. . . or from Apples to Zucchini.
As fall begins, I feel like I'm holding on to summer for dear life! I love fall, it's my favorite season, but summer went by far too quickly and I'm not ready to let it go! The garden is dying but my counters are overflowing with courgettes and zucchini, and baby green tomatoes waiting to ripen.
My work schedule has been intense but extremely gratifying! In fact, I just returned from an outstanding weekend in Las Vegas at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference, where freedible was a sponsor! With all that's been happening these days, it almost feels as if I've missed out on an entire season! Consequently, I've had little time to write (as you've probably noticed and which I truly regret -- I have an ever expanding collection of recipes that, like cheerful stories told around the warmth of a fireplace, must be shared!) and even less time to tackle the growing mounds of produce that cover nearly every surface in the kitchen. The time I do have is packed full of the adventures we should have had in summer, before school started. To tell you the truth, it's rather nice to get out early on a cool fall morning and explore this beautiful region of Colorado. Hikes, day trips to ski resorts, a drive in the mountains. And of course, apple picking in the country.
Of all the perks living in Colorado offers, I think the one I enjoy the most is visiting these orchards which are just an hour away. We drive out here every year, usually to the same orchard, on the same dusty dirt road, in the same sleepy town. This year I was in the mood for change. A friend mentioned that we should try an orchard in Penrose called 3rd Street Apples. Through I'd never been there, the name sounded warm and familiar enough that I had to check it out.
As we drove down 3rd Street, I realized why it sounded so familiar. When I was a child my aunt and uncle owned an apple orchard in Penrose which I've written of often. This happened to be part of the very same orchard; their old house is just down the road! These are the very same apples I remember as a girl and grew up eating. Most of the apples were sold, but I remember my grandmother collecting the salvageable ones from the orchard floor to make apple sauce and crumble, spiced apples, and hearty apple pie with whipped cream (which she'd dot on my nose).
The orchard was effortlessly kichy, decorated to the max with a fun mix of scarecrows, straw bales, pumpkins, and hand painted signs. The most beautiful tiger-striped chickens wandered carefree beneath the trees. This orchard has a charming history. Planted in 1910 it was part of a huge orchard that covered most of the valley floor. It provided apples, by the trainload, to most of the US until after WWII, when the Pacific Northwest took over apple production. After WWII the orchard was replanted, divided and sold to different owners. I was intrigued by all the heritage varieties that were available here. Calville Blanc, Lura Red, Prairie Spy -- I wanted to try them all!
Inspired by all the fresh produce around me, from apples to zucchini, using it all has become a sort of personal challenge, especially given my severe lack of time! I love to come home to my kitchen after a satisfying day trip, pour a glass of wine, tune into Edith Piaf on Pandora (Eve sings along and her precious, tiny voice fills my heart), and cook an entire meal with this local produce. With time at a premium, I've pulled out the crock pot which has found a permanent home among the bowls of apples and baskets of squash on my counter, ready at a moment's notice. This is one of my favorite post-outing fall meals. It uses the bounty of the season, and since the meat is cooked in the crock pot, I'm free to focus on dessert (which, I have to admit, is my favourite part anyway.)
Shredded Zucchini and Beef Barbacoa Burritos
2 lb beef pot roast
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 T lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
2 t cumin
2 t chili powder
1 t oregano
1/2 t brown sugar
1/4 t cloves
1 bay leaf
1 cup shredded zucchini
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
Brown the beef in the oil and place in the slow cooker.
While the beef browns, mix the broth, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, brown sugar, cloves, and bay leaves. Pour this sauce into the pan & bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the sauce over the meat. Cover and cook on low approx. 8 hours.
An hour before serving shred the beef in the crock pot with two forks. Stir in the zucchini and black beans, and cook on high for 1 hour longer.
Serve in a warmed flour tortilla with your choice of:
Pickled red onions (see recipe below)
Shredded red cabbage
shredded cheddar cheese, Monterrey Jack or queso fresco
Pickled Red Onions
juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lg red onion, sliced thin
pinch of salt to taste
Bring the lemon juice, sugar, vinegar, and garlic to a simmer. Add salt to taste. Place the sliced onions in a heat safe bowl. Pour the hot liquid over, let cool a few minutes, then cover and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour or until ready to serve.
Fall Apple Tart
1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
10 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
1/3 cup ice cold water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 large, tart apples (I used Calville Blanc, but Granny Smith would work well, too)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten with a tsp of water
1/4 cup apricot jam
Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and cut into the flour with a pastry blender or by quickly rubbing the butter into the flour between your fingers. Mix the water and vinegar together. Mix this in until the dough just comes together (you may not need all the water). Place the dough in a mound on a floured board. Frissage the dough by pressing the heel of you hand into the middle and smearing it across the board. Scrape the dough back into a mound and continue until the dough just comes together. (I usually frissage it 4 -5 times.) When the dough has come together wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a large rectangle. With a knife, cut the dough into a rectangle that's approx 9 x 13 inches. Reserve the remaining dough. Transfer this rectangle to a parchment lined baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and using a small, leaf shaped cookie cutter, cut out enough leaves to make a crust around the edges. Brush the edges of your rectangle with egg wash and place the leaves, slightly overlapping, around the edge to form a crust. Brush the leaves with the egg wash and place the dough in the refrigerator while you prepare the apples.
Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Peel, core, and slice the apples thinly. Place them in neat rows on the dough. Sprinkle the entire 1/2 cup of sugar evenly over the apples. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
Mix the jam with a teaspoon or two of water and warm in the microwave for a few seconds. Brush over the apples. Serve warm or at room temp. with whipped cream or homemade vanilla ice cream.