Showing posts with label apples. Show all posts
Showing posts with label apples. Show all posts

16 March 2014

Favorite Photos of Pears and Apples

My part of the world is still snow covered, but the snow is no longer white and pristine. Instead it is gray and dingy. Officially there's less than a week left of winter, but up here were know better than to expect instant spring. Or even gradual spring. In fact, there's a rain and snow mix on the way.

All I can think of is fruit. The scrag end of winter does this to me. Although I love citrus fruits, nothing satisfies my palate like an apple or pear, eaten with a hunk of cheese.

Pears and apples are so photogenic! Here are my favorite apple and pear photos from nearly eight years of blogging:

A trio of Bosc pears; used to make this recipe.

24 February 2014

A Dozen Fresh Must-Have Items in My Refrigerator

Red and white cipollini onions from Immerfrost Farm.
Availability of fresh, locally-grown produce has waxed and waned over the 20 years since my husband and I moved back to our hometown. In 1994, we could not find casual restaurants that served anything but fried food. Thankfully, over the years a new generation of owners and chefs took over area restaurants and most emphasize healthier cooking with local ingredients.

11 February 2014

Baked Apples with Calvados for Two

I love apples.

I always have them on hand, and was delighted last fall to receive a huge bag of organic apples, which quickly became applesauce and apple crisp.

I love apples so much, I signed up to receive e-mails from the U.S. Apple Association, which reminded me recently that eating apples is a good way to celebrate Heart Month, which is February.

You know, the old adage so I won't repeat it.

At my house, apple-anything is the favorite dessert. Apple crisp on its own or combined with some other seasonal fruit (apples, of course, are always in season) is on the menu almost constantly.

This is another favorite:

Baked Apples with Calvados
  • two baking apples (Northern Spy, Golden Delicious or Rome Beauty)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • juice and zest from orange or lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup Calvados or apple brandy
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cinnamon sticks

Preheat oven to 400. Peel and core the apples. Stuff the centers with walnuts and butter. Place in buttered baking pan and set aside.

Blend the other ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the apples. Bake for about 35-45 minutes or until apples are soft (but not mushy). Baste periodically while apples are baking; you really need to check them for doneness anyway, since oven vary.

Serve warm, spooning the thickened juice from the bottom of the baking dish over the apples. Ice cream or yoghurt are great toppings. I also like a hunk of cheddar with mine, to offset the sweetness.

The spices were perfect in concert with the brandy, giving the apples a complex, almost mysterious taste.

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13 October 2012

Pear-Apple Cranberry Crisp

There are so many variations of this standard fruit crisp.

Seven years ago I left a newspaper writing job to try my hand at running a non-profit organization. Although I relished the opportunity at first, I could see immediately that the challenge was greater than anyone knew.  Obtaining additional training gave credence to my concerns; the challenges I encountered at work made for long work days and great frustration.

I'm naturally optimistic, and I really do try to find the good in people and situations. But some days, that was a challenge in itself.

Adding to my frustration was the near-impossible task of working with a large board of directors, many of whom had personal agendas or did not understand their governance roles. Frankly, some were Good Ole Boys (and Girls). Thanks to support from the forward-thinking dean of our local technical college and a few others, I was able to bring fresh perspectives to the board in the form of CEOs and plant managers from larger, more professional companies. But some of the private agendas remained, much to my frustration.

About three years ago, I came to the conclusion that a planned exit was my best option. But even with an end in sight, some days were rough.

Two years ago I came home after a rather exasperating day at work to find a basket of apples on the bench outside my back door, a gift from a friend. They were Red Delicious, not my favorites, but the gift of apples charmed me nonetheless.

My friend has great verve and a penchant for lovely presentation. But more than that, after a day of dealing with super-sized egos and and equally mammoth dramatics, the simple, wholesome gift of apples in a basket enchanted me and brought me great comfort.

I used the apples in a tossed salad, an apple slaw and found an especially-sharp cheddar to serve as a foil for their bland, sweet flavor.

When it comes to apples, I can eat them any way, any place, any time. I think perhaps the apple is nature's most perfect food, and maybe that's why it played a pivotal role in the Garden of Eden.

There is something both wholesome and mysterious about the apple. Apples conjure up images of fresh-scrubbed faces and the outdoors, but they can also bring to mind ancient, gnarled trees and windfall bounty, and - when their tartness is tempered by brown sugar and cinnamon - old homestead kitchens of years past. Old houses - really old houses, like those found at historic sites - often smell of apples to me. Apples and old wood and must. Not an unpleasant fragrance.

The other night I made Pear-Apple-Cranberry Crisp. I've made so many fruit crisps in my life that I now just make it up as I go along. This recipe yielded 4-6 servings.

For the fruit filling:
  • 3 small baking apples, any variety
  • 3 small baking pears (Bosc is a good choice)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the topping:
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons cold butter
  • Pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coarsely chop apples and pears; do not peel. Place in a bowl, adding cranberries, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and cinnamon. Set aside so that flavors can marry.

Toss oatmeal, walnuts and sugar in smaller bowl. Cut in cold butter to create a streusel-like topping.

Grease 4x4 baking dish. Place fruit mixture in the dish, add topping. Press down with spatula. Bake for about 45-55 minutes, removing when topping turns golden brown.

Serve warm or chilled. Ice cream, vanilla yogurt or whipped cream are great toppings, but I prefer a small wedge of cheese.

21 December 2008

A Norman Winter: An Apple-y Drink for Dark Days of Winter

From 2008: It began snowing at 9 p.m. last night and did not let up until late morning today. My husband moved the cars, took the snowblower out of the horse barn and began lugging it up and down the hill to create a path around the house, while clearing the driveway and the sidewalk. He took the blower, new last winter, down the street, too, helping our neighbors as they have often helped us.

He needed a stiff drink when he came inside, or so I reasoned. I've been itching since October to create something made from the bottle of Calvados we bought in Paris in 2007 and the cider we always keep on hand during the last three months of the year.

I have some Norman blood, and have always had a weakness for cider, apples and anything related. I was happy to find both pear and apple cider available in the Lot during the two weeks we were there recently (was it three months ago already?) and managed to imbibe a bottle each, along with the legendary dark wine of the area.

When my husband came in from the cold, stomping the snow off his boots, I handed him a newly-concocted drink I call a Norman Winter.

Here's my recipe for a Norman Winter:
  • 5 ounces Calvados or apple brandy
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • generous splash lemon-lime soda or non-alcoholic sparkling cider
  • splash of lime juice
  • 4-5 ice cubes
Pour all the ingredients over ice. Garnish with an apple slice or slip a few slices into the drink. Marashino cherries would be a nice contrast.

10 October 2008

Cooking in Cahors: Makeshift Tarte Tatin and A Visit to Le Vinois

I like a man who knows his way around the kitchen.

When I was young and dating, I thought this was endearing. Sexy even. I married my husband because of his Beef Stroganoff. Never mind that he sometimes forgets a key ingredient, like sour cream. I mean, he's my guy and sharing a meal with him is a gift.

I like a chef who knows his way around apples. Jean-Claude Voisin of Le Vinois in Caillac, just to the northwest of Cahors, knows his apples.

Last January, I told you about Jean-Claude's visit to my city and the wonderful meals he prepared here. One of them included a trio of apple desserts. I believe I went into frenzies of ecstasy over that. But I liked everything that came out of his kitchen. I believe I may have embarrassed myself online with my raves.

So I was looking forward to seeing Jean-Claude on his home turf when we spent 16 days in France recently. Unfortunately, both my husband and I came down with head colds and had to delay our visit a bit. It was nearly our last day in the Lot when we finally made it up to Le Vinois, Jean-Claude's sleek-and-chic restaurant/inn, and meet his lovely wife, Elizabeth.

We were not disappointed with our meal. Our amuse bouche included two small and slender glasses of a cream appetizer soup and salmon with avocado. Our next course was ravioli pockets in a garlic sauce. Our main dish was a duck confit with whipped potatoes and a cabbage leaf stuffed with vegetables and folded to look like a large Brussels sprout.

"Best duck I ever had," said my husband.

Our dessert was a moist and crustless tarte tatin with a lemony-tang and a zig-zag of banana-y sauce spiked with ginger that tasted like the inside of my mother's spice drawer smelled when I was a little girl. The ice cream was light and fruity and topped with two toffee crisps.

By the time the dessert came along, my husband and I were nearly rolling on the floor with ecstasy.

Next came another unexpected treat: A small jar - yes, I said jar - of applesauce topped with a crust of rich chocolate. Then we had a lovely visit with Jean-Claude.

Local ingredients with a touch of classic style meet exotic accents and creative combinations: That's how I would describe Jean-Claude's culinary approach, though he may disagree. It is all presented with artistic flair in a contemporary ambience that is the perfect foil for the food.

I can recommend Le Vinois without reservations. But you had better make reservations. Elizabeth Voisin, who may answer the phone, is happy to speak with you in English, if you prefer.

We hope to return, this time spending a night or two in the inn. Caillac is a lovely little village with a 12th century church, a cafe and a spa. It is about 20 minutes from Cahors, and is perhaps best reached from Mercues or Pradines.

Le Vinois (Jean-Claude and Elizabeth Voisin)
Le Bourg
46140 Caillac

The night before, I'd made my own version of tarte tatin, using what I had on hand: Two Granny Smith apples and a bit of pie crust. It was pretty rustic, but tasted fine. I would never have thought of using Granny Smith apples back home, but they were perfect sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.

08 September 2008

Caramel Apples: The Sweet Rituals of Fall

I heard gunshots this morning, an early sign of the approaching season.

Every September they begin (It's always hunting season in Wisconsin, it seems), just about the time I am tumbling out of bed and shuffling downstairs for the strong and hot cup of coffee that will nudge me into the shower and eventually propel me out the door. I am no fan of guns, but these shots remind me of the welcome rhythms of the season (and in any case, they are coming from the other side of the river or perhaps the wetland a quarter mile away, known in the old days as Hunter's Slough).

There are other seasonal markers to appreciate: The smell of woodsmoke at night, the pumpkin stands along the highway, the skeins of geese that fly overhead at dusk, our sudden preference for red wine and hearty stews and soups. And caramel apples in the grocery store. We have made our own a time or two, but it has become tradition for me buy the first one of the season as an offering to my husband.

I bring it home and present it to him with a small bit of ceremony, a smile, a slight bow, a kiss. It might be silly of me, it might not be, but it is a ritual I enjoy and I think he does, too. We are adults with all too many responsibilities, but our relationship is based on a million silly little gestures, too. I like them, all of them. They, too, are part of life's rhythms.

Caramel apples, succotash, pumpkin pie, apple cider: The first taste of each in the fall is a marker of sorts, an essential rituals that provides us with a measure of security and sweetness.

It is early in the season yet, and there is much ahead to savor and appreciate.

What is your first culinary ritual of the fall?

23 September 2007

Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Cider and Calvados

We awoke Sunday to the sound of gunshots, coming from either across the river or the swampy area to the west of our neighborhood. It is ruffed grouse and wild turkey season, and there are some of the former and plenty of the latter around wooded areas here, in and out of the city.

The day was warm and sunny, but when the chill set in at dusk I closed the doors against it. I could smell the smoke from my neighbor’s wood fire and hear honking from the Canada geese down by the river.

These are good nights to hunker down at home with a seasonal meal and a hearty wine.

Tonight, we continued the apple theme, preparing Pork with Apples, Cider and Calvados, a recipe adapted from Epicurious.

  • 1 pound pork tenderloin

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 4 Golden Delicious apples, cored
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup Calvados
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • ¼ cup apple cider

Slice pork into ½ inch thick slices. Place between wax paper and flatten with a mallet. Wrap or cover and refrigerate.

Melt twp tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add apples and sugar. Brown apples lightly, for about 5-6 minutes. Remove from skillet, and set aside.

Melt two more teaspoons of butter over high heat. Add the pork. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until cooked gthrough and lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Set aside, keeping the pork warm.

Melt one teaspoon butter in the same skillet. Brown shallots, adding the fresh thyme. Add Calvados and boil until reduced to glaze. Blend in half-and-half and cider and boil until entire mixture thickens. Season with salt and pepper.

Reheat apples and pork. Serve with sauce.

To round out the meal, I roasted red potatoes and Brussels sprouts in olive oil and salt and pepper. I paired the meal with a simple but robust red table wine. For dessert, there were pumpkin bars.

When I make this again, I will experiment with other tart apples, red ones this time to give the dish some color. I will likely add more shallots, too.