Fall

apples.jpgLast weekend I went apple picking with my family at Silverman's Farm in Connecticut. We have been going there since I was a kid, when we would all stand by and watch as the apple press squeezed the juice out of freshly-picked apples, and would get to sample the delicious result of apple cider. Unfortunately the apple press has been retired; it is now located inside the market as a symbolic relic from the past. Because of new production standards, the farm no longer offers unpasteurized cider made on the premises, but instead pasteurizes and bottles its cider off site.

The orchards are currently laden with apples ready for picking. Pickers are taken up to the orchards by tractors running nonstop. Everywhere you look there are families with young kids, groups of friends, and those who come every year. The apples are great this year; however, they are ripening faster than usual. Go now before all the apples have fallen off the trees and bring home a bag of apples.

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carrotmarmaldeIt dawned on me today - that if carrots were money, we'd be rich. Three long rows of yellow carrots that are nearly ready to burst out of the ground, wait just outside my kitchen window - and while I've been patient with these seeds-turned - gems, they now rest so patiently for me to make something with them.

I gathered the first large bundle of carrots last night, alongside my new favorite pals (three baby rabbits). While I rinsed them of the dark earthy soil, I began to plan a meal in my head. Roasting them came to mind...then quickly I second guessed myself.

"Is that special enough for these carrots? There must be something more I can do with these precious carrots. After all, this will be the kickoff recipe to our abundant harvest!"

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quinceAt first glance — and even, quite frankly, after extended contemplation — there is little to hint that the quince is one of the most delicious of fall's fruits. It is rough-hewn and blocky in appearance, like someone's first woodworking project gone horribly wrong. And should you make the mistake of taking a bite of it raw, that's kind of how it tastes too.

But you know about judging things on first impressions. Take that same quince, give it a little careful tending and you'll find a fruit that is utterly transformed. Cook quince — slowly and gently, bathed in just a little bit of sugar syrup — and the flesh that was once wooden and tannic turns a lovely rose hue, with a silky texture and a subtly sweet, spicy flavor that recalls apples and pears baked with cinnamon and clove.

The traditional way to cook a quince is by poaching it in spiced simple syrup. That's easy enough, but I've come to favor a slightly different technique from my old friend Deborah Madison's cookbook "Seasonal Fruit Desserts." She bakes them in a syrup made partly with white wine and spiced with cinnamon, clove and cardamom along with tangerine or orange zest.

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ImageWith its naturally sweet taste, bright orange hue, and delicate flavor, butternut squash is one of the most popular fall/winter vegetables. Besides pumpkin, it's an iconic vegetable of the season and it's one of my favorites because of its many wonderful culinary uses. I like squashes even more than pumpkins. When Thanksgiving arrives, I'll be making my usual squash pie instead of pumpkin pie. Until then I'll enjoy the vegetable in many forms, cubed and roasted, pureed in soups, and baked into quick breads and cakes. It's just that versatile.

In this recipe, I do something unexpected. I use grated squash instead of pureed squash from a can. Much like carrot cake, the strands of squash become suspended in the batter, forming a beautiful and tender cake. A great texture is achieved from a half-and-half mix of white and whole-wheat flours. The cake is much like a quick bread in that it is not overly sweet. Bake it in a Bundt pan or tube pan, or two medium loaf pans. Drizzle it with a maple syrup icing for just a little extra sweet fall flavor. When friends stop by for coffee or tea, serve them this easy and reliable cake.

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kohlrabisoupKohlrabi, a vegetable that sounds just as foreign as it is alien to most people, is a subtle-flavored vegetable in the cabbage family. In fact it's German name translates to cabbage (kohl) turnip (rabi). Varieties include purple and pale green. It often gets confused with rutabagas or turnips, but it's actually much more attractive than both. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw (its taste resembles that of radishes) or cooked (where its taste is similar to boiled broccoli stems). This creamy soup is the perfect recipe for kohlrabi, because the vegetable turns sweet and tender.

This recipe is based on my mother's version. Her soup is a Hungarian specialty. It's wonderful for a first course before an elegant dinner. When you match it with a big chunk of bread or crackers, it's even great as an entire meal. Its creaminess and sweetness always hits my comfort spot. And even though, as a kid, I never thought of kohlrabi as much of a vegetable, I still always asked my mom to make this soup in the fall and winter.

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