by Tia Butts

Napa Valley Register

School is officially back in session. Parents may breathe a sigh of relief, while teachers work on getting back into that early morning wake-up routine. It is also the time of year when we begin to see a variety of crisp, just-picked apples at the Napa Farmers Market.

Devoto Gardens & Orchards has already blessed the Napa Farmers Market with its Gravensteins and Arceo Ranch with Gala apples. Remember when kids used to present a teacher with an apple on the first day of school? Why apples, I wondered? Why not a juicy peach or nectarine?

It turns out that gifting apples has often been associated with hardship. According to Gourmet magazine, in the 1700s, poor families in Denmark and Sweden gave teachers baskets of apples as payment for their children’s educations.

In the United States, pioneer families whose children attended school were often responsible for housing and feeding frontier teachers. This accommodation was a form of payment for the education. Farmers’ kids gave apples to struggling teachers during the Great Depression. Being readily available, nutritious and not too delicate, apples made a sensible gift.

While this practical custom may have fallen by the wayside, “an apple for the teacher” remains a widely recognized symbol of early-childhood education. I have no doubt our Napa Valley teachers would still appreciate a beautiful farmers market apple as a thoughtful and considerate gesture.

Below is a favorite apple recipe from the cookbook “The Food You Want to Eat” by my friend Ted Allen, host of the TV show “Chopped” on Food Network. It’s simple and easy to make, yet nice enough to serve to company.

Napa Farmers Market Chef Demo: Chef Malcolm de Sieyes of the Silverado Cooking School will do a cooking demonstration at the market at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18. The demonstration is free and recipes and tastes will be provided.

Napa Farmers Market Kids Activities: On Tuesday, Aug. 14, and on Saturday, Aug. 18, bring your youngsters to the Education Station for Story Time at 9:30 a.m. Story time repeats at 10:30 a.m. Story Time is followed on Aug. 14 by Power Play, a fruit and veggie memory game, at 10:45 a.m.; and on Aug. 18 by Yummy and Healthy at 10:45 a.m.

Live music on the KVYN Soundstage: On Tuesday, Aug. 14, The Prince of Fairfield will perform. On Saturday, August 18, David Neft will perform.

Warm Spiced Apple Tart

1 package (1.1 pounds) frozen puff pastry

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the sheet pan

All-purpose flour, for rolling

3 Golden Delicious Apples (or other variety as recommended at the market)

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 large egg

1/2 pint whipping cream, for serving

Thaw one sheet of puff pastry overnight in the refrigerator or just leave it out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. It might take longer, depending on how warm it is in your kitchen. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit and butter a baking sheet.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry sheet to a square slightly larger than 12 inches. Using a plate as a guide, cut a 12-inch round. Gently pick up the pastry round with both hands and put it on the buttered baking sheet. Refrigerate while you work on the apples.

Peel the apples. Cut them in half through the stem ends and use a melon baller or spoon to scoop out the cores. Then put the apple halves flat side down on a cutting board and trim both ends straight across. Cut the apple halves crosswise into very thin slices.

Take the baking sheet out of the refrigerator. Arrange the apples on the pastry round in concentric circles so that the rounded sides of the slices fact out, and the apple slices overlap by about ½ inch. Leave a ½-inch border at the edge of the tart and arrange the apples so that the entire pastry round (with the exception of the boarder) is covered by the apples.

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon and coriander. Sprinkle over the apples only; any sugar on the pastry border will burn. Cut the 3 tablespoons of butter into about 20 thin slices and lay them over the apples, too. Whisk the egg in a small bowl for a glaze. Then use a pastry brush to paint the pastry border with the glaze.

Stick the tart in the oven and bake until the apples are tender and the border is browned, 13 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whip the cream in a bowl with an electric mixer or whisk until soft peaks form. When the tart is cooked, cut it immediately into quarters. Serve each quarter with a dollop of whipped cream.

Tia Butts is the founder and owner of Tia Butts|pr and is on the board of the Napa Farmers Market.