Saturday, April 19, 2014
It's not summer camping season, but lots of Mainers extend their time outdoors in the fall by installing a fire pit.
“The ingredients are few, but the taste is wonderful,” says Mary McCartney of the apple tart recipe handed down to her by her stepgrandmother.
Mary McCartney photo
Why limit your menu to hot dogs and toasted marshmallows?
Robin Donovan, a San Francisco freelance journalist who specializes in food, cooking and travel, has a great idea for apples in her new book, "Campfire Cuisine: Gourmet Recipes for the Great Outdoors" (Quirk Books, $15.95).
Her "Parmesan Baked Apples" kicks fire pit cooking up a notch by using fresh, seasonal apples and a good Parmesan cheese. They are grilled over the fire in aluminum foil packets until the cheese melts and bubbles, and the apples soften and caramelize so their sweetness is accentuated.
"I have not tried other kinds of cheese, but I'm sure others would be good," Donovan said in an email. "The ones that pop into my head are sharp cheddar or a blue cheese like Roquefort or Gorgonzola, or a creamier blue like blue Castello or cambazola. I really like a sharp, salty cheese with fruit. You could also add nuts (chopped walnuts or pecans, or even hazelnuts)."
Below is her recipe for making the baked apples over an open fire, and an alternate version if all you have is an indoor oven.
PARMESAN BAKED APPLES
Sweet apples, such as McIntosh or Gala, provide a nice counterpoint to the salty cheese, but tart Granny Smith or Pippin apples will work as well. Serve the baked apples with slices of crusty bread as a snack or appetizer or as an accompaniment to grilled pork or duck breast.
Olive oil spray or nonstick cooking spray
2 large apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
4 ounces good-quality Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced*
*Use a vegetable peeler to get paper-thin slices of cheese.
Spray four squares of aluminum foil with olive oil or nonstick cooking spray. Place one-eighth of the apple slices on each square of foil in a single layer, and top with one-eighth of the cheese. Repeat with another layer of apple slices and cheese for each packet. Wrap up the foil, leaving room in each packet for heat and steam to circulate. Cook on a grill over high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until the apple slices are soft. To serve, slide the apples onto plates and drizzle with the syrupy juice that has accumulated in each packet.
VARIATION: Top the apple slices and cheese in each packet with 1 ounce of thinly sliced dry salami (4 ounces total) before cooking.
MAKE IT AT HOME: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the apples in individual ramekins, covered with foil, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the apple slices are soft. Uncover and finish under the broiler for a crisp, golden crust.
Looking for something easy but delicious to make with your apples?
Try Elise Richer's version of a Dutch Baby, from her cookbook "Always in Season," a traditional German pancake that, in this case, contains apple slices.
This is a flexible recipe, Richer notes. If you want the apples on the side and not in the pancake, cook them up separately in a pan while the pancake is baking in the oven.
Eat it for breakfast with a little lemon or some maple syrup, or throw some berries on top. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on it or add a small scoop of ice cream for dessert.
"We like to eat it sometimes with cheddar cheese on the side, so that at breakfast it's not getting too, too sweet," Richer said.
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