"I still believe, to the core of my being, that when you pay attention, cooking becomes a kind of meditation,” writes Ruth Reichl in her brand new book, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life ($24, amazon.com). The former Gourmet magazine editor-in-chief, food critic, and cookbook author documents the comfort foods that she shared with family and friends the year following the unexpected shuttering of her magazine. Each recipe is framed by vivid anecdotes—she tells, for example, the story of how her close girlfriends rallied around her when the news of the magazine’s closure first hit, turning up to help pack up her office. (That night, they cooked a pasta Bolognese and sipped red wine.) Then there was one of her early days of new, vaguely uncomfortable freedom when she woke up and decided to prepare a classic Szechuan peppercorn tofu dish “blistering with chiles”—the ideal expression of a warrior’s approach to change. One gorgeous fall morning, she perused the farmers' market, tasting apples and falling for a new variety that inspired the creation of a warming apple crisp.
In the spirit of embracing autumn and reveling in life’s silver linings, here is that delicious apple crisp recipe. “Served warm, with a pitcher of cream,” writes Reichl, “it makes you grateful for fall.”
5 heirloom apples
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter
Optional: Heavy cream, for serving
1. Peel a few different kinds of apples, enjoying the way they shrug reluctantly out of their skins. Core, slice and layer the apples into a buttered pie plate or baking dish and toss them with the juice of one lemon.
2. Mix 2/3 cups of flour with 2/3 cups of brown sugar, and add a dash of salt and a grating of fresh cinnamon. Using two knives (or just your fingers), cut in most of a stick of sweet butter and pat it over the top.
3. The cooking time is forgiving; you can put your crisp into a 375-degree oven and pretty much forget it for 45 minutes to an hour. The juices should be bubbling a bit at the edges, the top should be crisp, golden and fragrant. Serve warm, with a splash of cream.