Ciao'd while purring for the Cubs and growling at the Indians.
Somebody once told me that regret is a wasted emotion. It was most likely a therapist, back in the day when I believed I could be something I am not. While regret has guppied through my head and heart more than I would care to admit, it does have a pale sunny side, too. Regret is a reminder to embrace the present. And Autumn wants nothing to do with regret.
Yesterday, before the storm blew in, I was thinking that I should feed the birds. I looked out the kitchen window and noticed that the leaves on our green Japanese maples had mellowed into a mottled mauve and burnished yellow. The red Japanese maple, on the other hand, sported a burnt sienna that glowed when flecked by the sun. I wonder when that happened?
Our autumn color in Northern California can’t hold a candle to the rhapsody back East but still, the hue of leaves up and down my street draws eyes upward and harks the season to come. The leaves are silent and still until the wind gives them whisper and flight. When the leaves fall, I’ll look out from my kitchen window to see the squirrels hop from the gray – often rain-slicked - branches onto the bird feeder, exhibiting their eternal hope of snatching sunflower seeds from the feeder’s tiny holes.
This season’s gentle demise ushers in another beginning. Our hummingbirds have spread their wings for warmer climes and the towhees, titmouses, and chickadees have alighted for the winter. Pendulous orange persimmons bend bare branches. They are startling. Gnarled, knobby, some would say ugly (for shame!) quince make their appearance at the farmer’s market. They can’t compete with the beautiful crowd of sleek chile peppers, softig squashes, and majestic winter greens, but their gorgeous fragrance packs the knockout punch.
And, of course, apples. From Granny Smith green to ruby Empire, their varietal names are as beguiling as their taste. Sierra Beauty, Gala, Pippin, Jonagold, Pink Lady, Spitzenberg, and Winesap to name a few. They deserve to be relished fresh off the tree on an apple picking day, the juice massaging lips and dripping down chins. These luscious apples call for showcasing in a tart or pie or crostata where the heat, when baking, will seal their sweetness. This teeming autumn, as it pulses us towards the season that lays the world bare, delivers surprises and delights if your ears are perked, and your eyes are open. Regret has no place here.
Autumn is a season on the cusp of past and present. A reminder of and appreciation for the delicate spring blossoms and enormous summer lushness that came before. It’s a celebration of what steals upon us when we aren’t looking. Like age, like life, like love.
So let’s embrace the present. Let’s peer out the kitchen window through the morning mist. Let’s consider the leaf riding the window wiper on our commute. Let’s bake an Apple-Rosemary Crostata. When you catch its fragrance emanating from the oven and savor its herbal fruitiness on your tongue, you won’t regret making it for one second. And you will want to savor it RIGHT NOW.
The Italians had it right when they decided to forgo the two-crust pie for a one-crust, rustic, free-form open fruit pastry called a crostata. SO MUCH EASIER and beautiful, too. In this rendition, rosemary lends subtle herbal flair to the apples. The crostata is finished with a buttery crumb topping.
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons ice water
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch chunks
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Generous pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) vert cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
Place the cubed butter in the freezer for 15 minutes. Place the flour, sugar, and salt, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water through the feed tube and process until the dough starts to come together. Transfer to a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
For the filling, place the apples in a medium bowl. Add the lemon zest, rosemary, sugar, flour, and black pepper, and toss to combine.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry into an 11-inch round. Transfer it to a baking sheet. Place the apples on the dough, leaving a 1 ½-inch border.
Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and process until fine crumbs form. Transfer to a bowl and using your fingers, rub the mixture until it is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the apples. Gently fold the edge of the pastry over the apples, pleating it to make a circle.
Bake the crostata until the crust is golden and the apples are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the crostata cool for at least 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.