Bounty from the middle of the table, part II

The saga of the centerpiece continues… We lived for days just off the wealth of produce my mom brought over for our Thanksgiving centerpiece!



Is there anything more beautiful than ruffled leaves of kale, veined through with deep purple, glowing with a color that somehow combines elements of purple, green, and silver? This gorgeous kale was the foundation of our centerpiece, and it made a very lovely soup, besides! There was a butternut squash sitting in my root storage, still left from the last day Duck worked on the farm, so I decided to make the Autumn Harvest Soup from Kalyn’s Kitchen. We had a ton of prepared wild rice left over from T-day, so that took the place of the farro in Kalyn’s recipe. This recipe made a HUGE amount of soup. She says”about 8 servings,” which I guess really is a lot of servings when I think about it, but with 4 quarts of broth (I used scrap stock rather than chicken broth, of course!) plus lots of squash and kale and rice, this soup dished up some shockingly hearty portions.



Artichokes featured prominently in the centerpiece selections – there were many lovely little frost-kissed baby artichokes, which actually made it onto the table, plus a range of larger purple-tinged artichokes and one enormous big-as-a-baby’s-head artichoke on a long stem. I used some of the artichokes to make my Taste & Create dish, Braised Baby Artichokes, inspired by a recipe from Little Ivy Cakes. Duck and I found the recipe so delicious (especially Duck!) that we ended up preparing our entire store of artichokes the same way. The braised artichokes made a wonderful quick snack as they are terrific cold and really hit the spot when you want something with heft to it that isn’t too fatty or heavy.



Lady apples. The fruit which dwells in the liminal space ‘twixt food and decor. I had these lovely ladies on my fruit stand (I use a glass cake stand as my fruit “bowl” on the kitchen table) for a long, long time. Too pretty to throw away but not particularly inviting for eating, they were the last hold-out of the Thanksgiving centerpiece brigade.


Then one day I was listening to my second-favorite food podcast, KCRW’s Good Food (the podcast is pretty wonderful, the music – which they play loudly and at frequent intervals during the show – is nearly unbearable) and they had a feature on lady apples. I don’t really remember what they talked about specificially but the gist was: Lady Apples – They’re For Eatin’! So I sliced those babies up with some full-sized wrinklies rescued from the back of the fridge and made one of my favorite simple treats – homemade applesauce. There wasn’t more than a small bowl each for me and for Duck but it was the kind of delicious that lingers on in your memory long after the spoon has been licked clean.


Homemade Applesauce
I actually don’t recommend lady apples for this recipe. For one thing, they are too small to really be worth the work of coring. For another, the darker red ones tasted so yuck I couldn’t include them, so it may only be certain varieties that cross over from decor to tasty treat. But if you have some lady apples lying around, it is definitely worth slicing off a little nibble of each one and including the edible ones in a lovely sweet bowl of applesauce.

Cinnamon (optional)
Lemon juice (optional)
Ground ginger (optional)

I like to keep the peels on at least a third of the apples, for increased fiber and texture. Plus, if you are using certain colors of apples, leaving the peels on will do gorgeous things with the color of your sauce. So peel as many as you like, then core your apples and cut them into medium-sized chunks.

Put your apple chunks in a small pot with about 1/4 C. water. Heat the water to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples get soft, fall apart, and reach your desired consistency. You may need to add water from time to time. Different varieties of apples will turn to sauce at different speeds, but if you just keep cooking and adding a bit of water when it cooks away you will eventually achieve sauce with any type of apple.

The applesauce will get very sweet as it cooks. There is no need to add sugar or honey or any sweeteners! However your apples may or may not have “pizazz” in sauce form, so if they taste a bit bland you can liven them up with a little cinnamon, lemon juice, or ground ginger, added to taste.

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