Photos by Leigh Beisch

When the first fall apples start showing up at my local natural foods store, I celebrate: Once again, it's time to make the most of these incredibly versatile fruits. I still get excited over a simple baked apple, but as a chef and caterer, I also love creating ways to incorporate them into any kind of dish. They pair well with greens, grains, meats—pretty much anything.

Whenever possible, go for locally grown apples; they're everywhere now.

If I can buy a local apple, I know I'm supporting the small family farmer; plus they just taste better because they're really crisp and fresh. And organic is important, too—in fact, apples helped start the organic movement back in 1989, when there was an outcry about chemical use on apple crops. Nowadays it's a lot easier to find organically grown varieties. I like Fuji, Gala, Pink Lady, and all kinds of heirloom apples—especially Arkansas Black, which come in around Thanksgiving. You may not know the names of every apple you see at the market, but they all look good right now, so buy and try one of each. To find out which hold up best in cooking, sauté a few slices in butter and test for texture.

Apple-Plum Chutney
Makes about 4 cups / This spicy-hot chutney is especially tasty atop Brie, served on a cheese board with bread or crackers. It's also great with lamb, pork, or poultry. Prep tips: When plums are out of season, use red or green pears. To tame the fiery heat, omit the jalapeño seeds.

1 3/4 cups brown rice vinegar or white vinegar
1 1/2 cups natural cane sugar
1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 2 1/2-inch-long cinnamon sticks
1 large white onion, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced with seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 pound firm dark purple plums, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1. Bring vinegar and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat in a 4-quart stockpot; simmer until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add apples, cinnamon sticks, onion, jalapeño, garlic, ginger, mustard, cayenne, sea salt, and bay leaf. Simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.

2. Add raisins and cook an additional 10 minutes, then add plums and cook about 10 minutes more, or until chutney has thickened. Let cool. Remove bay leaf and cinnamon sticks before serving.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 216 calories
% fat calories: 2
Fat: 0g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 1g
Carbohydrate: 57g
Fiber: 2g
Sodium: 284mg


Apple, Raspberry, and Frisée Salad
Serves 6 / A colorful marriage of end-of-summer raspberries and early-crop apples. Ingredient tips: Frisée, a frilly, slightly bitter green lettuce, is sold in heads like regular lettuce; mâche, a delicately nutty, rosette-shaped lettuce, can be found in clear containers in the produce section. Adjust the proportion of each to suit your taste, to total 8 cups greens.

Dressing 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 tablespoon agave nectar or honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups frisée
5 cups mâche
1 sweet-tart red apple (such as Gala or Braeburn), cored and sliced
3/4 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) crumbled goat cheese
2-3 tablespoons toasted chopped pecans

1. Mix all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. In a large salad bowl, combine frisée, mâche, apple, raspberries, goat cheese, and pecans. Drizzle with about three-fourths of the dressing and toss gently.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 104 calories
% fat calories: 62
Fat: 8g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 4mg
Protein: 2g
Carbohydrate: 8g
Fiber: 2g
Sodium: 38mg


Spelt Bread Stuffing with Red Delicious Apples and Dried Cherries
Serves 10 / This is a perfect side dish with turkey but also works great with pork loin or chicken. Sliced spelt bread makes an incredible, moist stuffing that's lighter than regular bread stuffing. Northern Spy apples can be substituted for Red Delicious.

8 cups spelt or whole-grain bread (about 8-9 slices), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 shallots, minced
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Red Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning (preferably whole herbs, not ground)
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup dried cherries
2 1/2 cups low-sodium, hot vegetable stock or broth

1. Preheat oven to 250°. Place bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast for 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 350°.

2. Preheat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray and add butter. Add onion and shallots and cook for 5 minutes. Add celery, garlic, and apples, and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, sage, and parsley. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Turn off heat and scrape mixture into a large bowl. Add bread cubes, dried cherries, and hot stock or broth. Mix well.

3. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish (for drier stuffing) or 10-inch casserole dish (for moist stuffing) with cooking spray. Fill with stuffing mixture. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes. Serve hot.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 145 calories
% fat calories: 8
Fat: 1g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 3mg
Protein: 4g
Carbohydrate: 29g
Fiber: 5g
Sodium: 301mg


Chicken Curry Salad with Apples and Walnuts
Serves 6 / I can usually find some wonderful heirloom apples, such as organic Gravenstein, at my local farmers' market or natural foods store, but if they are not available, try a Cortland or Gala. Serving tip: This salad is also great wrapped in a whole-grain tortilla.

2 8-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 1/4 -inch-thick slices fresh ginger
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 green onions, white and green parts, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 heirloom apple, cored and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Apple-Plum Chutney, or store-bought chutney
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
5 ounces arugula
1/3 cup toasted chopped walnuts

1. Place chicken in a 2-quart saucepan and cover with water by 2 inches. Add ginger slices and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Remove chicken and place on a plate to cool. (Discard cooking liquid.) When cool, chop into 1/2-inch pieces.

2. In a medium bowl, place chicken, celery, green onions, bell pepper, and apple. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, chutney, lime juice, ginger, curry powder, pepper, salt, and cilantro. Mix until smooth. Add to chicken mixture and toss well.

3. Divide arugula onto four plates. Top with chicken salad and garnish with walnuts.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 180 calories
% fat calories: 31
Fat: 6g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 44mg
Protein: 20g
Carbohydrate: 12g
Fiber: 2g
Sodium: 357mg


Oatmeal-Spelt Apple Crisp
Serves 10 / I usually use Arkansas Black apples—an American heirloom apple—but Yellow Delicious are fine as well. Prep tips: White spelt flour usually can be found in natural foods stores, but you can substitute 1/3 cup unbleached flour if necessary. Pineapple juice adds a nice flavor, but apple juice works, too.

7 cups peeled, cored, and sliced Yellow Delicious or Arkansas Black apples (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1/3 cup agave nectar or pure maple syrup
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
Seeds and pods from 1 split vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup white spelt flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chilled unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Place apples, agave or syrup, pineapple juice, butter, and vanilla seeds and pods (or extract) in a 4-quart stockpot. Cook over medium heat until apples are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

2. While apples are cooking, make topping. In a large bowl, combine spelt flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives.

3. Remove vanilla pods, if using. Spoon apple mixture into an 8x8-inch square baking dish or a 9-inch pie dish. Sprinkle with oat mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

PER SERVING: 226 cal, 23% fat cal, 6g fat, 4g sat fat, 15mg chol, 2g protein, 44g carb, 3g fiber, 37mg sodium

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 226 calories
% fat calories: 23
Fat: 6g
Saturated Fat: 4g
Cholesterol: 15mg
Protein: 2g
Carbohydrate: 44g
Fiber: 3g
Sodium: 37mg


A perfect party tray

Apples, several varieties. Don't slice too many at once because they'll turn brown.
Artisan cheeses, ranging from mild to strong. I like to use Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam (it's soft, like Brie); Humboldt Fog or Redwood Hill Farm soft goat cheese; sharp farmhouse cheddar; manchego or Sardinian pecorino, good with dried apples and honey; and Roquefort Papillon.
Chutney, placed in a small bowl with a spoon. My favorites come from the Philo Apple Farm (www.philoapplefarm.com).
Toasted walnuts and almonds.
Whole-grain crackers and sliced baguette.

—A.R.

Apple Muffins with Pecan Streusel
Makes 9 / These aromatic, moist muffins are great for breakfast, snacks, or a lunch-box treat. Make-ahead tip: Double this recipe and wrap each muffin in plastic; freeze for up to one week.

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons unbleached flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
6 tablespoons natural cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup plain soy milk
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
1 cup peeled, cored, and finely chopped McIntosh apple Streusel
1/4 cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, and sea salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.

2. In a small bowl, combine soy milk, orange juice, melted butter, vanilla extract, and egg, stirring with a whisk to combine.

3. Make a well in center of flour mixture and add wet ingredients, stirring just until moist. Fold in apples. Spoon batter into 9 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.

4. In a small bowl, combine pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove from pans immediately; place on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 167 calories
% fat calories: 30
Fat: 6g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 30mg
Protein: 3g
Carbohydrate: 27g
Fiber: 1g
Sodium: 171mg


Red Cabbage with Fuji Apples and Onions
Serves 6-8 / Prep tip: Use turkey bacon instead of tempeh, if you prefer. Serving tip: This makes a nice accompaniment for grain dishes or turkey.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 slices smoky tempeh bacon, minced
1 large onion, sliced into half moons
5 cups chopped red cabbage (about 1/2 cabbage)
2 1/2 cups peeled, chopped Fuji apple (about 3/4 pound)
1/2 cup red wine
1/3 cup agave nectar or pure maple syrup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf

1. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring until browned, about 2 minutes. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add cabbage, apple, and remaining ingredients. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Uncover, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring, until liquid has reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Serve hot.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 153 calories
% fat calories: 17
Fat: 3g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 3g
Carbohydrate: 31g
Fiber: 3g
Sodium: 288mg



Los Angeles chef Akasha Richmond is the author of Hollywood Dish (Avery, 2006). Additional recipe by Elisa Bosley.