Apple Season

September begins the slide toward autumn. The weather may be confused about what season it is, but I’m not. In WNC it is Apple Season.

Late summer gardens continue to gift tomatoes, peppers, and okra. The apple orchards are full families filling their baskets. Potatoes and squash from earlier this summer are cured and waiting to find their way to the table. Next week I’ll be taking a few days off and spending most of the day on a cobble beach along my favorite river, probably practicing crochet stitches ahead of a little fall stitching project to start in a week or two. I’m rusty. The century old cabin has a small but well equipped kitchen, and a large screened in porch where I have gathered on many occasions with friends and family over the years. I look forward to cooking (and eating!) without being in a constant rush toward getting the kids ready for bed, or working around the never-ending construction that is our house renovation. I’ll be making homemade bread for the first time in ages, probably some lentil stew to make the kids happy, and I’m sure some savory breakfast bowls of grits, onions and kale will make an appearance among the s’mores and fireside popcorn snacks. But the star of the cool mornings will be apples. I’ve gathered my ten favorite apple recipes for you all to add to your fall bucket lists. I hope you will make every last one of them – I certainly hope to. This little trip will include the apple crisp, apple caramel nachos, and fried apples. My mother-in-law is the Pie Queen in the family, so I will leave the pie-making to her.

Favorite vegan apple recipes:

  1. Southern Fried Apples! Like any good Southerner, I know these qualified as a vegetable side just like macaroni and hushpuppies. I will probably serve these with some NanaMoo vanilla ice cream and on top of fluffy pancakes.
  2. Apple Hand Pies! Skip the egg wash and sub with Just Egg if you’d prefer this to be a vegan recipe. Peppridge Farm makes a vegan puff pastry that can be found at most grocery stores (but not at Whole Foods).
  3. Apple Crisp! I will make this in a cast iron skillet, and we will definitely eat it for breakfast, not dessert. Switch the butter for your favorite vegan options – I’ll probably use unsalted Earth Balance sticks.
  4. Caramel Apple Nachos! With loose teeth, serving up granny smith apples in nacho style instead of dripped caramel apples is an excellent alternative. I will be making vegan caramel using coconut cream, and letting the kids add from a choice of toppings: toasted coconut, sprinkles, chocolate chips, mini vegan marshmallows, peanut butter sauce and of course, cinnamon.
  5. Kale, Apple and Beat Salad! I’ll be honest, I am probably the only person in the house excited about this. I am very excited!
  6. Apple Cinnamon Energy Falls! If you’ve seen my post about peanut butter energy balls, protein packed snacks are critical to keeping the kids from having miserable afternoon meltdowns.
  7. Apple Butter! I like this recipes because it make enough to use now, and doesn’t require canning. Apple butter on buttered toast, on top of pancakes, ice cream, apple butter everything!
  8. Rustic Apple Cake! Sub for your preferred vegan butter and egg replacer – and voila! I suggest Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer for baking.
  9. Morning Muffins! Okay, these aren’t just for apples, but I am going to make several batches of these for the freezer to make the mornings a little easier.
  10. Apple Chips! I can’t wait to break out my mandolin (is it a weapon or a kitchen gadget? Hard to say.).

roasted okra

The other night I looked out the window to see my husband pruning two rows of bushy okra plants that aren’t setting fruit or growing in their usual tall habit. My current theory is stink bugs. I hate stink bugs, and I’m eager to blame for most late summer garden issues. He told me pruning okra is called “whipping” and encourages it to fruit – much like pinching flowers off tomato plants. It appears to be working and we finally have our first okra of the season in the fridge.

In the south fried okra reigns supreme, but to be honest I’m not great at frying things and in general I prefer not to eat fried food all that often. Besides, it makes a mess and who wants to deal with that when they are trying to make a quick dinner before the kids melt down?

It’s super easy to make and goes well with any late summer or early fall menu. Serve with a little salt or any of the following goodies: ground oregano and salt, garlic and soy sauce and sesame seeds (my personal favorite), a pile of thinly slice fried onions with garlic and maybe a shot of hot sauce sauce, or a dusting of your favorite spice mix – a Cajun blend is excellent on okra. I think this weekend I will try hot honey roasted okra with garlic kale on top grits. Stay tuned for a picture and recipe notes.

How to make it:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 450 for get crispy ends – 400 if your children believe anything brown is burned.
  • For four people I typically use one pound of okra. Avoid pieces that are more than 3 inches long – they will be not be as tender.
  • Trim the tops off the okra and cut it down the center. Toss it in a mixing bowl with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and stir until the okra is evenly coated. Place one layer of okra cut-side down on the sheet pan.
  • Pop the plan the middle of the oven for 15-18 minutes. Scoot the okra around on the pan with a spatula or shake the pan at least one time while baking.
  • Serve hot

kitchen organization and cleaning

The kitchen has been under construction for nearly ten months. This is what happens when you gut your house and add major additions to each side during the middle of a pandemic. Zero stars, do not recommend. It’s only recently occurred to me that I will need to unpack our boxes and find a home for everything. Many post it notes have moved around the kitchen as I’ve sorted this out and determined what I needed to bring some organization to it all.

The new kitchen has only lower cabinets, maximizing the view and natural light. I designed the cabinet layout to include two deep drawers to the left of the stove, a mini roll out pantry, wide shallow drawers in two locations, and more deep drawers in the island for plates, bowls, and glasses. Feeling a little protect of the new counter tops, I ordered these cute silicone trivets. They have that cast iron vintage design, without needing to worry about scratching the stone.

The addition includes a utility room off from the kitchen. For the first time ever, I broke down and purchased a monthly calendar to hang on the side of the extra fridge. Grocery requests and pick ups, appointments, work schedules, birthdays and everything else are noted here. Like my planner, I think there is the potential for this to some sort of family artifact, providing a little glimpse into life. At the moment though, I most excited about leaving reminder notes for my evening meetings, which have littered the kitchen for years.The utility room has closet, which is big new around here. A place for a broom and cleaning supplies – it is the definition of luxury. So excited to have space, I stocked up on cleaning supplies and organized with a deep sense of joy and relief. It represented the stress of the remodel coming to an end and a new beginning for our family in our home.

The quartzite counter tops called for Lustro Italiano Stone Cleaner. I filled a new cleaning caddie and closet with my favorites from Thrive Market: tea tree toilet bowl cleaner, stainless steel spray polish, tub and tile, lemon scented all purpose cleaner, glass and mirror cleaner, laundry detergent, and dishwasher soap. I tossed cleaning rags that have accumulated from our first apartment and replaced them with a stack of terry cloth rags.

The expression so fresh, so clean has never been so true.

Sephardic Spinach Patties

Just thinking about this recipe makes me want to light a candle in the kitchen when the sun has set early in the evening and dinner feels much later than it actually is. This recipe was shared with me from my mother-in-law approximately one million years ago – or more specifically just a few weeks after our first wedding anniversary as we prepared for Thanksgiving. I’m not sure if it’s origin, but I suspect it is from the Moosewood Inn cookbook, but has evolved over time in her kitchen and in mine. This recipe pairs well with couscous with vegetables and chickpeas, rice with dried apricots and pine nuts, rice and lentil stuffed bell peppers, spiced potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs fresh spinach, stemmed, cooked, chopped, and squeezed dry (20 oz frozen,   squeezed dry)
  • 1 cup fine dried bread crumbs
  • about ¾ t salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ t grated nutmeg or 1 ½ t cayenne
  • substitute for 3 eggs (I use Just Egg or Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer)
  • oil for frying
  • lemon wedges for serving

Directions

  • Heat oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft—about 5 min.
  • Remove from heat and add spinach,bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg or cayenne. 
  • Stir in egg substitute.  If the mixture is too loose, add a little more bread crumbs.
  • Shape the spinach mixture into patties.  In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat.  In batches, fry the patties, turning, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. 
  • Drain on paper towels.  Serve warm with lemon wedges

almost fall

I do not allow myself to indulge anything fall- like until it is September 1,  despite the fact that we all know in the southeast that September 1 only marks the beginning of “third summer.”  I enjoy the change of season and sense of time created by traditions. A sense of time, something to look forward to and making time at home as special and magical as possible has been important to me, particularly during the pandemic when most of the time it’s made more sense to stay on our little mountain than to venture out into the world.
Each year I made the same handful of specific recipes, their special nature being highlighted by their frequent or seasonal appearance. This is a recipe round of some of my favorites:

The anticipation of the joy to come is almost as wonderful as the actual season itself. In no particular order here are some of the things I look forward to every year:

  • The new season of Saturday Night Live.
  • The first fire in the woodstove.
  • An excuse to make pie on a rainy day taking a walk and saying brightly colored leaves against
  • Harvesting chanterelle mushrooms along our trails.
  • Acorns and pumpkins of all colors.
  • Having a little outside fire down by the hazelnuts while we pluck them carefully from the bushes.Decorating the mantle and hearth with seasonal sweetness: big pumpkins, acorns and twinkling lights. I’m pretty sure this bunting is going to make an appearance…
  • Switching over to white to red wine – malbec is my fall and winter favorite.
  • Ordering matching jammies sets for the kids careful to be festive but not too specific so they can be worn through chilly spring night. Last year I ordered the wintry scene, moose, and red berry patterns. This year I am leaning toward these cuties:
  • The excitement of a new school year! We are a homeschool family and I delight in the anticipation of a new year.

Spicy Roasted Corn

It’s late summer, and our neighbors and garden gurus have recently harvested beautiful ears of sweet corn. Before banishing corn from the kitchen, one of my summer favorites involved roasting corn on the in the oven and slathering it with a mix of my favorite flavors.  While I won’t be making this any time soon, it’s too delicious (and simple) not to share.

Ingredients

  • 6 ears of sweet corn
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or one clove minced)

Optional Toppings

  • Chopped cilantro and lemon juice
  • Fresh basil, garlic and lemon and slice cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped hot peppers of your choice, or pickled jalapenos! Turn up the heat with a few shakes of cayenne pepper or finish off with a little sriracha

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Remove the husks and silk from the ears of corn
  • Generously rub the corn with softened / room temperature vegan butter
  • Sprinkle with spices
  • On a foiled lined baking sheet, situated the corn so the ears are not touching
  • Add a tablespoon or two of water to the bottom of the pan for a little steamy action
  • Baked for 15 minutes, flip the ears over and bake for another 15 minutes / until the ears kernels are tender
  • Add more butter and toppings of your choice before serving