140128_lonniefeb

I love apples but not the insipid type found in most supermarkets. Those apples have often been in storage for almost a year, given chemicals to drink during their growth period and sprayed to death. No, I love real apples, maybe slightly blemished, not picture perfect but perfect tasting. So when my husband and I purchased our property down in the Ozarks, the first thing we did was plant an orchard. A variety of heirloom apples, Ashmeads Kernel, Calville Blanc, Spitzenburg, Arkansas Black, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Belle de Boskoop, and more, relics from the past. There are hundreds of different types of apples. These apples have taste, complexities, unique qualities, all sadly lacking in supermarket apples. It’s worth seeking out a farmer’s market or better yet, plant a couple yourself. A semi dwarf tree can bear within three to four years, and you can reach the fruit!

Apples Baked with Leeks and Goat Cheese

4 large apples, cored (remove a strip of skin from the circumference so the apple doesn’t burst during baking)

1 cup dry white wine (like Sauvignon Blanc)

1 dried bay leaf

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large leeks, white part only, minced and diced

2 tablespoons water

7 ounces goat cheese

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place apples in baking dish, pour wine around, add bay leaf to wine. Lightly salt the apples. Cook leeks in 1 tablespoon butter until transparent. Add 1 tablespoon water, stir, cover and cook until tender (add more water if needed).

After leeks are cooked, let cool a few minutes, then mix in goat cheese and cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Gently stuff each apple with equal amount of mixture, press into cavity mound it on top. Top apples with remaining butter. Bake until apples are tender and cheese is dark golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve warm.

This is a great winter dish. Easily made ahead, it’s even good as leftovers for breakfast.

Apples Baked with Squash

3-4 pounds of squash, your favorite, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 pounds tart apples, cored, peeled , cut into eighths.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 9x13 baking dish.

Steam squash until cooked, then pureed and strain with fine mesh strainer. If squash is liquid, place over a bowl and let drain for about 30 minutes.

Melt butter in heavy bottom pan over medium heat, add apples, cook, turning frequently until golden and tender. Place apples in buttered baking dish.

Make a white sauce (béchamel) and infuse the milk with bay leaves

1½ cups milk

2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour

Salt and pepper

Freshly ground nutmeg (I use a grating rasp, the whole nutmegs keep for years)

Scald milk with bay leaves over medium heat, remove from heat, let cool 10 minutes. Melt butter in heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk in flour, cook until butter has bubbled and formed a pale yellow foam, at least two minutes. (you want to cook out the flour taste) Pour in hot milk, straining out bay leaves, whisking constantly. Cook until béchamel has thickened to the consistency of very heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Whisk béchamel into squash puree; season to taste (it should be quite highly seasoned).

Pour over apples, dot with butter and nutmeg. Bake until béchamel is slightly golden and apples are tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Apple, Walnut and Cheese Salad

10 cups mixed salad greens, torn into bite-sized pieces

1 large tart apple, cored, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

3 ounces Roquefort cheese

Use your favorite vinaigrette

Toss salad greens, apple and walnuts with vinaigrette and sprinkle cheese on top.