Posts Tagged ‘apple’
So, because last weekend wasn’t going to be busy enough, I felt the need to have people round for brunch on Sunday. It’s a good thing I’m cute when I’m getting ready for parties or I’d be so, so dumped. It’s also a good thing half my guests bailed at the last minute; the ones that DID show up were HUNGRY.
Anyway, I planned on doing my usual brunch menu: Eggs Mornay, bacon, biscuits, asparagus vinaigrette, coffee cake, and fruit salad. But, with fall in the air, my usual fruit salad (pineapple, melon, kiwi, & strawberry layered in a glass bowl) didn’t really seem appropriate.
Instead, I turned to some slightly more seasonal fruit. The WF had some gorgeous Honeycrisp apples and Asian pears (on sale-sweet!), and I grabbed a pomegranate, some figs, and a couple of Bartlett pears as well. With a few toasted walnuts on top, I figured I’d be in business for a crunchy, sweet, seasonally-sensitive salad.
I did, however, need to address the whole oxidization issue, which kind of harshed my mellow. While it’s a fall salad, I didn’t want all my fruit to be straight-up brown and mushy. THAT’S not cool.
I figured that an acidic little dressing would help keep the fruit looking its best for at least a little while. Lemon juice was the obvious candidate, but I decided to cut it with boiled cider so all my lovely fall fruits would taste like themselves and not like… lemon. And flavor-wise, this worked out really well. The boiled cider lent autumnal nuance to everything and the lemon brightened and lightened as only it can. If you don’t have boiled cider on hand, I’m sure maple syrup–the REAL thing, if you please–would be lovely as well.
If there was a ever a time I wish I vlogged, it would be now, so I could give you all a big ol’ “HELLO!” a la My Drunk Kitchen. (MDK is totally worth the clicks, btw. Harto’s antics crack me up without fail, and that’s saying something, Frederick!) Sadly, they say the camera adds 10lbs, so my video debut is still SEVERAL Pilates sessions away.
In any case, though, I can assure you I’m back from, well… let’s see: late-summer blogger malaise, crazy work (it’s year-end for Feds, and that’s about as much fun as a barrel of bubonic monkeys), serial party-throwing, and, oh yeah, a faboo week in Costa Rica (looks tragic, right?) communing with birds and frogs and snakes and monkeys of the non-bubonic variety.
Now, while I am absolutely a-twizzle with new fun things to write , I did want go get back into the swing of doing Menu Mondays. It’s one of the few things I’ve gotten good (ok, ANY) feedback on lately, so tally ho. And, since we’ve been luxuriating in deliciously crispy fall weather here in D.C. for the past few days, I thought a tasty meal that celebrated back-to-school, the impending harvest, and the no-longer-so-far-away holidays would be just the thing.
We kick off with a crisp, juicy salad of fennel and apples with a bright cider vinaigrette, and continue in that sweet-savory vein with a toothsome combination of roasted butternut squash, kale, and raisins tossed with pasta and Parmesan cheese. Plums nestled in a almond-y batter and quickly baked off make a suitably autumnal conclusion.
These dishes’ dependence on seasonal produce links them together in a very appealling fashion. If, however, you’re like Mr. T and look slightly askance at sweet-savory pairings, you can omit the raisins from the pasta and reduce the cider in the vinaigrette. I absolutely love them as they are, however, and I’d encourage you to try them as-is first.
I spent last week “on travel” in Middle-of-Nowhere, PA. To give you an idea of the depth of the country vibe, the Holiday Inn where we stayed at was packed–PACKED–for Thursday night’s double threat of line dancing and–eeeugh–hot wings. You can imagine how thrilled I was with this situation. Fortunately, the resort town of Hershey is only 20 minutes away from the Middle-of-Nowhere, PA–who knew? And, while I’m not a fan of Hershey’s chocolate (see the lovely Cybele at candyblog for THAT story), their restaurants weren’t half bad. Being an inveterate foodie AND a total snot, I pushed hard for the higher end of the dining spectrum and we were rewarded accordingly. Aside from one horrifically salty pizza, everything was really quite good.
I’ve cribbed this salad of thinly shaved apple, fennel and arugula from them, though I think I’ve improved on it by adding additional layers of apple-y goodness (as any good acolyte of Suzanne Goin would) to the dressing. Using both apple cider vinegar and boiled cider adds a really nice depth and dimensionality to the whole. And even the leftovers remained crisply tasty (if not quite guest-ready).
A funny thing occurred to me last Thursday as I spent the morning and afternoon cooking–not eating all day save for seasoning sample checks along the way. No, Luke. It wasn’t the two glasses of wine on an empty stomach that kick-started my impression of Kristen Wiig’s impression of Kathie Lee Gifford. I never intended for you to become the Hoda to my K-Gifford, ”Ya Heard!”
Joe shouldn’t have loved the grapes…
So, I had grand ambitions with this crisp. Time was not, however, on my side, so fancy platings and other fripperies got ditched so I could share this delicious, if not supremely elegant-looking, fall dessert. Though there are myriad baked fruit desserts that come topped or mixed with something or other–buckles, betties, cobblers, pandowdies–in my family it’s always been the fruit crisp. And, really, how could a nutty, buttery, crispy-sweet topping NOT beat soggy-bottomed cobbles or random bits of bread? Exactly. The major innovation here–at least for now–is the addition of quince to the apples.
Quince, also known as Eve’s apple, are fascinating. The yellow fruit possesses the most spectacularly sweet and lovely fragrance, though their flesh is equally as astringent when raw–to the point of inedibility. All they’re good for in the raw, then, is scenting the kitchen. Cooked, however, they are divine. Sugar is a must, and after some time in the oven or on the stove, the fruit is imbued with its own fragrantly sweet essence. They’re often made into jam or cooked down further to make membrillo, a thick Spanish paste served with cheese.