Taking a bite out of Envy apples #CookingwithEnvy

This post is sponsored by Envy Apples.  All reviews and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

There is almost nothing better than the satisfying crunch and sweet juiciness of the perfect apple. There’s also almost nothing worse than a mealy apple with faded flavor. Well, let me tell you, I’ve found the perfect apple. Envy apples are a cross between Braeburn, known for its balanced sweetness, and Royal Gala, which has a milder essence. It’s a big claim, but I stand by it. Try some for yourself. I’m confident you’ll agree. #BiteAndBelieve

They’re consistently crisp, and for those of you who love to have slices of apple on your charcuterie tray or in your child’s lunchbox, these apples have a naturally higher citric acid content that slows down the browning you get with other apples. No need to sprinkle apple quarters or slices with lemon juice to keep them pretty! These apples will go hours without discoloring. I’m happy to share that Envy apples are non-GMO, grown naturally in New Zealand and in the U.S., in Washington state.

Envy Apples invited me to attend a Central Market Cooking School class on using apples in a wide variety of meals, from breakfast to dessert. First, if you’ve never taken a class at Central Market, you’re missing out. They do demonstrations as well as hands on classes, and both are big fun if you’re into cooking. The chef instructor normally pairs wine with each course (water and tea are available), so you get a bit of advice on what varietals taste best with your meal. I love that the chef will tell you which ingredients are available in the store, and offer substitutions for certain, harder to find items.

One of the perks of Central Market cooking classes is that they always provide a set of the recipes so that you can duplicate your meal at home. I have the delicious fennel and apple salad pictured above on my menu this week. It comes together swiftly, and is a pleasing mix of flavors.

It’s soup weather right now, and a bowl of butternut squash and Envy apple soup is one of the most tasty and comforting lunch or dinner offerings. The recipe calls for 4lbs of raw butternut squash, pretty much two whole squash. Please don’t try to chop up that hard-as-concrete raw squash. Do yourself a favor and buy the ready to cook squash cubes. There’s no reason you should risk losing a finger in a tragic kitchen accident while hacking away at a butternut squash.

In class, we topped our soup with pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds). I’m planning to drizzle a little creme fraiche on this soup when I make it at home, then scatter a little diced raw Envy apples on for a crunchy contrast to the creamy soup. Like most cooks, I usually tweak recipes to make it my own. I’ll probably add a little garlic to this savory soup, because garlic. I could never become a vampire and throw over my love for the stinking rose.

This recipe, adapted from Chowhound, can easily be halved if you want to make a smaller amount. I suggest serving it with slices of buttered, toasted French bread, to mop up every bit of this flavorful winter soup. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think of Envy apples, and this recipe.

Butternut Squash & Envy Apple Soup with Sage

Ingredients                                                                                                                     

  • 4 lbs whole butternut squash (about 2 medium, halved lengthwise and seeds removed)
  • 2 Tb. unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
  • 1 medium Envy apple (about 8oz.)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish, if desired
  • 2 1/2 c. low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 c. water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish

Heat the oven to 425° F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place squash pieces cut side up on the baking sheet. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and brush all of it over the tops and insides of the squash halves. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until knife tender, 50 minutes to an hour. (Note: if you are using pre-cubed, seeded, peeled squash, spray the foil with a little cooking spray to avoid sticking. You’ll want to check the squash periodically, as cubes will cook faster than the halved squash).

Meanwhile, peel, core and cut the apple into a medium dice. Cut the onion into a medium dice. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the apple, onion and sage, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

When the squash is ready, set the baking sheet on a wire rack until the squash is cool enough to handle. Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh into the saucepan with the sautéed apples and onions; discard the squash skins.

Add the broth, water and measured salt and pepper, stir to combine and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces of squash, until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream.

Using a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap (the pour lid) from the blender lid and covering the space with a kitchen towel. This allows the steam to escape and prevents the blender lid from popping off. Alternatively, use an immersion blender. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Serve garnished with fried sage leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds. Makes 6-8 servings.

Categories: Comfort Food, Dinner, Lunch, Recipe, Uncategorized, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Taking a bite out of Envy apples #CookingwithEnvy

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Photo by Enrico Mantegazza on Unsplash

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” ~ C. S. Lewis

I learned a lot in 2018, much of it the hard way. I think I’ll remember it as the year I finally grew up. I walked next to my father as he transitioned out of this human life. My mother and I, with help from family and friends, are just coming out of the fog of exhaustion and grief, in time for a new beginning and a new year. My biggest takeaway from last year is that I don’t have it in me to do things that don’t bring me happiness. Except laundry, because there will always be dirty clothes needing to be washed.

My blog will be a little different than in the past. It will remain focused on Austin, and our food and beverage community, but I’m adding in more personal posts. This writing space was quite lonely last year, because each time I thought of writing it felt like a chore instead of a pleasurable occasion. I’m hatching.

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Anthony Bourdain

Post-filming of No Reservations at J Mueller BBQ (now LA Barbecue) in March 2012.

I’ve been a fan of Tony Bourdain’s since I read his 1999 “Don’t Eat Before Reading This” essay in the New Yorker. He entranced me from the start with his irreverent yet decidedly somehow still respectful voice. This line clinched it for me: “Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It’s about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals. It’s about danger—risking the dark, bacterial forces of beef, chicken, cheese, and shellfish. Your first two hundred and seven Wellfleet oysters may transport you to a state of rapture, but your two hundred and eighth may send you to bed with the sweats, chills, and vomits.”

As the years progressed, I avidly followed his television career. In March of 2012 the local rumor mill was rampant with breathless whispers of Bourdain’s advance team filming footage around Austin for No Reservations, and I was giddy with excitement. When I was quietly told that I would “want to be here on Saturday at opening” by JMueller Barbecue pitmaster John Mueller, there was no mystery behind the vague words. I knew it was my chance to see Bourdain up close and personal, but I had no idea just how up close and personal the day would become. If you view his Austin barbecue episode (Season 8), I’m the diner in the aqua colored blouse sitting next to Daniel Vaughn at the table with Bourdain, who is seated diagonally opposite me.  After filming wrapped, I broke my cardinal rule of never asking a celebrity if they’d take a photo with me, and Bourdain agreed readily, with a smile, even though he’d just worked through a long line of fans who’d waited to greet him. I can say that he was just as genuine, as sharply witty, and as warm in person as he comes across on tv.

Arguably one of the most influential chefs of our age, Bourdain was a sort of everyman’s bon vivant, but without pretense. He used his television shows to showcase not only great food around the world, but also the people behind the food, their lives, their humanity. Bourdain showed us the extreme poverty of some, and the extreme wealth of others. He opened a window to the culinary world and showed us that while we are all so very different, we are all so very much the same: we want good food, to be enjoyed with good people, in a moment of time that uplifts us both physically and spiritually.

Losing such a man to the blackness of depression is a tragedy on many levels. My heart aches for his young daughter, who will meet each milestone in her life with its appropriate joy, but also a continuation of grief for her loss. Bourdain’s death reinforces the sad truth that depression destroys lives no matter how well lived they may seem. For me, personally, I will take what Bourdain has taught me, and eat more mindfully, more in tune to the hands that prepared my repast, the story behind them, and the history that shaped the recipes. I will honor him, through the medium that gave him to the masses.

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