Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Apple-Date Sauce infused with Vanilla Bean

Applesauce was a dinner staple when I was growing up...  along with bread and butter, beans and rice.  We were a family on a budget, after all!  When my mom asked me to set the table, one of my favorite things to do was to spoon applesauce into a pretty serving bowl, sprinkle it generously with cinnamon, then gently swirl the cinnamon into the applesauce.  Even then, I liked food to be visually appealing.  Wild rice, on the other hand...  not so appealing to a 10-year old, no matter how pretty the bowl is.

Last night, I put some chicken in the crock pot for dinner and was wondering what to have with it.  I found some apples in the fridge, along with an almost empty bag of dates in the cupboard (see my recipe for Date Swirl Cookies), and a vanilla bean nearing its expiration date; in spite of the hot day, freshly made applesauce sounded really good and homey.  Plus I always like using up ingredients in creative ways so that they don't go to waste.

Cinnamon would be pretty predictable in this recipe, so I decided to leave it out;  I wanted the flavor of the vanilla bean to come through instead, and I was really happy with the result.  The applesauce was so smooth and creamy, with a subtle vanilla flavor that really complements the apples and dates and a beautiful speckling of vanilla bean seeds all throughout.  Eat this sauce on its own with a spoon, on top of chicken or pork, or use it as a substitute for oil in baking--it'll be delicious!

Printable Recipe

Apple-Date Sauce infused with Vanilla Bean
  • 5 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 14 pitted dates, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out (use both the seeds and the bean pod--you'll remove the pod later)
  • 2 cups water
Place all ingredients into a large stockpot; bring to a boil over medium heat; cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Reduce to medium low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until apples are softened.  Taste the liquid and adjust seasoning if desired.

Remove the vanilla bean pod from the pot.  Using an immersion blender, puree apples and liquid until smooth (or you can leave slightly chunky if you like).  Cool, then transfer to glass jars and store in the refrigerator.  Makes about 4 1/2 cups.

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