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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Big Apple

As 99% percent of native Spanish speakers, I have a hard time with English vowels. In Spanish, the a sounds like a, the e like e, i like i, o like o and u like...yes, u. To pronounce those letters in Shakespeare's language, is a whole art and a big challenge, as each vowel is a combination of sounds that are pretty obvious for the trained ear, but not to the ones raised speaking Latin tongues. Piece and peace, aunt and ant, teen and tin, hair and heir, sheet and (you get it...) to us, there's no difference!!! My husband just showed me this clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live, and I can understand Guillermo clearly. I could have totally won the contest!
So, when my daughter asked me to help her with a list of words with "short a" for her homework, I went clueless. Not because I couldn't think of the examples, but because I had no idea what she was talking about! What in the world is a "short a"? Then she explained me as I looked at the words she already had filling the gaps. I understood what she needed to do, and a bit more...
"Apple," "app," and "iPad," headed her list. Yes, apple is a wholesome, natural, ancient, phytonutrient-rich fruit from the rose family, and its name starts with a short a sound, but what my daughter was referring to was the company that sells apps for the iPad and owns the ultra cool Apple stores around the Big Apple (and many other towns), where 12-year-old hipsters show you how to use the slick contraptions [designed in California and made in China that are brainchildren of genius Steve Jobs] to do anything you can think of, and that your newborn can use with confidence right as he/she is coming out of the womb.
A couple of days after my daughter turned in her homework,  we went to the Apple Store. My husband and I decided it was time to update our 4-year-old smart phones (that by now were kind of dumb phones), and it wasn't until then that I realized how much cyberspace had widened, and why I needed more bytes (or mega bytes?), and more stuff with my new gadget. With my old phone I couldn't have access to most newer apps nor social media (which by the way, if you ask me, made my life simpler), icons, photos, nor free international communication tools.  A few days passed, and I became addicted to Pintrest and a big fan of Instagram. I have a flashlight, if I feel lonely I can talk to Siri and boss her around, I order groceries and... where is this all going?????
I have no idea, but I do give it to Mr. Jobs, who could see way beyond what we, regular humans, can see, and wasn't afraid to pursue it, imagine it and reimagine it over and over, always keeping in mind aesthetics, marketability and innovation. We just saw a 1995 interview of him, and it's amazing how even then, he saw it all coming. The facebook guys weren't even born yet (OK...they were babies).
I'm not even sure if it's all good that we have almost lost direct human contact with each other, or that we have developed an addiction to tapping our phones, tablets, mini tablets, super pads, etc everywhere and always while forgetting all the civilized rules of politeness. We only look straight into each other's eyes through Skype, but the Apple legacy is--whether we like it or not--as ubiquitous as apples in the farmer's markets and produce stores at this time of the year. So, I'm just going to enjoy them all and feel inspired!

Here's a bit about how good apples are: 

Apples contain a very unique balance of phytonutrient polyphenols, especially in their skin (so don't peel them!), which can protect us against heart disease, cancer, asthma, and can help regulate blood sugar levels, and are suggested to be beneficial in the prevention of age-related problems such as Alzheimer's disease and macular degeneration of the eye.

Tip: try to always keep apple peels in a recipe, even if the instructions ask you to take them off. It makes life easier and it boosts the apples' nutritional value by A LOT!
Add apple slices for crunch and a touch of sweetness to salads, soups, savory tarts, curries, and sweet pies. I especially love them in crisps, and I never peel them!
  • Apples partner fabulously with cheese (Gruyere, goat's milk, aged Parmesan, ricotta, blue, etc...)
  • Worth it to buy ORGANIC apples when possible, as they are amongst the most pesticized fruits.
  • They are great in slaws
  • Apples are BFFs with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, and let's not even mention all kinds of nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, almonds)
  • Toss them with any kind of leafy green and/or roasted root vegetables
  • Try a salad of leafy greens of your choice, apple slices, toasted hazelnuts, goat (or blue) cheese bits and a dressing of nut oil (or just use evoo), a drizzle of raw honey, apple cider vinegar, sea salt and fresh black pepper, and you've got a great lunch!
Here are two more recipes to get you started:

Roasted Cauliflower “Couscous” with Celery Root and Green Apples
  • vegan
  • free of: eggs, dairy, nuts, soy, seeds, wheat and gluten
I only came to the realization of the incredible effect of roasted Granny Smith apples after trying to make Plenty's Ultimate Winter Couscous recipe, that calls for more than 20 ingredients. I had all of them but one: dried apricots. However, I had gone to Costco that week and found organic apples, of different kinds, so I thought I'd make the substitution. People: you're in for a treat!
By shaving off the tips of the cauliflower florets

with a knife or a box grater, you get couscous out

of cauliflower.
Celery root, also known as celeriac is easy to find and has a mild and aromatic taste resembling the one of its green (and let’s face it: better looking) stems we all know as celery. It’s definitely not an attractive ingredient, so we can’t blame anyone who feels intimidated to cook with it. However, beneath its bumpy, gray surface, hides a vegetable worth of knowing. Just use your sharpest knife to cut around removing all the peel. Then, a white, crunchy, mellow surprise will await and gratify!

  • 1 cauliflower head, leaves removed, florets trimmed
  • 1 celery root (celeriac), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (don't peel!)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 thyme spirgs
  • Coarse sea salt (like Maldon) and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet

with parchment paper.
Break cauliflower into florets and shave the tops in

the largest hole of a box grater (or use a sharp

knife). Stop shaving once the stems don’t have any

more of the flower-looking part . Set shavings

(couscous) aside and place the cauliflower stems on

the prepared baking sheet.
Add the cut celery root and apple to the baking

sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Mix using your

clean hands to ensure all are evenly coated with the

Place thyme sprigs directly on top of vegetables,

and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.
Roast for 15-20 minutes, until cauliflower is golden

brown in parts and apple looks melted.

Take out of the oven and add the reserved

cauliflower couscous. Mix with a heat-proof

spatula and return to the oven for 1 more minute.

Remove from oven and serve.
Serves 4-6
These babies are dense, not of the airy, pillowy fried kind, but they are delicious and very easy to make. Make sure you use apple butter that lists ONLY apples and apple cider as ingredients, as you don't need any extra sugar.
They are a great gluten-free snack for a cold day!

  •  vegan
  • free of: gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, soy
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted, and at room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pans
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/4 teaspoon for sprinkling
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons apple butter (see note on header of recipe)
  • 2 teaspoons chia seeds, ground (in spice grinder)
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup gluten-free oat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot flour
  • 1/2 cup milk (your choice: rice, almond, cashew, dairy, coconut)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Oil one mini doughnut pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together oils, coconut sugar, salt, and spices. 

Add in the apple butter, then the ground chia and water. Whisk until well incorporated.

In another bowl, whisk together (with a clean whisk) the baking powder, baking soda, and flours.

Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with flour. 
Place batter in a large zip top bag, getting air out as much as possible. Zip it closed and cut off a small corner of the bottom of the bag (about 1/2-inch long).

Pipe batter through the hole in the bag 3/4 full on each doughnut shape in the pan.
Bake the doughnuts for 10 to 12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into one comes out clean. 

Remove them from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes and unmold to complete cooling.

While doughnuts cool, grind 1 tablespoon coconut sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a spice grinder until very fine. Place on a strainer and dust on top of doughnuts.

Makes about 12 mini doughnuts