Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Apple Tasting!

Honeycrisp Carries the Day

"I'm thinking about apples," said Kevin.

It's not unusual for my colleague to begin a conversation about food, and he always gets my attention with this gambit. "I'm interested in local apples, but I don't know much about the different kinds," he continued. And then Kevin outlined his idea for an apple tasting event sponsored by our workplace:

  • Someone would get lots of different apples.

  • Someone would prepare a blind tasting.

  • Then someone would provide information on what we had all just eaten.

Instantly I realized two things: 1. This mysterious "someone" was, of course, to be me; and 2. it would mean the opportunity to buy dozens and dozens of apples with the company's money. It would be like Christmas—make that Applemas—at the Apple Pole, and I would get to be Apple Claus.

A committee of coworkers loved Kevin's idea as much as I did. Fully funded, I trundled off to the Minneapolis Farmers Market to buy the goods. I marched straight up to my longtime favorite, Brian Fredericksen of Ames Farm, and bought a bag of everything he had. I swung by Fireside Orchard to pick up some more varieties. In twenty minutes, I had acquired nine kinds of apple: Honeycrisp, Honey Gold, Early Gold, Fireside, Chestnut Crab, Cortland, Haralson, Sweet 16, and Sugar King. My market bags strained under the weight of all those apples. I was the luckiest pack mule in the city.

Back at the office, committee members assigned secret codes to each variety, cut slices, and devised a voting system. Coworkers filed into the lunchroom, filled plates, and started nibbling. Soon the room filled with animated conversation, evaluations, comparisons, and opinions. People tasted, debated, retasted, and voted for their favorites. About 35 people cast ballots.

In the end, and to no one's surprise, Honeycrisp won the vote. Its cheerful red and yellow skin, crisp texture, strong apple flavor, and generous juice make it the universe's best apple. Honey Gold came in a close second. People liked its mellow pearlike taste, good crunch, and lovely greenish-yellow color. Little Chestnut Crab trailed by only a few votes for third, but everyone was charmed with its diminutive size and spicy pear notes.

No, we did not try SweeTango—we couldn't find it! But we're a marketing company. We know that if the buzz is true, then a successful apple will be around for the long haul. We'll catch it on the next sales cycle.

Cutting up a Honeycrisp

Filling up plates

Kevin's logically organized plate

Tasting notes from colleague Kathy (click to enlarge photo)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Parsley Overload? Tabouleh Is the Answer

There's too much parsley!

My garden is full of lush, rich green, glossy Italian flat-leaf parsley. The little sprig from Dehn's Garden that I planted in springtime has erupted into a leafy mound, all but smothering its neighboring plants.

October comes this week, and I'm in a produce panic. If I don't use this parsley, then spiteful frosts will just take it all away from me. I'm madly trying to eat a whole summer's worth of fresh herbs in the dwindling weeks of warm weather that remain. How am I going to manage it?

Tabouleh to the rescue!

If you hunt around, you will find there is no one way to make (or spell) tabouleh. The common elements, though, are finely chopped vegetables, bulgur, oil, lemon juice, and fistful upon fistful of chopped herbs. This is one of the few dishes I know that features parsley instead of relegating it to sideshow status or including it as an also-ran aromatic. In tabouleh, parsley is no mere Miss Congeniality. It gets to stand in the spotlight and sing its own song. Its bracing, clean taste makes this light dish pop with fresh, green flavor and color.

If I were you, I'd march into the garden and scythe down a huge hank of parsley. If you don't, then winter will most assuredly do it soon. Tastes better this way, trust me.


To measure whole herb leaves, pack as many into the cup as you can make fit. This will be a pretty good measure of how much chopped herb you'll get from them.

2 c boiling water
1 c bulgur
2 ripe tomatoes
1 small onion
2 c parsley leaves (or any giant bunch of parsley you have)
1 c mint leaves
1/3 c olive oil
1/3 c fresh lemon juice
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Stir the bulgur into the boiling water (off the heat) and cover. Let sit for 1/2 hour.

Meanwhile, chop the onion and tomato finely. Chop up the parsley and mint too. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together.

When the bulgur is ready, put it in a sieve and press it to drain off the extra water. Put everything together in a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and mix it up thoroughly.

You can serve this chilled or room temperature. You can serve it on a bed of romaine if you are feeling particularly freaked out about summer being over.