At last, I have a new recipe for you in the heavily neglected category of Russian food. How could this have happened, you ask? Are you not married to a Russian? Does your son not respond to the question “Would you like to go to the library?” with “Da!”? Are you not still in love with all of the Russian food you’ve encountered in your (holy wow) 8 1/2 years of courtship? And the answer is very simple: I needn’t cook Russian food because my mother-in-law does it so well.
As far as reentry* points to on-a-whim cooking go, these cookies aren’t the most obvious choice. I might have gone with something from the market, or something from a new fall cookbook or maybe just something practical that would feed us for the next few days, like a hearty stew.
This month has came and has now almost gone and I’ve missed it entirely. It’s a shame, because September is my second favorite but less of a shame than it would be if I am still saying the same about October, which is my actual favorite. Nevertheless, I put my foot down and decided I absolutely, unequivocally would not let this month go without at least making you an apple honey challah. Due to my innate gift for impeccable timing (ha), I got the idea for this about two days after the High Holidays ended last year. So, for the better part of 12 months, I’ve plotted this spin on traditional challah and am still about six hours late on it. Typical.
My brain is currently in Paris, idling in a cafe after a bike ride along the Seine. It may not come home. It started a few weeks ago, when an obsession with getting to the bottom of a baked spinach dish mentioned in a letter by Julia Child allowed me to, once again, dive deeply into the pages of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What I didn’t have was an exit strategy, which is especially dangerous when day to day life lately has been a bit more about
double ear infections, sleep deprivation, cookbooking in a tiny, overheated kitchen, oh, and then we paid taxes things nobody needs to hear me complain about. In short: I choose Paris, instead. So the last few weeks have brought to our table weeknight roasted chicken, tiny gold potatoes, simple green salads, skinny green beans, white wine, weepingly delicious onion soup and a spate of apple tarte tatins.
A couple years ago, I became determined to make apple latkes. I mean, why not carry the deliciousness of latkes over to dessert? Why should potatoes have all of pan-fried-until-crunchy fun? Not confident in my ability to shred apples and stir in eggs and flour without an established recipe’s guidance, I found about 75 matching recipes online, each attributed to some other place, and all parading under the title “apple latkes”. I made them (and peace with my cast-iron skillet at the same time, hooray) and declared them pancakes, not latkes. They were not what I was looking for, but at least they were tasty.
If there is anything as magnificent as October in New York City, well, I don’t believe you. The trees I didn’t know we had deposit rust-colored leaves all over the sidewalks, the sky is impossibly blue, the air drinkably crisp and suddenly, you can walk for miles and never feel overheated or spent. It leads to a lot of trips to the market. Even when we don’t need anything, we just make up excuses to go, like just to get a tiny apple for our 13 month-old anti-New Yorker who smiles at and chats (“Ga-ga! Gaga!”*) willingly with strangers who pass him on the sidewalk and if that hasn’t charmed you yet, imagine this same child clutching a handful of flowers the eggplant lady at the market gave him to give to his mama. Seriously, guys, New York City is sweet in the fall.
This is pretty much October on a parchment-lined baking sheet. They want to be packed in a basket so they can go apple picking with you and to sneak in the car to join you for a leaf-peeping drive. They want to come to brunch with you and deserve to be served with warm apple cider, whether getting lost in a corn maze or searching for the best pumpkin to carve.