This week rounds out my final classes at The French Culinary Institute
. Throughout the program we were taught techniques and recipes that were traditional to French Cuisine then brought to the kitchens of L’Ecole to demonstrate those techniques in contemporary interpretations.
Along the way we were assigned an elaborate menu project that included a short research essay on an ingredient featured in one of the recipes we created for a four-course dinner party. With a harvest theme in mind I chose a meal filled with farm fresh fruit and vegetables to satiate and garner a perfect grade.
A taste from my menu project…
“Having lived the last seven years on a 37-acre farm just outside of Paso Robles, California, I acquired a love for fresh picked fruit and savored the local landscape of almonds, olives and vineyards. Planning a dinner party with seasonal ingredients allows for the freshest choices of a recent harvest from local sources (if not homegrown), which gives you more flavorful food while considering sustainability and locavorism. Sampling a variety of apples and root vegetables throughout the meal brings me back to fall gatherings of comforting warm aromas with rich satisfying flavors. Shopping the green markets is as close to the farm as I have gotten since moving to New York City, with the world renowned apples of Hudson Valley nearby, I have been exploring the medley it provides.
There are over 7,000 varieties of apples available worldwide with at least 200 grown in the Hudson Valley. While the apple may be the oldest of fruits, starting in the Garden of Eden, it was brought to the United States by the Pilgrims in 1620 and first exported to the West Indies from Long Island, New York in 1741. Apple seeds were spread throughout the country by the now infamous Johnny Appleseed as well as others to lead to successful cultivation and commercialization providing the state of Washington to be the countries top-producing.
Apples are available year round from various sources and storage options but best in quality starting in the fall and lasting until March, with some of the rarer varieties availability being very limited to their seasonal peak. It’s a versatile ingredient considering the wide array of flavors from one variety to the next, from sweet to tart, it can work well in savory dishes as well as desserts. In addition to it’s adaptability in a recipe, an apple can provide numerous health benefits, including but not limited to–the fight against heart disease, reduced risk of some cancers, provide defenses to asthma and diabetes. Aside from the cranberry, apples have the highest level of antioxidant activity of the usually consumed fruits.”
From my menu, a refreshing salad that is tart and crisp.
Harvest Fruit and Greens with Toasted Walnuts
Yield: 8 Servings
• ½ cup walnuts
• 6 Tablespoons Pear White Wine Vinegar
• ½ teaspoon Whole Grain German Mustard
• 175mL (6oz) Extra-virgin Olive Oil
• Coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
• 2 Pink Lady Apples
• Juice of 1 Lemon
• 4 Clementine, peeled and suprêmes removed
• 142g (5oz) Baby Spinach, and or any mixed baby greens
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spread the walnuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
2. Toast walnuts in oven for about 5 minutes. Toss and continue baking, checking often until lightly colored and aromatic. Remove from the pan and allow to cool on double layer of paper towel.
1. In a small mixing bowl whisk together vinegar and mustard. Continue whisking while slowly pouring in the olive oil until well emulsified.
2. Add salt and pepper to taste, set aside.
1. Core and slice apples into julienne, toss lightly with lemon juice to prevent oxidizing.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine clementine suprêmes, apple julienne and baby greens.
Toss gently to mix.
3. Lightly drizzle vinaigrette along inside of bowl (careful not to overdress) and toss salad to coat.
4. Portion salad on chilled plates and sprinkle with toasted walnuts.