It's Fall!!! Time to fire up the oven again, as the evenings get colder and, for that matter, the mornings too. But, first a side note. A comment from a reader last week brought an interesting fact to mind, one that has had me puzzled for quite some time. For some obscure reason, Americans confuse Dutch with Danish. I'm not entirely sure if they do it the other way around too, as I don't know any Danish people around here that I can ask.

The thing is, I have encountered it so much, and in such different age groups, that I am beginning to think that it's taught in school. I cannot explain it otherwise.

Nevertheless, every time somebody asks me if I'm Danish or speak Danish, I can't help but think of pastries. I know it's silly, because I've been to Denmark several times and have very dear friends living there. Surely I could think of many other things besides baked goods, but no.....pastries it is. I can't help it!

Danish pastries are very similar in texture to puff pastry. Loaded with butter, they nevertheless have a light and layered presentation and pair well with fruits and custards. A traditional Dutch Danish therefore would be a koffiebroodje, or for something fruitier, an appelflap, or apple turnover. And as it happens, the orchard down the road just emailed to say that the apples are ripe for appelflappen it is!

This is a typical pastry that you will find in bakeries, and places where they serve coffee and tea. It's crispy, sweet and filled with the goodness of apples.

2 tablespoons currants
2 tablespoons raisins
1/2 cup apple juice
3 dried apricots
2 Jonagold apples
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
1 lb puff pastry (or one Pepperidge Farm package)
Coarse sugar

Add the currants and the raisins to the apple juice. Put the dried apricots in a small cup and add enough warm water to cover. Soak the currants, raisins and apricots overnight, or at least for a good four hours.

Allow the puff pastry to thaw, while you peel and core the apple. Chop the apple in small pieces. Drain the raisins and currants and add to the apples, stir. Mince the apricots until almost a pulp and fold it into the apple mixture, then add the sugar and the cinnamon and stir until everything is well mixed. Set aside.

Unfold the puff pastry and cut into squares, 4.5 x 4.5 inches approximately. Place them before you with one corner pointing downwards. Place about 1/4 cup of filling on the bottom half of the square, wet the edges of the dough and fold the top part over, forming a triangle. Carefully press the dough around the filling and on the edges, making sure they are tight.

Place the triangles on some parchment paper on a baking sheet and place it in the fridge while you turn on the oven. Heat to 385F.

Remove from the fridge, and moisten the top of each triangle with some water, then sprinkle the coarse sugar on top. Place the baking sheet on the middle shelf in the oven, and bake the turnovers for 20 minutes or until golden.

Makes 8.


Tongrolletjes met garnalensaus

For a country that's partially below sea level, surrounded by the North Sea and with a history of seafaring daredevils, you'd think we'd eat fish every day. Or if not every day, at least more often than we do. Perhaps it's because there are so many exciting things to eat from the Dutch waters that we don’t know which one to pick: mussels, eel, herring, oysters, clams, trout or plaice. This last one, during the yearly fish auction at Urk, fetched a record 63,000 Euros this summer. Often, fish companies will auction off the first catch of the season for a good cause. It gives people an opportunity to travel out to the regional auction houses and spend the day enjoying food, festivities and fun.

Sole is a fish that's traditionally caught in the North Sea, and one of the national delicacies. Its taste is not overly fishy but tends to lean towards a more shrimp-like flavor, and goes especially well with the shrimp sauce that today's recipe calls for. The meat holds up well, and the fish is suitable for a variety of cooking methods: grilling, steaming, frying or stewing. If you cannot find sole or if the price is prohibitive, try flounder instead.

Tongrolletjes in garnalensaus
8 pieces sole
2 cups fish stock
1 cup white wine
1 carrot, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
4 peppercorns
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cocktail shrimp
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

Dry the fish and roll each one up, holding it together with a toothpick. Bring the fish stock to a boil, add the wine, the vegetables and the herbs and simmer for ten minutes. Carefully lower the rolled up flounder into the stock and simmer for six minutes, then remove them and drain. Pour the stock through a metal strainer to remove the vegetables and herbs.

In a skillet, melt the butter and the flour and stir together into a paste. Slowly add in the stock and stir well, breaking up any lumps, into a thick sauce. Taste and adjust with salt and a little bit of pepper. Fold in the shrimp. Remove the toothpicks, arrange the flounder rolls in an oven dish, pour the shrimp sauce on top and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over it. Place in a 350F oven for ten minutes or until hot, then toast the breadcrumbs to a golden crisp under the broiler.
Great with steamed rice and sautéed spinach.