BENTONVILLE, Va. - The crisp and sweet York apple is without a doubt the favorite in Warren County, Virginia. But you won't find any in Mary Digges's apple butter, and for good reason. Its distinct lopsided shape means it doesn't sit straight in the tabletop crank peeler. And when you're battling to skin 10 bushels (about 400 pounds) of apples in a few hours, a trusty peeler, and at least a dozen good friends, is the only path to victory.

A medley of fresh fall fruit - pears, grapes and figs - looks splendid on the table and is lovely served as a fruit salad. But roasted together, married with a sweet-tangy glaze, it rises to another level of beauty and lusciousness entirely. The heat of the oven softens and warms the fruit, making it juicier and deepening the flavors, while giving it a true comfort-food allure.

There aren't too many ways I don't like eggplant, if it's cooked right. And that often involves an ungodly amount of olive oil, since eggplant soaks up the stuff as if there were an impending shortage. The reputation of eggplant as an oil hog has even resulted in the name of a classic Turkish dish, imam bayildi, which translates to "the imam fainted." Legend says that's what happened when he discovered just how much oil went into the eggplant dishes his new wife was cooking.

My husband has a theory: When you decide to buy a new car, everywhere you look, you see that particular model. I don't know if that's true, but I can say with confidence that once you make a few hundred pies, everything begins to look like a pie. And that is how I came to define a knish as a kinda-pie, a pastry wrapped around filling. In fact, I put empanadas, calzones and samosas in the same category. It's all pie to me. And every iteration is delicious.

I’d guess that at least every other person reading this column did, at one time as a child, carry home some animal that he or she wouldn’t be able to keep. Here’s Connie Wanek remembering her son in just such a moment. 

For many, the words "pasta e fagioli" conjure the image of a particular dish with a tomato-laden broth, but pasta and beans don't stop at that. The duo is the foundation of a multitude of wonderful one-pot variations, all simple, hearty and nutritious. This one, studded with artichoke hearts in a lovely, lemony liquid also brings an easy elegance to the table.

Someone asks you to bring a dessert to a block party, birthday or barbecue. Or you’re heading out of town for a weekend getaway. Or you just need something to keep all the kids happy on a Saturday night. There’s really only one answer and it’s a thing everyone wants to eat: sheet cake.