Although leaving summer is depressing for some, each year I’m always eager to see this seasonal shift. Like how the first buds on spring-time bushes signify the promise of eventual heat, seeing firm apples either draped on bowed tree limbs, or heaped in paper bags at local farmer’s markets, nudges cooks of all levels to turn the culinary page and embrace an entirely different kind of cinnamon-scented warmth.
You see, regardless of the time of year, I’ve usually got something in-route to crispness in the oven and/or blipping its way to succulence on the stove–Yes, I make stock, fresh breads, duck confit, stews and homemade pasta–even during the dog-days of summer! Trust me, this is not to be a brat–although I do! get an occassional adolescent surge of defiance when I feel the professional tug to comply with what’s expected–with what’s considered “normal summer cooking.”
But when it comes to apples, things are different. Cooking apples in the fall makes me (and apparently a lot of other rebellious types…) happily comply with a culinary calendar–And it’s this ingredient that, more than any other, for many, initiates the cuisine of autumn. Anyway, since I rarely cook by a strictly-seasonal book –and since this can sometimes make me seem brazen– I think that’s one of the reasons why I feel so happy when the apple-abundant season of fall rolls around. Because “now” –almost everyone that loves to cook and bake seems to be on the same page. (Believe me, wanting to kvell about the many life-enhancing benefits of waking up to the insane aromas from an herb-stuffed pork belly (porchetta) after slow roasting all night long–in August–Well, let’s just say, it can get a little lonely over here…)
Anyway, in the spirit of unity, I thought I would give all you apple-lovers a few things to do in the kitchen…
If you love to bake, THIS APPLE TART IS A MUST….
Or, if you’re looking for something savory to slurp, here’s a hearty, yet elegant soup…
An Apple-Scented, Curried Butternut Squash Soup sprinkled with toasted pepitas (so delish!).
Or if you’d like to make a gorgeous, chock-full of chunk, applesauce to serve with your roast chicken…
Here’s what my daughter Jessie requested for breakfast, after waking up to the scent of a fresh batch of applesauce.
Warm applesauce, served alongside oatmeal.
Last weekend’s batch.
And, if you want something smooth and luscious to serve along side a platter of potato latkes…
This version of applesauce (above) is perfectly smooth and made from a wide variety of apples after an amazing day of apple-picking. Here’s my blog that gives a step-by-step illustration of how I made that particular batch, which was probably my best one yet–I also share what I learned, that day, about the bigger picture of life….And, if you want to learn all about the many different types of apples and also get recipes that celebrate each types uniqueness, here’s a new book, all about it.
The Point: To me, the sudden appearance of mounds of apples in September signify more than a seasonal change. Their comforting look, smell and taste remind me of their most valuable quality; their simplicity. People like to complicate and label things–we especially like to label ourselves and others. In terms of cooking, we deem ourselves to be either “good, so-so, brave, scared, lousy, brilliant, brazen or conformist.” We often either claim to “cook but don’t bake” or it’s the other way around. But, in the world of apples, things are simple. Though each variety has specific nuances that highlights their individuality–there is a very distinct and common thread that ties them all happily together.
Whether we leave apples whole and take a shiny bite, or peel, slice and bake them buried in a pie, or simmer them vigorously and mash them to a pulp–all apples are valued for exactly what they are; an entity that has the potential to bring deliciousness to the world. So, no matter what type of apple you are, I want you to know that you’re also filled with delicious potential. (And, if anyone reading wants to share notes about the gorgeous “crackling” song-sung as a fresh, crusty loaf cools, we must be from the same heap. I’m just an email away!…)