ApplesBy Ilyse Rathet
February 27, 2020
Today I was inspired by a visit to the JerzyBoyz apple stand at Seattle’s University District Farmer’s Market.
JerzyBoys are considered one of the premier organic apple growers in Washington State, yet until now I had missed out on the bounty of their apple crop. I was drawn to their stand by the diversity of apple varieties in their 20 or so bins. Along with the more common Gala, Braeburn, and Fuji apples, I was particularly interested in their pink-fleshed Pink Pearl for both its appearance and its lively tartness. A bit like Ritrovo extra virgin olive oils, each type of apple that I sampled in the Jerzy Boyz booth had a different look and taste. Several, like the Pink Pearl had a rosy flesh that begged to be sliced thin for a salad, just to show off their multicolored beauty.
As I marveled over the flavor and diversity of these apples, I was curious to learn more about JerzyBoyz. So, I made a call to Wynne Weinreb, JerzyBoyz owner. I was inspired by all I learned from talking to her: their dedication to bringing to market as many as 20 rare and limited apple varieties, that they pollinate their groves with only natural pollinators, and that they strive to adapt each apple variety to the best soil, microenvironment and growing conditions. After this year’s fires in the Chelan area, Wynee compared her 26 years of growing the best apples on American soil to continuously “pushing a boulder up a mountain”.
I had to laugh. I was reminded of many calls made to our producers in Italy. It almost felt like I could be speaking to Antonino Mennella of Madonna dell’Olivo about creating an olive oil out of Rotondella olives or to Sandra Masi of Radici about procuring Tuscan wild pinenuts. Wynne noted that many of her customers say that until they found Jerzy Boyz, they had given up on the usual apple varieties. They would get upset stomachs, or the apples just tasted flat and too sugary. Not too dissimilar to what many say about gluten-containing products until they taste carefully produced durum wheat flour-based goods like those from Ultimo Forno.
My admiration for Jerzy Boyz grew from speaking with Wynne and from working with her apples in the kitchen. I noticed that when I sliced them – even very thinly – they didn’t brown or oxidize at all! Also, their intense flavor and color made for beautiful preparations in salads, desserts, or when simply laid out on the plate.
Each taste, each apple variety, seemed like it could be paired with different condiments, food preparations, and styles. I could think of these special and diverse apples almost like a pasta style or shape, or a Ritrovo “& Salt”. I could really let the kitchen creativity kick in.
So at the market that next Saturday, I eagerly I weighted myself down with bags of pale green and golden-fleshed apples, all hiding their lusciously colored tart interior, and headed home to create some perfect salads and side dishes.
My first salad was a simple one: shaved raw fennel, topped with a delicate array of shaved apple slices, and seasoned with Casina Rossa extra virgin olive oil, Sweet & Salt, and toasted Radici pine nuts. These apples were born for a generous drizzle of SOFI Award-winning Apple Balsamic Vinegar: the final touch on a visually-appealing and taste-balanced first course.
Next, I got more ambitious and roasted shaved fennel in the oven until crispy, very brown and sweet. I then set thin, rosy-colored apple slices on a bed of arugula, topped them with the crispy warm fennel, and sprinkled on our new Ritrovo Organic Balsamic Sea Salt from Vancouver Island Salt Company. This fruit and fennel blend seemed perfect along side a small portion of Biancoperla Polenta which I had roasted in the oven and topped with Gorgonzola dolce (sent with care from Darien Cheese and Fine Foods in Connecticut).Thanks to JerzyBoyz apples, the amazing gorgonzola, and the two other naturally stunning raw materials, a simple gastronomic synergy emerged on my plate.
I awoke in the morning and gazed at my pastel-watercolor array of apples pieces left over from the night before. While brewing my morning cup of tea, I sliced these and drizzled ADI Chestnut Honey and a crumbled, crispy Primopan Farro cookie on top. Once again I could savor the fresh, seasonal brightness of the Pink Pearl apple in a totally different flavor context.
JerzyBoyz dedication to the biodiversity of apples-all grown organically and with great care-was a bit of a revelation to me. It is such an inspiration to find local growers of one of our most ubiquitous Washington crops – apples – dedicated to the same principles as Ritrovo. Mille grazie to Wynne Weinreb for an inspiring conversation, and kitchen inspiration!
Dr. Pescia Chestnut Honey, Apple and Cheese Stacks
Four ripe, tart apples
1 cup gorgonzola or other blue cheese
½ cup Radici of Tuscany Organic Wild Pinenuts, toasted
Wash and dry apples and cut off top with stem and the bottom ¼-inch base of each. Slice apples in thin (about 1/8 inch) rounds, starting at the top and ending at the wide bottom. Remove bits of core from each slice and re-stack the slices as if putting the apple back together. Place some of the DOP oil in a baking dish and set stacked apples in the dish. Spread olive oil on the exposed cut upper surfaces of the apples. Bake at 350 F for about 15 minutes, or until the apples are slightly softened.
Remove the apples from the oven and cool. In the meantime, crumble the blue cheese in a bowl or on wax paper and set aside. Crush and/or chop the pinenuts into a coarse powder.
Take each apple and unstack, keeping the layers in order. Fill each layer with a pinch of crumbled blue cheese and sprinkle with ¼ – ½ tsp. pinenut powder. Continue until each apple is layered with cheese and pinenuts. Set apples on serving plates and garnish with watercress. Drizzle Dr. Pescia Chestnut Honey over the apples and watercress and serve.