As trite as it may be, I am going to say it. I love Fall. Perhaps it is my Ahhhh-mazing collection of sweaters and kick ass boots. Or maybe it’s because some of my best memories are from this time of year – I was married in September, my daughter was born in November. Culinarily speaking, seems to know just when to arrive. Right at the point when you cannot imagine another piece of grilled meat, when you might hurl if someone suggests melon or strawberries for dessert (can you really call that dessert??), along comes the cooler weather and our bodies immediately crave comfort food: warm, spicy things, casseroles, soup and yes, pumpkin spice.
Don’t get me wrong, I like pumpkin spice goodies as much as the next gal. My chocolate chip pumpkin oatmeal cookie are a staple in the Turney household for the entire soccer season. But the Great Pumpkin Obsession has gone a little haywire in my opinion. Pumpkin spice frosting, pumpkin spice almonds, pumpkin spice beer, pumpkin spice hand soap… it’s out of control.
It’s time to put down the pumpkin and give the other flavors of fall a shot. Here are some of my favorite Italian seasonal items along with two great recipes. Enjoy!
Figs – these are more of a late summer, early fall product but to me figs are a sign of autumn’s arrival. They are delicious with prosciutto or other salty meats like salami but I still dream of the dried figs that my friend Sue used to bring to the States from the Cilento region of southern Italy. They are stuffed with almonds, raisins, citrus peel and a splash of rum. A lot of restraint is required to not inhale a ½ dozen in a sitting.
Grapes – obviously, it’s harvest time in Italy. The last of the grapes are being cultivated and while many are destined to bottles of Chianti or Brunello, some make it to the table in various dishes. Roasted grapes are delicious served alongside chicken or meat dishes. But in Tuscany, schiacciata all’uva is a seasonal favorite, clamored for almost as much as a Pumpkin Spice Latte. Here is a recipe from Emiko Davies, one of my go-to resources for Italian recipes:
Chestnuts – Getting into late fall early winter here but there is nothing as unforgettable as chestnuts roasting on the streets of Rome. Served in paper cone, this delicious treat fills the belly and warms your hands at the same time. Chestnuts are remarkably healthy. They are also ground into a flour that is a primary ingredient in castagnaccio, a very traditional Tuscan cake made with rosemary, pine nuts and raisins. It is very not sweet, so much so that sugar is often sprinkled on top when it is eaten. Castagnaccio is an acquired taste, but I personally love it.
Funghi Porcini – rainy days are not good days for touring Italy but they make for the perfect mushroom growing conditions. And if I can have more of these beauties, I will suffer through soggy walks on slippery cobblestones. When it’s porcini season, eat them any way you can: on crostini, in risotto, tossed with pasta. But my favorite way, that I discovered just last year in Umbria, is an appetizer of fried porcini. Heaven!
Toss the pumpkin kettle corn and try something new this Fall.