I've devoured two bags of Gala apples in the past two weeks — sweet, tart and crisp, apples are at their best this time of year. Apples come in thousands of varieties and a wide range of colors, including red, yellow, green and all those colors mixed together. I like apples eaten cold out of the crisper and choose varieties that are extra sweet and crunchy.
Near Omaha, you can pick your own apples at Vala's Pumpkin Patch, in Gretna, and Trees, Shrubs and More, in Bellevue. Ditmars Orchard, just east of Council Bluffs, is also open.
This is the perfect time of year to head to Nebraska City for apple picking, and both Kimmel Orchard and the Arbor Day Farm are open.
Apple cake and apple pie are two Baker family favorites; I've also learned to love apples in more savory combinations, paired with pork or inside a grilled cheese sandwich. I dug around Pinterest for this week's recipe, which uses apples alongside broccoli and sharp cheddar cheese in a savory gratin. It'd be a perfect side dish for the impending holidays.
Recipe: Broccoli, Cheddar and Apple Gratin
• About 2 pounds of broccoli, washed and cut into florets
• 1 large or 2 small apples, washed, cored and cut into matchsticks
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 1 cup milk, preferably whole
• About 1½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375 F. Place broccoli in a large pot with about 1 inch of water. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook until the broccoli has just turned bright green, about 5 minutes.
Lightly grease the bottom of a large baking dish or gratin pan, then add broccoli and apple pieces and toss with a couple of pinches of salt.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes to keep the flour from tasting raw. While whisking vigorously, add the milk bit by bit until it is smoothly incorporated. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the cheese and pour over broccoli and apple. Bake in the oven until bubbly and starting to brown in spots, about 20-30 minutes. Serve warm.
— Recipe adapted from fiveandspice.com.