Editor’s note: Bette Banjack, a longtime food columnist for The Phoenix, has decided to return. Readers may remember her column “Neighborhood Kitchens,” which ran from 2003 to 2006, or her weekly local television program, “Downtown Kitchen.” This is the first edition of her new weekly column, “ABC to XYZ in Foods,” through which she will explore foods one letter at a time.
APPLES – When Eve handed Adam THAT apple, I’m sure they had no idea what they started. Today, there are 2,500 varieties of apples in the United States alone. It would take us forever to name all of them here.
My personal favorite is the Winesap. Apples can be kept handy to eat in your briefcase, backpack and handbags. “Eating an apple a day” does have its merits, as it helps the body maintain health and fights off so many bad health issues.
Look for apples that are firm and brightly colored. Store apples in the refrigerator; if not, it only takes a few days to lose their crispy crunch. Apples should not be peeled until they are ready to be used. The browning process can be slowed down by dipping slices or whole cut apples in a solution of lemon juice and water.
There are 200-year-old apple trees still producing good apples. The average person in the U.S. eats about 65 apples annually, which equals approximately 22 pounds.
In honor of my return to The Phoenix Reporter & Item, I created this tasty and easy apple cake.
Good Morning Apple Cake
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
˝ cup oil
1 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
˝ tsp. baking soda
Ľ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
˝ cup chopped walnuts
˝ cup raisins
2 cups chopped apples (approx. 3) – core, but leave skins on
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use electric mixer if possible. Beat eggs until thick and light. Combine sugar and oil, pour in egg mixture at a medium speed. Combine flour and dry ingredients; add this dry mixture to egg mixture along with vanilla. Combine nuts, raisins and cake batter. Pour into 9 inch buttered pan. Bake 45-55 minutes. Remove from the oven; cool. Can be served warm.
ARROWROOT STARCH – It has long been used in making glazes for fruit pies. Because of the superior thickening ability you only need to use half as much as if you were using flour. It is excellent in stir-fry sauces as the sauce is clear and shiny.
ASPARAGUS – This is my very favorite vegetable. The spring is the best season to eat and prepare them. In 17th Century France, it was thought to be an aphrodisiac. When buying asparagus, look at the tips — they should be fresh and tightly closed.
Even though you can eat the entire spear, the tough bottoms should be removed. Simply bend the stalk — it will naturally snap off where the tough ends and the tender top starts. You can use a vegetable peeler on the bottoms to remove tough skins and prepare as tops.
Fresh asparagus are much better than canned. The best way to prepare fresh asparagus is to steam or boil — drain. Try and cook while spears are standing up with tips out of the water in a few inches of water. You can purchase special steamers to allow spears to stand up keeping tips out of water.
Good food for a good life!