Baked apples don't have to be limited to dessert! When I saw a recipe for savory baked apples in Cooking Light, I knew I had to try it. The original recipe called for brown rice, but I substituted farro for a nuttier taste; quinoa would also be delicious. These unusual grains may seem exotic, but I've seen them at more and more stores, even at Costco recently. If you want to use brown rice, just start it cooking when you start preheating the oven. For a vegetarian version, leave out the sausage and substitute mushrooms, or more walnuts. Use the biggest apples you can find, and search out some of the tangier varieties like Pink Lady or Honeycrisp.
1 C. chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 C. farro or quinoa
1/2 t. dried sage
2 T. olive oil
1/4 lb. sweet Italian sausage
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1/8 t. red chile powder
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1/4 C. chopped walnuts, toasted
4 large apples (or 8 small to medium apples)
1/2 C. shredded Swiss or cheddar cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F. Carve out the center of each apple, leaving a shell about 1/2 inch thick (be sure to leave the bottom so the stuffing doesn't fall out). Chop the apple flesh finely and reserve it. Bake apple shells about 25 minutes, until just tender.
Meanwhile, combine broth, grain and sage in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer about 10 minutes, until grain is tender. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium flame. Add sausage and brown, breaking up into very small pieces with a spatula. Add reserved apple flesh, garlic, onion, carrot, red chile, and cinnamon. Cook until tender, then season with salt as desired. Mix with cooked grain and toasted walnuts. Fill apples with grain mixture. If desired, top with cheese and broil 5 minutes to melt. Serves 4.