Sunday, October 11, 2009

Iron Chef: Apples

We hit up the Long Grove Apple Festival the other weekend for mini pies, cider donuts, halloween decorations and - of course - all the apples you can shove into a half-peck bag. Don't worry about the pie and donuts, those were eaten up fairly quickly. But when it comes to more than a dozen apples hanging out on the counter, I think it is time to get crackin' in the kitchen!

In honor of cooking and baking with one main ingredient, I bring you. . .Iron Chef: Apples! Here's a rundown of apple recipes for every stage of a meal (complete with voiceover narration).

"Ahh, she's starting things off with a beverage. Bold move."
"True - the judges usually don't get served drinks until the wrap party!"

Hot Apple Cider
(6 servings)
Originally posted with photo on
6 cups apple cider
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
6 whole allspice berries
1 orange peel, cut into strips
1 lemon peel, cut into strips

Pour the apple cider and maple syrup into a large stainless steel saucepan. Place the cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, orange peel and lemon peel in the center of a washed square of cheesecloth; fold up the sides of the cheesecloth to enclose the bundle, then tie it up with a length of kitchen string. Drop the spice bundle into the cider mixture. Place the saucepan over moderate heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cider is very hot but not boiling. Remove the cider from the heat. Discard the spice bundle. Ladle the cider into big cups or mugs, adding a fresh cinnamon stick to each serving if desired.

"She's using Canadian Bacon in this dish."
"A nod to our neighbors to the north, eh?"

Apple Cheese Bagel Melts (4 servings)
Cooking Spray
1 medium Granny Smith Apple, cut into 16 thin wedges
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup (2oz) light cream cheese, softened
2 bagels, split and toasted
1/4 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
2 slices Canadian Bacon, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 425.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add apple and sugar; saute 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Spread 1 Tb cream cheese over each bagel half; top each with 4 apple wedges. Sprinkle cheese and bacon evenly over apple. Bake at 425 for 8 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with green onions.

"What's going on in the prep area?"
"Her sous chef misread "slivered" as "silvered" and has to throw away all of the spray painted almonds and start from scratch."
"That's a shame. Really going to set her back as the clock runs down."

Apple Almond Crunch Salad (6 servings)
Originally posted with photo on
1 (10 ounce) package mixed salad greens
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup tart apple, cored and chopped
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 cup raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing

In a large salad bowl, combine the salad greens, almonds, feta cheese, apple, red onion and raisins. Toss to blend. Apply salad dressing to individual servings.

"It's risky - serving ravioli without a sauce. But the apples, walnuts and parsley really make it a success."
"Right you are. Just be sure not to burn your nuts - ouch!"

Ravioli with Apples and Walnuts
(4 servings)

Originally printed with photo in Real Simple
1 pound cheese ravioli (fresh or frozen)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

1 crisp apple (such as Braeburn or Gala), cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce)

Cook the ravioli according to the package directions. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the apple, parsley, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper and toss to combine. Spoon over the ravioli and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

"Making dessert before time runs out! She doesn't own an oven-proof skillet, so instead transfers the apples to a 9" flexible pie plate when it is time for baking."
"Such creativity! But will the judges agree?"

German Apple Pancake
(6 servings)

Originally printed in Cooking Light
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
1 cup egg substitute
1 cup fat-free milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Apple mixture:
Cooking spray
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
1 cup thinly sliced Granny Smith apple

Remaining ingredient:
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

To prepare batter, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, salt, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine egg substitute, milk, butter, and vanilla in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add egg substitute mixture to flour mixture, stirring with a whisk. Let stand 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°.

To prepare apple mixture, coat bottom and sides of a 10-inch ovenproof skillet with cooking spray. Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg; sprinkle evenly over bottom and sides of pan. Arrange apple in an even spokelike layer in pan. Sprinkle apple with remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Cook over medium heat 8 minutes or until mixture bubbles. Slowly pour batter over apple mixture. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 375° (do not remove pancake from oven); bake an additional 13 minutes or until center is set. Carefully loosen pancake with a spatula. Gently slide pancake onto a serving platter. Sift powdered sugar over top. Cut into 6 wedges; serve immediately.

So what is the final outcome? Do we have a winner? Judges?

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