When we made the decision to leave Florida, all I craved were seasons. I knew from that moment on I could only live in a place where leaves turn ochre and the rain turns everything blue. I suppose in some ways I just searched for my childhood environment – a place I felt comfortable.
Seattle is turning to be that.
This autumn in Seattle has been quite impressive. Dense and rich.
Everyone I know has been out on the street early morning trying to capture the fog. Haunting in a way, but fascinating.
Then there is the light.
It just saturates everything around me.
I have professed my love for apples here before. Definitely the one fruit I could eat and cook with for the rest of my life. Remember these madeleines, this soup, this savory crumble, these muffins, and just so many more.
Recently we visited Jones Creek Farms in Sedro-Wooley. Over 80 varieties of heirloom apples and pears awaited us. The pink pearl apples particularly caught my eye… White and bright pink interior with yellowish skin.
So beautiful to photograph.
Jon and Miren ran around the perfectly-lined orchard, sipped apple cider like there was no tomorrow and picked their favorite odd-shaped pumpkins from the patch.
Isn’t that what kids love to do anyway? So we did.
And so all this has led me back into the kitchen.
I remembered the baked compote my mom used to make with apples, dried apricots and cinnamon when I was growing up. She still makes it every autumn in fact. Konpota as we call it in Basque.
I baked my apples filled with butter, cranberries and pistachios. With a touch of sea salt and basted in hard cider, vanilla bean and cinnamon.
Autumn in a baking dish.
Something I eat with a spoon, because as I have said it many times, anything I can eat with a spoon makes me happy.
There have also been lots of soups as you might imagine. Like this cannellini bean and fennel soup topped with mussels, clams and crispy pancetta. Recipe follows.
And as Jon would say….
This is how we roll around here.
Cider-baked apples with cranberries and pistachios
1 cup (250 ml) hard cider
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 cinnamon stick
1 pound apples (about 4 medium ones or a bunch of small ones like I used)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup (30 g) dried unsweetened cranberries, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted pistachios, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brown sugar, plus more for topping
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 375F (190C).
Combine the cider, vanilla bean and seeds and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until it simmers, remove from heat and steep for 15 minutes.
Cut the tops of the apples and core the seeds and tough core out with a knife trying to leave a bit of a bottom so filling doesn’t melt out of the apples while baking. Rub the tops of the apples with a bit of lemon juice to stop them from oxidizing and turning brown.
In a small bowl, mix together the cranberries, pistachios, butter, brown sugar and salt. Fill the cavity of the apples with this mixture letting some come out of the cavity. Place the tops back on top. Sprinkle a little bit of brown sugar on top of the apples and place them on a small baking tray. We want them to be a little bit close and tight so they don’t fall apart.
Pour the cider with the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick on the bottom of the tray. Bake the apples until tender and tops are caramelized, about 40 minutes but will vary depending on the size of the apples. Baste them every 10 to 15 minutes with the cider.
Serve warm or at room temperature. They can also be made ahead, kept in the refrigerator and reheated right before serving.
Cannellini bean soup with pancetta, mussels and clams
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices pancetta, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fennel bulb, diced
Pinch of salt
2 cans cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock
1 dozen mussels
1 dozen clams
1/2 cup (125 ml) white wine
Bunch of chervil
4 raw egg yolks (optional)
Heat a medium cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and pancetta and cook until golden and crispy. Remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside.
Add the shallot, garlic, fennel and pinch of salt and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until tender but not too brown. Add the beans and chicken stock. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes.
Heat a medium pot over medium high heat. Add the mussels, clams and white wine. Cover the pot and cook until the mussels and clams open. Remove them from the pot as soon as they are open. Some might open sooner than others so keep checking and taking them out in batches. Discard any unopen mussels or clams. Strain the cooking liquid and add it to the beans. Remove pot from heat and add the mussels and clams. Stir all together.
Serve the soup topped with chervil and crispy pancetta. If you choose to serve the soup with the raw yolk, stir it into the soup while still hot. It will thicken and enrichen it.