Last weekend brought with it the first cold spell of the season.
On Saturday we woke up to a solid gray canvas of a sky that was low and heavy with moisture. The temperature plummeted by a whopping 40 degrees overnight. It was drizzling here in town; just minutes away, the bare peaks of the Sierra Nevadas were seeing their first snowflakes.
It was a drab autumn day on all accounts. A day when most would think it best to pull on a heavy, oversized sweater, fix a cup of fragrant tea with honey and curl up in bed with a good book.
To me, it was a glimpse back into the fall I grew up with—a season of overcast skies and rainfall for days on end that translated into more time spent indoors where Mom cooked малиновое варенье (raspberry jam), пирожки с капустой (cabbage hand pies) и яблочную шарлотку (apple cake).
Days like this are rare in Reno; so I quickly brushed off the idea of cozying up inside. I needed to get out and imbibe it with my every pore.
We loaded into the truck and set off to pick apples in beautiful Apple Hill in Camino, California, that lay on the other side of the mountains.
I couldn’t be happier.
We would also see some snow.
The elevations of 7000 feet and higher received but a light dusting of the white stuff.
I thought it looked a bit odd against the vegetation that was still green and very much alive. More fascinating were the low-hanging clouds that looked like bonfire smoke filtering through the tops of the alpines.
The drizzle came back as we were descending and accompanied us all the way to our place of interest. A subtle, borderline intangible drizzle that we didn’t have to turn on the wipers for.
We didn’t realize all the moisture it had dropped on us until we started the picking. Its generous accumulation on the foliage came down on us with every apple picked. Nicole really enjoyed making it “rain” by shaking the branches and twisting the apples off.
I let her get just a couple in that manner though the right way to pick an apple is to palm it in your hand and pull upward.
At Sun Mountain Farm, the apples were plentiful: Cameo, Mutsu, Granny Smith, Gala. Many were ripe. Many more were ripening. We couldn’t help ourselves but eat as we picked, rain mixed in with juice trickling down the sides of our mouths and fingers.
Have you ever had an apple with a drop or two of rain?
This might as well be a quintessence of fall.
At Goyette’s North Canyon Ranch, we loaded our baskets with heirloom Bosc pears. The fruit came from the trees that were about half a century old. With their moss-covered trunks—some tangled in a net of wild blackberries—rugged bark aged to deep grooves and pointy ridges by the elements, and the branches arching outward, they looked like they belonged to a different realm.
Stuck between a well-groomed apple orchard and a neat Christmas tree farm, they grew wild and saw very little human intervention, if any. The large raindrops that hugged the curvy pears and the silver sheen on the wet foliage imparted by the gray skies only added to the overall feel of the enchanted wilderness of the place.
Although the pear trees were loaded with fruit, most pickers seemed to gravitate towards the apples. Reluctant to be the first to violate its pristine-like beauty, I would have left the growth with nothing but a load of images if it hadn’t been for Nicole.
She was all about the picking as she came over with her fruit picker.
She is not as nearly romantic as I am. And so we ended up with quite a bunch.
The ride home was just as dreary.
Same subtle drizzle.
Same gray skies.
Same low-hanging clouds.
Even the sepia Bosc pears that rested in my lap seemed to conform to the dreariness of the day.
Beautiful dreariness, if you ask me . . .
Recipe for Olga’s Original Ginger-Poached Thin Pear Tart (GF)
For the pears:
1. 3-4 (medium size) ripe but firm Bosc pears
2. 3 cups water
3. 1 (145 g) cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
4. 1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
5. Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
6. 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped
7. 1 cinnamon stick
For the crust:
1. 3/4 cup (90 g) brown rice flour
2. 1/2 cup (65 g) millet flour
3. 1/4 cup (30 g) tapioca flour
4. a scant 1/4 cup (25 g) pecan pieces
5. 1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
6. 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
7. 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8. 4 tablespoons cold mascarpone cheese
9. 2-3 tablespoons ice cold water
1. 3 tablespoons pecan pieces
2. 1 1/2 tablespoons demerara or any other coarse sugar
3. A mixture of 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a dash of ground ginger, for dusting, optional
1. To poach pears, in a medium saucepan, bring water, sugar, ginger slices, lemon juice and zest, vanilla bean and seeds, and cinnamon stick, to a boil. Cook until sugar dissolves; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Halve pears lengthwise, and core (leave skin on). Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, cut each half lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Transfer to ginger mixture; shake pan to coat slices.
3. Cut a round of parchment paper to fit pan and place it directly onto surface of pear mixture. Let mixture cool completely, about 40 minutes.
4. To make the crust, put flours, nuts, salt, and xanthan gum in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter butter pieces and mascarpone cheese over top of flour mixture and pulse 6-8 times, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add ice cold water and pulse until dough comes into a ball. Flatten it into disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to a week.
5. To assemble the tart, drain pear slices in strainer.
6. On a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, pat dough into an even 10-inch round. Sprinkle it with 3 tablespoons pecan pieces and arrange pear slices over nuts, overlapping slightly. If desired, leave a 1-inch border around outer edge of pastry round for crimping.
7. Sprinkle tart with 1 1/2 tablespoons of demerara sugar and spice mixture; refrigerate tart for another 20-30 minutes.
8. Transfer baking sheet to oven and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes or until edges of tart are golden brown.
9. Serve warm or at room temperature.