by Dana Zia, The Golightly Gourmet
The simple and common apple is actually a superhero. Immortal and extraordinary, the apple has been flying through history in art, science experiments, legends, and torrid love affairs. It has also been seen flexing its vast muscles and protecting health and smashing disease for centuries. The apple is also the master of disguise as we just see a quiet everyday apple lying there in our fruit bowls.
The wild apple of ancient Asia, malus pumila, a member of the rose family, is the ancestor of our current juicy superstar apple. The malus was small and sour, much like the crab apples. There are many tales told of this ancient apple and its rise to fame but the ever imaginative Romans are credited with cultivating it into the predecessor of our caped crusader. They began the magic by creating 7 different varieties of the apple.
Now there are over 7500 varieties of the delicious nutritious apple grown in the world today. There are only 2500 of those grown in the United States, and only about 25 of those will you ever see in the produce isle. The leading producer of apples is China, (big surprise!) with the US coming in second with Washington State as the quarterback.
Apples are the world’s favorite fruit with American’s eating an average of 50 pounds per person. Johnny Appleseed was on to something when he planted apple trees across the country. Apples are tied hand and hand with American history and considered “all America” starting with the first settlers that brought little potted apple trees with them that helped sustain them through many a hard winter.
The nutritional benefits of our humble hotshot are astounding. A medium apple eaten raw with the peel on has only 81 calories and a whopping 3.7 grams of soluble fiber. (Make sure and eat them with the skin on, most of the good stuff is in there.) It is also loaded with antioxidants, potassium, folic acid, Vit C and calcium. The amazing apple also has been shown in studies to reduce the chance of lung, breast and colon problems. An apple a day really does keep the doctor away!
How does one pick the right apple out of 2500 different varieties for the dish? I once again, sacrificed myself and my husband for the good of all. We tried many apples to bring you our humble opinion. Honeycrisps are the BEST all-around apple for eating and baking. Granny Smith apples are great for baking and cooking where you like a little bit of tart in your pot. Gala’s are a pretty good all-around apple too if you can’t find honeycrisps. Macintoshes are the best applesauce apple but do not bake with them, or you just get mush. There are so many wonderful varieties of apples I recommended you do your own personal trials and enjoy this super hero in disguise.
This recipe I am sharing today is a lovely fall recipe that incorporates two of my favorite autumn foods, apples and winter squash. Winter squash can be a bear to cut up and peel but don’t let it stop you from making this soup, you can buy cut up and peeled squash in the produce section of the grocery stores. (I love that!) Have an apple a day and keep health going your way!
Apple and winter squash soup
I like to use butternut squash in this soup, it makes a lovely color. This makes it much easier. If you are vegetarian, omit the bacon and use 2 tablespoons of butter or oil to sauté the veggies in. I use the apple skin and all but you can peel it if you want a smoother texture. Serves 4 as an appetizer, two as a dinner.
3 slices of bacon chopped into bits (optional)
1 large onion finely diced
1 large leek, white and green parts chopped fine
2 – 3 cloves of garlic minced
2 ribs of celery minced
1 carrot sliced into thin rounds.
2 cups low sodium broth such as veggie or chicken
2 cups of water or so
3-4 cups of winter squash, peeled and chopped into cubes
4 medium sized boiling potatoes cubed (like red or Yukon golds)
1 medium tart apple, like granny smith, grated
1/4 tsp of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme
1 teaspoon of fresh sage, chopped fine
1/4 cup of sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Truffle oil (optional)
Fry up that meat candy (bacon) in a large pot till crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate and save for garnish. You should have 2 TLBS of fat, if not, add a bit more high heat oil to make that in the pot. Add the onion, garlic, leeks, celery and carrot to the bacon fat (I know, but trust me on this one) and sauté till tender and fragrant. Add the broth and water and stir up the browned bits from the bottom. Then toss in the squash, potatoes, apple, and cinnamon. Simmer mixture covered till all the veggies are super tender and delectable, about 15-20 minutes.
Now carefully puree the soup in a blender in small batches till smooth as silk. (An immersion blender is perfect here, if you have one. (The hot liquid can splash up and burn you during this process) It took me four small batches in my blender. Pour batches back in a clean pot and re-heat over medium heat stirring frequently. If it’s too thick add a little water. Serve up hot with a dollop of sour cream, crumbled bacon and wee bit of truffle oil drizzled on top. Bon appétit!