With the start of a new season, local restaurants have begun redesigning their menus to make room for fall favorites. For chefs Janina O'Leary of Bacchus Management and Pako Guzman of Steins Beer Garden, an autumn menu is incomplete without a dish featuring apples, whether Granny Smith or Hawaiian.
For hungry cooks eager to incorporate the season's offerings into a dish of their own, O'Leary and Guzman have each prepared recipes that are tangy, sweet and easy to recreate at home. The Post in Los Altos has also shared an apple cocktail recipe to round out the meal.
Originally from Texas, O'Leary moved to New York to study at the French Culinary Institute and work at fine dining restaurants there. She also served as the executive chef at LaV, an upscale restaurant in Austin, Texas, before coming to the Bay Area to work as the executive pastry chef at Bacchus Management. She develops desserts for the group's restaurants, including Selby's in Redwood City and The Village Pub in Woodside.
Her caramel apple tart recipe celebrates the "simple but beautiful" apple, which Bacchus sources from K&J Orchards in Solano County. The tart has a simple semolina crust, a cream layer and "juicy but crisp" filling, she said.
Unlike many tarts, which can be overpowered by sweetness, O'Leary said her recipe is a balanced marriage between sweet and savory. The tart turns out the best when the apples are just lightly caramelized, so they don't lose their bite and flavor. She advised home cooks not to over-mix the semolina dough, so it will maintain a somewhat sandy texture.
She recommended serving the dessert with bourbon or vanilla bean ice cream, or playing with the combination of fruit and cheese -- perhaps with cheddar or mascarpone to bring out the caramelization of the apples or topping it with a ricotta ice cream.
Guzman's dish, inspired by the contrast present in cheese and fruit platters, places that flavor profile center-stage. His apple mostarda crostini is a savory appetizer perfect for entertaining.
Guzman, who got his first job at a restaurant as a dishwasher over 16 years ago, has worked as a chef for Silicon Valley corporations such as Apple, Google and Pixar Animations studios, making dishes from a variety of cultures and cuisines. He said he shies away from "fancy food" in favor of a strong flavor profile.
"You want to put your soul where your dish is," Guzman said.
His crostini recipe is made with ciabatta bread and soft brie cheese. For those looking to experiment, Guzman also suggested swapping in brioche or a baguette for the bread, or sharp cheddar for the cheese. Any combination pairs well with red wine, he said.
He likes to follow the appetizer with a meat dish, such as braised short ribs or steak, adding that the dry and sweet flavors of the mostarda prepare the palate well for a heavier dish.
For home cooks trying their hand at the recipe, he advised patience: "Let all the flavors incorporate into the apples."
For an apple-forward cocktail, try The Post's "Them Apples," a shaken drink with a base of apple-flavored whiskey.
"The cocktail is refreshing with a little spice -- perfect for fall in California," owner Vickie Breslin said.
Caramel apple tart
Yields 6 individual tarts
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3-4 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons raw sugar
Six 3.5-inch tart rings
Heat oven to 350 F.
In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, sugar and butter, and pulse until the mixture has a sandy texture. Add cold water, one tablespoon at a time and pulse until the dough comes together but is still slightly crumbly.
Remove the dough from the food processor and knead gently on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a flattened ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Divide the dough into six equal portions and using a rolling pin, roll the dough so the pieces are slightly larger than the tart rings.
Place the dough into the mold and allow the excess to hang over the edge. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, then carefully trim the excess dough with a small knife.
Freeze the dough for about 15 minutes. Bake for 12-16 minutes, until the edges turn golden brown.
4 tablespoons butter
3-4 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and thinly sliced
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
In a medium-size saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the apples and saute until tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apples to a bowl. Combine the apples, sugar, cornstarch, and spices. Mix until apples are thoroughly coated.
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
In a medium-sized saute pan over medium heat, heat the heavy cream and milk. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream. Bring to a boil.
In another saucepan, beat egg yolks and sugar together. Gradually whisk in the hot cream mixture. Stir over low heat until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon, about 7 minutes. Do not boil. Pour custard into metal bowl to cool, place plastic over the top to avoid a skin. Chill for at least an hour.
Assembling the tart
Using a pastry bag with a plain-edge tip, pipe the custard into each tart shell halfway to the top. Fan the apples over the custard. Serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
Serves about 10 people
10 Granny Smith apples
3 cups sugar
juice of 6 whole lemons
1 bunch of thyme tied with string
1 cup pickled mustard seed
2 cups white wine
Fresh chives, snipped
Pickled mustard seed
1 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/2 cup white rice vinegar
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook mustard seeds until soft, about 15 minutes. Stir frequently and cook on very low heat to avoid burning.
Combine the apples, sugar, lemon juice, pickle mustard seed, white wine and thyme in a large rondeau or Dutch oven and stir. Bring to a simmer and cook until apples become tender and translucent, about 10-15 minutes.
Assembling the crostini
Slice the ciabatta loaf, and place a single layer on a baking sheet. Put a piece of brie cheese on top of each slice. Heat in the oven at 375 F until the cheese begins to melt. Top crostini with spoonfuls of apple mostarda and garnish with fresh chives.
Them Apples cocktail
2 oz. Crown Royal Apple
1 oz. fresh lime juice
.5 oz The Post's BAMF grenadine (or store-bought)
Shake and serve with an apple slice garnish.
2 cups pomegranate juice
4-5 star anise pod
3 allspice berries
4 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
1-2 dried chiles
1 1/2 cups sugar
In a small pot combine juice with spices and bring to boil. Cover the pot, remove from heat and let spices infuse for at least 15 minutes.
Strain juice through fine sieve into a measuring cup. Return the juice and equal parts sugar to pot and heat until sugar dissolves.
Allow to cool then transfer to container and store in the refrigerator.