Have you ever taken a bite of a store-bought apple and said to yourself, “How can something that supposedly grew in the sun, on a tree, have so little flavor?” Yeah, us too. But fortunately, now that it’s prime apple season, your chances of getting a good apple have improved dramatically.
Earlier this month Frieda’s Specialty Produce Company sent us a selection of heirloom apples. “Heirloom” refers to old-time breeds of apples that have been around for decades or even centuries. They tend to have cool names like Ashmed’s Kernel, Pomme Grise, Ribston Pippin, Wickson and Hudson’s Golden Gem — and they come in a variety of colors and shadings with tastes ranging from sweet to tart. When you bite into them, you’ll be transported back to a time when you could pick an apple from a tree and have it taste like a real apple. In other words, you won’t find any bland, mealy supermarket apples in this bunch.
The Pink Pearl, our new favorite heirloom apple, has a sweet, crisp taste and a surprisingly bright pink-streaked flesh. As soon as we saw it, we knew we wanted to do something fun with it. This Heirloom Apple/Sweet Potato Tian (kind of like a layered casserole) fits the bill. It’s a sweet side dish that will work for just about any fall meal and even Thanksgiving. (Who needs marshmallows when you’ve got apples?). Yes, the layering is a little labor-intensive but that’s what your kids are there to help you with – right?
Heirloom Apple/Sweet Potato Tian
1 large sweet potato
3 medium Pink Pearl apples, or any crisp, juicy fall apple
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Dash nutmeg and ground cloves
2 T. butter
Peel the sweet potato and slice it in a mandolin or food processor into very thin (1/8th to 1/16th-inch) slices. Next core the apple and slice it the same way as the sweet potato. Grease a small casserole pan with olive oil. Carefully stack the sweet potato and apple slices into alternating layers and arrange the layers in a circular or line pattern in your casserole dish. Drizzle with honey, sprinkle spices on top, and dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until sweet potato slices are tender. Serves 4.
Frieda’s 17 varieties of heirloom apples will be sold exclusively at Sprouts locations, beginning October 17.
P.S. Thinking ahead to Thanksgiving? This would make a great Thanksgiving side dish if you’re trying to create a healthier Thanksgiving dinner. See The Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge at What Would Cathy Eat for more details.