© Debby Segura
This summer, I was at my friend Betsy's house. I admired an apple tree in her yard, loaded with small, round apples. "My grandma planted this tree with me on Tu B'Shevat years ago," she said, "so I can't let these apples go to waste." She invited me to bring my children and together we picked apples. For weeks we peeled apples, ate apples, displayed apples. My boys even sold those apples door to door, setting aside 10% of the sales proceeds for Tzedakah, as per Betsy.
As I sat this week thinking about Rosh Hashanah and the recipes for a cooking class I'd be giving, I thought of those lovely, tart apples. In my mind, I scrubbed them, cored them and placed them close together in a shallow casserole. Into each hollow, I placed a brown sugar cube. In the Greek Sephardic tradition, we don't dip the apple in the honey, we cook it with sugar. I baked them golden brown and brought them to the table on a lacy silver cake stand, little baked apple cups, each holding a sip of melted brown sugar for a sweet New Year.
The Talmud says, "I did not find the world desolate when I entered it and, as my parents planted for me, so do I plant for my children." (Talmud Ta'anit 23a) All of us are busy, all the kids are over-scheduled. No one has room in their yard and there's never parking at the nursery. But somehow, Betsy's grandma went out into the yard with Betsy and her two little girls one spring morning, some twenty years ago, and planted a blessing.
LADY APPLE "CORDIALS" (serves 18)
18 Lady Apples (or other variety of small apple)
18 cubes of brown sugar, or more
Scrub each apple until clean and residue-free. With the small end of a melon scoop, remove the stem and seeds of the apple, being careful not to scoop through the bottom of the fruit. If you like, with a paring knife or a vegetable peeler, peel away a narrow border of skin around the round opening. Insert a cube or two of brown sugar into the hollow of each apple.
Place the apples into a shallow casserole dish and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. The apples should be soft to the touch yet still retain their form.
Allow to cool slightly before serving.
APPLE KUCHEN (serves 12)
1 prepared, pre-baked 9 inch pie crust, or 10 inch tart crust
1 ½ pounds cored, sliced apples
1 jumbo egg
1/3 cup sour cream or Tofutti sour cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Blend the egg, sour cream, sugar, flour and salt until combined. Pour ½ of the filling into the prepared pie crust. Arrange the apple slices on top of the filling in concentric circles. Pour the rest of the filling evenly over the apple slices and sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar. Bake the kuchen in the center of the preheated oven until the top is lightly brown, 40-50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
If you don't have much time to prepare an apple dish for your holiday table, make the Lady Apple Cordials. Everyone thinks they're so fancy. If you have a little more time, you might want to make an Apple Kuchen or two for dessert.
But if you want to do something lasting, just find three apples from this year's new crop with three different colors of skin. Scrub and core them and pass out slices of each. Encourage everyone at your table to dip the apple in the honey and then dip that coated apple into turbinado sugar for a doubly sweet year. Then, use all the time you saved by not baking and go to the nursery, buy an apple sapling, go outside and plant it with someone you love.
When you sit down to your Rosh Hashanah table, focus n the peace, goodness and sweetness you want in this brand New Year. Bless the fruit of the tree and then say "May it be Your will...that You renew for us a year that is good and sweet, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year" ( from Ori Ve'yish'i Prayerbook for Rosh Hashanah by Earl Klein and Rabbi Moises Benzaquen) and enjoy those apples!