apples to apples.

Hello, friends.  It’s official.  The hats and scarves have reared their ugly heads, and although folks around here are all talking about much they LOVE the cold weather, the streets were empty as a ghost town after I delivered meals to my Veggie Wednesday clients.  It wasn’t terribly late, just cold, and I believe people were hunkered down under blankets enjoying soup.  Or wishing they had some.  I made soup twice Wednesday and twice Thursday!  I think I’m turning into veritable soup fanatic or a soup whisperer or something.  Give me ingredients and broth, and I will give you soup. The yummy kind.

My Veggie Wednesday treats included Curried Coconut Carrot Ginger Soup with a fresh green salad of local lettuce, red watercress, curried toasted garbanzo beans, and orange vinaigrette.  Plus, I made the Spanish rice wrapped in Red Russian kale from last week’s post with fresh local cilantro yogurt sauce.

Upon delivery, I watched my client devour about 2 Cups of my Local Everything Including the Kitchen Sink Slaw with apples, turnips, purple cabbage, and broccoli.  I also implemented my fabulous Turtle Bend sweet potatoes in a sweet Vanilla and Honey Spiked Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potato dish topped with pecans.  It felt like Thanksgiving when I was crumbling the pecans, and I guess we’re really not that far off…

As we walked down the street to the Grant Park Farmer’s Market last weekend, I heard and felt lots of crunching beneath my feet. 

‘Tis the season to wear a hard hat when leaving the house to protect yourself from the bajillions of acorns falling from the sky with serious velocity. 

Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes

and festivities abounded at the market,

and I was there, big shadow and all, to soak up the loveliness.

There were kids performing

and folks sitting on bales of hay enjoying the show.  I think that girl on the left is sporting a mini witch’s hat on her head.  October is a time when you can wear just about anything and get away with it.

I love that there are always surprises at Grant Park.  What will it be next week?  A band?  A show?  A gigantic walking peach?  A parade?  So much fun!

And then, there are some things you CAN count on seeing.  Like H & F’s insanely wonderful breads.

New to their stand this week,

picture-perfect biscotti.  Makes you want a big mug of coffee or hot cocoa, doesn’t it?

And these rolls that

had people caving in one after the other.  Way to keep the carbs alive H & F!!!

King of Pops was selling out of flavors quickly,

but I appreciate the timely offering of the Pumpkin Pie pop.  I’m sure it’s delish.  I’ve had a tangerine basil pop before, and it was outstanding.

We grabbed some feta cheese from Decimal Place Farm,

and it is creamy and tangy.

There was plenty of butternut squash to go around, which is never a bad thing.

And that takes us to the Hoopin’ Farmers’ booth. 

A radish party?!?!?  How wonderful! 

As reported last week, these guys know what they are doing. 

From sweet potatoes,

to okra,

to pak choi,

and beautiful flowers

in jars and coffee cans, their tables delight my senses.  This week, we absconded with zebra tomatoes,

citrus-y and different, along with green onions and the bright cilantro shown above.  No sooner had we walked away from the table when we literally saw a Hoopin’ Farmer in action!!

Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!

Next, we stopped by Nazifa’s Bakery again to purchase more of her whole wheat naan bread.  We did end up making pizza using naan as the crust, as promised.

It was so righteous, I decided to make pizzas for my clients this week.  When I stopped by my Monday client’s house on Tuesday, he said, “Oh, sorry about my pizza breath.  I can’t stop eating it!”  : )  Perfect.  That’s the kinda feedback that keeps a girl doing what she’s doin’!

Nazifa also has baklava,

falafel, and her very own spice rub.  Maybe I’ll try out the rub next week.

We headed back past the middle, stopping for a moment to check out the Wood Fire Pizza menu.

Their knack for utilizing the vendor’s fresh goodies on their pizzas is fantastic.  If I had my druthers, I’d take the squash pizza, for sure.  Sounds like it’s right up my alley.

Then, to my nose’s extreme pleasure, I smelled sausage.  Not just any kind of sausage, Spotted Trotter’s breakfast sausage.

And really, aside from its “best sausage in America” qualities, how could you say no to this face?

To add one more layer of fabulous to this scene, Prince was blaring from behind their table.  I like the way these guys roll.  We purchased the breakfast sausage, as it was irresistible, and we enjoyed one delicious brinner this week!

En route to Turtle Bend’s table to pick up our veggies, I had to stop and take a look at these little nuggets.

The baby eggplant from the Global Growers practically jumped into my bag on their own.

Gotta love a farm with a mission to spread goodness through food.  They also had African eggplant,

which I’ve never seen before.

Turtle Bend’s table was next, and Nate had our bags all prepared.

This week, the Lowes’ farm boasted beautiful leafy greens- collards,

Red Russian kale,

Lacinato or Dinosaur kale,

along with kohlrabi,

(I think the bulb is like a cross between an apple and a turnip.  And you can use the greens as you would turnip greens.)

radishes,

and eggplant.

They also had a few cool-lookin’ peppers that we snagged. 

Almost time to head home, but I had to see what was at the end of the lane.  So glad I did!

Crack in the Sidewalk Farmlet had parsley just waiting for me,

and a basket full of color.

And the Oakleaf Mennonite Farm had these.

Sweet little bunches of baby collards!!  I fell in love.  They actually made their way into our omelet too!  Quick cooking and so tender and tasty!  When I told the farmer that it looked like one of the collards had a bite taken out of it, he grabbed the leaf, ripped off a piece, and ate it himself.  That totally tickled me. 

Last but totally not least, apple season is in full swing and we are reaping the rewards left

and right.

It’s wonderful to see such a wide variety of apples and to have easy access to amazing natural apple cider from Mercier Farm in Blue Ridge, GA.

I noticed that Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market is also offering this cider right now.  Which works out perfectly for me in providing brining recipes for my clients to prepare their meats for greatness.

This week’s cooking extravaganza features ribs brined in apple cider and served with a smoky apple barbecue sauce.  Using the fruits of the season in creative ways is the name of the game for Adam and I. 

Once again, our bounty required two photos.

Our Turtle Bend goodies,

and our other finds too.

So much to be thankful for!!!

The brining process started early in the day.

Two cups apple cider and two cups water, a couple pinches of both salt and sugar, pink peppercorns, coriander seeds, garlic, and bay leaves.

Adam pulled the membrane off the back of the ribs,

cut them in half, and placed them in a glass dish.

Then we poured the brine over the ribs and filled up the rest of the space with extra apple cider.

They sat in the fridge for a good three hours- but you can let them soak up the brine all day long, really.

Adam prepared the grill and soaked some applewood chips in water before placing them in a foil pouch over the charcoal.

Next it was time to make the spice rub.

Basically- a tablespoon of everything, with an extra scoop of paprika, chili powder, and dried mustard.

We transferred the seasonings into the coffee grinder my brother and sister-in-law got us as a gift,

and blended them well.

Once the ribs were out of the brining liquid, we dried them off, patted the rub onto both sides,

and got them onto a low grill where they stayed for hours- like 6.

Next up, we smoked some peppers to add to our apple barbecue sauce.  Hey- if you can make a peach barbecue sauce, why not an apple bbq sauce?

A red bell, a Georgia Cubanelle, and a red frigitello from the farm.

Once the peppers were charred, we covered them for five minutes, peeled off the skin and diced them.  Then, we chopped apples and tomatoes from Turtle Bend, along with onions, and garlic.

And we got our onions into the pot!

As soon as they were soft, we added the remaining ingredients and stirred them all together.

We added simple salt and pepper, and let the ingredients meld.

Meanwhile, we had collards to tend to.  Now, I must add a disclaimer here, knowing that Turtle Benders would be receiving collards next week, we purchased some at the Dekalb Market.

Um, that’s about five bunches.  They must have been thinking of some pretty large families when they bundled them!

You’ll notice cane syrup in this photo.  These collards are inspired by a childhood dish Adam recalls enjoying- hashbrown style potatoes with kielbasa and cane syrup.  When he was telling me about that dinner, I thought it would make a perfect flavor profile for collards.  So we rocked it out.

This heap of collards made for two huge bowls…

so feel free to alter the seasoning to suit your amount if you choose to make ‘em like this.

We started by browning off our kielbasa, which Adam had chopped into little cubes.

When the kielbasa was nice and brown, we removed it to a bowl and added our onions, cute little guys that we had picked up at the market last week.

Garlic and peppers were not far behind.

Next came the wilting of the greens. 

As you can imagine, this process took a while.  But I just kept turning those collards until there was room to add more.  And turned and wilted and turned and wilted.  I assured myself that my biceps would be so much better for it.

When all of those greens were finally in the pot and looking respectable, we added

3 teaspoons of cane syrup, and large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and the browned sausage.

Once it was well-incorporated, we added enough chicken broth to cover the greens with room to spare.  And we just put the lid on and let them cook down.

On the barbecue sauce front, it was time to blend our apples and veggies.

With a quick whir of the machine, we were in good shape.

Odd color for a barbecue sauce, you say?  Hey, nobody said that being creative would lead to all things “normal”.  Back in the pot it was time to add the more typical barbecue flavors-

3 T grainy mustard, 3 T vinegar, 3 T wor-chester, just a 1/4 Cup of ketchup, brown sugar, and salt, and pepper, and brown sugar-I’d start with 2 heaping tablespoons.  If your apples and tomatoes are real sweet, you may not need any more sugar.  Instead of adding water to the pot, we opted for apple cider- keeping within our Ode to Apples theme and boosting the flavor.  We stirred the pot and let the sauce simmer. 

The collards were cookin’ down,

the ribs were all wrapped up in foil, and it was time to whip up our quick sweet potato dish.  These sweet potatoes from Turtle Bend are so sweet and flavorful.  You don’t have to do a whole lot to ‘em.

Simple.  I chopped the potatoes into cubes

and Adam heated up the pan with a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. 

We added the sweet potatoes to the hot pan

and let them brown for a minute before tossing.  I wanted the potatoes to gain color on all sides more evenly than I find I achieve when I cook little cubes like this in the oven.  And I did not want to play Flip Every Little Cube of Sweet Potato Six Times.  I think you know what I mean…

Once the potatoes had a golden brown shell to them,

we added the minced garlic and rosemary. 

After tossing the potatoes in the aromatics, we put them in a 375 degree oven, just to cook the middles of the potatoes through- no longer than 5 – 7 minutes.

And then it was time to plate! 

It was a fall festival on a plate.  Of course, we left the sauce off the ribs, rather than tossing it on, as is quite common in these parts of the barbecue world.  The ribs had a big bark and a perfect bite.  The sugar in the dry rub caused the crust to blacken quickly, but I promise- there was no burnt taste anywhere close to my palate.  What I tasted was almost bacon.  Not kidding.  The pork was salty, smoky, and the applewood flavor from the chips really penetrated the meat.  The texture- it was exactly what you want from a rib.  Take a bite, and the meat comes off perfectly, leaving the rest on the bone.  Then, you can kind of press the soft, tender meat against the roof of your mouth and it just spreads out and melts.  Yes.  Next time, we’ll try covering the ribs with foil a bit earlier in the slow-cooking process to improve the presentation.  We cook, we eat, we learn.

The sweet potatoes were exactly what you imagine the most perfect sweet potato flavor tasting like.  I appreciated the subtle savoriness that the garlic and rosemary added.  The collards were remarkably delicious.  I could not get enough of them.  And I was chuckling at the fact that a few years back, I would have told you that I did not even like collard greens.  Adam’s kielbabsa/ cane syrup pairing balanced so wonderfully against the tang of the vinegar and the slight bitterness of the greens themselves.  Oh!  And the sauce!  Smoky apple barbecue sauce is brilliant.  Loved the smokiness of those peppers.  It shined through the sweet and tart combination of the apples, cider, and tomatoes, versus the vinegar and mustard.  Success!!

It all started with a chat about a Sunday meal- a slow cooked, grilled one…  Morphed into a pork meeting- which morphed into a double pork meeting (!!!!)  and mixed with conversation of meals from days gone by and the local, seasonal wonders at our fingertips.  And then a trip to the market followed by a day-long cooking project.  One that makes your house smell completely amazing, even to your neighbors.

Cooking with fresh, local, seasonal treasures is an adventure that I so enjoy.  The creative process, the balancing of flavors, and the transformation of ingredients are exciting to me in an exhilarating kind of way.  I hope that you will be inspired to try something new and to push the boundaries of “normal” cooking in your kitchen this week. 

Buy local.  Experience the joy that the markets have to offer.  Play with your food and enjoy.  Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so contemplate putting a fresh twist on a fall favorite. 

Happy cooking and eating to you,

ashli

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  1. […] barbecue sauce using just about any kind of fruit that is in season.  We’ve done it with apples, peaches, and figs, to name a […]

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