We’ve all heard “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and its true that apples are generally good for us. An average medium size apple has 95 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and provides 14% of our daily requirement of vitamin C. The soluble fiber and antioxidants in apples have been shown to have a positive impact on lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), reducing inflammation, and lowering the risk of heart disease. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, what do you do when you have too many apples?
My family belongs to a CSA — a community supported agriculture program where we pay in advance for a weekly share of seasonal produce from a local farm. We generally love the vegetables and fruits that we get from Stoneledge Farm, but every fall we find ourselves falling behind (no pun intended) the weekly onslaught of apples that come in our fruit share. This year we didn’t even do our annual apple picking trip, and we still have a huge bowlful on the counter.
So, what do we do with all of those apples? Desserts are the obvious choice, but not always the healthiest one. Of course, there are plenty of recipes out there for unsweetened applesauce, baked apples, crumbles, crisps and pies with limited amounts of sweeteners and saturated fats, but they all relegate apples to the dessert end of the spectrum.
I love to find uses for apples in savory dishes. The key is to use them in recipes where their crisp natural sweetness, gentle acidity, and crunch can play well with the other ingredients. Salads are the easy answer, especially those featuring dark, flavorful greens such as spinach and kale. Diced or shredded apples add a nice sweetness to ribbons of Italian Lacinato (or dinosaur) kale dressed with a vinaigrette of cider vinegar whisked with olive oil and grainy or Dijon mustard. Try adding shredded apples to shredded cabbage for a sweet turn on coleslaw, or mix with shredded carrots, beets, jicama or kohlrabi for a great, crisp salad — made even better with the addition of toasted walnuts or pumpkin seeds on top. Apples can also add sweet magic to vegetable and grain dishes. Try sautéing apple slices with shredded cabbage or roasting apple chunks with sweet potatoes, or toss raw or roasted apples into cooked grains.
Apples work great as a naturally sweet counterpoint to chicken, turkey and pork. I love serving apples simply sautéed in a little olive oil — with or without onions or shallots — and a sprinkling of thyme or rosemary with grilled chicken, lean pork chops, and pork or turkey tenderloin. (If you haven’t yet discovered turkey tenderloins, search them out!) Try Eating Well’s recipe for Chicken & Spiced Apples— a fan favorite! For a great all-in-one autumn dinner, my recipe for Maple Glazed Chicken Thighs with Roasted Squash, Apples, and Onions is below. Hmm, that looks like a good use for you, oh growing pile of butternut squash, also from the CSA!
So, go forth confidently into the Fall knowing that when life gives you lots and lots of apples you can make so much more than just pie and applesauce. Take a walk on the savory side and that pile of apples will soon dwindle. Let me know what you come up with — I can always use more inspiration in the kitchen!
Maple Glazed Chicken Thighs with Roasted Squash, Apples & Onions
- 3 cups 1/2 in cubed peeled butternut squash 1 1/2 lbs
- 3 medium onions cut into thin wedges with root end intact
- 2 medium crisp apples cored, peeled and cut into wedges
- 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
- 1 and ½ tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 tsp. salt divided
- 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1 ½ # boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
- 2 T. maple syrup
- ¼ cup sherry or cider vinegar
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Combine the maple syrup, vinegar, remaining olive oil, and remaining salt and pepper in a non-reactive bowl or lidded container. Stir to combine, add the chicken and coat well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 to 45 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine squash, onions, apples, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ tsp salt, ½ teaspoon ground pepper, and thyme. Toss well to coat. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet or large baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once, or until squash is cooked through and all vegetables are nicely caramelized. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Heat a large non-stick pan over medium high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade (reserving the marinade) and place into the skillet, making sure that pieces do not touch or overlap. Brown the chicken evenly on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Once browned, remove the chicken and keep warm. Pour the remaining marinade into the pan; bring to a boil while scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula, and cook down until reduced by half. Remove from the heat. Place the chicken pieces into the pan of roasted vegetables and pour the marinade over everything, gently mixing to coat well. Return the pan to a 350° oven for 15 minutes to allow the sauce to glaze and ensure that the chicken is fully cooked.
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs cook rather quickly while remaining juicy. All poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° F to ensure that it is safe to eat.