October 23, 2013 at 1:00 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: A salad, a German pancake, and what are you doing with apples?

My friend Kirk made this gorgeous apple-dotted German Apple Pancake Saturday. What are you doing with this seasonal fruit? (Maureen Batty / The Detroit News)

I had two inspiring apple encounters with friends this past week. This — on top of writing about my beloved baked apple chunks and enjoying Kate’s Homestyle Simply the Best column on scrumptious-sounding Apple Walnut Squares — just forced my hand into sharing what my friends were making and asking what you’re doing with my favorite fruit.

The first appley friend encounter was in The Detroit News’ kitchen. I ran into my friend Dawn — you remember her from the awesome potato tacos a ways back — in the kitchen the other day, and she started telling me about a delectable-sounding apple cheddar salad she made.

Dawn made the dish for an annual “harvest party” with friends that started with the results of their gardening and — as some years, there’s more gardening going on than others — was supplemented with what looked great at the farmer’s market.

The menu for the party, which served double-duty as a birthday celebration, included a beautiful carrot cake, roasted carrots, beets and potatoes all grown by the guest of honor, cider and other seasonal fare.

Apples grabbed Dawn’s attention at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. Here’s how she took it from there, in her own words…

I mixed greens with thinly sliced apple and fennel, toasted walnuts and a good, aged cheddar cheese (for my friend’s birthday, I sprang for Montgomery cheddar and it was well worth it.) Rough amounts: Give or take 5 cups of greens, a mediumish fennel bulb and a handful of fronds, two tart apples (I used Empire and MacIntosh), 2 to 3 ounces of crumbled cheddar, and 1/4 cup toasted walnuts. For the dressing, I mixed 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, then whisked in 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.

I had leftover dressing, so for Monday lunch I revisited the theme with an apple, an ounce of cheddar, toasted almonds and kale — the remaining green in my fridge — sliced very thinly. I shook the salad and dressing in a bowl with a lid vigorously, then let it sit for about 10 minutes to soften.

Both versions were outstanding, but I’m partial to the one with fennel.

Yum. Chatting with Dawn made me remember how good apple and cheese are together; I haven’t done it much lately, but it’s usually my go-to breakfast on the run (a couple of string cheese and a Granny Smith, with a cup of Shredded Wheat & Bran to nibble).

Meanwhile, Saturday was my second appley encounter, this time with my friends Kirk and Jessica. I popped over to their home around 6:30 a.m. to examine how Jessica, another busy working mom who loves to cook, does her family’s meals for the week. (You’ll be hearing about that fun hour and a half in other Let’s Talk Food columns upcoming — for now, suffice to say Jessica is a wonder at planning and prep.)

While Jessica worked on upcoming meals, Kirk put together a gorgeous, huge German Apple Pancake in a big skillet, baking it in the oven to avoid what could be a nightmare flip. He served slices with a dollop of creme fraiche (these friends don’t mess around) and pretty little berries.

When I saw the apples peering through the side of the slices, I knew I’d be sharing it with you (below) — and seeing if I could get you to cough up what you’re making with my go-to fruit, the apple.

What are you doing with apples? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below the recipe. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re easy to sign up for, and free. Over the next few days, Detroit News Food Editor Maureen Tisdale will respond to comments or questions. You also can follow her on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!

German Apple Pancake

Adapted from “Williams-Sonoma Breakfast” by Brigit L. Binns (Simon & Schuster, 2003).

The traditional way to make this beloved German dish, known as Apfelpfannkuchen, is to flip the pancake in the pan while it is on the stovetop to cook the second side. This can be a tricky maneuver since you don’t want to displace the apples. Here, the pancake is finished in the oven, which is an easier option. Most other European pancakes, such as Swedish pancakes, are also cooked at least partially in the oven. European pancakes often contain pieces of fruit or meat, such as the apples used here or the ham called for in Swedish pancakes.

Ingredients:

5 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. granulated sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. fine sea salt

1 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter

2 large, tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges 1/2-inch thick

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar (optional)

3/4 cup fresh raspberries

1/4 cup crème fraîche

Directions:

In a blender, combine the eggs, vanilla and the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and blend until combined, about 5 seconds. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and blend until smooth, about 10 seconds more.

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.

In a 10-inch ovenproof, nonstick fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the foaming has subsided, add the apples and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with the cinnamon and the remaining 1 Tbs. granulated sugar. Stir together and sauté until the apples are glazed and the edges are slightly translucent, about 2 minutes more.

Spread the apples evenly in the fry pan and pour the batter slowly over the top so the apples stay in place. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the bottom is firm, about 8 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the top of the pancake is firm, about 10 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and invert a flat serving plate over the fry pan. Holding the pan and plate together, invert them together and lift off the pan. Cut the pancake into 3 or 4 wedges and transfer to individual plates. Sprinkle each portion with confectioners’ sugar and scatter with a few raspberries. Top with a dollop of crème fraîche and serve immediately. Serves 3 or 4.