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Spring may not be the typical season for stews, but they are comforting and sometimes we need a little comfort even when the sun is shining and the nights are warm. On one such pleasant evening, my family gathered around our garden table to enjoy this stew.  The recipe comes from 660 Curries, by Raghavan Iyer, that a friend generously gave to me as a thank you gift. Choosing from over 600 curries is a bit of a challenge.  This one stood out because it is composed of ingredients I generally have in stock (and perhaps you do too): potatoes, apples, carrots.  I also happened to have a leftover grilled pork tenderloin on hand, but the recipe below calls for uncooked pork.  Either works well.

Since it was a glorious spring evening,  I served Indian Pork, Potato, and Apple Stew with a shredded cabbage and carrot slaw to lighten the meal.  It also paired beautifully with a jar of Curried Cauliflower Pickles (which I need to make a double batch of next season, because one pint is NOT enough for our dinner table).  The stew was a tasty blend of rich flavors mingling with the sweet apple and heat from the spices.  This is quite a tasty stew for any season.

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Nothing says fall like winter squash… and apples… and walnuts, so clearly this is the perfect side dish to make NOW.  We are big fans of butternut squash around here, check out the Butternut and Black Bean Salad from last year.  This year though, somehow butternut squash never made it into the ground and we are the happily storing quite a few acorn squashes that took their place in the planting beds.  There are lots of fun ways to cook up these beautiful treats, but my favorite is to make Acorn Squash Rings with Apple Glaze.

Take care in slicing the squash, as that is as good a way as any to loose a finger.  It helps to take a small slice off of one side, then place the cut side down.  That will give the squash some stability as you hack into it.  Scoop out the membrane and seeds and they are ready to steam.  Do not forget to try on some squash glasses for size!  Note: at least with my kids, they are more likely to eat the veggies if they have a hand in making/playing with them! (For more ideas on getting kids to eat their veggies check out this post.)

This recipe is not mine and if you look you will find many versions on the web.  While that may be a turn-off to some, I say it is evidence of a great recipe that is worth sharing.  My version uses non-clarified butter and less of it, but otherwise it is basically the same.  The tender squash soaks in the sweet and tangy apple glaze and the candied walnuts add a pleasant crunch.  These rings look beautiful on the plate, making it great for a weeknight dinner or special enough for a holiday. My mother-in-law first introduced me to this yummy dish with asparagus laced through the centers of the rings (as you will find is the most common version.)    I opted not to include the asparagus this time (there is no chance of finding local asparagus in October), but love the way they make this into a truly elegant side dish.  If we have any squash leftover in springtime, I will definitely add them in.  The acorn squash rings are attractive enough to stand on their own, or fill the centers with a scoop of wild rice or stuffing.

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Apple Blackberry Cake

August 24, 2011

Summer is not complete without a morning spent picking blackberries.  Last weekend, under the pressure of a fall-like chill in the air and the craziness of back to school time, the kids and I pushed out for a ramble along the creek.  We brought the wagon, a gazillion containers, and a baby doll or two.  We dressed in our jeans and forced socks and closed shoes onto our spoiled summer feet.    We were ready for a  real berry picking session.  What we found however is that like all other summer fruits (tomatoes especially!) everything is super late this year.

Not about to let a little thing like red under-ripe blackberries get us down, we assigned ourselves roles for our Blackberry Team.  I picked the berries, my little man dumped the small containers into the bigger ones, and my little lady dragged the wagon up and down the trail laughing hysterically.  After an hour of hard work (and just a few scrapes), we cruised home with a half-gallon of berries.  Just enough for a few smoothies and Apple Blackberry Cake.  While we suffer a shortage of ripe blackberries, we have boxes and boxes of Gravenstein apples from my parents’ trees.

Apple Blackberry Cake is a treat to make each late summer or fall.  Though it is simple to prepare, somehow the cake has the ability to pass as both an elegant special dessert and a casual weeknight treat.  This time it even disguised itself as a birthday cake.  The apples are peeled and sliced and then pressed into a basic butter and brown sugar batter.  The blackberries scatter across the top lending both a colorful burst and a tart contrast to the apples.  The sugar and cinnamon sprinkled over the top help to form a nice sweet crunchy topping.  This cake is well matched with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  I would not mind eating a slice for breakfast either with a nice cup of coffee.

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Over the last few weeks, several batches of focaccia made their way through my oven.  Each batch took on a different personality.  I topped one with oven-dried figs, walnuts, and blue cheese as an appetizer, another I brushed with garlic oil and served as a side dish.  Another batch I made into a simple pizza and the last I topped with apples and cinnamon sugar for breakfast.  Anyway you top this bread, it is delightful.

Besides its versatility and incredible taste, this bread is also very convenient to make.  The dough rises twice, then rests in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours.  When you are ready to bake, just pull a dough ball from the fridge, stretch it out, and top it as you please.  Twice I served this bread for brunch.  Usually I do not even consider a yeasted bread for brunch, because of the time it takes to rise, but since rises the day before, it is easy to pull off for a meal any time of day.

Though I have topped this bread many ways, my favorite remains brushing it with a garlic infused olive oil, sprinkling it with fresh herbs, and scattering coarse salt over the top.  The outside becomes crunchy and brown, but the inside stays chewy and moist.  The garlic flavor permeates the whole flatbread and the salt provides a crunch.  It was a great accompaniment to our Huevos Diablos con Chorizo the other morning.  Topping it with thinnly sliced apples is a close second, for a sweet version that is suitable for both brunch or dessert, though I would sweeten it up a bit more if serving it for dessert.

These recipes were submitted to Yeastspotting.

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Caramel Apple Tarts

December 20, 2010

Oh, it is a good thing to have a refrigerator full of caramel sauce. When I set out last week to make a pot full  of caramel sauce, I  truly  intended to pass it on to well deserving friends and family.  As the days wear on however, I can see the supply dwindling.  The problem is…  it is really good!  (If you don’t yet have a fridge full, check out my post on Edible Gifts! Chocolate and Caramel Sauces. ) First was the obvious, caramel over ice cream (which has possibly converted this chocolate faithful to the caramel side of the ice cream shop), then apples dipped in caramel (it’s OK to eat it as a snack then, right?), and then putting it all together for one holiday worthy dessert.   Tonight’s dessert was  part apple crisp, part caramel apple, entirely decadent and yet homey, the caramel apple tart.

This recipe has been sitting in my “someday I want to make” pile for over a year.  It was originally published in Bon Appetit magazine, May 2009 by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito and originates at the restaurant, Baked, in New York.  Here is the concept: individual tart crusts, baked off in advance, then layered with caramel sauce, sauteed apples, and crisp topping.  These tasty tarts are then baked again until the sugary syrup bubbles up and the topping browns.  The original recipe suggests pairing these with Cinnamon-Rum ice cream (and provides a delicious sounding recipe- you should check it out on Epicurious).  I couldn’t manage the extra prep, so I topped it with good ol’ vanilla and a drizzle of caramel sauce.  No complaints.

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