Apple Pear Crisp + a playlist for National Apple Month

An easier-than-pie apple pear crisp (recipe here)

October is National Apple Month! So, just a warning that most of October’s recipes on here will involve apples. To kick it off, here’s a playlist of some apple songs! You can listen on Spotify here, and the songs are below:

Mirah, “Apples in the Trees”
Beach House, “Apple Orchard”
Erykah Badu, “Apple Tree”
My Brightest Diamond, “Apples”
Slow Club, “Apples and Pairs”
The White Stripes, “Apple Blossom”
Blitzen Trapper, “Apple Trees”
Arcade Fire, “My Heart is an Apple”

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Wine-Soaked Chocolate Cake and Pears (Inspired by the National)

Red wine chocolate cake with whipped cream and mascarpone topping and red wine–poached pears (recipe here)

When I first heard The National maybe about three years ago, I disliked by frontman Matt Berninger’s voice and wrote them off immediately (and quite unfairly). When I returned to their music last year, around the release of their album High Violet, I finally got hooked and wondered why I was so put off by them in the first place; although since then I’ve certainly acquired a taste for a wider range of voices. Anyway, I spent a lot of time with 2005’s Alligator, which has become my favorite album of theirs. I knew I had to make something based on the song “All the Wine,” partially because, like The National, it took me a few tries to call myself a wine fan, too. (Now, while I still hardly know anything about wine, I do love it and drink it quite often.)

When I saw Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for red wine chocolate cake, I knew it was a perfect match for this band, but I had to take it a step further by not only topping it with Deb’s suggested mascarpone whipped cream, but also with pears cooked in more red wine. The cake itself is dense and rich and one bite goes a long way (the wine flavor does not disappear after baking), while the toppings give it a more complex mix of flavors. It’s similar to how The National’s music can be lyrically dark and sonically layered, but it’s contained and sort of coiled up, rather than exploding in every direction. Not to mention this is decadent and self-indulgent, just like “All the Wine”‘s chorus of “And all the wine is all for me.” Don’t feel bad, though, just indulge in this one. I made it for my dear friend Jena’s birthday because she totally deserves all the wine. It was served at our housewarming party last month, and there were only about two pieces left over.

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Pear Spice Bread (Inspired by The Weather Station + Hurricane Irene)

Pear spice bread (recipe here)

I listen to a lot of new music (considering my day job, I kinda have to), but it’s not so often that I stumble upon and fall utterly in love with a virtually unknown artist I’ve never heard of. When it happens, though, I get really excited and immediately tell everyone I know about it. These moments are some of my favorite reminders of why I love music and working in this industry. On Thursday I was browsing new releases on eMusic and the ’70s-looking cover of All Of It Was Mine, an album by The Weather Station, caught my eye, so I downloaded it and got sucked in for the rest of my workday. The Weather Station is the project of singer/songwriter Tamara Lindeman, who writes gorgeous acoustic folksongs that remind me of some of my favorite singer/songwriters, old and new; Joni Mitchell, Judee Sill, Laura Marling, Sharon Van Etten. Her music is warm and soothing, and it was the perfect soundtrack to the weekend I spent cooped up in my apartment, baking my Saturday morning away while I waited for Hurricane Irene to pass through Brooklyn.

I tried to use up produce and perishables like eggs, butter and milk that’d go bad in the fridge when we lost power, and make food that’d be OK to sit at room temperature. (Even though my neighborhood, Bushwick, wasn’t in an evacuation zone, I was still pretty positive there’d at least have a power outage — which, thankfully, there wasn’t). My roommate’s boss sent her home with his entire CSA share earlier this week, which included a bunch of pears, so I used those to make this amazing pear spice bread. I think this is the most delicious quick bread I’ve made, and it was as comforting as The Weather Station (not to be confused with the actual weather station — or, more accurately in my case, hurricane updates — because none of that was really comforting). There’s also a reference to making homemade bread in opening track “Everything I Saw.” And to top it off, all of this paired (pear-ed? ha ha ha) together nicely with some other recent developments that have left me as warm and fuzzy as the warm richness of cinnamon, ginger and cloves in the pear bread. Hitting particularly close to home is a line from the song “Came So Easy”: “Your kind words came so easy, and I have winced at sugar sweetness/ You made me feel so wealthy, so I got tongue-tied, I got restless.” I love when the right music shows up at just the right time.

Anyway, you can stream the entire Weather Station album below; you can also buy it on her Bandcamp page or on eMusic.

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