Baja Cooking on the Edge
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BAJA Cooking on the Edge

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Deb's Writings


“Come, let us plant the apple tree...”

- William Cullen Bryant

The apple has accompanied humankind since Eden. As Carl Sagan observed, “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” As it turned out, perhaps coincidentally, an apple was Isaac Newton’s physics teacher.

Apples help with housekeeping (apple-pie order,) medicine (an apple a day keeps the doctor away,) relationships (the apple of mine eye,) child-rearing (the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree,) human nature (one bad apple spoils the whole barrel,) and even revolution: you can’t get apples unless you shake the tree and upset the applecart. Mystics may take comfort in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s assertion that man bears belief as a tree bears apples. And while any fool can count the seeds in an apple, who can count the apples in a seed?

Johnny Appleseed sowed apples and colonial unity in the late 18th century, creating a legend. Today all the roads he walked lead to the Big Apple. In typically conflicted fashion, apple pie is still synonymous with wholesome American values, even though it was an apple that precipitated Original Sin. Well, Will Rogers warned us that ‘all politics is applesauce. ‘

Aside from making more appearances in literature than any other fruit, malus pumila has been a foundation of western cooking for well over 5000 years, and is grown is every temperate region on earth. (Apples are a member of the same generous family that gave us roses, hawthorn and quince, much to be thankful for.) So fundamental is the apple that for millennia the very name was used as a generic name for all fruit, even those that are clearly not apples, such as the pine-apple. Apples remain one of Europe’s favorite foods. Japan is apple-crazy as well, China less so.

American tradition, of course, overflows with apples. The fruit is as much a part of the culture as the cuisine. Early settlers brought apple seeds to North America as a matter of course and spread wildly mutating orchards across the continent. Fall was apple harvest time, and bushels and bushels of apples were peeled, cored, sliced and dried in rings; pressed for cider and later, vinegar; or cooked into applesauce or reduced with cider to make apple butter. Wild crab apples were harvested and boiled for jellies. Girls would carefully peel an apple in a single strip, and then throw the peel over their shoulder to reveal the initial of the man they would marry.

It’s hard to compare apples to apples with over 7,000 identified species to consider. A great apple is crisp, and has a perfect balance of tart and sweet to go with the crunch. Large apples with shiny, ‘candy-apple’ red skin are considered the desirable norm in America, but in the Old World, the finest-tasting apples are often small, with green or sturdy brown skins. Washington, Michigan and New York are the leading apple-producing states.

Top varieties (by acreage) are Golden and Red Delicious, Jonathan, Macintosh, Rome, Granny Smith and York (used mostly for processing.) Older apples like Spy, Russets or Pippin are still grown, though they may be hard to find outside of their local areas. So-called heirloom varieties are also making a comeback. They can usually be found in season at farmer’s markets.


Past generations sorted apples by whether or not they were good for cooking (tart and mealy) or eating (crisp and sweet.) In the United States, most apples do double duty. The best apples for cooking today are both firm and tart, such as the Granny Smith and Macintosh. If you can find them, Pippins and Spy produce pies, dumplings and applesauce with a soft texture and glorious old-time taste. Avoid large, tasteless, mealy-textured eating apples such as the Red or Golden Delicious. Newer eating varieties like the Gala and Fuji are also too bland for cooking. In the apple world, the greener, uglier and smaller the apple, the better the flavor when cooked.

In all their varieties and forms, apples are incredibly versatile the year round: tart and crunchy in salads and sorbets during the hot summer months. In fall and winter apples carry the warm flavors of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, ginger and butter, rich cream and caramel, and nuts. As every cook knows, apples in any form pair beautifully with rich meat and poultry such as pork, dark meat chicken, turkey or duck.

Eating apples like crisp Galas and Jonathans are the perfect foil for sharp farmhouse cheddars and blue cheeses. Cider, often-overlooked these days, is healthy and delicious hot or cold. Cider and cider vinegar are useful in marinades, sauces or basting while roasting.
So-how do you like them apples?

Chef Deborah M. Schneider, CEC, is at work on ¡Baja! Cooking On the Edge (Spring 2006, Rodale Press)



Little Cornish hens are tasty and fun to eat. In this recipe, the hens are split and partially boned before cooking, which makes them much easier to eat. Who can forget the Marx Brothers scene when the slippery Cornish hen flies across table and lands on the duchess’s tiara? Serves 4 as a light entrée- tiaras optional.

2 Cornish hens, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter
15 pearl onions, peeled
4 lady apples* washed (do not peel or core)
½ cup calvados
½ cup fresh, unfiltered cider
½ cup chicken stock or unsalted Swanson’s chicken broth
¼ cup heavy cream

  1. Remove giblets from hens and cut off the wing tips (reserve these, and other bones, for stock.)With a sharp, heavy knife, cut the hens in half, and then cut out the backbone. Remove rib bones, breast bone and wing bone; if you like, you can also bone out the thigh, leaving the lower leg bone intact. Wipe the birds with paper towels and season inside and out with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large, ovenproof sauté pan over medium heat and add the butter. When it is foaming, lay the hens in, skin side down, and shake several times so they do not stick. Fit the apples and onions around the hens. Cook until the skin is golden brown. Turn and pour over the calvados and cider; bring to a boil and place in the oven.
  3. Roast the hens for 30-40 minutes, or until they are well cooked (thigh temperature of 165 degrees) and the liquid in the pan is beginning to thicken.
  4. Remove from heat. Set the hens, apples and onions on a warm platter and tent loosely with foil. Set the sauté pan over medium heat, and add the stock and heavy cream. Boil, scraping up the bottom of the pan, until the sauce thickens and has bubbles all across the surface; taste and correct seasoning. Add any juices from the platter to the sauce and strain the sauce through a fine strainer.
  5. Serve each person a half hen with sauce, an apple and a few onions.

*Lady apples are tiny apples, no more than a couple of inches in diameter. If they are not available, small granny smith apples, peeled, cored and halved, may be substituted.
Recipe by Deborah M. Schneider


This refreshing salad looks lovely if you julienne all the ingredients on a mandolin, but small dice will work just as well. Serves 4.

1 granny smith apple
4-inch chunk of daikon radish
1 tablespoon lime juice
Pinch kosher salt
½ cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
1 cup baby arugula or ½ cup spicy microgreens
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil or walnut oil

Crème Fraiche Sauce

½ cup creme fraiche or plain yogurt
1/4teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh dill, stemmed and chopped
1 tablespoon mint, stemmed and chopped

  1. Peel the apple and daikon, and cut into julienne strips. Combine with the lime juice, salt and grapes and chill.
  2. Wash and spin dry the arugula (not the microgreens) and remove stems.Chill.
  3. Combine sauce ingredients and toss with the julienne apple and daikon. Chill.
  4. To serve: Toss the arugula with the oil and set aside. Divide the salad among four plates, heaping it up in the center to look like a ‘haystack’ with a flattened top. Pile the arugula on top of the julienne, mounding as high as possible. Serve right away.

Note: Make the salad more substantial by adding 1 cup cooked, skinless chicken (2 small breasts) cut into julienne strips. Double the dressing.

Recipe by Deborah M. Schneider


This combination of braised apples, red cabbage and onions is a frequent companion to roast pork, goose and duck. Makes about 2 cups.

4 tablespoons butter, goose fat or duck fat (divided use)
½ small white onion, chopped
1 large Granny Smith or Macintosh apple, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
2 juniper berries
½ bay leaf
5 black peppercorns, crushed with a mallet just before use
½ small head red cabbage, cored and finely shredded, about 3 ½ cups
Kosher salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar, in a sieve or shaker
½ cup acidic white wine (such as Riesling or vermouth)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

  1. In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, apples, juniper berries, bay leaf and peppercorns. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are slightly softened. Do not brown.
  2. Top the apples with a third of the red cabbage. Sprinkle with salt and a third of the powdered sugar. Repeat the layers of cabbage, salt and sugar, ending with salt and sugar, and dot the top with the remaining butter.
  3. Pour the wine and vinegar over the top of the cabbage. Set a piece of buttered parchment paper, foil or a butter wrapper on top of the cabbage, and cover with a lid. Turn the heat on the lowest setting and allow the cabbage to cook, without stirring, for about 30-40 minutes, or until it has slumped into utter softness. There should always be about a half-inch of liquid in the bottom of the pan.
  4. Just before serving, increase the heat slightly and reduce the juices in the bottom of the pan until they thicken (it should not be completely dry.) Serve very hot.
    Note: 1 teaspoon of whole toasted caraway seeds can be added to the onions and apples.

Recipe by Deborah M. Schneider


If you have children around who like to cook, try this quick, easy and satisfying project. Children should always be supervised by an adult in the kitchen. Makes 4 dumplings.

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
2 crunchy granola bars
¼ cup raisins
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup apple juice
4 small apples (Macintosh, Granny Smith
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1/2 teaspoon water
About 1 tablespoon sugar

Vanilla Brown Sugar Sauce

½ cup whole milk plain yogurt, thick crème fraiche or sour cream
2 tablespoons brown sugar (or more to taste)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Thaw the puff pastry overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Crumble the granola bars into a bowl and add the raisins and cinnamon. Toss with the apple juice until barely moist and let stand 5 minutes.
  3. Peel the apples and remove the cores with an apple corer. Brush the apples inside and out with lemon juice.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the dough and cut into four squares. Roll the pieces into 6 inch squares. Chill for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, stuff the apple hollows loosely with the granola-raisin mixture. Remove the puff pastry squares from the refrigerator and lay them out on a non-stick cookie sheet. Spoon any remaining filling on to the center of each square. Set a stuffed apple on top. Gather the sides of the pastry up like a handkerchief, and twist the top to make a ‘purse.’ Fold the ends down.
  6. Brush the dumplings lightly, all over, with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with sugar and bake for 35-45 minutes (depending on the size of the apples,) until a deep golden brown. If the tops brown too quickly, cover with a small piece of aluminum foil.
  7. Stir together the yogurt, brown sugar and vanilla. Chill.
  8. When done, the dumplings will be very hot inside. Cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve with a dollop of the yogurt sauce on the side.

Recipe by Deborah M. Schneider


What can I say? Ridiculously easy to make, and people go absolutely nuts over it. An instant classic. Serve for brunch or as a warm dessert. Serves 4-6 people.

2 large Granny smith apples
1 lemon
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
3 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 stick melted butter (divided use)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup flour
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon fine orange zest or 1 tablespoon orange juice
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons white sugar
Powdered sugar
Vanilla ice cream
Strawberries, sliced

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and put the rack in the middle.
  2. Peel two Granny Smith apples. Cut in half and cut out the cores, then slice them into ¼ inch-thick slices or ½-inch cubes. Place in a bowl. Squeeze the lemon over the apples, sprinkle with cinnamon and stir to coat the apples.
  3. In a blender or food processor, combine the eggs, salt, 2 tablespoons melted butter, vanilla, flour and milk. Blend on high speed for one full minute. Stop the machine, scrape the sides down, and blend for another 30 seconds. Stir in the orange zest.
  4. Set a 9-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the remainder of the butter and add the apples, brown sugar and white sugar. Cook, stirring, until the sugar has melted into the butter to make a nice gooey mess, starting to get good and hot, but not sticking, and the apples are beginning to soften.
  5. Pour the batter over the apples, and pop the pan into the oven.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes until the pancake is puffed and firm. (it’s better to slightly overcook this than to undercook) Test it by sticking a knife into the middle. If you see bits of raw batter, keep cooking and test after 5 more minutes. It’s ready once the knife comes out with moist crumbs.
  7. As soon as the pancake is cooked, remove from oven. Turn a plate upside down over the pancake pan, then with one swift motion, turn the pan upside down onto the plate. If a little bit sticks in the pan, just scrape it out and graft it back on.
  8. Cut into four or six pieces and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar, a scoop of Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream and some sliced strawberries.

Recipe by Deborah M. Schneider


When it’s cold outside, or you feel sniffly, this is a wonderful, warming drink, full of ‘yin’ energy. Makes 2 cups.

2 cups fresh, unfiltered apple cider
A piece of ginger the size of your thumb, peeled
1 whole star anise
Combine all ingredients and simmer over very gentle heat for 30 minutes. Strain and drink hot.

Recipe by Deborah M. Schneider


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