September on Martha’s Vineyard should truly be deemed the eighth wonder of the world. The heaviness in the air from the humidity, the traffic, and the lines of people has lifted, and left us with the serenity we have all been waiting for. While some start decorating for Halloween in July, and others will keep their toes in the sand until December, this glorious time of year brings the freshness of fall, while not yet letting go of the sweetness of summer. This also accordingly describes the flavor of the fruit that begins to ripen this month, and will soon be in abundance.
Apples are not only powerfully nutritional, but have mythological and religious significance in many cultures, and have been cultivated worldwide for thousands of years. While there is arguably no easier and more delicious way to get your daily dose of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin C than to bite right into a fresh, raw apple, the flavor lends itself beautifully to countless recipes as well.
For many of us Vineyarders, September also brings some long-awaited free time, and the ability to do the things we love. Take this time to utilize the crops being harvested around you, and to combine these ingredients in a way that satisfies both your body and soul. For the first time in months, I did just that, and created a few recipes that might inspire you to do the same. These apple-based dishes are equally as delicious when consumed at home after a crisp fallish day, or out of a Tupperware container on the beach, because in September, anything is possible.
Gnocchi Tossed with Roasted Apples, Butternut Squash, and Maple Cayenne Sausage
1 butternut squash
4 apples — tart variety, such as Cortland or Granny Smith
1 lb. pork sausage
1 cup whipped potato
1 egg yolk
1.5 cups flour
½ cup unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Skin and dice the butternut squash. Dice 3 of the apples. Toss both with olive oil, salt, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. Spread onto a sheet pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown.
Place sauté pan over medium-low heat and add sausage. Drizzle maple syrup and cayenne pepper over sausage. The amount of maple syrup and cayenne to be used depends on your preferred intensity of flavor. Simmer until sausage is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Combine potato, egg, salt, and flour, using the well method. Spread excess flour over a clean surface, and shape the dough into about five one-foot-long ropes. Cut into about ¾-inch squares. Heat a pot of water to a boil, and add the gnocchi. Cook about 5 to 7 minutes, until the pieces float. Melt butter and combine with more salt, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Toss the compound butter with the finished gnocchi, and then toss with roasted apples and squash, and sausage, and serve. Shave apple skin from fourth apple on top for garnish.
Apple Bourbon Cake
½ cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
½ cup flour
⅓ cup grits
¾ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
¾ cup sugar
3 Tbsp. bourbon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 apples chopped, mixed sweet and tart varieties
Heat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch springform pan. Combine flour, grits, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the eggs for about 60 seconds. Whisk in the sugar, bourbon, and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture and butter. Add the apples and continue whisking. Pour into your buttered springform pan, and bake about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.