Apple Pickle

Apple PickleIn An Apple Pickle
You may remember a few weeks ago I talked about going apple picking at my brother-in-law’s house. Well, fast forward till now and I am still trying to make my way through all of those apples. We’ve made a pretty big dent in our harvest but we still have a ways to go.

The problem is, we’re kinda getting tired of consuming apples in the usual forms. Eating them straight, as part of a pie, as applesauce, or using the applesauce to make muffins is getting boring. Apples and pork are a no-brainer dinner combination. But, you can’t eat that every night. And, let’s not forget that, recent rainy days aside, it’s still pretty warm out. So, a slow-roasted meal is not the first that comes to mind in 90-degree heat.

I came across this recipe in the New York Times cooking section and I was beyond intrigued. After doing a little research, I was surprised how common apple pickle is. Considering how often I eat and or prepare Indian meals, you would think that these pickles would have crossed my path before now. But, apple pickle is a first for me.

The biggest hurdle to making these was the asafoetida. While we do try to stock as much variety as we can here at the store there will always be things that we just don’t carry. In this case, it’s asafoetida powder. So, I made a trip to my favorite spice shop and picked some up. I love spice shopping so “having” to go is actually a treat.

I made some changes to the original recipe based on research I did with a number of the Indian cookbooks I have in my collection. It’s pretty exciting to make these if only to get a break from the sweet side of apples…

Apple Pickle
Adapted from NY Times Cooking Read more…

Remembering

Remembering

Growing up, I remember my mother saying on more than one occasion that she would always remember where she was and what she was doing the day that President John F. Kennedy was shot because of the utter shock and, for lack of a better term, trauma, she felt upon hearing the news. The implausibility of that event created a memory that could not be erased. I never thought I would ever experience something that jarring but I was wrong. For my generation, the event that will forever be etched in our minds is September 11, 2001.

I am fascinated to hear other people’s stories about where they were and what they were doing that day mainly because they are all just so different, yet sadly similar. My story goes something like this:

We were just three weeks shy of our wedding on September 29. My then-fiancée and I were getting ready to go to work and had the news on in the background. The news was reporting that a plane had flown into the north tower of the World Trade Center. But, they had not yet figured out that it was a terrorist attack. For all we knew it was a tragic mechanical failure…

I was working in Santa Clara then for a technology division of Barnes and Noble and commuting from Oakland via Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor service. This meant I had to leave early to catch the train in Emeryville. I was listening to news coverage on the radio but still didn’t quite have a handle on the immensity of the situation in New York. So, I kept going on about my day per usual. I managed to find a parking space and right as I shut off the engine the announcement was made that the South Tower had collapsed. I had a moment of disbelief because I thought that couldn’t be right. I figured they had gotten something wrong so I got on the train.

At that point, we still didn’t know how many planes had been hijacked or where the next threat may have been coming from. The FAA was grounding every single plane flying over, or on their way to, the US in an effort to stop any more attacks. What you may not realize is while that was happening in the air, the same thing was happening with the rail lines. The FRA, which governs the country’s railways, called for an all stop across every single railway in the US. We were just outside of the Jack London Station when the first stop happened. For reasons that to this day I do not know, they released the trains about 10 minutes later. We were stopped again about 15 minutes after that and again released. The same thing happened a third time not too far from my stop at the Great America Station. Each time we stopped the fear level amongst passengers grew. We just didn’t know what was going on.

By the time I got to the office, I was shaking and confused and had no idea what I should be doing or where I should go. And, I wasn’t alone. The head office for Barnes and Noble is in a tall building on Fifth Ave in New York City. While I had been starting and stopping on the train, my colleagues in New York were watching the horror unveil in real-time from their office windows. Those of us who made it into the Santa Clara office that morning, packed ourselves into the conference rooms listening on speakerphones hanging on every word our friends and coworkers were using to describe what they were seeing—all while attempting to hold back their tears. It didn’t take long for management to close down the office and send us all home.

By the time I got back to our apartment, my now-husband was already there. His office was on the top floor of 4 Embarcadero Center with beautiful big windows and views of the Bay. They didn’t even let him in the building before he was sent home. We spent the day grateful to be with each other but heartbroken for those who lost their lives and for those they left behind.

There are many things I have forgotten and will forget during my 46 years but I know this. That fall day in September 2001, will be a memory I take with me always. I will never forget it.

We will never forget.

Gam’s Cocoa Apple Cake

Gam’s Cocoa Apple CakeSeason’s Greetings
For most of the country, the Labor Day weekend signals the beginning of cooler temperatures and spiced flavors of fall (regardless of what the calendar says is the actual start of the season). Those of us here in California know that, despite the recent cooler weather, it is not yet time to guzzle pumpkin spice or bring the sweaters out of storage. Because, dear friends, the hottest days of the year are actually ahead of us. For Californians, fall doesn’t really start until around Halloween.

For the record, I had a chai latte this morning. Why should you care? Because chai spices are basically the gateway to pumpkin spice. I’m not quite ready to go there yet! But, I found myself in a bit of a fall mood brought on by the cooler temps this morning as well as the apple picking we did over the weekend. So, I compromised.

The apple picking happened because my brother in law’s apple tree runneth over at the moment and it is just WAY too much for one man no matter how many neighborhood squirrels there are. I think we picked at least 40 pounds of apples…maybe more which means now I have to figure out what to do with all of them. Upon arrival at home, I immediately threw some in my pressure cooker and made applesauce. That was a no-brainer. My daughter made a couple of Dutch Apple pies which the kids have been enjoying for breakfast. Of course, we have been eating the apples straight as snacks. And, the kids have been putting them in their lunches with a little peanut butter. But, I have to figure out what to do with the rest. Thus, I have been going through my cookbooks and re-examining some of my favorite recipes.

One recipe that jumped out at me was my grandmother’s Cocoa Apple Cake. It is one of two that I always loved growing up. The second one was an applesauce cake that she made with her homemade applesauce. (I’m still trying to find it.) The chocolate in this bundt cake recipe makes it popular with the young as well as the old while the apples keep it nice and moist. It’s a delicious addition to a lunch box or as a snack for the PTA meeting.

Gam’s Cocoa Apple Cake
Yields 10 to 12 Servings Read more…

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

Chewy Chocolate BrowniesBrownie Brain
Labor Day weekend is almost here…which is awesome because, Hey!, a three day weekend! Tradition suggests that I am supposed to be thinking about barbecue but truth be told, I’m kind of sick of grilling. With as hot as it has been lately, I haven’t even looked twice at my oven. Everything we’ve eaten in the past two weeks has been hot off the outdoor grill. Needless to say, I am finding it hard to get too excited about a barbecue for Labor Day.

That being said, I will be going to a barbecue on Sunday. The good news is the decision to figure out what to throw on the grill rests entirely on my sister’s shoulders. I have a feeling that I will be in charge of bringing something sweet to the party. And, for some reason lately, I have had brownies on the brain.

I can’t tell you how long it has been since I have made a batch of brownies. I love brownies and because of that love I just can’t have them lying around. I will simply end up eating them. Hence, I have not made them in over a year. As a general rule, I am a brownie purist but I am not above swirling in a little peanut butter before they go in the oven or even mixing some espresso into the batter. There are never any nuts in my brownies. Not because I don’t like nuts—but I just don’t want anything to interfere with my chocolate intake. And, no nuts means there is more room for chocolate in each bite.

Brownies, or chocolate anything really, are a great way to end a barbecue because chocolate just goes well with grilled meats. Even better, you can serve them with the ice cream of your choice on the top for a sundae. Or, take it a step further and use the brownies as the base for an ice cream cake!

Chewy Chocolate Brownies Read more…

Plum Upside-Down Cake

Plum Upside-Down CakeDun Gone Plum Crazy
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s plum season. Beautiful black plums, red plums, French plums and all sorts of pluots are available for your eating pleasure pretty much anywhere fruit is sold. I love plums. In my opinion, they are best when they are still slightly firm so that the skin is still a bit tart but the flesh is super sweet. Yum!

In my yard, I have essentially two plum trees. One is a hybrid that combines a couple of varieties so its hard to say what type it is. The other is actually a pluot. Both are about 5 years old and neither one has produced any fruit…until this year.

Because we had a crazy amount of rain last year, my trees were loaded with fruit by May/June. I can’t tell you how excited I was. I went out there every day to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Each day they got bigger and bigger and when they finally started to change color and ripen I was vibrating with excitement and then one day, they were gone.

I don’t know if it was squirrels, rats or raccoons but my bumper crop vanished overnight with no evidence left behind. I was baffled and distraught and more than a little bit angry.

Since then I have been having to sooth my plum craving via the different varieties we have here at the store and also with what is available at the farmer’s market in my neighborhood. And, don’t get me wrong, the plums are great. But, it’s not the same as eating your own homegrown version right off of the tree.

Over the weekend I went plum crazy and bought more than we will be able to consume fresh so I plan on making this upside-down cake with what’s left over. There is never a bad time for cake and I will especially enjoy it with a cup of coffee looking out my window watching the squirrels eat the majority of this year’s pomegranate crop…sigh.

Plum Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields one 9-inch cake Read more…