Fall Food Favorites

By Megan McDonald September 20, 2011

Falling for fall with apple cider and mulling spices.

Somehow, autumn in Sarasota just does not conjure up thoughts of steaming bowls of New England clam chowder, hot mulled cider and braised short ribs. (Actually, our fall weather more often lends itself to gazpacho with fresh mint crème and Key lime pie.) Yet with all that being said, my New England roots tell me the nights are getting shorter, Macintosh farm apples are invading the markets and, soon, restaurants will fill their menus with pumpkin-flavored raviolis, butternut squash soup and braised short ribs.


So I’m planning to bring out the braising pots, butter up the apple brown-Betty pans and stock up on brining bags for roast turkey with all the trimmings. Of course I will have to drop the air conditioning to 70 degrees inside the kitchen, but it is almost autumn, after all, and I am ready to pre-plan Thanksgiving, roast some turnips and eventually even put on a light sweater—ah, that is autumn in my kitchen.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thoroughly annoyed that Halloween candy has been on the shelves for the last month, but my taste buds are ready to move from seedless watermelon to warm apple spice cake.

So in order to help all our readers get ready, I am going to start sharing a few recipeseach month so you too can pretend it is 60 degrees outside and the ovens are craving to be turned on and filled with casseroles, roasts and pies. First up: apple coffee-cake French toast with warm apple compote and butternut squash ravioli with pancetta-sage brown butter. Bon appetit!

Apple Coffee Cake French Toast with Warm Apple Compote

Yoder’s Produce Market is almost one-stop shopping, and recently it added its apricot and apple coffee cake to the bakery shelves. If you aren’t serving a crowd, you may have some leftover pastry. I freeze the extra pieces and make either a bread pudding or apple French toast with the leftovers. Perfect for a main course at brunch or even a Valentine dessert, the coffee cake ring is so sweet and delicious by itself that you won’t have to work too hard to create this dish. You may substitute fresh apricots for the apples when they are in season; just use a splash of apricot brandy or regular brandy instead of the apple brandy.


1 stick unsalted butter, cut into Tablespoons

1 bag Macintosh apples, peeled, cored and sliced

2 teaspoons cinnamon, plus 1 teaspoon

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup sugar, divided

¼ cup Calvados (apple brandy)

¼ cup water (if needed for apples)

1 coffee cake ring (I recommend Yoder’s Produce Market on Bahia Vista)

1 jar pumpkin butter or plum butter (also available at Yoder’s)

1 cup fresh whipped cream

4 eggs

1 cup half-and-half


In a medium saucepot, add apples, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ cup sugar. Heat until apples are soft and chunky.

Add water if needed during the cooking process. Blend in Calvados and let sit on stove without heat.

In the meantime, slice the coffee cake on the bias. Heat a large sauté pan and add 1 Tablespoon butter. Whip eggs with half-and-half, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dip the coffee cake slices into the batter, turn to fully cover both sides and add to hot griddle or pan with melted butter. Grill cake slices on both sides until golden brown. Add more butter to the pan as needed.

Arrange French toast slices on a platter. Brush with pumpkin or plum butter. Top with warm apple compote and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Garnish with cinnamon and sugar.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Pancetta-Sage Brown Butter

Serves 4


1 (24-oz.) package fresh cheese or butternut squash ravioli (I use Peperonata Pasta, available at the downtown farmer’s market)

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

16 fresh sage leaves

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 cup (3 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese

2 chunks pancetta, diced


Cook the ravioli according to the package directions. Drain and return the ravioli to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until it foams. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pancetta and cook until slightly crispy.

Increase heat to medium. Add the sage and cook until the leaves turn crisp, about 1 ½ minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the shallot-sage butter to the pasta pot and toss gently. Add ½ cup Parmesan and toss again.

Divide the pasta among bowls and top with the remaining Parmesan.

Tell me: What are your favorite fall recipes?

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