Archive for the ‘Apples and Cider’ Category

Apple Brownies

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

brownies yum

These fruit-filled bars are a work in progress for me. I’m still having trouble getting them out of the pan! The recipe is worth sharing anyway, however, because they are so very satisfying to eat. And they will make your kitchen smell divine when they are in the oven.

The recipe comes from Lois Brown of South Deerfield, Massachusetts, a friend of my own dear friend Pam Gerry. I have also tried a version of these brownies in which one grates the apples instead of slicing them, but I like the consistency better this way.

You can see me make the bars in the video below. Happy apple season, all!

The Brownies

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) melted sweet butter
6 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices (about 4 cups of slices)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs. beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups flour

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch pan.

Stir together the melted butter and the sugar, followed by the apples. Mix in the eggs, stirring well to incorporate; then add the baking soda, the baking powder, the salt, and the cinnamon. Stir in the flour, and pour the apple-y batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean (watch out for apples; if you put the toothpick in a hot apple it will always come out wet!), about 45 minutes. Don’t cook them for more than 50 minutes in any case. Makes about 24 brownies, depending on how big you cut them.

(You may also cut this recipe in half and bake the brownies in an 8-by-8-inch pan. In that case the cooking time may go down to 35 to 45 minutes.)

Here’s the video:

Apples Everywhere!

Monday, September 28th, 2015

apple treeweb

My neighborhood is awash in apples. No one can recall having seen an apple season like this one. (Last year we had practically NO apples!) Even my own old, pathetic apple trees have produced copious amounts of fruit.

The apples ripened early, and I have to admit that it took me a while to get around to doing anything with them. I like to eat (and cook with) apples when the weather gets cool—and so far it has remained remarkably warm.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I decided that if I didn’t use some of the fruit soon the birds and squirrels would get it all.

Of course, I have made applesauce, a staple of my fall kitchen. For my most recent television appearance on Mass Appeal I prepared a couple of additional recipes I have been longing to test.

The first was a coleslaw from my friend Chef Michael Collins. Michael is cooking up a storm at his new restaurant, a tiny, colorful place in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, called Ponte because of its proximity to the lovely Bridge of Flowers.

Michael couldn’t come with me to the TV station that day, but he gave me permission to use his recipe, which perfectly blended sweet and tart. Here I share both that recipe and my cooking video.

Enjoy apple season—and please comment below if you have found a fun new way to cook with apples. We still have a LOT of them in my neighborhood.

Michael Collins (left) with his partner Tony Palumbo at Ponte

Michael Collins (left) with his partner Tony Palumbo at Ponte

Michael’s Apple Slaw

Ingredients:

4 cups shredded cabbage (try for a fairly rough cut)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 large apple, unpeeled (any red apple), diced into chunks (if you really love apples, put in 2 of them!)
1/2 cup chopped or halved pecans (or peanuts or walnuts—whatever you have in the house), plain, toasted, or roasted
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup mayonnaise or light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey (I like the honey)
1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar
1 tablespoon milk (optional; I didn’t need it)

Instructions:

A couple of hours before you want to assemble the coleslaw, place the cabbage in a colander. Toss in a tablespoon of kosher salt, and leave the mixture to drain for at least an hour, maybe 2.

Soak the cabbage in cold water to remove the salt, and drain it thoroughly.

Toss together the cabbage, the apple pieces, the nuts, and the raisins or dried cranberries.

In a bowl combine the other ingredients. Pour the resulting dressing over the cabbage/apple mixture and mix thoroughly.

Refrigerate for 1/2 hour before eating. Eat within a day to keep the apple pieces crisp. Michael likes to serve this salad on a cabbage leaf.

Serves 6.

A Pressing Engagement

Monday, October 14th, 2013

applesontreeweb

Apples and cider seem to sum up autumn in New England. Bursting with color and flavor, they are doubly precious because they represent the end of the harvest. Winter is coming, and we all know it, but in the meantime we savor the season and its fruit as much as we can.

Last year an ill-time frost made apples scarce here in Massachusetts. This year nature is making up for last year’s dearth with more apples than I can remember seeing in any single fall. An odd tree in my front yard that has never before produced ANYTHING suddenly droops with yellow-pink orbs.

Knowing that I love to make applesauce from a variety of apples, several of my neighbors have invited me to gather fruit from their trees as well as my own. I know that one tree down the road has Gravensteins. Another offers an abundance of Golden Delicious apples. The other trees are mysteries to me. Their fruits vary in color from yellow to such a deep red that the flesh as well as the skin of the apple is imbued with pigment. I don’t care what they’re all called. I just know that I love them!

On Saturday, the actual Columbus Day, the Coopers over on Strawberry Hill here in Hawley hosted their annual cider party. Paul Cooper hauled out his antique cider press, we all brought apples and jugs, and everyone who wanted to went home with fresh-pressed cider. (We also had an opportunity to catch up with neighbors and eat delicious food, but the cider was the main event!)

It can take several people (including advisers!) to press cider. Our host Paul Cooper is in the front right.

It can take several people (including advisers!) to press cider. Our host Paul Cooper is on the right in front.

This cider is amazingly aromatic, with a deep, rich color that seems even darker than the pretty terrific cider I frequently purchase at local orchards. I am unable to tell you how my own jug of cider tastes; I popped it into the freezer in anticipation of a visit from my brother and his family next weekend. (I’m SUCH a good sister and aunt!)

dark sweet ciderweb

I can’t really give you a recipe for cider, which just involves pressing apples until they release their lovely juice. (The press looks like a medieval instrument of torture, but it works!) So I’m sharing the recipe for the cookies I brought to Leslie and Paul Cooper’s party, snickerdoodles. Their cinnamony goodness is an ideal accompaniment to fresh-pressed cider.

The recipe came originally from Maureen Schaden-Foster, whose family runs the End of the Commons General Store in Mesopotamia, Ohio. Amish families drive up to the store in buggies to buy nourishing basics, and the store also delivers to several hundred Amish families nearby.

It’s one of the very few cookie recipes I make that call for vegetable shortening instead of butter. You’re welcome to try making it with butter, but I have to warn you that only shortening gives you the dreamy, melt-in-your-mouth consistency a snickerdoodle should have.

Speaking of that consistency, please note that you should really eat these cookies within 24 hours. After that they get a little stale and lose some of their appeal.

So haul out the cider and invite friends over to enjoy this bittersweet season with you.

Snickerdoodlesweb

Amish Snickerdoodles

Ingredients:

2-3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening, softened
1-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Instructions:

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Cream the shortening, and cream in the 1-1/2 cups sugar. Add the eggs and beat well. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the shortening mixture. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours. (It will have pastry-like consistency; pat it together a bit before chilling.)

When the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon in a small, shallow dish or bowl. Shape the dough into balls the size of walnuts, and roll each ball in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies should be lightly browned but still soft.

Yield: About 4 dozen snickerdoodles.

torturing applesweb

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

anniversarycupweb

Or rather to this blog. And to its faithful readers.

On September 3, 2008, In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens first appeared on the internet. I thought the blog might serve as my passport to fame.

It hasn’t quite done that …. yet. It has attracted a moderate following, however, and it has given me a forum in which to develop some of my favorite ideas and recipes.

My most popular posts have been the ones about TV and Film History (particularly anything to do with “I Love Lucy”!), followed by those that dwell on two of my favorite foods, rhubarb and asparagus.

A quickly rising post that will probably be number one soon is one I wrote shortly after starting the blog, about the poignant “September Song.” Sometime in the past few months someone inserted a link to this post into the Wikipedia entry for the song … and so people wander over every day to look at it. It doesn’t offer a recipe, but it does offer food for thought.

In the coming year, I hope to use some of my blog posts in my next book. And I hope my audience will continue to grow. Please let me know what you like about the blog, what you don’t like, and what you’d like to see me do!

In case you haven’t been following me from the start, I’m reprinting my very first post here. I hope to make the tasty scones again today—and to contemplate the universe, something we all need to do from time to time.

As I contemplate, I’ll enjoy this (almost) autumnal anniversary. It’s fitting that the Jewish New Year falls in September, a month in which it seems natural to look both backward and forward. Thank you all for reading….

Posted on 3 September 2008:

Apples and the Universe

Photo Courtesy of Susan Hagen

Photo Courtesy of Susan Hagen

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

So said the late astronomer Carl Sagan on the PBS television series Cosmos.

Sagan was one of the great writers of popular science for a reason. He knew how to phrase complicated truths about human existence in down-to-earth ways.

To him, of course, the important noun in his sentence was the universe. To me (because I’m an ordinary person and a cook), it’s the apple pie.

I love to cook—but I can’t imagine how anyone ever invented our most basic recipes: a simple cake, a loaf of bread, a scrambled egg, a pie.

To my mind those breakthroughs are as mystifying as thinking up relativity or quantum theory. I’m glad I don’t have to come up with them myself. I’m content with tweaking traditional folk recipes and asking my neighbors to share the formulas for their own culinary triumphs.

Nevertheless, I do know that very time we cook or bake we’re using science and recreating the universe in numerous ways. Even though I managed to avoid taking chemistry in high school and college, I use its magical processes every day to create meals for family and friends.

When I follow a recipe or consider a specific food, the neurons (or whatever the heck does the work) in my brain conjure up the person who first introduced me to that flavor. And of course when cooking I create something new out of unrelated matter—my own personal big bang.

(I’ve had a few little bangs in the kitchen as well, but that’s another topic.)

Apples are all around us at this time of year, embodying the coming autumn with that season’s key characteristics. They are cool. They are colorful. They are crisp.

Looking down at us from trees or up at us from a basket, they evoke wonder and laughter, just like the universe. They are comforting, nutritious, and versatile—capable of waxing sweet or sour (again like the universe), depending on their use.

My dog finds them on the road and uses them as balls, illustrating gravity (wouldn’t that old apple lover Isaac Newton be proud?) by propelling them down the street and running to retrieve them.

I’ll be posting some apple recipes here as time goes by. Luckily, none of them actually takes 13 billion years to make—unless you, like Sagan, like to consider the very, very big picture.

pensive web

My Apple Scones

This simple recipe never fails to please. I made it almost weekly when I worked as the demo cook at Bloomingdale’s in Tysons Corner, Virginia. It’s also delightful with dried cranberries instead of the apple.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar plus a bit more as needed for sprinkling
2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
2/3 cup cut-up apple (about 1 medium apple—use a bit more if you like)
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 baking sheets. Combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter, but be careful not to overmix. Stir the apple pieces into this mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the apple mixture and blend briefly. Drop the batter in clumps onto the baking sheets. You may either make large scones (you’ll end up with 6 to 8 of them) or smallish ones (12 to 16).

Sprinkle additional sugar on top for added flavor and crunch. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes. Makes 6 to 16 scones, depending on size.

Vintage-Anniversary-Card

Friday Nights at Elmer’s

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Elmer’s Store on Main Street in Ashfield, Massachusetts, is a bright, friendly place. Owner Nan Parati and her staff smile as they sell food and gifts. The walls are painted vibrant colors mixed by Nan herself; she is an artist and set designer as well as a storekeeper. And on Friday afternoons and evenings irresistible smells emanate from the small, well lit kitchen.

On a recent Friday afternoon when I stopped in, kitchen manager Jane Goodale, assistant chef Michael Hulbert, and chef Son Tremé were chopping, washing, and peeling local vegetables and meat for Elmer’s weekly Friday dinner. They joked and chatted as they worked, clearly at ease in the kitchen and with each other.

The Gang at Elmer’s, from left to right: Michael, Nan, Son, and Jane

Son Tremé is an assured 28 year old with a warm smile. Nan Parati told me that she has known him since he was six. “I met him when I lived in New Orleans, in the Tremé section of the city,” she explained. “He and his little brother came over and just kind of wouldn’t go away.”

I asked Nan about Son’s name. “’Son’ was his nickname growing up,” she informed me, “but he made it his legal name.” He apparently added “Tremé” to his legal name as well. Who am I to cavil at a name? I assure you that “Tinky” doesn’t appear on my birth certificate. Son’s name suits him.

Nan added that she became a godmother of sorts to Tremé, so much so that when her own mother died recently “the grandchildren decided that Son should represent them at the service.”

Son began working in the restaurant business in New Orleans, he said, although he didn’t plan at first to cook as a career. He enjoyed the rich food of his native city, but it wasn’t until he moved north and started cooking more healthily that he knew for sure he was going to be a chef.

He worked at a number of restaurants in Massachusetts, ending up as a breakfast chef at Elmer’s before taking time off to work on a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University. He has finished his coursework and is scheduled to graduate in 2013. “As you can imagine, I am extremely proud of him!” beamed Nan Parati.

Son Tremé explained that he combines all of his food background in his work at Elmer’s. “My home training is all pot stuff. I do it the way I want to,” he said. He added that his schooling taught him to be more precise in his cooking. His practical experience has made him even more responsible.

“In school you have five people on one soup,” he said. “In the industry it’s YOUR soup. And it’s your butt if it’s good or bad.”

Son does his best to respond to the desires and needs of his patrons and to the agricultural abundance in our area. He sees the relationship among farmers, restaurateurs, diners, and home cooks as a “circle of support.”

His home circle is also important to him. He is planning to create special food soon for the little baby girl to whom his partner gave birth in early October. “She’s my inspiration these days,” he said of little Belle-Soleil Tremé.

Nan and Son hope to expand the culinary offerings at Elmer’s, which currently serves breakfast and lunch every day (with special brunches on the weekend) and dinner on Friday evenings only. Soon another Louisiana chef, Charles Neville, will cook on the first Saturday evening of each month.

Meanwhile, Son Tremé plans future menus and enjoys the spirit in the kitchen. “My style is basically international fusion, which is Creole, my native culture,” he said. “All those indigenous cultures merged together in New Orleans. It says a lot about me. We cook. We sit down and eat—and we talk.”

I’d cook, talk, and eat with Son any day of the week. (He is the only chef who has ever kissed my hand at the end of an interview.) I was particularly taken with the seasonal, slightly sweet pork dish he served that evening at Elmer’s.

Son served his pork with potatoes au gratin, fresh broccoli, and sautéed apple slices.

Son Tremé’s Apple-Cider Braised Pork Roast

When I made this for my family, I cut the recipe for the marinade in half and used 2 pounds of pork tenderloin. We had enough for eight people. Obviously, Son is a generous chef! (I didn’t have to cook the smaller amount of meat quite so long.)

Ingredients:

1/2 pound shallots (about 3 to 4 shallots, plus a few more if you love shallots), peeled and chopped
1/2 cup minced garlic
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 bunch fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 quart apple cider
5 pounds picnic pork shoulder
1/4 cup canola oil

Instructions:

Gather all your ingredients and equipment.

In a blender mix the shallots, garlic, vinegar, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the cider to this combination. Place the pork in a pan, and marinate it in the liquids (refrigerated) for 24 hours.

The next day, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Remove the pork from the marinade, saving the marinade.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven, and sear the pork to brown it.

In a saucepan bring the marinade to a boil. Pour it over the pork, cover the Dutch oven, and place it in the oven. Bake the pork until it is fork tender, 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

Transfer the pork, moistened with a little of the liquid and tightly covered, to a cooler oven (250 degrees) or to the oven you have just been using turned off. Strain the cooking liquid. Discard the solids that come out in the straining (the garlic, etc.).

Skim the sauce, and bring it to a simmer. Let it simmer and reduce until it is slightly thickened and glossy. (Start checking for this after about 15 minutes.)

Slice the pork, and serve it with some of the sauce and thinly sliced, sautéed apples.

Serves 10.

Nan and Son