Predictable Fruits With Unpredictable Possibilities



Apples and bananas are year-round fruits. When strawberries, plums and peaches have been shipped in from another continent to be sold to consumers at soaring prices, bananas and an ever-expanding variety of apples are always available in our markets, reasonably priced and packed with flavor.

Thanks to cultivation in the southern hemisphere and controlled atmosphere storage, apples are always available. Controlled atmosphere storage combines high humidity, controlled temperatures and a specific mixture of atmospheric gases to maintain apples at the peak of freshness much longer than just cold storage.

One of our most versatile fruits, most varieties of apples are delicious eaten fresh, used in salads and desserts, and in sauces or salsas for meats and vegetables. Apples particularly good for baking include Cortland, Rome and Winesap. Tart varieties for salads and eaten out of hand include Granny Smith and McIntosh.

For pies, Golden Delicious hold their shape better than most, while Granny Smith will become mushy if used alone.

Thousands of apple varieties have evolved throughout history. Today, there are about 50 varieties grown commercially around the world. At any given time, you may find at least half-a-dozen varieties in our markets, all grown in the United States.

As you've probably noticed, bananas are picked and shipped green. They one of the very rare fruits that actually develops better color, texture, aroma and sweetness when ripened after harvest.

Bananas may be green when first placed in the produce aisle, but don't pass them up. The tiny seeds within the fruit that release a ripening hormone are a mixture of ethylene gas and carbon dioxide, so that they ripen quickly at room temperature.

Ripe bananas show no trace of green skin. In fact, bananas with the fullest flavor are those that have developed tiny brown specks. To test for ripeness, the stem used to peel the banana cannot be snapped off easily. If the skin is difficult to peel off from the fruit, it will be starchy and bitter. Speed up the ripening process by placing bananas in an open paper bag on the counter away from direct heat and sunlight.

On the flip side, bananas can be refrigerated for several days to stunt ripening. Although the skins will turn brown, the fruit itself will be fine; just let them come to room temperature for full flavor. To freeze, add one tablespoon of citrus or pineapple juice to one cup of mashed bananas, and store in a sealed container for up to three months.


Apple Coffee Cake


A hurry-up bread topped with browned cream.

  • 11/2 cups all-purpose flour 
    3/4 cup sugar, divided 
    2 tsps. baking powder 
    1 tsp. cinnamon 
    1/2 cup chopped nuts, divided 
    1 large apple, peeled and shredded 
    1 egg, beaten 
    1/2 cup milk 
    3 Tbsps. margarine, melted 
    1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 400°.

Spray a 9-inch square baking dish with nonstick baking spray with flour.

In a bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. Stir in the nuts, saving 2 tablespoons for topping.

Add the apple. Make a well in center.

Add the egg, milk and margarine. Stir to mix.

Transfer to prepared baking dish. Drizzle the sour cream over top, leaving the center uncovered. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over. Scatter the remaining nuts on top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Toothpick should come out clean when inserted in the center. Cool before cutting into squares.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 247; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 35 g; fat, 11 g; cholesterol, 32 mg; sodium, 155 mg.


Crunchy Apple Crisp

(Dairy or Pareve)

  • 5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced 
    2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice 
    1 cup all-purpose flour 
    1 cup sugar 
    1 tsp. cinnamon 
    1/2 tsp. ground ginger 
    1/2 cup butter or margarine, cut into 6 to 8 pieces 
    2 ginger snaps, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray with flour.

Arrange apples in the bottom of prepared dish and toss with lemon juice.

Place the remaining ingredients, except for the ginger snaps, in a food processor. Process until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

Spoon the mixture over the apples and scatter the crumbled ginger snaps on top. Press down to make sure edges are sealed

Bake until golden and apples are tender, about 1 hour. Serve warm.

For a dairy meal, top with a dollop of softly whipped cream of ice-cream.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 250; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 42 g; fat, 9 g; cholesterol, 25 mg; sodium, 10 mg.


Apple-Barley Pilaf


  • 2 Tbsps. margarine 
    1/2 cup chopped onion 
    1/2 cup barley 
    3/4 cup vegetable broth 
    1/2 cup apple juice 
    2 tsps. low-sodium soy sauce 
    2 large Fuji apples, cored and chopped 
    2 Tbsps. chopped parsley 
    1/4 cup dried currants 
    salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt the margarine over medium heat.

Add the onion and barley, stirring until the barley is golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the broth, apple juice and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer.

Cover and cook 40 minutes, or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed.

Add the apples, parsley and currants; stir gently. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 161; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 29 g; fat, 5 g; cholesterol, 5 mg; sodium, 118 mg.


Banana Cream Pie


Easy to make from scratch, this old-time favorite is rich and luscious. Do not use skim milk.

  • 2/3 cup sugar 
    1/4 cup cornstarch 
    1/2 tsp. salt 
    3 cups whole milk 
    4 egg yolks, lightly beaten 
    2 Tbsps. butter, softened 
    1 Tbsp. vanilla extract 
    1/2 tsp. orange extract 
    2-3 bananas, peeled and sliced 
    1 graham-cracker pie shell 
    sweetened whipped cream

In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and salt.

In a separate bowl, blend the milk and egg yolks. Whisk into the sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Whisk in the butter, vanilla and orange extracts. Press plastic wrap onto the filling to avoid a skin forming. Cool to room temperature.

Arrange the bananas, about 1/2 -inch deep in the pie shell. Pour in the cooked filling. Chill thoroughly, 3 to 4 hours. Before serving, top with whipped cream.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 230; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 33 g; fat, 10 g; cholesterol, 91 mg; sodium, 258 mg.


Banana Birchermeusli


This dish of uncooked oatmeal, milk and fruit was served at Dr. Bircher-Benner's clinic in Zurich maintaining that it was healthier than a rich starchy diet. Today, Birchermeusli has a solid place on the Swiss table — more popular even than fondue.

  • 1/3 cup oatmeal (not instant) 
    1/3 cup cold water 
    1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice 
    2 Tbsps. honey or to taste 
    2 medium apples, unpeeled and chopped 
    1 large banana, peeled and sliced 
    1/4 cup chopped nuts

Soak the oatmeal in the cold water for 30 minutes or until soft.

Stir in the lemon juice and honey.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir lightly. Add more honey to taste.

Serve at room temperature.

Serves 3 to 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 161; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 29 g; fat, 5 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 36 mg.


Banana-Pineapple Kugel


Using matzah, this may be served throughout the year and at Passover. Black walnuts have a distinctive aromatic flavor but you may substitute other nuts as desired.

  • 5 matzahs 
    4 eggs 
    1/2 cup sugar 
    1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt 
    1 cup sour cream 
    1/2 cup crushed pineapple, undrained 
    1 banana, mashed 
    1/4 cup black walnut pieces 
    2 tsps. butter 
    1/4 cup pineapple preserves, warmed

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Crumble matzah into a bowl and cover with warm water. Soak 2 to 3 minutes to soften. Drain and squeeze dry.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with sugar, yogurt, sour cream, pineapple and cinnamon until blended. Stir in the softened matzah and walnuts. Transfer to the prepared dish. Dot with knobs of butter.

Bake until top is golden and center is firm, 50 to 55 minutes. Brush with warm preserves. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 239; protein, 6 g; carbohydrates, 32 g; fat, 10 g; cholesterol, 98 mg; sodium, 60 mg.

Ethel G. Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. E-mail her at: [email protected].


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