Are you slipping comfortably into fall? Sliding into the harvest? It fits me, like the warm sweater I’m wearing right now, on the first 50-degree day of the season. Like my favorite pair of cozy slippers. Like a perfect run in cool, crisp air, the wind at my back, my mile pace transformed. Like melty grilled cheese and tomato soup.
But not just any grilled cheese. Cheddar apple grilled cheese.
When I sprint around the track during a speed workout, or towards the finish line of a race, I imagine that I look like Meb Keflezighi, or Deena Kastor, or Kara Goucher at their best in the long stretch of a marathon. Feet barely whipping the ground as they cycle behind me, propelling me forward in a controlled fall. In truth, even when I’m sprinting I probably look like the brave masses chugging along up the tortuously subtle hill of Fifth Avenue in the 23rd mile of the New York City Marathon, quads burning, feet shuffling. Or hopefully somewhere in between. When I set out to make cookies, too, I often imagine them to be spectacular, show-stopping. But sometimes the humble truth of the rest of the pack, the tens of thousands only gunning for personal victory in the form of a finish after 26.2 miles, is even more heart-warming, more inspiring. These apple oatmeal cookies are like that: kind of imperfect, they’re spectacular because they have heart.
When I decided to make these, I wanted them to taste like the tops of the oatmeal blueberry banana muffins: pops of sweet flavor set off by cinnamon, nuts, and salt. I’d made apple oatmeal cookies before, but only once or twice, always wanting to be impressed but never fully satisfied. There are so many oatmeal cookies out there that are just sweet. There’s nothing more to them, despite the teaspoons of cinnamon added. And here’s one thing we should discuss: removing sugar isn’t always the answer. Remember now that while sugar is usually your main sweetener, it also is an ingredient that helps set the consistency of your baked goods, just as eggs and flour and fats do. That’s not to say that absurd amounts of sugar in a cookie or cake shouldn’t be questioned. Often they should. But sometimes the answer is the other white, granulated item in the pantry: salt.
There once was a little boy named Lambert. Colored like a lion, with a voice like a lamb, fur like a teddy bear, and shaped like, well, a little biscuit. Lambert, the Sheepish Lion, who turned out to be so brave, was the cat my family adopted from a shelter along with his mischievous, impish, orange and white brother, Loki, in March 2002. Such sweet boys, like apples and honey. Loki passed away last year, and Lambert left this world just last week. Their lives seem so short, but they were rich, and full, and spoiled. We could never keep a loaf of challah any place where Loki could get to it: he would rip the bag open with his paws and his teeth and chow down. And Lambert? Besides the eggs, the chicken, the (yes) steak he would beg for around our feet, that little cat loved his cheese. Two cats after my own heart.
After I went home to New Jersey to bury him and say goodbye, all I wanted was comfort. I wanted something in his honor. Cheddar? Definitely. Pastry? Of course. Apples? Well, Lambert didn’t eat apples. But the way autumn shone on him when he found a sunny spot to sleep or lounge in was stunning. He glowed. This was his season. These apple cheddar biscuits are for him. Continue reading →