Cooking up taste of autumn

Published 10:25 am Friday, October 1, 2010

When Tammy and I agreed to write a regular entry for an on-line food blog, it sounded like a good idea. We like to cook. We enjoy new foods and we like to experiment with recipes.

Unfortunately, like all good things, cooking is not as much fun when you have to do it, and that was the position we found ourselves in one night this week — staring down the barrel of a deadline and short on time, since we also had to cook for a potluck and mow the lawn.

Luckily, it is a great time of year for cooking, and it’s particularly good for those who enjoy apples. Because of our nation’s wonderful food transportation system, we get apples of many varieties all year long. It’s either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it, because while the fruit is always available, it is definitely not always particularly good.

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Not the case right now, because apples are in season and even for those who don’t have the time or means to get locally grown fruit, the Cortlands in most stores are very good right now. Cortlands are an older variant, developed as a cross between the McIntosh and Ben Davis varieties nearly 100 years ago. They’re attractive and sweet and, right now, have a fresh apple taste that’s sometimes hard to find.

So we turned to apples, and Cortlands specifically, for our cooking plans.

We really needed to produce only one dish for the blog, and since we were in a hurry we decided to make quesadillas with thin apple slices, brie and arugala. I know, I know, brie and arugala are classic “yuppie” foods. But, you know what, they’re also pretty tasty. The arugula added a spicy, peppery bite to offset the creamy sweetness of the brie and apples — and it was very easy to cook.

It’s a recipe that would be open to a little bit of improvisation, and next time we might add just a bit of shredded pork shoulder. A bit of SPAM (I’m serious) would also complement the other flavors if one didn’t have shredded pork on hand.

Because we like apples and had been looking up apple-related recipes, we went ahead and also made an apple upside-down cake. I’m not much for baking cakes, but it’s fun to try something different once in a while.

Finally, we baked a big pan of cornbread for the next day’s potluck. We have a vague recipe, but then improvise to get the flavor we want.

There are plenty more apple treats to come this fall, while they’re in season. Apple pie sounds good, not least because it is a great excuse to also have a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Crisp is another quick and easy way to get that apple fix: either small, individual crisps baked in ramekins or a big one in a pie pan.

We also plan to try a recipe for apples and brie baked in pastry shells. They, too, might benefit from the addition of just a bit of pork, and we’ll probably try that this weekend when we have a bit more time. (A shout-out, here, to Cooking Light magazine, which along with the web site, is one of our favorite quick recipe sources.)

Another fall favorite is squash, which like apples is available all year but is particularly appropriate to the season. A lightly unusual way to use butternut or acorn squash: Chili. Looks good, tastes great. And it is filling.

Put squash and apples together in a meal, and you have the perfect fall feast.