The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso is as much a love letter to apples as it is a cookbook. The author's enthusiasm for apples is infectious, and the 150 apple-centric recipes call readers to the kitchen.
All About the Apples
The recipes in The Apple Lover's Cookbook are indeed tempting, but I'll get to that in a second. What really sets this book apart is that it isn't just a collection of apple-y recipes. Engaging pages about the history and growing of apples open the book, but then we get to the real meat of the matter: the in-depth apple guide.
Traverso has divided apples into four main types: firm-tart (like Granny Smiths), firm-sweet (Golden Delicious is an example), tender-tart (McIntosh), and tender-sweet (such as Fuji). These categories serve several purposes. First, they allow for easy substitution in apple-specific recipes (don't have and Pink Lady apples at the market? try a Braeburn!). More importantly for this reader, these categories provide a whole list of apples I would like to seek out and try (beyond the range I've already explored). I'm a firm-tart apple gal, and The Apple Lover's Cookbook has given me a list of twenty apple varieties to try that will suit my apple palate.
With general categories of apples established, Traverso gets down and dirty with the beautiful specifics. Fifty-nine apples – from Ambrosia apples to Zabergau Reinettes – are profiled, with tasting notes, availability, and origin clearly outlined underneath glowingly simple and stunning portraits for easy identification.
Sweet and Savory Recipes
As much as food geeks like me can go gaga over facts and factoids, The Apple Lover's Cookbook is, at heart, a cookbook filled with tempting recipes. From homey classics like a classic tarte tatin and overnight apple butter to fresh takes on traditional ideas like the cider-brined turkey (don't worry, there are cider-brined pork chops in there too!), the recipes are fresh and modern. Plenty of history and apple tips are worked into the recipe descriptions, including the reason a pandowdy crust gets pushed down into the fruit – it's because the original crusts were just a flour and water paste that needed that fruit and sugar to become tasty!
There I go again, getting all caught up in the apple lore and losing sight of the bulk of the book's content. Along with the amazing sounding and looking cider doughnuts (the cider, we learn adds sweetness and flavor, but also tenderness to doughnuts with its hint of acid, much like the sour cream in old-fashioned doughnuts), I'm most excited to make a batch of the chopped chicken liver with apple and calvados and then get a few jars of apple bread-and-butter pickles going.
The Apple Lover's Cookbook goes well past the expected, and includes profiles of apple-growing regions around the country, apple cider tasting notes, and a lovely list of apple products available by mail order. It's a must-have for an apple lover, obviously, but also any cook looking for fresh but homey flavors and a friendly, knowledgeable voice to guide them in the kitchen.