Thursday, November 24, 2011

an apple a day

It's that time of year again when the market stalls are filled with barrels of local fall apples. Until a few years ago, I can't say I was a fan. I'm not saying I hated apples or anything but it certainly wouldn't have been my first pick in the produce aisle. And if I did happen to pick one up, it would have been the characteristically sweet red delicious. But now, after gaining an appreciation for the rosy fruit, it's rare that there aren't apples in the fridge. I have come to love so many other juicier, crispier varieties that these days I wouldn't dream of eating the ol' mealy standby. In fact, I am munching on one right now. A sweet, juicy honey crisp. Talk about inspiration!  Our last trip to the market got us an entire box for $8. Awesome. But what to do with all those apples?

apple cherry almond crisp

Make crisp of course! Apple crisp for us has long been one of those lazy Sunday breakfasts. It's easy to prepare and you get to laze around, enjoying your cappuccino while it fills the house with that warm fruity aroma. I've made many a crisp in my day, primarily in planting camps. Apple cranberry, ginger pear, peach, berry, blueberry, almond, strawberry rhubarb, coconut mango. We made it all. That's one of the great things about crisp. It's so versatile. Pick any fruit, fresh or frozen, toss it with a little sugar and flavor of your choice like cinnamon or even some lemon zest, and top with a mixture of brown sugar, butter, and oatmeal (some folks add flour too). Or if you wanna get crazy, use two fruits, say local honey crisp apples and cherries, then throw some chopped almonds, flax, vanilla, and a hint of almond extract in to the topping, and viola. Our last crisp. Warm, fruity, nutty, delicious. It's got Sunday morning written all over it.

And, while I did mention butter, fruit crisps can be healthy breakfasts as long as you don't go crazy with the sugar. Fruit is naturally sweet and once you add yummy flavors like lemon zest and vanilla, you'd be surprised how little sugar you actually need. Of course, it is the fruit and oats that offer the most nutrition. Oats provide an excellent source of soluble fiber, important in lowering cholesterol and reducing your chance of heart disease. The fruit, well, being fruit, is always generally good for you. Apples, with the skin on, are a great choice, providing antioxidants that help maintain blood sugar levels and prevent heart disease. Other good bets are blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, any berry for that matter, and cherries

If only I wrote the recipe down while I was making it.....someday I'll remember. But in the meantime, Google yourself a recipe, head on down to the market for some local apples (it IS today!), and use this Sunday to relax while dining on some warm homemade apple-y oat-y goodness. It's like apple pie for breakfast. Only better.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Italian Soul

Last night I was fortunate enough to reunite with a long time friend and what better way to do it but over some amazing Italian food at The Bicycle Thief. And, wouldn't you know it, an old friend/co-worker was our server. This was easily shaping up to be the perfect evening! To start, we both chose the salad of arugula, hazelnuts, local goat cheese, and papaya with a Wildflower honey vinaigrette. As you all may know, I love my salads, but I have to admit this one was exceptional. Fresh, peppery, crunchy, sweet and not the least bit oily. Wonderful.

For my main, I ordered the crespelle from the second plates menu. Essentially like a crepe, the house made crespelle was nothing short of incredible. Filled with creamy ricotta and honey roasted pumpkin, the crepe was topped with more pumpkin, a bechamel heavy on the nutmeg, and, perhaps the best part, sweet amaretti cookies. Your mouth is watering right now isn't it? I don't know about you but the combo of sweet and savoury is the way to my heart. And that Chianti Classico just complimented every last morsel.

My friend, perhaps with some not so subtle hinting on my part, ordered the lasagna consisting of handmade pasta, wild mushrooms, young Montasio cheese, mascarpone, and, get this, a truffle infused bechamel. Some friends and I had tried this on a previous visit so I was well aware how rich and tasty it was. She agreed. Wild mushrooms are one of those ingredients I will always lean towards and in this dish they were perfectly matched with the rich cheeses and sublime truffle bechamel. This is certainly a dish I would order again and again.

But the meal didn't end there. I am usually not one for dessert, rarely saving room, but on this occasion my friend wanted the cheesecake and who am I to argue with that! So with a cappucino in hand (yes, that addiction is as strong as ever), we split an order. Oh my. Not only was this one of the best cheesecakes I have ever tasted, but the combination of the amaretto crust, caramelized pears, generous sized dollop of marscapone, and house made caramel sauce elevated it to a whole new level. Not to spoil this review with mention of a very disappointing visit to a desserterie in town, but the desserts at The Bicycle Thief were exactly what I would expect from a restaurant specializing in desserts: house made, quality ingredients, interesting (and complimentary of course) taste combinations, artful presentation. Yet The Bicycle Thief doesn't even specialize in desserts. That's how amazing The Bicycle Thief is. Period.

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