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Apple, onion and ginger soup

Apple, Onion and Ginger Soup

3 Apples

1 large yellow onion

Grated ginger to taste, we added about 1-2 tps finely grated

2-3 cups water

Chop apples into smiles about ¼ inch thick. I leave the skin on, but take the seeds out.

Chop onion into circles about ¼ inch thick

Warm large frying pan on medium heat and add enough olive oil so the apples and onions will not stick.

Add salt to your liking.

Cook on medium heat until everything is dark and caramelized.  Add grated ginger, cook 3 more minutes.

Transfer to sauce pan.

Add water to frying pan and boil. This gets all the goodies stuck to the pan and makes cleaning the pan easier.

Pour water into saucepan.

Cook 15 minutes or so.

Cool a bit and transfer, in batches if needed to your blender.

Blend until creamy.


Add more grated ginger if needed.

Reheat just before serving.

This soup is quite thick, very rich and wintry.


“This is my favorite. Ever.”

“Is there something beside just apples onions and ginger? Tastes like more, maybe mushrooms?”

Apple Sumac Sorbet

Johnny’s 236th birthday dinner: Course Number One:

Apple, Sumac and Salted Rose Vinegar

4 small apples

2 sumac seed cones

1.5 cups water

Chinese salted rose vinegar or white vinegar, rose water and dash of salt.

Peel and cut 4 small apples.  I collected mine from a tree off of the Lake Shore Drive bike path between 47th Street and 18th Street. I always wait until a bunch have fallen on the ground. No one seems to collect them, so I help myself.  The apples are tart and very wormy.  The favor is very good and the worms can be removed when dicing.

Fall is a perfect time to harvest sumac, that beautiful plant that grows along side so many Illinois highways. Be sure to check online and find the edible sumac.  I do not collect right next to large roadways, worrying about pollution, but if you are not familiar with them, that is a good place to start identifying.

I stripped and washed two deep rust red cone and put them in the blender with about a cup and half of water.  Boil briefly and strain.  The flavor is lemony and wonderful, but the bristles are hairy, so straining is a good idea.  I save the seeds and roast then grind them. They are used as in the Middle Eastern as rub on meats and other things.

Add apples to sumac water a little sugar to taste.  Cook until mushy, about 10 minutes.

I put this batch through a food mill because I have one so I didn’t bother to core well.  If not, make sure you peel and core the apples well and put in a blender.  In the end you should have a thin apple saucey batch.

My daughter has an ice cream maker, so I just put it in and let it spin. If you do not have an ice cream maker, I would put ¾ in ice cubes and when frozen add all the liquid and cubes into a blender and let it roll.  You will get something cold, delicious and subtly aromatic.

The sorbet was served as a dollop on a large spoon and really opened up the old taste buds.

Comment from guests:

“This reminds me of Indian desserts without all the grease.”

“Smells like my grandmother’s underwear drawer.”  Which with the tone and facial expressions was a deep compliment.

Johnny Appleseed’s 236th Birthday and the Second Annual Tasting Menu

This year the Chicago birthday bash was apple-icious.  Menu below with  recipe-a-day to follow!

Sorbet – urban foraged apples, foraged sumac, bit o sugar, lime and Chinese salted rose water vinegar

Soup – apple, onion, ginger

Small falafel ball set on a dried apple disc with beet-apple sauce

Slice of cucumber with an egg salad of wasabe mayonnaise, apples, celery, celanto, and lime rind

Homemade apple fruit leather with grilled shitake mushroom, coconut jelly cube and fresh farmer’s cheese

Toastini , challah grilled in butter and broiled with dill cheese topped with two thin raw and crispy apple slices

tiny peppers with garlic mascarpone and dehydrated apple crumbled into tiny chunks

Roasted apple, polenta, Parmesan and applejack braised apples

Salmon poke with apples, sesame oil, sesame seeds, green onions, pickled ginger, soy, lemon and cilantro

Water caltrops with spicy apple compote

Silken tofu with foraged crab apple salt

Spring roll with daikon, apple, straw mushroom, apple honey vinegar.

Tapioca port wine custard with seared apple topping

Salted Carmel on thin apple slice

Johnny Appleseed’s 235th Birthday-Parties in Chicago and Iowa Cityd


“On the borders of civilization we sometimes meet with a singular being, more savage than polished, and yet useful in his way. Such a one in the early settlement of the northwest territory was Johnny Apple-seed — a simple hearted being, who loved to roam through the forests in advance of his fellows. … But Johnny had his use in the world. It was his universal   custom, when among whites, to save the seeds of all the best apples he met with. These he carefully preserved and carried with him, and when far away from his white friends, he would select an open spot on the ground, prepare the soil, and plant these seeds … so that some day, the future traveler or inhabitant of those fertile valleys, might enjoy the fruits of his early efforts. Such was Johnny Apple-seed — did he not erect for himself monuments more worthy, if not more enduring, than piles of marble or statues of brass?”

John Wardner wrote the above in 1867 in his text American Pomology. The statement is, unlike the apple, truly an American sentiment, full of wonder and hope, destiny and mythology. The man which Wardner writes of, John Chapman, is more mythological than we can express. But Johnny Appleseed is important in his way, and we should celebrate him fully this apple season.

Saturday, September 26th was his 235 birthday. Amber  and Katie held all apple dinners in his honor in Chicago and  Iowa City.  We provided an unholy amount of apples and a temperance proof quantity of cider .

Pictures posted at:

Wolfe Orchard!

Before apple season began, when we were still waiting impatiently for our apples to return to the farmer’s market stalls, Amber and I had the pleasure of visiting Wolfe Farms in central Illinois. We got the most informative walk through with Ron Wolfe; it was lovely. The Wolfes run quite an operation, over 300 trees and over one hundred varieties, many heirloom and antiques. We’ve been working with them and enjoying their apples since the project began.

We visited with the purpose of dropping off our baby seedlings in five gallon buckets that are a part of the two trees project. We were also anxious to see how the small grafted Johnny Appleseed trees from Heritage Trees were doing (we sent them to Ron about three months prior).

this is our tiny johnny appleseed tree

He walked us through the test orchard, showed us his newly grafted trees, and let us taste the few that were already ripe (including the Lodi, a summer apple with very soft skin that is ripe for only about one week in late July. They don’t even sell this apple, making us feel super special). He showed us the picking bags they use, and talked about different styles of picking.

Our Johnny trees were doing well, small but thriving in their Tubex (a sort of greenhouse that they ship trees in and protects saplings from deer and other larger pests). In three years the two Johnny Appleseed trees will be ready for us to make other grafts from, which is absolutely fascinating for us. Ron promised to teach us next March just how that is done.

After walking through the orchard, he took us through the rest of his farm (which he referred to as his garden, but it is so big and bountiful it hardly feels as small and unassuming as garden implies). We ate cukes and peas right off the plant. Amazing. We were smitten. He showed us the chicken shed, which was a barn built out of old telegraph poles and siding, and according to the previous owner of the property, dated back to the mid eighteen hundreds.

After all that, we unloaded the car of the seedlings, and asked Ron for critique on how to plant in the future. He said we couldn’t have done any better, and the little bit of mold on the leaves of one of our trees was no big problem, it would just slightly stunt the growth of the tree. What was the best surprise, when we asked if it wasn’t too much trouble for him to take the five trees we brought, he said no way. Pointing to a line of dying, huge cottonwood trees, he said, “I’m going to take those down and put in your trees there. They’ll be my new windbreak.” Wait a minute, Ron, these are apple trees and won’t be a great windbreak to the rest of your orchard, we thought. Not so, seedling apple trees (instead of trees grafted on dwarf rootstock) will get to be forty feet tall!

Ready for transport

The seedlings have been transplanted to five-gallon buckets. They have considerabley more root room and they are ready for transport.

tiny forest


These are the first trees from seeds.  Only the seeds that went through a freeze germinated.

What did I do?!

See this apple? It was good. I ate it last week in the morning while walking to work. I don’t usually eat an apple in the morning, but I was craving one (when you eat an apple a day, like I do, doesn’t craving one sound weird? I know…). Anyways, I started it at home, then walked out the house eating it. I must have finished it on the way to Harvard College Library, and must have passed a garbage can, because, well, I chucked the core. Without Saving The Seeds. What?! That is the first time I have done that in, like, forever.


The smallest trees

We have our first tree sprouts. They are tiny, making the eggcartons look like monothic sculpture.

Second go round

So, the first seed batch did not sprout.  It has been more than three weeks and not a sign of green.  I dug around a bit and found excellent worms in the soil, nice plump apple seeds, and not a green sprout or even white shoot in sight.  I have not totally given up, as these could be….late bloomers, but I am going to try again.

There are of course many variables to growth.  For this next round I will not plant one eggcarton but four.  I have created better drainage, as mold is always an issue for plants. I have also placed some seeds through a freeze cycle. That is easy in Chicago this year.  In fact it is snowing at the moment.

Let’s hope my work in service of the seeds is successful.