For the past two weeks I’ve missed my post. Ugghh! I’m so disappointed to get off track with my schedule, but at least for the first week it was for a worthwhile event that gives me more food-related info to share (the second week was for catching up on rest … still worthwhile). I was in New York for my new job with the Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans Program. We held a sushi tasting event for the media at the French Culinary Institute to publicize our newly released Sushi Selector  pocket guides.
The Sushi Selector offers consumers guidance on what sustainable fish to choose when dining out for sushi. By sustainable we mean fish that is not from a depleting fish stock and not contaminated with toxins such as PCBs or mercury. I’ll write on this issue further in the near future, but for now, let me get back to the issue at hand – apples and apple crisp!
The Saturday before I left to go to New York, one of my friends and I took a fall day trip to Culpeper, VA  and Graves Mountain Orchards in Syria, VA (about 30 miles south of Culpeper). We first stopped in Culpeper to explore their Farmers’ Market, and then we headed to Graves Mountain to pick apples and check out their apple festival (yes, another one).
As you remember, I went to an apple festival in Pennsylvania just a few weekends earlier, which I must say, I enjoyed better. However, I definitely liked the experience of picking my own apples more than just purchasing a bag at a festival as I did in Pennsylvania. The orchard had a large variety of apples from Red Delicious and Golden Delicious to Fuji to Winesap to Granny Smith. I picked some of each and for way less money than I would pay if I had purchased the apples from the grocery store.
When it comes to cooking with apples, whether it be for fried apples, apple pie, apple tart, apple sauce or apple crisp, there are usually certain characteristics you want to look for in an apple. Apples have varying degrees of tartness or sweetness and varying degrees of firmness depending on the variety. You usually want to choose a firm apple when cooking, particularly for pies, crisps, and baked or fried apples. For apple sauce, you want to be sure to use sweet apples; otherwise you’ll have to add sugar. Tart apples are usually used for baking, but often times, using a mixture of tart and sweet apples is recommended.
For my crisp, I used Jonathan apples (sweet and firm) and it turned out great. When I gave away servings of this sweet dish as I always do with desserts (gotta watch the figure), the first question my friends asked me was, “What’s a crisp?” Cobblers and crisps are often grouped together in cookbooks because they both include some type of quick flour-sugar-butter topping (usually no rolling out required) over a fruit filling. Cobblers have a biscuit-like topping, while crisps have a crumbly, sugary topping.
Take a look at these resources for more on the uses of different types of apples – AllRecipes.com , RecipeZaar.com , and AllAboutApples.com . Apples are indicative of fall, so channel your grandma (or somebody’s grandma) and try out cooking with apples. The wonderful scent that will fill up your house is a good enough reason to do so.
*** Another recommended recipe – Sarah’s Apple Sauce . It’s easy and can be made with or without the sugar.
Adapted from Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone “
You can eat a crisp at room temperature or warm, but I prefer warm and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
6 – 8 medium sized apples peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 tsp ground cinnamon
A quick squeeze of fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 tbs – 1 tbs)
2 tbs of sugar
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of packed brown sugar
1 tsp of lemon zest
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
6 tbs of cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 tbs pieces
1/2 cup of rolled oats
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel, core and slice the apples. In a bowl, toss the sliced apples with the lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar. Then evenly pour the filling into a 9″ x 9″ x 2″ baking dish.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the brown sugar. Then, using a pastry blender, two knives or a food processor (easiest), cut the cold butter with the flour-sugar mixture until you have a crumbly texture of tiny round pieces. If using a food processor, pulse flour-sugar mixture with the butter a few times to get the crumbly texture.
Lightly mix in the oats still leaving a crumbly texture. Evenly pour the topping mixture over the apples. Bake uncovered for about one hour or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling around the edges of the crisp.