Autumn Apples

Freshly harvested apples

When fall rolls around our backyard trees become living factories, churning out yellow-green fruit by the bushel in two varieties:  all-American Golden Delicious apples and crisp Asian pears.  Fruit falls nearly as quickly as we can scoop it up, and luckily both are versatile in the kitchen and on a plate.  We find the Asian pears are best suited to raw preparations such as salads and sandwiches—or simply eaten out of hand.  The apples head into savory baked tarts and cooked chutneys as well, not to mention the sweet bites we’re unable to resist.  (And that wipe away the angst of back-to-school, if only temporarily.)

Asian PearsFor starters, we slice either fruit thinly, and sandwich between slices of crusty whole wheat or baguette with soft brie, tangy goat cheese or mild Manchego.  We add a handful of arugula for extra zing (if you like tuck in your favorite sliced meat as well).

If you’ve got a hankering for something slightly fancy, assemble a quick fruit and cheese board.  It’ll be elegant enough to grace a party table, but a cinch to pull together at the end of a busy week.  Slice fruit and arrange on a serving plate, or pretty cutting board, and surround with a variety of cheeses (Stilton, Manchego, Camembert, or whatever you like) and a pile of nuts.  Pour glasses of chilled white wine and sit down for an elegant appetizer.  No plates needed.

Apple CrispIn the salad department, there’s no finer combination than greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula, massaged kale) with sliced fruit, cheese (crumbly goat, Parmesan or feta) and toasted nuts.  I toast nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat.  Choose whatever you fancy—hazelnuts, almonds or walnuts perhaps—and add to the hot pan.  Move the nuts around to keep them from burning, and toast until they take on spots of deep, golden brown on several sides.  Cool slightly, then break or chop roughly.  Keep the pieces large enough to be distinguishable, but small enough to create a bite when combined with fruit, cheese and lettuce.  Place the greens into a salad bowl and toss with a favorite vinaigrette, and scatter fruit, nuts and cheese across the top.

Apple chutneyIf you’re feeling slightly more ambitious (just slightly, mind you) stir up a batch of spiced chutney or a savory tart.  Be sure to leave room for dessert, and what better choice in autumn months but a classic apple crisp?  Heaven from the oven, made even more heavenly by its streamlined prep.

Other apple and Asian pear recipes to try:

Broccoli Apple Soup from Food52

Apple and Cheddar Scones from Smitten Kitchen

Pickled Asian Pears from Saveur

Shredded Brussel Sprouts and Apples from 101 Cookbooks

Asian Pear and Gouda Grilled Cheese from Chow

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