Despite the heat we've experienced so far this fall, the nights are cooling and mornings are starting to get that crisp edge, setting the scene for apple season.
Apples come in a number of varieties too numerous to count. Some are sweet, others tart. Some are crisp and juicy, others tender.
We use apples in so many ways. We associate apples with desserts: pies, crisps, cobblers, breads and muffins. They make great applesauce. But they can also be used in savory main dishes and veggie creations. Their sweet tartness enhances meat and vegetable dishes. They go well with cabbage and other winter greens, or winter squash and sweet potatoes.
Add some chopped apple to your chicken salad for a sweet-savory sensation. Pork with apples is an old favorite, the sharpness and sweetness of the apples offsetting the fat in the meat.
Apples are always in my refrigerator. I eat one every day with a couple tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter, but there are so many other ways to enjoy the season's bounty. Here are some ways I've tried in the past.
* Add apples when mixing meatloaf for a different taste and texture.
* For a vegetarian main dish, try boiling some whole-grain pasta and top it with broccoli, sauteed apples and cheese sauce.
* Make a stew with pork and apples.
* Add some shredded apples to mashed butternut squash, chicken broth and some peanut butter for a delicious savory soup.
* Use shredded apples rather than slices in your apple pie.
* Make a salad of fresh spinach with apples, toasted pecans and lumps of blue cheese, and toss it with a light vinaigrette. Or toss some greens with apples, pistachios, dried cranberries and shredded cheddar cheese.
And for dessert? There's always apple pie, but what about one that takes us back to the 1950s? It's time for a Brown Betty, with a twist. This apple dessert has the consistency of bread pudding with the pleasant crunch of toasted pecans. Add a little water if needed toward the end of cooking if it seems a little dry.
Nutty Cinnamon Apple Brown Betty
5 tart apples, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
6 cups (about 10 slices) day-old cinnamon-raisin bread, cubed
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)
Sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; add to apples, and toss to coat. In a large bowl, drizzle butter over bread cubes, tossing to coat.
Place bread cubes in a greased slow cooker. Layer half the apple mixture and 2 cups bread cubes. Repeat layers. Cook, covered, on low for 2 to 3 hours or until apples are tender. Stir before serving. Stir in toasted pecans before serving, and top each serving with whipped cream or ice cream.
THE SALE IS ON
Hop in your car and drive on over to South Pittsburg, Tennessee, for Lodge cast iron's warehouse sale. Organizers strongly advise getting there early, as the most-popular items will go quickly. The event begins at 8 a.m. Friday morning and lasts till 6 o'clock, and again on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is the second year for the sale where discontinued, overstocked and limited-release items will be up to 80% off.
"Given the success of our first event last year, we decided to add an extra day to give people another opportunity to shop," said Walter Henly, manager of retail sales at Lodge. "We're excited to see the turnout and expect to see people from all across the Southeast."
Shoppers are advised to park at the Lodge Employee Center — just follow the signs once you enter South Pittsburg. In addition to the sale, there will be live music, barbecue and games for the kids, so plan to make a day of it.
The sale happens at the first shipping bay around the side of the Lodge Factory Store at 220 E. Third St.
Two-time James Beard Award winner Michael Twitty will visit Sunday for a special-event dinner, 4 Courses & 4:44, that raises funds for the culinary program at Howard School. The first part of the title refers to the menu, which will be curated by Twitty and Howard culinary director Kenyatta Ashford. The latter refers to Jay Z's "4:44" album, which is where the discussion topics for the series will come from. Sunday's discussion is on "The Story of O.J." Dinner starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Read House, 107 W. M.L. King Blvd. Tickets are $175 and can be purchased on www.eventbrite.com.
Chuy's, 2271 Gunbarrel Road, celebrates National Taco Day 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday by offering $1 beef tacos with any entree order. Add an extra shot of tequila in your margarita for $1 more. And if you're brave enough to do it, come dressed in your taco costume — I'm sure we all have one — post it on social media, and your entree is free.
Email Anne Braly at email@example.com.