Apples, pumpkins, oh my; fall has arrived. I picked up my first fall produce box last week from a produce market, and what wonderful colorful fruits and vegetables.
Gala apples, butternut squash and zucchini make the best fall dishes. Yes, zucchini transitions from a summer vegetable to a fall one. The only thing missing was a pumpkin.
Some may think it sacrilegious, while I love cooking with apples, I don’t like apple pie. It always tastes gooey with the inside crust never tasting done to me. Readers, if you have a good apple pie recipe that doesn’t taste doughy, please send it to me to try.
Now, I like fried homemade apple pies or baked apples fragrant with cinnamon and spices. These have a crispness I like, but mostly I like apples for crunch to a salad or in a spicy apple bread or muffins.
My favorite eating-out-of-hand apple is Gala, but for baking I like a firm, slightly tart Granny Smith. Braeburns, McIntosh and Rome Beauty also work well for baking. The Rome Beauty and Granny Smith are two of the most versatile varieties to me. Rome Beauty also works well in pies, and Granny Smith in sauces.
Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious and Cameo are best for fresh eating. My picky granddaughter can devour a large one of these apples in mere minutes.
A handy gadget to have in the kitchen for peeling apples is a hand-cranked apple peeler that attaches to the counter. Kids also are fascinated with this tool. Put the apple on the skewer and turn the crank. The peeling comes off in ribbon-like fashion.
Let the kids do the peeling; it gives the home cook less work, plus it is a learning opportunity.
Apples pair well with butternut squash, especially in soup. The apples lend a sweetness to the squash. This duo can be used in salads, soups, desserts, casseroles and entrees. Butternut squash paired with apples and cranberries just says fall and harvest time.
Some home cooks shy away from butternut squash because they are so hard to peel, but never fear there is a trick to it. Peeling the squash is easier if the squash is cooked in the microwave for about 3 minutes.
For soups, cut the squash in half, scoop out seeds and fibrous strings and drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven until the flesh is soft enough to scoop.
BAKED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH APPLES AND CRANBERRIES
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, about 5 cups
2 to 3 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, about 4 cups
1/4 cup real maple syrup (can use maple-flavored syrup)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place butter in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish; heat in oven 5 to 7 minutes until melted.
Stir cinnamon and nutmeg into melted butter. Add squash; toss to coat. Cover with foil; bake 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in large bowl, mix apples, cranberries, syrup and vinegar.
Pour apple-cranberry mixture over squash. Cover; bake 10 minutes. Stir; bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until squash is tender. Stir before serving and sprinkle with pecans.
To toast pecans, sprinkle in ungreased heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until pecans begin to brown, then stirring constantly until light brown. Do not let burn.
– Recipe from Betty Crocker and me
HARVEST FRUIT SALAD
1/2 cup pecan halves
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon walnut oil
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
2 red or green apples (Courtland, Delicious, Granny Smith, McIntosh, or Pippin), halved, cored and diced
4 pears, halved, cored and diced
2 cups grapes (red or green seedless or any combination)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar, walnut oil, olive oil, salt and pepper to form a vinaigrette.
In a salad bowl, combine the pears, grapes, apples and pecans. Add the vinaigrette, toss gently to coat and serve. Serves 6.
– Recipe from Williams-Sonoma’s “Autumn”
Notice to Coast pumpkin patches
Any South Mississippi farm or group that has a pumpkin patch open to visitors, please e-mail your information to email@example.com for an upcoming Cooks Exchange column.