As you may have read a few weeks ago, Celiac Disease has turned my cooking, eating, and food writing life upside down. I'm back to square one, learning all over again how to bake, grocery shop, and eat in restaurants. Avoiding gluten is much trickier than avoiding animal products.
For the first full week of the Vegan Month of Food, I've decided to celebrate foods that are naturally vegan and gluten-free: no altering, veganizing, or substitutions necessary. I'll attempt to rekindle my sense of self-worth in the kitchen (GF baking is not going well), and respond to those who declare, puzzlingly, that they "just don't like vegetarian food." (What these folks are really saying is that they lack imagination and are afraid of lentils; I wonder if they would refuse apple pie, or potato chips, or a bacon-free banana split.) This week I'll highlight autumn foods loved by even the most dedicated carnivores, foods that are easy to find or prepare, and which contain no meat, eggs, dairy, or gluten.
I'll begin with that October classic, homemade applesauce. Apple picking is my all-time favorite: nothing beats a cool fall day, kicking up the dry leaves between the rows of trees. Unfortunately, we've had some rainy weekends and haven't made it to the orchard yet. Instead, I picked up a a half-peck bag of MacIntosh at Saturday's rainy farmers' market (what crazy system of measurement is this?). Without a food mill, I'm peeling and coring and slicing by hand, so I make apple sauce in small batches. It requires no recipe, just a large pot, a vegetable peeler, a paring knife, and some patience.
I put the peeled and sliced apples in a large pot with 2 cups of water (you can use apple juice or cider, I was just being cheap) and a cinnamon stick. No sugar needed. I brought the water to a boil over medium-high heat, then covered the pot and reduced the heat to medium-low. Ten minutes later, I had steaming apple mush. I removed the cinnamon stick, took the pot off the stove, and went at it briefly with a potato masher. Voila! Local apple sauce that's cheaper, healthier, and tastier than store bought.
This made about 8 cups of applesauce. I froze most of it in two cup portions, which I'll bake with all winter. If you want applesauce for snacking or stirring into oatmeal, try tossing maple syrup, lemon juice, or other fruits into the pot (wouldn't pears be nice?).