A Delayed Appreciation for Apples

When I was little, I hated apples for no good reason. I believe I even had a slight case of dyslexia when it came to the word “apple” because I always wanted to say “red” instead. Applesauce was okay, but eating a whole apple seemed strange. I loved apple pie, but only when it was served with a disproportionately large scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. My mother baked apples, cored with sugar and cinnamon. These were delicious because the mushy fruit no longer resembled an apple when it came out of the oven, scenting the entire house of autumn. Even though I gradually outgrew my disinterest in apples, I didn’t start eating whole apples until I got to college. Regardless of my delayed appreciation for apples (and yes, I realize that this delay makes me a bit crazy), I still associate  apples with fall, and fall with apples.

It’s hard to believe it’s fall in the Northern Hemisphere while I get to experience a second spring, with 80 degree weather in Australia. I’m not complaining, but the lack of foliage is strange. If I were home, I’d likely be cooking up some Apple Cinnamon Streusel Muffins (Erica’s Sweet Tooth) or some Apple Cinnamon Cookies with Maple Cinnamon Glaze (How To Simplify).

Or perhaps I’d just bake some apples with my mom, and serve them with a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream…

Now, about pumpkins, another autumnal culinary symbol. Pumpkin, in the United States, means fall. Pumpkin, in Australia, is a staple in foods. It’s not reserved for autumn, or Halloween carvings, or even pies. Instead, pumpkin is a topping for pizza, a filling for sandwiches, and the base for many soups. I like pumpkin, don’t get me wrong, but maybe not on my pizza. I’d rather go for some Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies (Two Peas and Their Pod) or Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites (Eat, Live, Run). Too bad I don’t have an oven. Thankfully, I could still make some oven-less Pumpkin Gnocchi (Shape).

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Tim Tam Slam

If you go to Australia, it is practically sinful to not try a Tim Tam. These cookies are the Oreos of Australia. They are a delicious concoction of chocolate (and sometimes white chocolate) covered biscuits with a creamy filling. And while they come in many varieties, the best is the “double coat.” Think Double Stuff Oreos but Tim Tam style.

Most importantly, try doing a Tim Tam slam, which involves biting off two opposite corners of the cookie and sipping a warm drink like coffee or hot cocoa through the biscuit.

Here are a few recipe ideas involving Tim Tams:

-Try a Tim Tam Cake that looks like a giant Tim Tam and has Tim Tams within the cake batter;

-Make Raspberry Tim Tam Tarts with ground Tim Tam “soil;”

-Or whip up a Tim Tam treat with a Tim Tam Fudge Slice

Smoked Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato Ravioli

I have an unreasonable obsession with farmers’ markets. I enjoy the good food, colorful produce, free samples, people-watching, and knowledge that is spread. The past few days of rain wiped out the strawberry crops. And while that is unfortunate, it provides a good lesson of following mother nature and determining what you eat based on what is in the garden. So I bought some tomatoes.

And some Sundried Tomato and Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli from Nella Pasta. Made in Jamaica Plain, MA, this pasta was phenomenal. The two women owners suggest serving the pasta with just a bit of butter or extra virgin olive oil. The pasta cooks up in mere minutes, so this is the perfect solution for a scrumptious, quick meal. I ended up making a small side of Homemade No-Oil No-Nut Basil Pesto. My dad had a baked chicken breast as well, and I served a simple cucumber, tomato, onion salad with vinegar.

I made half of the recipe for Homemade No-Oil No-Nut Basil Pesto because I only needed a small amount to serve next to the pasta. Pesto without pine nuts is a different taste, with more emphasis on the basil flavor. This was garlicky and full of basil, a perfect complement to the pasta. I suppose a store bought pesto would be tasty next to the pasta, but fresh basil is just so satisfying.

When I volunteered at the farmers’ market, I learned about the oxidation of basil leaves in pesto. If your pesto looks dark, as mine did, it can be attributed to both the tomatoes and also oxidation. Over time as the pesto sits in your refrigerator, the color will deepen. With a good stir, you should see more green appear. This is a good sign of how fresh your pesto is: if your store bought pesto takes a while to darken, there may be additives.

1/2 cup fresh basil, well-packed

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

1 clove garlic, minced

pinch of salt

1/8-1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated

In a small processor, blend all ingredients including the cheese, which can be added to your preference. Blend until smooth. Keep refrigerated.