Before we left for Kazakhstan, I was eager to read anything I could get my hands on about the country. I found exactly one travel book, called Apples are from Kazakhstan. You would never guess it from the title, but apparently apples originated in Kazakhstan! Being from apple country myself (Washington State) I was delighted by this discovery. You don’t even know the number of times I searched for a good apple while living in Russia, only to find my mouth full of mealy, flavorless, mush. What I didn’t really realize while daydreaming about all of the sweet, crisp, apples I would enjoy whilst in Kazakhstan, is that Kazakhstan is big. Really big. Ninth largest country in the world big. We lived in the capital, Astana, which is located in the north central part of the country (the same place where many Soviet gulags were located) essentially on the Siberian steppe. You might guess that there are very few apple orchards on the Siberian steppe. Your guess would be correct. There is a variety of apple that grows in the southern part of the country near Almaty, which is indigenous to Kazakhstan and is called the Aport. These apples can be very delicious when eaten in season, which is hard to do when you live a thousand miles away from them. In two years, I enjoyed exactly one delicious apple.
Upon returning to the states, I was very much looking forward to a really good apple, and having arrived in June, the wait was on. At Whole Foods recently, I saw a huge display of apples from Pennsylvania. It was already the end of August, and I could hardly contain myself as I bagged my groceries and headed home. In just a few short minutes, I would be enjoying my first “real” apple of the season. I got home, rinsed off an apple and took an enormous bite. Definitely last year’s apple. Not cool Whole Foods. Really not cool.
Finally, this season’s apples are in the store and at the market! I grabbed a few this weekend, and promptly made this salad. This is one of my go to fall recipes–it’s hearty enough to be taken for lunch (I always make enough to last me through the week) and I love the way the sweetness of the apples mingles with the freshness of the celery and the tartness of the vinegar.
- 1 cup wild rice (dry)
- 1 large apple
- 1 large stalks celery
- 2-3 green onions
- 1/4 cup cranberries
- 1/3 cup pecans (toasted and roughly chopped)
- Juice of one lemon
- 1/2 Tablespoon sugar
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons red wine or apple cider vinegar
- salt to taste
- In a small sauce pan, bring four cups of water and a generous pinch of salt to a boil. Add rice, and reduce to a simmer until rice is cooked through (about 30-40 minutes).
- Meanwhile, finely chop apple, celery, and green onions.
- In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, pinch of salt, and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Combine apple, celery, spring onions, and cranberries in a medium sized bowl.
- Once the rice is ready (it should be cooked all the way through and the grains will have cracked open so that you can see the white inside), drain any excess water and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Add rice to the apple and celery mixture.
- Pour dressing over the salad and refrigerate for at least two hours.
- Right before serving, top with chopped pecans.