It happens every year. Autumn gets going and the delicate fruits of summer fade out, making way for their deeper, moodier relatives. Farm stands now fill with cranberries and pears, figs and persimmons, Concord grapes and the pomegranates of Greek myths.
Like the season itself, fall fruits carry a note of complexity that requires a little bit more thought than end-of-summer peaches. Of course, the apple pie is not going anywhere, but many autumnal offerings, especially the tart and tangy ones, thrive in crossover roles. In kitchens like Berkeley, Calif.’s Chez Panisse, fall fruits make cameos in soups, salads and meat dishes. “It’s not a new idea,” said the restaurant’s chef, David Tanis, “but it is a good idea.”
Mr. Tanis particularly likes the fruits of fall for the subtle sweetness they add to savory components in a dish. In his hands, the “texture and the sweetness” of fall fruits serve as a substitute for now bygone tomatoes in salads, pears balance the salt and creaminess of prosciutto, and apples that are simply sautéed in nutty brown butter pair perfectly with the richness of roasted pork or grilled lamb.
Vegetarian-cookbook author Deborah Madison finds fall fruits work as a counterpoint to the salt and cream in cheeses and add a subtle sweetness to soups such as carrot. “You get the fruit and its acidity,” she said. “It’s a little unexpected. It’s a surprise.”
Apple Cheddar Cornbread
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1/3 cup of cornmeal, ¾ cup of all-purpose flour, ½ tablespoon of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of baking soda, ½ teaspoon of salt, 1½ tablespoons of sugar, 1½ tablespoons of packed light brown sugar, 1/3 cup of buttermilk, 1 egg, 2 teaspoons of honey, 3 teaspoons of melted butter, ½ an onion thinly sliced and one cubed sweet apple. Grease a skillet with butter, fill with batter and top with a small handful of grated cheddar. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. –Chef Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar in New York
In a saucepan, boil ½ cup of balsamic vinegar, ½ cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of cracked mustard seeds and a cinnamon stick until reduced by half. Add 1½ cups of seedless red grapes and 2 teaspoons of mustard powder. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes or until grapes are barely cooked through. Transfer to clean jars. Refrigerate for up to three months. Serve with rich meats. —Chef Eric Ripert,”Avec Eric” (Wiley)