Philippe and I took our family apple picking last weekend in a lush, green New Hampshire orchard, and my love for this perfectly crisp, juicy, sweet fruit has been renewed. Watching my sweet daughter Charlotte reach up to a tree heavy with ruby-red fruit and pluck her first apple ever warmed my heart. And seeing Océane nibble on two different apples — one in each hand, while the picking bag, full of fruit, hung heavy looped around her tiny forearm — had me smiling (and mentally preparing for the aftermath of letting four girls freely pick as many apples as they wished). I wondered just how many apples the Transportation Security Administration would let us stash in our carry-on suitcases (the answer: a lot, but only after being pulled out of line for a thorough swabbing of the 20 or so pounds of apples we packed).
During the past few days since our trip to the orchard, we’ve snacked on more apples than I thought possible, given apples to each of the girls’ teachers (and the girls’ teachers from last year, because why leave them out?) and we still have two huge fruit bowls brimming with apples of all kinds. We have tart, firm cooking apples, crisp eating varieties, thick-skinned greenish apples that I don’t recognize but love once I get past the reptile-like skin, trusty red apples and Golden Delicious apples. I’m baking up some basics: my favorite Classic Apple Tart (with an easy butter crust that’s unbelievably good!), a Quick Cinnamon Apple Tart (perfect for when I’m feeling rushed) and my Apple Crumble with Cardamom-Vanilla Caramel Sauce (pictured above). But apples don’t have to be just for sweets. I’ll add a cup or two of cubed (or julienned) apple to my Fennel and Cabbage Slaw or to my Asian Coleslaw (my personal favorite), where some apple will add just the right level of tangy, sweet and tart to complement the warm ginger and spicy Sriracha. And if we still have a few stragglers left next week that somehow didn’t make it into a recipe or someone’s mouth for an after-school snack, I’ll cube them up and simmer them in a bit of water with a cinnamon stick, a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of maple syrup (also from our New England trip) and make an easy, chunky compote. (Or you can blend up the mixture for a smoother applesauce.) Now I feel like autumn is official.