Friday, September 04, 2009

Polishing a few apples for teachers day!

In April this year, I heard that one of the most inspiring teachers I had, Victor Arsientiev passed away in 2005! Luckily I had written to him to thank him for his contribution to my life long before. I have always had great regard for teachers. Some of the defining turns my life has taken have been because of dedicated teachers. Quite simply I am what I am because of them and I would like to take a moment to aknowledge their contribution.

Mrs. Dias, Dr. R.S.Wagh, Mrs Deepika Hazra, Mrs Anahita Lee, Victor sir thank you for taking the time to give a lost child direction. I would also like to aknowledge Mehta sir who has attempted to teach 6 generations of Munshaws including me math, may he teach my son, who will make up for the rest of us. And lastly someone I have always wanted to thank, Mrs Raman, my sons LKG teacher, so much of his good eating practices are thanks to her.

I thought Apples would be a good topic for today all things considered!
Apples are legendary for buttering up educators. According to web legend one story has it that all this classroom corruption originated from the practice of giving a simple gift of food for poorly paid teachers. Others believe the good health associated with apples made the present particularly meaningful. And giving an apple to a teacher is also the origin of the term "apple-polisher," (which also means bootlickers or toadies), which has a rather unkind connotation.

As a child I remember hearing “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Later as a precocious teen I took pleasure in scandalizing adults with the rejoinder of “if the doctor is good looking it might keep the apple away…” but there is truth to the first statement (the second too but lets not get naughty shall we…) apples contain Vitamin C, a host of other antioxidants that might reduce the risk of cancer by preventing DNA damage and are high in fiber which help in regulating digestion. Apples might also help with heart disease, weight loss and controlling cholesterol, as they contribute no cholesterol, but are rich in fiber which reduces cholesterol by preventing reabsorption.

Apples might keep doctors away but its also aknowledged that children who want to be in teachers good books should consider giving them Apples. Tossing cored apples, cheese subes, cucumber chunks, celery and raisins in olive or a nut based oil, salt and lemon juice make a tiffin stuffer for kids.

I always believed nothing could beat a crisp juicy apple until I began cooking them as baby food for my son. Stewing apples with a little ghee, sugar and a stick of cinnamon results in a silky puree that we adults found worked as a great topping for ice-cream or cake in the winter and chilled into a sorbet in the summer. It also makes great faux apple tarts if you spoon it onto marie biscuits! I guess I should have learnt from my first bite of apple pie that cooked apples are as delicious.

Unlike a lot of other fruit, apples lack a physical oomph factor but they are very versatile ingredients to work with in both savoury as well as sweet dishes. In fact I often snack on an apple along with a wedge of cheese alternating bites of crunchy, juicy, sweet apple with salty, grainy, soft cheese and that is where I find the best marriage for Apples, with cheese (Parmesan makes it even better). Take a leaf from my book and skewer chunks of apple and cheese on toothpicks for healthy finger food – beer drinkers will love them if my husband’s opinion is anything to go by. The oodles of chutney recipes Google throws at you is testament also to the fact that the sweet and salty pairing works. Try this when you're in the mood for something a little fancier...

Milli fuili of green Apple and Parmesan with Orange and Anise Sugar
Serves 4 Time 20 mins

2 green apples
200 gms parmesan cheese
4 tbsp Anise Orange sugar
2 tbsp orange zest

Slice cheese finely using slicer or sharp knife. Core each apple using an apple corer and then cut each apple in half. Taking half an apple, carefully slice so slices fall in order. Arrange slices in the shape of half apple on individual serving dishes alternating each slice of apple with a slice of cheese. Sprinkle over with the flavoured sugar. If you have a blowtorch give the arranged dessert a shot with it untill the skin caramelizes slightly or else briefly grill it in the oven (about 8-10 mins).

NOTE: For the Orange Anise sugar, combine 4 tbsp sugar with 1 tbsp of powdered zest, 1 tsp powdered anise and allow to stand for 30 mins or overnight.

GYAN and links

Caramelization or caramelisation is the oxidation of sugar, a process used extensively in cooking for the resulting nutty flavor and brown color. Caramelization occurs during dry heating and roasting of foods with a high concentration of carbohydrates. In the case of vegetables and fruit it draws out the natural sugars in them which break down and cause the characteristic browning and develop the characteristic flavor. An example of pure caramelisation is the well-known dessert Crème Caramel. Sugar and water are boiled until the sugar is caramelised , and this then used to line a small mould. A vanilla-flavoured custard is poured in, and the mould is paced in the oven.

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