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Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats with Golden Apple Raisin Compote

Living in the Bay area makes you a bit immune to what might be seasonal shifts around the rest of the country. October typically fans the warmth of summer with the mornings and evenings taking a dip into cooler temperatures. We jokingly tell friends and family who come visit to bring layers, knowing that inevitably, sweaters go on and jackets come off throughout the dance of the day. I gravitate toward bowls of creamy steel cut oats in the autumn months, topped with toasted nuts, fruit (either dried or chopped fresh), a drizzle of maple syrup or honey, and a splash of cold milk. This breakfast is the only one that can supplant my eggs and tortilla tradition most days and really helps me feel a shift in the season even if outside, it still resembles a long summer. I leapt at the chance to share Jane Bonacci and Sara De Leeuw’s instant pot steel cut oats from their Gluten-Free Instant Pot Cookbook because I figured that long cooking grains would be a great place to start and also because the apple compote aligned with all the apple bins at the farmer’s market. I also will admit the addition of Golden Delicious apples made my brow wrinkle in a good way–it’s not often you see that nostalgic apple variety from childhood called out in a recipe, and it really does, along with the Granny Smith apples, make this compote exceptional.

Instant pot steel cut oats may just be your new winter breakfast. This recipe makes enough for breakfasts all week.

A note here from Bonacci and De Leeuw— for this recipe, don’t think about substituting rolled or old-fashioned oats–you really want the sturdiness of steel cut to stand up to cooking at high pressure in the instant pot. Also, they call out the apples as tart and sweet, so use what you like, though they provide varietal suggestions too. You can certainly use whatever milk you prefer here too– I used Califia Farms almondmilk because aside from me making my own, its texture and mouthfeel is thickest and creamiest. Also, those golden raisins are initially called out as optional in the cookbook recipe, but I wasn’t so generous and and omitted the optional element. Their sweet and tart flavor really plays off the apples and I think the compote would be lacking without them, so think of this as an oatmeal cookie deconstructed into a bowl of oats. I bet dried cranberries might work well here too, and add a pop of color, but give sultanas a chance, even if you (like me) don’t really love cooked raisins. If you also happen to be vexed with instant pot cooking or wanting to give it a go, read my unbridled The Gluten-Free Instant Pot cookbook review. I ate this oatmeal for a week and didn’t tire of it. There’s a fresh pot of steel cut oats cooking away on my countertop in the instant pot as a break-ahead breakfast for a week leaning deeper into fall. 

Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats will make you a fan of your instant pot for easily and quickly cooking whole grains.

Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats with Golden Apple Raisin Compote

Course Breakfast

Ingredients

Golden Apple Raisin Compote

  • 1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith
  • 1 sweet apple, such as Golden Delicious
  • 3 tablespoons golden raisins or sultanas
  • 1/2 cup orange or apple juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Steel Cut Oats

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups almondmilk
  • 2 cupa steel-cut oats
  • Pinch kosher salt

Instructions

For the Compote

  1. Peel and core the apples, and cut into small chunks. Place in a saucepan. Add the raisins, orange juice, lemon juice, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon zest. Stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are fork-tender and the liquid is syrupy. Transfer the compote to a bowl and set aside.

For the Oatmeal

  1. Lightly butter the bottom and lower sides of the inner pot to help avoid sticking. Add the water, milk, oats, and salt, but do not stir. Close and lock the lid, making sure the steam release handle is in the sealing position. Cook on high pressure for 9 minutes. When it is finished, release the pressure naturally, which will take about 15 minutes. Turn the steam release handle to venting, releasing any remaining steam. Unlock the lid and open it carefully.

  2. Scoop the oatmeal into bowls and top with a tablespoon or two of the apple compote. Serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from The Gluten-Free Instant Pot Cookbook by Jane Bonacci and Sara De Leeuw (published by Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group, 2018).

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Honeycrisp Apple Butternut Squash Soup

And, suddenly, autumn arrives. Yesterday was the first day of fall and it snuck past me without any sort of fanfare. Actually, each meal yesterday included tomatoes and I’ve been hoarding what Early Girl and heirlooms I can find with the rapt attention of a dragon guarding its gold. In school and on into the working years, if I needed to get into a particular state of mind quickly, the best way to do that included dressing the part or what you could call dressing for success, and what some of you might call faking it til you make it. I may still be holding onto light lingering into early evening and perhaps also certain summer states of mind (reading early, often). But, then again, I’ve also cranked up the oven to roast winter squash a handful of times. And, this soup is one such way to fake it till you feel fall-ish. It’s too soon for pumpkin, but bring out the bushels of apples aplenty.

What is it about honeycrisp apples that make them a contender for the ultimate apple? Their sweet and tart flesh that snaps when you take a juicy bite. You can find a host of other apples at farmer’s markets but this particular varietal seems to be the apple of everyone’s eye. Their flavor adds a bright slightly acidic note that balances the sweetness of the squash. Homemade soup to usher in autumn.

Make a pot of homemade Honeycrisp Apple Butternut Squash Soup to fall into an autumn frame of mind.

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Honeycrisp Apple Butternut Squash Soup


Course Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 cups ( 1-inch) chopped butternut squash, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped (about 4)
  • 2 cups white onion, chopped (about 1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup celery stalks, chopped (about 2)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • Creme fraiche, optional
  • Extra olive oil, optional
  • Extra sage leaves, optional
  • 1 1/2 medium honeycrisp apples, peeled and chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

  2. Toss the butternut squash with the 2 teaspoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and sage and a dusting of Aleppo pepper. Roast the squash for 25 minutes or until fork tender.

  3. Drizzle and swirl the remaining olive oil in a heavy stockpot set over medium heat. Saute the onion, celery, and salt for 8 to 10 minutes or until translucent. Add the squash to the pot, tossing together. Pour in the chicken stock. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the butternut squash is fork tender.

  4. Pour a portion of the soup into the blender with apple slices, removing the cap, and covering the top with a towel. Puree the soup in batches.

  5. Garnish with a swirl of creme fraiche and perhaps a few fried sage leaves, if desired. (To fry them, line a plate with a paper towel. Heat a slick of olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Once shimmering, add the extra sage leaves, lightly frying them until they take on a little bit of color. Drain them on the paper towel before placing them atop of the soup as a garnish.

Roast the squash and you're halfway there to make a comforting pot of Honeycrisp Apple Butternut Squash Soup.

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Apple Maple Pecan Cobbler

Maple sugar and spice and everything nice (like apples and pecans). Making an Apple Maple Pecan cobbler is an easy dessert to bake for a warming dessert.

How did we end up here? It’s fall again. Lovely, wonderful fall, the season at the top of so many lists. And maybe a reason it’s a favorite is tied up in the idea of harvest. The idea of bounty. So, what happens when the bounty we find ourselves with is sorrow? Does it seem like 2017 has been particularly macabre? As I write this, the sky has been orange and hazy for two days, over an hour away from the wildfires in the Wine Country.

We have all grown up and into social media, we’re finding our ways of expressing sorrow and solidarity #sonomastrong #napastrong #prayforpuertorico #prayforlasvegas #prayforhouston #prayformexicocity #prayforflorida In the midst of all the hashtags, inevitably you’ll find commentary that hashtags are not enough. That we need to take action. And, that’s true. I sometimes wonder how the accessibility to almost instantaneous worldwide communications like twitter with its breaking news sound bites has made us better humans or shown inhumanity that was once locked away in our deepest selves? To not take a position is to take a position. I know that now.

When making an Apple Maple Pecan Cobbler, choose a mix of tart and sweet apples like Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples.

In a recent issue of the New Yorker, an article sucked me into an idea of recreating paradise, hand-plucking each applicant for his/her skill set to live in paradise for one year. Paradise, as defined here, was ensconced somewhere in Wales, and according to the article, if you looked hard enough, you could find a way out of it. Imagine that: scaling a wall to escape “paradise.” That premise of starting over in a utopian state isn’t naïve, it’s hopeful and yet putting the idea into action is an invitation to foreshadowing. Because what I didn’t need to be told is that it wouldn’t work. That factions would break off. That William Golding’s encampment of young boy savages resides in the deepest hearts of all of us. But I’m not convinced that has to be the end of the story.

Consider the city of Petaluma. In the midst of the fires, the city has rallied and come together to help evacuees. You too can volunteer / donate / find a resource for evacuees here. I called our local firehouse in Oakland this morning and offered to bake / bring items and was told they are helping fight the fire and cooking up in the Wine Country.

I have deep, deep ties to the Wine Country and have been on pins and needles as a person close to the fire but not so close that we can’t see the plume, even if our skies are smoky, even if we get our news by headlines ticking across Google search refresh.

Granny Smith Apples are indispensable in an Apple Maple Pecan Cobbler because their tart flavor melds well with the maple sugar.

It’s hard at a time like now to write about apples. It’s hard not to devour news like it’s a 24 hour buffet of food that doesn’t quite fill you up enough. The morning after the tragedy that unfolded in Las Vegas as Jason Aldean launched into his fourth song, I couldn’t help thinking about the previous morning, a friend excitedly recounting his trip the weekend before to Las Vegas and a Celine Dion concert.

It can be easy to read just the horror in the headlines, but sometimes we must excavate for the hope. Because, it’s there too. The vet who took action, tying off a bleeding appendage in a tourniquet, using someone else’s volunteered flannel shirt—he’s not alone in doing good, just the one guy who made it into a story. There’s the couple who ventured to Vegas to celebrate their anniversary and on Sunday evening, the husband covered his wife’s body with his own, sacrificially saving her. I can’t imagine what snaps inside a person to wrest against the impulse of self-preservation for other-preservation, but it exists. And, it makes me think of cobbler.

Top Apple Maple Pecan Cobbler with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream for a homey autumn teatime.

A cobbler calls to mind community tables. It’s a dessert best shared, fruit still bubbling in its own sweet juices. And, surely you know someone who could really use something sweet in their life. So, who can you bake for? Can baking a cobbler be in its way a response to all that loss? I know what it’s like to have someone I love ripped from my life in an instant. I may not have survived the same kind of loss as a hurricane or massacre in Vegas, or even an entire home being eviscerated, but I know the kind of onslaught of grief that grips you day and night. And, lest you think a cobbler is a pat answer, what it really is, beyond the biscuits baked on top, all craggy corners with an underbelly cooked by fruit steam—a cobbler is an offer to see someone else’s hurt and offer a gift of time to be with them in all that darkness, bringing provisions. And for that person, for that time, it can be enough.

Who are you going to share an Apple Maple Pecan Cobbler with?

Apple Maple Pecan Cobbler

Have you ever seen maple sugar at the store? It’s not cheap, but that’s because it’s priceless. Maple syrup has been cooked down into granulated crystals that make it acceptable to use in baking where liquid sweetener isn’t invited. You can always make your own, or if neither of those work, you could try equivalent white sugar with a teaspoon of maple extract. To keep the fruit from browning, make a bowl of acidulated water (aka lemon juice squeezed into water) and add the peeled, cored slices into it as you’re prepping the other ingredients, until ready to use.

Makes 4 servings

5 cups ¼-inch sliced apples, peeled and cored (about 2 Granny Smith & 1 Pink Lady)

1/3 cup maple sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon maple sugar

1teaspoon baking powder

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

¼ cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8×8 pan. Drain and pat the apple dry, if kept in the acidulated water. Toss the apples, maple sugar, flour, and cornstarch in a bowl until coated. Pour into the 8×8 pan.

Whisk the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder into a medium-sized bowl. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, two forks or fingers if your hands tend to be cold and quick. Once the butter resembles peas and almonds, pour in the buttermilk, stirring until it comes together in one shaggy mass, pulling any errant bits into the whole. Roll the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Press out disks of dough using a biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter. Polka dot them on top of the apples.

Bake the cobbler for 50 minutes, checking on the topping at 35 minutes–if it’s golden brown, cover the cobbler with foil and continue cooking until a fork inserts easily into one of the apples. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.

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Apple Tartines with Cinnamon Ginger Cream Cheese

Green Apple Tartines with Cinnamon Ginger Cream Cheese

It almost happened. In my haste to go, go, go, I almost missed throwing a round of confetti and blowing out a candle. Six years ago I restarted something begun in poetry school, though back then, my blog’s purpose lay somewhere between chronicling adventures in studying for my MFA and reminders of what restaurants I needed to revisit on future culinary work trips. Before I restarted the blog as the food poet, I called it La Vie en Route, chronicling a life lived en route. Try as I might now to imagine it all again, I traveled far more often and widely then than I do now. My goals have tapered a bit toward wanting to grasp a slower life. Except here’s the little secret, the one I only tell my close friends: I want to do it all. My Dad passed down to me his love of projects and keen organizational skills, his ear for music and linguistics and a workaholic tendency that I know too well. My Mom passed down to me a reminding of not missing the people for the projects, something that is a gauge for recalibration when I can feel myself scaling the wall and not looking back. My husband matches my intensity but also is able to relax. He lets loose. Plays the guitar on a school night. He’s a brilliant man whose actions sometimes spark my actions in call-and-response. Last night, after a flurry of texts from one worried neighbor, I stopped working, walked downstairs, and we talked about her questions. Another neighbor entered the conversation and what ensued was this magical moment of connection and kindred movement toward a common goal of living well, together. Their choice words, spoken lovingly upon my ears like an arrow finding its mark, and equated to this: self-care is not selfish.

So, here we are, making apple tartines for the fall. Stopping to write on this blog on a Wednesday evening when I could be working or sleeping. When you visit a blog over a long time, it changes as the blogger changes. Sometimes, they blog less frequently. Sometimes, they stop blogging on that site and start a new one. Sometimes they stop blogging. I’ve noticed a small trend in a few blogs where once a book is published, the blog goes radio-silent. To blogging friends, at conferences where I’ve spoken and audited blogs, in conversations on Snapchat, and private messages on Facebook, I’ve asked a single question: is your blog your happy place and if not, how can you make it a place YOU want to visit? Six years ago, I started the food poet in my desire to bring my shared loves of poetry and food to the same table because I know something universal to my life, and maybe it’s universal to yours too: poetry easily gets drowned out by other louder voices. Food is ever-consuming. Its voracious appetite is a road running east to west. I may speak here less often, but I’m here. I’m committed. If you get my newsletter, I send those out with more frequency. I’m over on Instagram, playing around with Instagram Stories and on Snapchat occasionally too. But, here we are, now. Shall I pour you a cup of tea? Black tea is what we’re drinking now that the sun’s been socked away until spring. And, I have just the sandwiches for us to munch on.

Green Apple Tartines with Ginger Cinnamon Cream Cheese

Apple Tartines with Cinnamon Ginger Cream Cheese

This recipe was developed for a cooking demo I taught several times this fall in Seattle. Participants in the class ate them up delightfully and I have since tweaked two things: the bread used here is full of texture that I think makes the finger sandwich more interesting than plain white bread, and the cut on the apples ended up being prettier and easier to eat as rounds. Now my obsession for good wild yeasted bread goes deep, see exhibits A and B, but for these tiny apple tartines, I opted for bagged grocery store bread because of its malleability. If you have Steeped, you can find various tartines and toasts using an array of wild yeasted breads. While these apple tartines are open-faced, you could always double the bread and smear the cream cheese on top and bottom if you want a closed sandwich. If you have a tomato spoon (that little red handled spoon with teeth in the photo above) or a grapefruit spoon, it can help you dislodge any apple seeds. Do you own a mandolin? That will make your apple slices even easier, prettier and thinner.

Makes 12 / Serves 6

1/2 block (4-ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 teaspoons powdered sugar
2 small Granny Smith green apples, seeded and 1/4-inch sliced width-wise (12 rounds)
12 pieces of oat and nut bagged bread

Combine the cream cheese with the ginger, cinnamon, and powdered sugar. Mix well. Stamp a biscuit cutter into the middle of each slice of bread, cutting out a bread circle. Spread the cream cheese on the bread. Top with an apple slice and serve.

 

—–

PS: Wondering what to do with the crusts? I hate food waste and am guessing you do too, so here are a few ideas: feed the ducks! dry out the bread crusts in the oven and then pulverize into breadcrumbs for salad, macaroni and cheese, or meatballs and meatloaf!

PPS: Want to get a headstart? You can mix the cream cheese the day before to chill in the refrigerator. Slice the bread in advance and store in a zip-sealed bag. You can even slice the apples in advance, just make sure to give them a good douse of lemon juice so they don’t brown. I would suggest against putting them together in advance, but you can pull together all the components to make your a la minute tartine assembly easy.

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Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

When you think of maple syrup does your mind first conjure up a stack of pancakes and a warm amber-colored drizzle pooling around the edges of the plate below the tipped spoon? If there is any ingredient that can usher in a taste of fall and winter, it might just be maple. The sweet caramel notes remind me of tearing into beaver tail brioche doughnuts slick with hot maple glaze during a Quebecois Christmas. More recently in Vermont, I saw firsthand how this beloved ingredient makes its way onto menus (like the irresistible pairing of Vermont cream and Vermont maple in Maple Walnut Ice Cream) or on store shelves, in everything from jars of “maple crunch” clusters to a bag of sriracha maple cashews that both passed the carry-on permissible souvenir test.

Maple Walnut Ice Cream

I’ve been thinking about maple more often than usual because of Katie Webster’s first cookbook, Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup. Several months ago a mutual friend introduced us and I agreed to assist her during a 48 hour turn-around trip from Vermont to San Francisco. When she offered to send me her cookbook to explore more, I happily accepted.

Maple Cookbook

On Katie’s blog, Healthy Seasonal Recipes, she shares recipes rooted in the seasons with a healthy perspective. She shot all of the photos in her cookbook. As a former food stylist for Eating Well Magazine, she knows how to take stunning photos that give healthy food gorgeous appeal.

Katie was flying out from Vermont to San Francisco to demonstrate a few maple recipes at a librarians conference. When we initially discussed recipes to demo, she teased out the recipe for Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs commenting how this recipe wooed anyone who made it. We ended up going with two other recipes,  but the chicken stayed in the back of my mind, bookmarked.

Maple Ginger Chicken

Writing a first cookbook includes its own ebb and flow. There are long solitary stretches where the cook works to perfect the recipe in their kitchen. Then, in come the reinforcements in the form of recipe testers, editor, and friends for support. I’ve had my fair share of helpers, so I was excited to help another first-time author as she thrust her book out into the world for the first time.  I prepped all the ingredients and packed parts of my kitchen to haul over to the Moscone Center for her cooking demo at the librarians convention. She showed the group how to make her Maple Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies (p. 134) and Maple Sour Cherry Shirley Temples (p. 52) as several of us distributed samples for attendees to taste.

The maple walnut chocolate chunk cookies can be made with dark or white chocolate chips, but take it from an avid dark chocolate fan, I heartily suggest eschewing the dark and going for white. The test batch below shows dark chocolate. The white chocolate didn’t last quite so long… White chocolate brings out the caramel accents from the maple sugar in the cookies that bake up crisp around the edges and moist in the middles. Katie’s maple sour cherry Shirley Temples were a revelation. I had made a test batch when I first received the recipe and this drink has been modified for adult palates, balancing the sweetness of the maple syrup with sour cherries and a bit of almond extract. This drink made a believer out of me and escalated my curiosity to try Katie’s other maple-laced recipes.

Maple Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

The book categorizes the recipes by type, making it easy to hunt down drink recipes, breakfasts, main courses, and desserts. I began marking pages as soon as the book arrived that I’m planning to make this fall like Easy Maple Turkey Breakfast Sausage (p. 22) and the Overnight Whole Grain French Toast Bake with Dried Apricots and Chèvre (p. 30) that I’m eyeing for Christmas.

I learned that every winter Katie and her family tap trees in their yard and then process the sap through backyard sugaring that includes a 500-pound evaporator parked in their driveway. Katie takes the reader into understanding the differences between grades of syrup and even offers substitution tips for swapping in maple syrup in place of other sweeteners. Growing up in Texas and then living in California, it’s all too easy to look at a bottle of maple syrup and not see the connection to the land, especially when considering the cost. This ingredient is big business in Vermont and Northern America with direct links back to family-owned businesses. In reading Maple, I began to appreciate so much more than just the flavor. And that brings us back to chicken.

These chicken thighs marinate overnight for a comforting main course that fills the house with the aroma of fall. I totally understood Katie’s promptings this summer that this chicken would woo and win over anyone who tried it. It really is a bit of a ringer recipe. I adapted it ever so slightly with a few substitutions. We use kosher salt in our house, so instead of using 3/4 teaspoon iodized table salt as indicated in the recipe, I swapped in 1 teaspoon kosher salt. The recipe called for bone-in chicken thighs, but I ended up using skinless, boneless chicken thighs because that’s what I could find at my local market. She gives the suggestion to use pears or apples, but we decided to keep the apple love fest going strong to pair with the apple cider and apple cider vinegar. I made a pot of polenta and steamed some carrots to serve alongside. In the end I’m thinking all this dish really needs is a cold evening outside with the oven heating up our home and the smell of ginger, apples, maple, and poultry permeating every nook and warming us up.

Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

(adapted ever so slightly) Reprinted with permission from Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Maple Syrup by Katie Webster, published by Quirk Books.

Makes 8 servings

1 shallot, finely sliced

3/4 cup apple cider

1/2 cup dark pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon finely grated, peeled, fresh ginger

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus four sprigs, divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 bone-in (or boneless, skinless) chicken thighs

3 medium pears or apples, peeled, cored and quartered

 

In a medium bowl, whisk shallot, cider, syrup, ginger, vinegar, thyme, salt, and pepper. Place chicken in a large resealable bag. Pour marinade into bag, seal it, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning once or twice to agitate marinade and coat all pieces.

Preheat oven to 400F. Remove chicken from marinade and arrange pieces, skin side up, in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Tuck pears and thyme sprigs among chicken pieces. Pour marinade over top. Bake, basting occasionally, about 1 hour, until chicken is cooked through and starting to pull from the bone. Serve chicken and pears with sauce spooned over top.