During high school, every day, for almost five years, I brought an apple from home as a snack for our short break. There was a stall that would sell snacks – sandwiches with ham and cheese, with sausages, pizza and focaccia – but there were so many hungry students waiting for their panino that you could spend most of your 15 minutes of freedom in a row, heads and sweatshirts the only view in front of you.
So, I got into the habit of bringing an apple to school every day.
As soon as the bell rang Federica, Simona and I, best friends at that time, would jump up and ran out to walk on the athletics track. We ignored the cold weather and the coffee machine – at the time I didn’t drink coffee, and I would gladly skip the other options, a tea so sweet that tasted like syrup or a gritty hot chocolate with a powdery taste. A rainy day was the only catastrophe that could keep us inside.
We made the most of those 15 minutes, walking in circles, talking about life, love and future, giving quick bites to the apple, with the same voracity with which we wanted to bite life itself.
An apple has been also one of the logos of Juls’ Kitchen, in these 10 years of life.
At first a pink cupcake, sign of an identity still in search of a definition, then an apple, to suggest genuineness and love for simple things, to finally arrive to the current olives, a symbol of Tuscany and memory of my life in the countryside.
I’ve always had a soft spot for apples. Stewed apples are my comfort food in the evening: as soon as autumn arrives, I cook them with a squeeze of lemon juice and some cinnamon or star anise, then I curl up on the sofa and eat them slowly with a spoon, holding the cup as long as possible in my hands to warm myself up.
The apple olive oil cake is a recipe from my cooking repertoire, and certainly one of the most loved here on the blog. The roasted pork loin with apples is one of the dishes that taught me how to feel confident in the kitchen and, later, how to conquer Tommaso’s heart.
Apples have always been part of my imagination, my memories, my cooking repertoire and my comfort food.
This year during our holidays we went to Val di Non, the valley of apples, and we came back home relaxed, full of ideas and inspiration. We picked apples in the local orchards, organized in rows, like vineyards. I picked apples so crisp and fragrant that it was almost a sin to use them in the kitchen: I would eat them there, standing with my feet in the wet grass, looking at the mountains in the distance and feeling exactly where I wanted to be.
Yet my mind would constantly run to the idea of cooking a risotto with apples and smoked trout, or baking a strudel, inspired by the many dinners we had in Trentino, in a cosy restaurant with wooden walls and soft, red pillows.
Eventually, I decided to take two days and work on a personal assignment on apples, to develop new recipes, enjoying the creative process and the delicious outcomes. It was like as if they were going to be published on a magazine, but I did it just to share it with you here on the blog. I think it will happen more and more often.
Celebrating the apple season
So, in the next two weeks you will find here on the blog and in the newsletter four recipes with apples: a risotto with apples and smoked trout, a salad with apples, walnuts and speck, pork medallions with apples and onions and, lastly, the most classic, the apple strudel.
October is a good month to gain a new confidence in the kitchen, to scribble on a new notebook your favourite fall recipes, to work on a weekly menu for the whole family, to think about a seasonal cake for breakfast to enjoy with a mug of hot tea before running to work.
I’ll share the recipes, you choose a thick notebook to write down your adjustments and create your seasonal menu celebrating apples.
Risotto with apples and smoked trout
A rather unusual risotto here on the blog. I am all about porcini mushrooms, pumpkin and chestnuts in October, yet I had been thinking about this combination for a while. Maybe the inspiration comes from our holidays in Trentino, or from the desire to make a slightly different risotto, at the same time fruity and smoky. Yet, it worked magnificently.
For the risotto, I used a Golden Delicious apple, one of the most beautiful apples, a beautiful pale green skin with that delicate pinkish hue on one side, as if it blushed for a compliment. It is sweet, juicy, with a very delicate acidity. I added it into the risotto halfway through cooking, so that it keeps some of it crispness and does not melt in a puree. It adds a fruity and aromatic note, lightening the rich and smoky taste of trout.
If you want, instead of the dry white wine I used to cook the risotto, try an apple cider or an apple prosecco, a natural complement to the other ingredients. If you have a hard time finding the smoked trout, use smoked salmon, it works as well.
Risotto with apples and smoked trout
For the risotto
- ¼ onion
- 60 g (4 tbsp) butter
- 180 g (1 cup) Arborio rice, or Carnaroli rice
- 150 ml (2/3 cup) dry white wine, at room temperature
- 1 Golden Delicious apple
- 100 g (3.53 oz) smoked trout
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano, but also pecorino romano or mature Tuscan pecorino
- black pepper
For the aromatic stock
- 500 ml (2.11 cups) of water
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- some sage leaves
- Start by preparing the aromatic stock. In a small pot pour the water, then add thyme, rosemary and sage. Add the salt, too.
- Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. When it starts boiling, lower the heat and let it simmer for about 2 minutes. Put this aside. If you use it immediately you will not need to reheat it, but if you make it well in advance, be sure to warm it up before using it for the risotto.
- Now it's time for the risotto. Finely chop the onion (if you do not feel to master the knife skills properly, use a cutter, but do not chop it too much or it will become a mush).
- In a larger shallow pan, add half the butter, the chopped onion and half a teaspoon of salt: the salt will help you to cook the onion without burning it. Sauté the onion in the butter over low heat until it becomes translucent and soft. Just a few minutes will be enough.
- Add the rice and toast it. Stir it with a wooden spoon into the sautéed onion and let it toast, always stirring, over medium-low heat, until the rice will be translucent, almost pearly. Again, a few minutes will be enough.
- Pour the white wine over the rice: let it evaporate, stirring with the wooden spoon, until the rice has absorbed it.
- Now cook the risotto by pouring the hot aromatic stock in at least 4 times. Cook the risotto over medium-low heat, stirring very often. Doing this, the risotto will become creamier thanks to the starch released by the rice.
- Halfway through the cooking, when you have used about half of the vegetable stock, add the apple, peeled and cut into small cubes.
- Keep on adding the stock to cook the rice. This whole process will take about 10 minutes, not more, so remember to taste the risotto every now and then. It will be ready when you feel it soft, but still with a hard soul inside, slightly al dente.
- When you have finished the stock, or maybe you’ll have just a tiny bit left, and when the rice will be cooked but still al dente, remove the risotto from the heat, add the butter, the grated cheese and the smoked trout, cut in small strips. Stir well: this is what we call mantecare, in Italian, which means almost to cream the butter and the cheese into the rice. Taste it one last time to see if it still needs a little salt and you are ready to serve it in the dishes.
- Sprinkle with black pepper, and if you want with more diced apple cooked in butter and sage. and add some toasted hazelnut. Enjoy your meal.
Serve the risotto with apples and smoked trout with…
Here it is the first menu based on apples, revolving around our risotto with apples and smoked trout. As you add recipes to the list, you can swap the dishes to create your seasonal apple-focused menu.
- Pork loin with apples. As with any self-respecting pork roast the meat is well browned on the outside, with a warm and reassuring hue, while inside is juicy and soft. The apples give sweetness and curiosity, whether they are served rustic as they are, just out of the pot, caramelised and soft, or as a creamy dressing.
- Olive oil apple cake. You made that pattern by carefully arranging more apple slices on top, one next to the other, as if they wanted to protect themselves from a cold wind, standing shoulder to shoulder. A tablespoon of apricot jam, diluted in hot water and simmered on the stovetop, is the final polish for your apple carpet. It captures the light and reflects it.
Vote for Juls’ Kitchen for the Saveur Blog Awards 2019
You made it again! Our blog has been shortlisted for the third year in a row for the Saveur Blog Awards, this time as Best Food Culture Blog. This is making us so proud, so excited, so over the moon! It means that through our blog, through the (almost) weekly newsletters, through our Cooking with an Italian Accent podcast and the cooking classes we managed to pass on some of our passion for Italian and Tuscan food culture.
If you want to support us, you can cast your vote here. Remember to vote early and often, as you can vote daily in each category through October 18th.