An occasional series in which staff members share a recipe we turn to time and again:
This time of year brings about a strange behavior in me. Despite crates brimming with early-summer stone fruits and berries, I hoard Granny Smith apples.
The fault lies in a recipe I first dog-eared a couple of steamy Washington summers ago. It's a version of green fruit gado gado [GAH-doh GAH-doh] from a British cookbook author. He tosses unripe tropical fruits with lime and sugar, drizzles them with a dressing of sorts pounded together from crushed peanuts, fresh lime, sweet palm sugar, garlic, chili peppers and pungent cilantro, basil and mint. Like many street foods from Southeast Asia, it is a jumble of textures and is explosively, overwhelmingly, simultaneously sweet, salty, sour and hot. Rather than track down unripe papaya or mango, I took a tip from another author and chef, Mai Pham, who swaps crisp, juicy green apples for out-of-season tropical fruit.
But the season for this salad is short. It commences when the weather becomes muggy and ends by mid-summer, when Granny Smiths lose their sour smack. Some nights, I toss in shredded cooked chicken breast. But mostly I prefer to savor it just as it is.
Green Apple Gado Gado
6 first-course or 2 main-course servings
Adapted from a recipe in Alastair Hendy's "Cooking for Friends" (Ryland Peters & Small, 2000):
2/3 cup salted or unsalted peanuts, coarsely crushed
1 clove garlic
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 small red chili peppers, seeded and chopped
6 tablespoons palm sugar* (may substitute brown sugar)
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 large green apples (may substitute 2 green mangoes or papayas, peeled and seeded)
Couple sprigs each fresh basil, cilantro and mint leaves, torn into small pieces
In a skillet over medium heat, toast the peanuts, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the peanuts are evenly flecked with brown. Remove from the heat.
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and salt until a paste forms. Add the chilis and pound until mashed. Add the palm sugar and pound until incorporated (may need to work in batches). Add the crushed peanuts and pound until most are incorporated into the paste but some are still coarsely crushed. (If the mixture is stiff, add a little lime juice.) Scrape the mixture into a bowl, add the juice of 2 limes and stir to combine. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the granulated sugar and juice of 1 lime until the sugar dissolves. Slice the apple, using the julienne blade of a mandoline or cut the apple into matchstick-size slices. Add the apple and herbs and toss to combine. Set aside.
Cut the remaining lime into sections.
Place mounds of the salad onto individual dishes. Spoon the peanut dressing over the top of each portion and serve with lime sections on the side.
*NOTE: Palm sugar is available at Asian and Indian markets.
Per serving (based on 2): 483 calories, 13 gm protein, 62 gm carbohydrates, 23 gm fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 11 gm saturated fat, 476 mg sodium, 7 gm dietary fiber