Author Amy Pennington Talks Apples, Olive Oil, and Apple-Celery Salad

Amy Pennington is a cook, author, and urban farmer living in Seattle. And she’s just written a lovely cookbook devoted to apples. The book – Apples: From Harvest to Table (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013) – features 50 recipe ranging from breakfast dishes (apple pancakes) and main dishes (apple-stuffed pork loin) to pies and jams. The book also is loaded with information about apples, cooking tips, and historical information. Apple & Celery Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts

We checked in with Pennington to discuss her book, cooking with apples and extra virgin olive oil, and how to pair apples and olive oil (try a slice of apple with good olive oil and sea salt) – among other topics. Plus, you can get her recipe for the apple and celery salad with toasted hazelnuts (in the photo above) by clicking here.

How did you come to write a book about apples?

In recent years, I’ve become interested in highlighting one, single seasonal ingredient and offering MANY ways to cook with it. The focus of using one fruit or vegetable in a myriad of ways is awesome, because it supports people eating seasonally – an eco-friendly kitchen tactic that I endorse 100%! At the time the offer for Apples came around, I was already at work on a monthly, single subject eBook series for 2013 (Fresh Pantry, Skipstone Publishing), and so it fit in perfectly. Plus I’m from New York and live in Washington – both are huge apple growing states. Apples are in my blood.

Are there any rules of thumb for which apples to use for sweet or savory dishes?

Yes and no. For sweet dishes, I prefer a mix of apples – both those that are more tart and more sweet. With savory dishes, however, it’s more important to determine whether or not you’ll cook with the apples. Certain apples offer a stronger flavor after cooking and may or may not break down; you want to choose the right variety for your desired outcome. Others are better for fresh eating, so if you’re making a salad for instance, you’d want to steer clear from an overly starchy baking apple.

Can you think of any easy combinations in which apples and extra virgin olive Amy Penningtonoil can be paired?

Salads and garnishes. I adore winter salads with hearty greens like arugula or bitter chicories, paired with a sweet, crisp apple slice. In these salads, the flavor of the olive oil is key, because it will add earthiness to the dish – perfect for winter.

How did you come up with the idea for the apple and celery salad with toasted hazelnuts?

This is a play on a salad I had at a restaurant in Seattle, Poppy. They did a mustard-celery-Asian pear salad a few years ago and the combination stayed with me. I altered it using heirloom apples, which I think have a stronger flavor and pronounced flavor.

How would you describe the standout attributes of this dish?

This salad takes a really basic ingredient (celery) and highlights it. Paired with crisp and juicy apples, celery is a nice counterpoint. Plus apples paired with a fragrant olive oil for the vinaigrette are a great match. This is a very fresh-tasting salad for the darker days of winter and that’s the real attribute.

What about baking, sautéing, frying or grilling apples using extra virgin olive oil?

I always sauté apples in olive oil with a small spoonful of butter – whether I’m doing a sweet version or a savory side. I also love coating apples in olive oil and roasting on high heat: This process caramelizes the apples perfectly.

What do you think of the idea of drizzling a fresh apple slice with extra virgin olive oil and adding a sprinkle of sea salt?

I eat this all the time. I love it.

Bon appétit,

California Olive Ranch Master Miller Bob Singletary