Summer in San Francisco is non-existent – at least during the traditional Northern hemisphere months. It is not unusual for me to wake up to this scene, while my Twitter friends are complaining about the heat in their area:
Within the last week, we’ve finally gotten some good (hot) weather. Of course, now everyone is talking about fall! The equinox! Time for pumpkin coffee drinks and cider and cranberries! The slow creeping of the holidays! (NOOOO.) What everyone else is rejoicing about is what we’ve had for months now, especially if you live on the colder side of the city. Meanwhile, I’m ready to break out the sundresses and the margaritas.
This month’s Kitchen Play contest reflects the change in the weather (for everyone else): the secret ingredient is apples, sponsored by the US Apple Association. I love cooking with apples – especially Granny Smith, clearly the superior choice – because their texture and flavor lend themselves well to sweet and savory dishes alike. (My annual Thxgiving feast is shaping up to prominently feature apples.)
Two dishes caught my eye – this entry falls under the “amuse bouche” category, from The Mommy Bowl, and I liked the idea of putting an appetizer on a crispy basil leaf. Deanna’s version is a cherry-apple chutney with gouda; I opted for cranberry-apple with brie based on what I had on hand.
When baked, the basil loses a lot of its characteristic “WHAM!” scent and taste, but gives the appetizer an interesting herbal flavor. I liked the chutney, but next time, I will make it with a more tart variety of apple (I used fuji, which can’t hold a candle to Granny Smith).
Ignore the schmutz (apple cider reduction, if you will) on my serving dish. Recipe after the jump.
Cranberry Apple Chutney (adapted from The Mommy Bowl)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, soaked in enough apple cider to cover, and warmed for 30 seconds in the microwave
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. honey
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup cored, chopped apples
Place all ingredients except the apples in a small blender and puree until smooth. Place pureed sauce in a small pot and simmer gently until syrupy – about 30 minutes. Add apples and simmer gently until apples are soft – another 10 minutes or so depending on how firm of an apple you choose. Cool completely. It will thicken as it cools.
Meanwhile, brush large basil leaves with oil, and sprinkle with salt. Lay flat on a baking sheet, and bake at 325 for at least five minutes, or until the leaves are crispy. (You’ll want to flip them over halfway through.)
Reduce 1/4 cup apple cider by half (the original recipe suggests the microwave, but I used the stove).
To assemble: slice thin slices of your cheese-of-choice (mine was a Brie from our local Marin French Cheese Company) and layer atop the basil crisps. Add a dollop of the chutney, and drizzle with cider reduction.