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GOOD COOKING

How Green Was My Granny Smith?

March 03, 1994|ABBY MANDEL

When the going gets rough in the kitchen, I know I can always count on crisp, juicy Granny Smith apples.

They were originally imported from New Zealand and South Africa in the mid-1950s. Today, many come from the prime apple-growing valleys of central Washington state.

Available year-round, light-green Granny Smiths have a tart, tangy flavor and firm flesh, qualities that lend themselves to all aspects of cooking. They're also excellent for out-of-hand eating. However, they will become mushy and lose their shape when overcooked.

Consider the following recipes for a salad, a quick bread with fresh apple butter and a warm apple compote. All feature Granny Smiths in combination with apple cider and orange zest, two ingredients that enhance the apple's appealing flavor.

The apple salad with Belgian endive and watercress is a lightened version of a typical winter bistro salad; it's refreshing, light and filling in a healthful way. It's best served as a first course or as a lunch salad.

The apple quick bread with prunes and walnuts is delicious slathered with fresh apple butter. The warm curried apple compote with apricots and raisins is a low-fat enhancement to many meats, especially leftovers.

A word about citrus zest, an ingredient I use in many of my dishes to boost their flavor. Some readers have asked about it recently. The zest is the aromatic colorful outer skin layer of citrus fruit; it must be removed with the aid of a citrus zester (available in cookware shops), a fine grater or a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler or paring knife, all very sharp.

Avoid removing the white part of the rind, called the pith--it's bitter and tastes unpleasant. Sharp tools and a light hand will eliminate taking the pith with the zest. Only the colored outer skin has the aromatic oils that, in truth, add a flavorful "zest" to any dish.

Moist with apples, prunes and cider, this bread can be served as a simple dessert, with soup or with salad suppers. It's perfect combined with the fresh apple Granny Butter, especially when the bread is toasted.

APPLE, PRUNE AND WALNUT BREAD WITH GRANNY BUTTER

Cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup oil

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons cider

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (2 1/3 cups)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup snipped prunes

Granny Butter

Sift 2 cups cake flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda and salt onto sheet of wax paper. Set aside.

Combine oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Beat 3 minutes. Mixture will be thick and smooth. Add sifted ingredients, cider and orange zest to mixer. Mix to combine. Toss apples, walnuts and prunes with 1 tablespoon flour in bowl. Then stir into batter with wooden spoon. Batter will be very thick.

Generously grease 8x4-inch glass loaf pan. Lightly dust pan with flour, tapping out excess over sink. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Smooth surface.

Bake on center oven rack at 350 degrees until wood pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. If bread begins to darken too much toward end of baking, lay piece of foil gently over loaf to prevent from burning.

Remove from oven. Let stand on cooling rack 5 minutes. Invert bread onto rack. Let cool completely. Bread, wrapped airtight, will keep few days at room temperature or frozen 3 months. Cut into 1/3-inch slices. Serve with softened Granny Butter. Makes 1 (8-inch) loaf, or about 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

535 calories; 196 mg sodium; 76 mg cholesterol; 29 grams fat; 68 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.81 gram fiber.

Granny Butter

1/2 cup chopped Granny Smith apples

6 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, softened

1/4 teaspoon allspice

2 tablespoons sugar

Dash salt

Soften apples in microwave oven on HIGH power (100%) in microwave-proof dish.

Combine apples with butter, allspice, sugar and salt in processor fitted with metal blade or blender until smooth. Transfer to small souffle dish. Can be made few days ahead and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature before using.

This salad is a long way from Waldorf salad. It's light and refreshing, a lift to almost any meal, especially when it's the first course. Toasted walnuts, crumbled blue or Roquefort cheese can be sprinkled on the salad, although for my taste, these typical garnishes on winter apple bistro salads are not required. To get a head start on the salad, toss the apple slices in a little dressing to keep them from turning brown; they will keep for about one hour in the refrigerator.

APPLE SALAD WITH BELGIAN ENDIVE AND WATERCRESS

4 medium heads Belgian endive, about 5 ounces each, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch slices

1 large bunch watercress, long stems trimmed, rinsed

2 large Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, split, cored with melon baller, thinly sliced

Cider Dressing

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