Apple flavors run the gamut, from sweet to tart and simple to complex. This makes it easy to integrate them into dishes that are either already on the menu or brand new, adding a touch of sweetness, texture, and depth of flavor.
With about a third of customers buying more local and organic and 25% buying natural, chefs can cater to these preferences by emphasizing seasonal produce, house-made ingredients such as sauces, condiments, and pickles, and featured specials. More and more diners are interested in eating seasonally, so promote these specials and showcase apple-inspired dishes on a blackboard. Apples allow chefs and foodservice operators to focus on fresh rather than processed and appeal to consumers who equate fresh with healthier.
Speaking of healthier, apples also work well in special diets and offer a plethora of possibilities for those on gluten-free, vegetarian, lactose free, raw, and dairy-free diets. With bushels of available apples in September and October, restaurant operators can get creative with their menus and go beyond the usual pie or tart.
Apples can be incorporated into an array of appetizers to tantalize the palate. Pair the fruit with seafood such as oysters and top the mollusks with an apple mignonette. For elevated finger food, stuff dates with small pieces of apple and wrap in bacon. Top crostinis with house-made apple butter (also try it as a spread on sandwiches combined with good cheese and local greens) or bruschetta, swapping caramelized apples for the traditional tomatoes. Fondue makes for a fun shareable course; simmer apple cider and white wine with some Cheddar cheese for a dynamic flavor combination.
Apples and squash are a classic combination that shines in preparations such as soup. For a creamy, fulfilling bowl, pair apples with a squash such as butternut or acorn. Root vegetables such as parsnips and carrots also love to meld with apples in soup; roast them for a deeper depth of flavor. Top soups with nuts such as walnuts for texture and crunch while adding another complementary flavor.
Apples will add a new dimension to side dishes. Toss grated and peeled apple into polenta with some Brie cheese and herbs to give grits an exciting new flavor profile. Take a ubiquitous vegetable like Brussels sprouts and give it new life with some apples and bacon. For a new spin on sauerkraut, add cooked diced apple to lighten it up. Cabbage especially loves apples, so try braising red cabbage with some chopped fruit.
With a majority of adults watching what they eat, salads and produce-centric dishes are a good way to attract health-conscious consumers. Embrace whole-food nutrition and incorporate apples in whole-grain salads with grains such as quinoa or buckwheat.Shred them and pair with fennel for an elegant slaw. Watery or fibrous root vegetables like celery roots, turnips, carrots, rutabagas, and beets get a boost from apples, which enhance and sweeten the earthy vegetables. Purée them for a harmonious combination. Shredded apples work well with potatoes in dishes such as pancakes.
Breakfast of Champions
Autumn’s windfall of apples provides a great opportunity in the A.M. segment. Baked apples with cinnamon can top yogurt parfaits with granola or oatmeal. For a more decadent treat, apples make a sweet addition to regular pancakes – make them whole-grain to stay healthy. For a breakfast treat, try a skillet pancake and cook chopped, peeled apples with cinnamon, butter and maple syrup for a topping. Other breakfast favorites such as crepes and waffles are good matches as well.
With more customers embracing more international flavors – about one-third are hungry for dishes with a global spin – apples offer a good opportunity to meet this desire. Preparation techniques such as pickling or fermentation will transform apples; try quick pickling slices of apple or do a bread and butter preparation. Experiment with spices, especially Indian flavors, which have a great affinity for apples: Think curry powder, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger to make chutney. Or for some Mexican flair, toss into salsas.
Waste Not, Want Not
Minimizing food waste is one of the top trends for foodservice professionals, so don’t toss those peels and cores before getting the most out of them. Boil them to make a “stock” and use as a base for sauces or to make a jelly.
The Main Event
Proteins really show off apples and their versatility. There’s a reason why pork chops and applesauce are such a beloved dish. Take that same idea and elevate that familiar combination with a centerpiece stuffed pork roast. Choose a firm-tart apple variety such as Granny Smith or Rome and use the apples as a stuffing in a pork loin; further highlight the apple flavor with a cider pan sauce.