Coming back home to an empty fridge yet knowing I have zero intention (or motivation) of going out to a grocery store on a snowy Sunday is a challenge. Especially after nearly 3 weeks of restaurant food; we were all craving a bit of normalcy. Don’t take me wrong here: I loved the break and loved French food but since the vacay was over, it was time to roll up the sleeves and get cookin’. Such a challenge is usually all the inspiration I need to whip up a meal from the stuff that keeps (root vegetables, condiments and hard fruit), the freezer buddies and the pantry. Thank goodness for my recent insanity while exploring Ottawa’s brand new Whole Foods Market: I may have over bought then and over stocked less than 10 days before departure to France but I was thankful to return to a somewhat functional kitchen. Words of wisdom before leaving for vacation: make sure your pantry, freezer and long lasting produce are topped off BEFORE you leave. Even eggs will last at least 3-4 weeks! A quick stop to get milk and bread upon your return is all you need to get going… Yesterday, without stepping outside once, I was able to dish out a 3 course meal including these lovely baked apples, a fragrant cabbage & potato soup (Yay for bacon in the freezer), and tandoori chicken with basmati rice and peas!
The apples were a bit past prime: the skin was wrinkled a bit which meant no one would want to chomp on one of them at this point… Perfect for cooked apples! Baked apples are nothing new in this world but I didn’t feel like searching for a recipe so this is what I came up with: rummaging through my pantry and condiment shelf in the fridge, I was happy to find roasted hazelnuts, maple syrup, butter and dried fruits. I opted for raisins and cherries but any other lovely dried fruit would do… I love the flavour of toasted nuts: I suggest hazelnuts here simply because I already had some in my pantry. You can use any nut you like as long as they are toasted to bring our maximum flavour.
1 cup toasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup each dried cherries and raisins (or any dry fruit you enjoy: candied ginger works nicely here too)
1/4 cup cold butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup maple syrup
A little knob of butter per Apple
Cinnamon to sprinkle
Set oven at 325F
This recipe is super easy. Even cooler yet: I used a melon baller to core the inside of the apples. I would love to claim this genius idea as my own but alas, I am sure I am poaching it from someone else: it just decide to pop out of brain oblivion at this precise moment! So lets pretend it is my genius idea!!!
Wash the apples, cut a thin layer off the bottom so they will lay flat. Core the centre digging in from the top. Once cored, you can slice a bit off the top as well to create a flat surface.
In a small food processor, chop hazelnuts coarsely. Add the dried fruit, 1/4 cup cold butter, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and blend again until the mixture starts binding slightly together.
Stuff each apple with this mixture and sprinkle the rest over the apples and in the baking dish. Mix the water and maple syrup together: drizzle all over the apples. Top with a little knob of butter on each and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Cover the pan with foil for the first 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 15 to 30 minutes more. Your apples are ready when the flesh is tender inside. Sometimes, the skin cracks a bit but that is fine. Serve warm plain or with a creamy delight of your choice: crème anglaise, ice cream, yogurt, crème fraîche… You get the idea!
These keep well in the fridge and warm up equally as good :). Family approved!!!