Archive for the ‘Autumn’ Category

Easier Than Pie Apple Fritters

Friday, November 5th, 2010

The first weekend in November in our corner of western Massachusetts is reserved for Cider Days, our annual celebration of the end of the apple harvest.
Events are scheduled all over Franklin County this year. They will include a special tribute to the late Terry Maloney of West County Cider, who started this festival in 1994 with his wife and business partner Judith.
Local food lovers should plan on attending some of the events on Saturday and Sunday, which include orchard tours, cider-based meals, and (my personal favorite) a cider salon.
I am lining up some cider and apple recipes for the West County Independent. They will doubtless find their way onto these pages eventually.
Meanwhile, here is a preview to get you in the mood.
These apple fritters are the brainchild of Sheila Velazquez of Pen and Plow Farm in Hawley, Massachusetts.
The recipe couldn’t be simpler. If you slice the apples quite thin and make sure the batter is spread throughout the apple pieces, you get a lovely combination of sweet and tart, crispy and slightly soft. The fritters can be used as an accompaniment for pork or stew—or as a simple dessert or breakfast treat.
Sheila says she omits the sugar and uses this same recipe for corn and zucchini fritters. I can’t wait until next summer to try those. The apple version is absolutely addictive.
Sheila’s Apple Fritters
1 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar (I actually couldn’t find confectioner’s sugar and used regular sugar, which worked just fine!)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional–Tinky’s addition!)
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
2 cups thinly sliced apples (try for a relatively crispy apple; I used galas)
canola or vegetable oil as needed for frying
In a bowl whisk together the flour, the baking powder, the salt, the sugar, and the cinnamon (if you are using it; I loved it). In a smaller bowl whisk together the milk and egg.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir just until they are blended. If your batter is a little too wet, add a tiny bit of flour; if it’s dry, add a small amount of milk.
Toss in the apples, trying to coat them lightly but thoroughly.
Cover the bottom of a nonstick frying pan with oil and heat it until the oil shimmers. Pop in a few apple pieces at a time and reduce the heat so that the fritters won’t cook too quickly. Fry the apple fritters on one side; then the other.
Keep the fritters in a warm oven until their relatives are ready to serve. Or just dole them out to those waiting eagerly at the table as they are ready. 

Serves 4 to 6.

Mrs. Baker’s Applesauce

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Today I’m doing something I’ve never done before, revising an old post. I have quite a few apples on hand (although not as many as I did two years ago, when I originally posted this recipe). So I’m returning to the recipe myself and thought readers might like to come along.
When I first posted it, I didn’t have any regular readers—so I don’t know how many of you, if any, have looked at it.
Here are my words (slightly edited) from October 2008:
This year has seen the most abundant apple harvest I can recall in our corner of New England. My neighbor Alice speculates that our literal windfall of apples has something to do with the hatching of swarms of bees just as the apple trees blossomed last spring.
All I know is that our apple trees, most of which are older than anyone living on our road, suddenly acted like fertile teenagers.
Naturally, my mother and I have made large quantities of applesauce. Applesauce is the perfect fall comfort food, and it’s amazingly easy to make, especially if you have a food mill. Food mills render the peeling and coring of apples completely unnecessary.
The skin, core, and seeds of the apple cook along with the sauce, adding flavor to the end product, and then get pushed out and discarded. The residue left in the food mill is surprisingly small.
If you don’t have a food mill, you will have to peel and core your apples. On the other hand, you will end up with lumpy applesauce, which some people prefer to the smoother version.
As you can see in the photographs above and below, my food mill requires me to push the apple pulp manually through the holes in the mill. My neighbor Peter has a relatively high-tech machine with a crank that does most of the work. Either type of mill is definitely worth purchasing. 
My applesauce is named after Abigail Baker, who lived around the corner from our property in Hawley, Massachusetts, in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Mrs. Baker is famous (in our corner of the world, at any rate) for creating the winning pudding in a late 18th-century pudding contest that gave our district, Pudding Hollow, its name.

When my friend Judith Russell and I began work on our Pudding Hollow Cookbook, Judy suggested that we include a recipe for Mrs. Baker’s applesauce. Somehow it slipped through the cracks then so I’m rectifying that omission here on my blog.
I have portrayed Mrs. Baker several times in the entertainment that accompanies our revived pudding contest. And I see her grave every time I visit my what my nephew Michael calls my father’s “burial crypt” in the Pudding Hollow Cemetery. Hawley’s most celebrated cook is therefore seldom out of my thoughts. 

Judy, too, is in my thoughts a lot, especially at this time of year. She died in the autumn of 1994, but her colorful folk art and sunny spirit live on in our hills, in our hearts, and in my cookbook.

Mrs. Baker’s Windfall Applesauce
enough apples to make 6 generous cups of cut-up apples (preferably more than 1 variety)
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup cider plus additional cider as needed
maple syrup to taste, depending on the tartness of your apples (I used 2 tablespoons for the batch pictured here, which was relatively sweet)
Wash the apples and quarter them (actually, I tend to cut them into eighths if they are at all big). Remove any bad spots, but don’t worry about cutting out the core and seeds if you have a food mill. 

Place the apple pieces, the cinnamon stick, the salt, and the cider in a 4-quart pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat, covered, and simmer it until the apples soften, checking frequently to see whether you need to add more cider to keep the sauce from burning. The cooking time will depend on the type and age of your apples and how many of them you are using. A 6-cup batch may take as little as 25 minutes, but a larger, firmer batch can take up to an hour.
Let the apples cool for a few minutes; then run them through a food mill. Discard the pulp and seeds (excellent pig food or compost!), and place the sauce in a saucepan. Add maple syrup to taste, and heat until the syrup dissolves, stirring to keep the syrup from burning.
If you want to can your sauce, reheat it to the boiling point, ladle it into sterilized jars, and process pint jars in a boiling-water bath for 20 minutes. 

The yield will depend on your apples. Six generous cups of apple pieces provide about 1 pint of sauce. Feel free to multiply this recipe if your apple harvest is copious.

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Harvest Salad

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

harvest salad web

I originally planned to post this salad for Sukkot, the week-long Jewish harvest festival. Somehow, the calendar got away from me!
When I decided to make salad my theme for this week, however, I remembered how much I liked the slightly sweet/slightly tangy honey-mustard dressing and resurrected the recipe for my table and my blog.
The bacon wouldn’t be very appropriate for Sukkot, of course, but it does help transform the salad into a whole meal. The final product has fruit, protein, calcium, vegetables, and nuts. And it tastes terrific, too.
The dressing recipe makes enough for another day. Just be sure to refrigerate the leftover dressing–and to bring it to room temperature and shake it well before you use it again.
for the dressing:
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon orange juice
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste (I like to grind the pepper mill about 6 times)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
for the salad:
1/2 pound uncooked spinach leaves
1/2 cup walnut or pecan halves (or more if you like)
1 apple (your choice, cored but not peeled)
1/2 small red onion, chopped into rings or pieces
1/2 cup crumbled feta or blue cheese (or more if you like)
3 strips cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (or more if you like)
First, make the dressing. In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together the vinegar, the juice, and the honey until the honey dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool for a few minutes; then use a whisk to stir in the mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper. It will take a while for the ingredients to smooth themselves out.
Finally, slowly whisk in the oil. Careful pour the dressing into a jar with a tight-fitting lid that will hold at least 1-1/2 cups of liquid.
Wash the spinach thoroughly.
Place the nuts in a small frying pan, and fry them over low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly, to release their oils. Take the pan off the heat.
Just before you are ready to eat, slice the apple. In a salad bowl, combine the spinach, onion slices, toasted nuts, apple slices, cheese, bacon (if using), and cranberries.
Shake the dressing, and pour a third to a half of it onto the salad. Toss the salad well but carefully.
Serves 8.


By the way, since I know many of you are probably in the midst of holiday shopping right now (I’m starting soon, I promise!), I thought I’d remind you that copies of my Pudding Hollow Cookbook are available.
Of course, I’m sure most of my faithful readers’ friends and relatives already have copies of this lovely book (my text, Judith Russell’s illustrations), but if someone on your list doesn’t own a copy please consider buying it.
Domestic postage and gift wrap are free (although I have to confess that my gift-wrapping skills aren’t as good as my cooking).  And I love to sign copies of the book.
Here’s the link…..


Cider Maple Vinaigrette

Monday, November 2nd, 2009


I’m always in the mood for salad–particularly after a weekend dominated by pudding! This fruity dressing works beautifully with greens plus such seasonal add-ons as red onion, apple, dried cranberries, and/or toasted nuts. (A little local cheese doesn’t go amiss, either!)
4 tablespoons cider vinegar (I like the vinegar from Apex Orchards in Shelburne, Massachusetts)
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tablespoon water
salt and pepper to taste (I use about 7 twists of the pepper grinder and 1/2 teaspoon salt)
10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
In a jar with a tight-fitting lid combine the vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, garlic, water, salt, and pepper. Shake to combine.
Slowly pour in the olive oil and shake or whisk to combine again. This makes about 1 cup of vinaigrette which may be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Be sure to bring it to room temperature (and shake it) before you use it.

salad yum web

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Autumn Apple Pizza

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

apple pizza web

At this time of year I like to put apples in just about everything. So I decided to try baking an apple pizza.
My family was skeptical about the idea and made me order a traditional tomato pie as a backup just in case the apple version was a dud. I was proud to note that my pizza disappeared long before the pizzeria product.
Another time I think I’ll try throwing a little fresh rosemary or sage into the apple mixture. It was pretty flavorful this way, however. For those of you who can’t eat cheddar cheese, I recommend substituting a little goat feta.
1 pound commercial pizza dough (make your own if you want to; I was feeling lazy!)

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

butter as needed for sautéing

2 apples, cored (but not peeled) and sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

cooking spray for pan

a tiny bit of extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the pan

1-1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

4 pieces cooked bacon, cut or ripped into tiny pieces (optional)

Bring the pizza dough to room temperature and preheat the oven as indicated in your dough instructions.
Sauté the onion slices in a little butter, starting with high heat and then reducing it to low. Stir occasionally and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the onions have caramelized.
Toss in the apple slices (and a little more butter if it is absolutely necessary) and cook, stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes. The apples should soften only slightly but should be lightly coated with onion/butter juice.
Remove the apple mixture from the heat and toss in the salt.
Roll and/or stretch the pizza dough out gently (this may take a few tries) so that it forms a 14-inch circle (or a rectangle to go onto a cookie sheet if you don’t have a pizza pan).
Spray your pan lightly with cooking spray and oil it even more lightly. Place the dough on the pan. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the dough; then spread on the apple-onion mixture. Toss on the bacon pieces if you’re using them. (We were serving half meat eaters and half vegetarians so we put bacon on half of the pizza. Everyone was happy.)
Bake the pizza until the cheese is nicely melted and the bottom of the crust turns golden brown. With my crust (from Trader Joe’s) and my oven (old) this took 10 to 12 minutes, but do check frequently. You won’t want your work of art to burn. Makes one medium pizza.
Truffle loves pizza--and fall--so she was happy with her tiny taste of apple pizza.

Truffle loves pizza--and fall--so she was happy with her tiny taste of apple pizza.


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