Archive for the ‘Autumn’ Category

Cider Maple Vinaigrette

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

salad2web

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!)
 
Ingredients:
 
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
 
Instructions:
 
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.
 
Ingredients:
 
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)

  
tambweb
 
Instructions:
 
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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November in the Hills: Embracing the Darkness (Part II)

Thursday, November 13th, 2008
Judith Maloney (Courtesy of West County Cider/CISA)

Judith Maloney (Courtesy of West County Cider/CISA)

          A strong proponent of November in our western Massachusetts hilltowns is Judith Maloney of West County Cider in Shelburne. Along with her husband Terry and a group of sweet- and hard-cider enthusiasts, Judith founded Cider Days in 1994. This tradition of celebrating the apple harvest and sharing cider, which takes place the first weekend in November, is now a highlight of autumn in Franklin County.

          To Judith, Cider Days don’t just honor the harvest. They also keep a way of life alive. She told me last week that early on she saw this festival as “something that would keep the apple trees in the ground—because the economics of apples have changed very much over the last 20 years. No longer do people buy apples to store over the winter. They buy them at the supermarket, and [the apples] come from Australia and New Zealand.”

          In contrast, says Judith, Cider Days preserve local apples and cider–and the trees that produce them. “We’re so lucky to have these trees,” she said with passion. “A lot of them have great age on them. [And] there’s a lot of knowledge among the orchardists along the valley and in the hills. It’s great that we can go onto the next season with that knowledge still spreading.”

          One of this year’s Cider Days speakers enthusiastically takes his celebration on to that next season, when the trees have yielded all their fruit and the snow has settled in. Michael Phillips of Lost Nation Orchard in Groveton, New Hampshire, takes a group deep into the woods on a dark night once a year to mark “old” Epiphany (January 17, the 12th night after Christmas in the old Julian calendar). There the group sings, dances, salutes the apple trees that will blossom in spring, and shares warm refreshments, including wassail (spiced cider-y punch) and slices of wassail pie.

          Here are the lyrics to the song the wassailers sing, courtesy of Michael Phillips:

Oh apple tree, we’ll wassail thee in hope that thou will bear.

The Lord does know where we shall be to be merry another year.

To blow well and to bear well, and so merry let us be:

Let every man drink up his cup, here’s health to the old apple tree.

To blow well and to bear well, and so merry let us be:

Let every man drink up his cup, here’s health to the old apple tree.

(Repeat all twice more)

Apples now–

Hats full,

Caps full,

Barrels full,

Three bushel bags full,

Barn floors full,

                   And even a little heap under the stairs.

Hip, Hip, Hooray! Hip, Hip, Hooray! Hip, Hip, Hooray!

          In his book The Apple Grower, Michael explains that he likes to greet the season with gusto. He writes, “[O]ur gathering often occurs on the coldest night of the winter. There’s certainly an almost mystical power in sharing apple custom with forty dear friends as you dance around the chosen tree at thirty degrees below zero!”
          Now, there’s someone who knows how to embrace the season’s darkness.

          If you’d like more information about Cider Days, visit their web site, http://www.ciderday.org/. Meanwhile, here are a couple of recipes that take advantage of the season’s cider bounty. Be sure to bow to an apple tree as you get ready to eat them; then go indoors and enjoy the cozy warmth and light of your house.

The Green Emporium (Courtesy of the Green Emporium)

The Green Emporium (Courtesy of the Green Emporium)

Cider Mussels Emporium

          This recipe comes from the fertile culinary mind of Michael Collins, chef at the Green Emporium in Colrain and a longtime fan of Cider Days. The restaurant has just reopened as a pizza/pasta parlor. Michael may have simplified his menu, but he hasn’t lost his creativity: he has a terrific new apple pizza!

Ingredients:

3 to 4 chopped shallots

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups hard cider

3 pounds mussels, cleaned and de-bearded (discard opened or cracked mussels)

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (of your choice; Gorgonzola is nice here, or just plain blue cheese)

chopped parsley as needed for garnish

Instructions:

          Sauté the shallots in the olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Just before the shallots become translucent, pop in the garlic pieces, but be careful not to burn the garlic.

          Add the hard cider, and simmer the mixture until the cider is reduced in half.

          Add the mussels, and cover to steam until the mussels open. (This will only take a couple of minutes so be sure to check frequently.)  Take the pan off the heat, crumble the cheese over all, and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with parsley. Serves 6 to 8.  

Michael Phillips at Cider Days (Courtesy of Carolyn Halloran/West County Independent)
Michael Phillips at Cider Days (Courtesy of Carolyn Halloran/West County Independent)

 Lost Nation Traditional Cider Pie

Michael Phillips serves a slice of this pie (indoors!) to his guests each winter at the end of his orchard wassailing ceremony.  He also recommends it for Thanksgiving and other special occasions.

The cider jelly required is a reduction of sweet cider. Boil 3 cups of cider until you have only 1/2 cup left; what remains is what you will need for this recipe.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup cider jelly

1/2 cup boiling water

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon melted butter

2 cups sliced apples

pastry for a 2-crust, 9-inch pie

Instructions:

         Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the cider jelly and water, and blend. Stir in the egg and melted butter. Place the apple sices on the bottom pie crust in a pie plate, and top with the cider mixture. Put the top crust over all, cutting a few slashes in it. Bake for 40 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.

November in the Hills: Embracing the Darkness (Part I)

Sunday, November 9th, 2008
Heather's Pumpkin Bread

Heather’s Pumpkin Bread

 
The blaze is gone.
 
The burst of color in our hills has muted. The sun is making itself scarce. The grays of November have arrived.
 
I’m not sure why November always takes me by surprise. It comes along every year. Nevertheless, during the glory of early autumn optimism fills my heart just as leaves fill the streams, and I nurture a tiny hope that the color and warmth will decide, just this once, not to retreat.
 
When instead of an eternal October we get a very real November, my dog, my cat, and I grow a little grumpy. Truffle and Lorelei Lee gather by the woodstove earlier and earlier each day, training their glare on me until I relent and light a fire.
 
I appreciate their viewpoint and enjoy the fire myself. Nevertheless, I find that the best cure for the November blahs is to leave my hearth and seek out people who look forward to this time of year—who instead of huddling inside embrace the darkness out of doors.
 
One such person is my neighbor in Hawley, Massachusetts, Cyndie Stetson. Cyndie is famous (one might almost say notorious) locally for the lavish Halloween display outside her home. The high point of her year comes in late October and November. An avid watercolorist, Cyndie uses her artist’s eyes to perceive much more variety in our hills than I.
 
“I love the colors in November—the browns, the purples, the grays,” she told me recently. “I love seeing and hearing the geese going overhead. I love growing pumpkins and gourds. When I was a kid, we grew gourds and sold them at my grandmother’s on a stone wall. So I grow gourds every year.”
 
The darkness and the cold give Cyndie permission to act creatively, unleashing her imagination in a way that the light of summer and early autumn cannot. “I feel more energetic at this time of year,” she said with a smile.
 
Here’s a terrific pumpkin bread recipe to help you celebrate gourd season along with Cyndie.
 
Thanks to Heather Welch of M&M Green Valley Produce in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, for sharing it. The boozy raisins are my own addition, and they’re optional, especially for kids.
 
This makes 2 big loaves so you may want to make 3 smaller loaves and reduce your cooking time. On the other hand, the big loaves have a lovely contrasting texture—crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside.
 
 
Part of Cyndie's Display (Courtesy of Lark Thwing)

Part of Cyndie’s Display (Courtesy of Lark Thwing)

 
Ingredients:
 
1-3/4 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
2/3 cup water
3 cups sugar
4 eggs
3-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.
 
In a large bowl, beat together the pumpkin, oil, water, and sugar. Beat in the eggs.
 
In a separate bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. Stir them into the pumpkin mixture JUST until blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
 
Bake the bread until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check the bread at the hour mark. If it is brown on the outside but still very soggy on the inside, reduce the heat to 325 degrees, and continue to check every 5 minutes until the toothpick test works. Remove the bread from the pans, and turn it onto racks to cool. Makes 2 loaves.
 
Truffle was allowed a SMALL piece of pumpkin bread.

Truffle was allowed a SMALL piece of pumpkin bread.

Halloween Pumpkin Fudge

Friday, October 31st, 2008
 
 
Halloween has a special place in my heart. I love its colors, its stimulation of the imagination, its sheer fun. I’m one of those appalling people who dress their dogs in costume at this time of year. Luckily, Truffle is a good sport. It probably helps that she knows she looks adorable!
 
Truffle with her Favorite Boy

Halloween 2007: Truffle with her Favorite Boy

 
I also adorn the house with lights, spooky ceramic houses, gourds (real and faux), a plethora of orange plates, assorted stuffed cats and vampires, and a clock that shrieks eerily on the hour. And naturally I cook.
 
This year my mother and I have prepared pumpkin fudge to give out on Halloween. I know that the parents of trick-or-treaters are concerned about homemade treats. Our solution is to put a return address label on each wrapped piece of fudge identifying the maker. If the parents have a question, they can call us. The children seem to enjoy receiving something a little different from the usual candy corn and chocolate bars. And we have the fun of making fudge without the caloric risk of eating it all!
 
I adapted this recipe from one on Nestlé’s baking site. Feel free to adjust the spices according to your taste; you’ll want to replicate the flavor of your own favorite pumpkin pie. Another year I’m going to eschew the fluff and make my fudge more pumpkin-y, but this is pretty darn good if rather sweet. Unless you are allergic to the nuts, don’t omit them; they add both flavor and texture to the final product. (We tried it both ways. My photographer and friend Judy Christian, my mother Jan, and I are willing to suffer for our art!)
 
I know I may have overdone the photos in this particular post, but Judy and I had so much fun arranging them (Judy is a food stylist manqué!) that I felt I had to share several. As you can see, they embody Halloween colors and Halloween spirit.
 
Happy hauntings……..
 
MORE SPRINKLES!!!
Finishing Touches: MORE SPRINKLES!!!

 
 
Ingredients:
 
2 cups sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) sweet butter
1 5-ounce can evaporated milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 cup white chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli) or 6 ounces finely chopped white chocolate
1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow fluff
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
autumnal sprinkles (optional)

 

 
Instructions:
 
Line a 9-by-9-inch pan with aluminum foil.
 
In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the sugar, brown sugar, butter, evaporated milk, pumpkin, and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, and continue to boil it, still stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (234 degrees on a candy thermometer, although I always like to test for the actual soft ball in a dish of cold water since candy thermometers can be temperamental). This should take about 10 to 12 minutes.
 
Remove the fudge from the heat. Stir in the chips, and let them melt; then stir in the remaining ingredients. Quickly pour the fudge into the prepared pan. Toss on decorative sprinkles if you like. Let the fudge cool completely (outside if the weather is cool or in the refrigerator), covered, before slicing it into squares. Makes 16 to 36 squares, depending on how big you want to make them. Store this soft confection in the refrigerator.