziano, executive chef at The Valley Hospital, in Ridgewood, N.J.

Graziano uses many apples that “are not boutique types,” during the apple season from early August through the beginning of November. “Jonathan apples are spicy and complement acids. Pink Ladies are tangy and work well with grain dishes,” Graziano says.

“Winesap are tart and perfect with agave nectar or honey. Honeycrisp are super low acid and work great to make infused water.”

Graziano’s apple menu items include roasted sweet potato, black barley and caramelized apples over baby spinach; red quinoa with Granny Smith apples, balsamic-roasted red onions and toasted almonds; parsnip purée studded with diced Pink Ladies and toasted panko; and Guinness-braised short ribs over an apple and cabbage slaw.

Bountiful variety

“We use apples in every form there is—fresh, frozen, canned and sauced—and serve them in a variety of ways. Our students love them,” says Diane Zipay, director of nutrition and catering services for Westside Community Schools, in Omaha, Neb. 

“The younger kids love the creative presentation of a Lunchables type of box. There’s a compartment for sliced apples, another for cream cheese cinnamon dip and also pumpkin or sunflower seeds, so the flavors are sweet and salty. Our high school has a bakery that serves Morning Glory muffins, made with apples, and a variety of
yogurt smoothies, including one with apple, granola and caramel that provides a serving each of protein, fruit and bread, all in a 12-ounce cup.”

Other menu items include a seasonal Thanksgiving apple cranberry relish that Zipay says is actually quite thick and counts as a fruit serving. Perhaps her most innovative, educational apple dish is made by coring apples, using a star-shaped cutter, and then slicing them “crosswise of the equator” so that the star shows in the center. “Alongside the apple star is a very thin slice of star fruit and a thin slice of dragon fruit. The kids are in awe of the exotic fruit and are likely to eat it.”

Ray Schmidt, associate director of dining at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington, makes his own Apple-Bourbon Bratwurst in the university’s butcher shop. “We also serve an Apple, Brie and Turkey Sandwich (sliced green apples, sliced brie, choice of bread, sliced turkey, Dijon mustard) and a Waldorf Salad, and our Chicken Normandy is delicious (apples roasted with shallots, chicken stock and brandy, served over pan-fried, seasoned, flour-dusted chicken),” he says.

“We use apples in hot mulled cider as a garnish and as a topping for roast pork (apples caramelized with yellow onions, bourbon, thyme, brown sugar, salt, pepper and pork jus, thickened with roux or cornstarch) and in an apple raisin glaze over meat (apples, butter, white wine, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract and raisins). And, of course, in turnovers, pies, cakes and cobblers.”

Apple advice

When deciding what apple variety to use, Zipay advises to taste before you buy. “Every brand name and every product is different,” she says. “As is the case with the USDA-supplied canned sliced apples, they are often such poor quality that you can’t do much with them except bake them into a pie.”

Graziano advises a little extra prep to ensure apples keep their visual appeal. “After cutting our apples we always give them a bath in fresh lemon juice and water,” he says.