It is going to be an intense October, one of those months that put you to bed exhausted with but your head still spinning around, full of ideas, actual plans, drafted projects, and new acquaintances and friendships. To open up the dances, tomorrow we will welcome the attendees of our Food styling and food photography workshop with Hélène and Tami: the countryside is glorious in its Autumn attire, the sun is warm and gentle and the first yellow leaves are dotting the woods in the distance. We will close the month with the Three Acres Creative Gathering and the smell of wood-burning fire, the chatting around a table and a cup of tea to find a balance between private life and work, creativity and daily routine.
In between the highlights of October, a swirling of assignments, deadlines and eventually four days in Puglia, in Lecce, to visit Tommaso’s uncle, aunt and grandmother. His uncle is a great cook, I can barely wait to taste his Apulian recipes.
October, we’re ready. And you?
I’ve already prepared a stock of seasonal recipes to share with you, inspired by the colours and scents that overwhelmed me in these days at the local market. As I know myself, though, and my bad habit to overestimate of my actual time, I’ll start our Autumn cooking marathon with some ideas from the blog archive to give you yet more reasons to cook in the next few days. Polish your pots and pans, rummage in your pantry in search of your favourite grains, flours ands nuts, be ready to cook what is going to be your next masterpiece in the kitchen.
Antipasti – Appetisers
Cheese boards are always a good idea. Serve an aged pecorino, with its skin carefully brushed with olive oil or with a wrinkled crust for the months spent in a cave, with seasonal fruit: fresh nuts, pearly grapes, crisp apple or pear slices. Pair them with a jar of onion jam or oats crackers.
Fried sage leaves won’t go out of fashion. Never.
Primi – First courses
Pumpkin and butternut squash are again a recurrent ingredient in the kitchen, and they will be with us until the arrival of spring, when the green of meadows and forests will find its space even on the table. I use them in soups, often paired with beans and chickpeas. Add some bread croutons and you can call it a dinner. I also use squash to cook a seasonal dressing for pici when I can’t find local porcini at the market, adding sometimes leeks, sometimes sausages, sometimes just a handful of grated pecorino and some crisp sage leaves.
Now that the rhythm of cooking classes is slowing down, I also enjoy the pleasure of making fresh pasta just for us, after a long summer of unstoppable production of pici, tortelli, ravioli and tagliatelle made during the classes.
In the next weeks I’ll share two recipes with porcini and chanterelles, genuine dishes of a family routine to follow the rhythm of the season and cook copying its colours.
Speaking of fresh pasta, I am super proud to tell you that AccorHotel has chosen our blog to represent Italy for the international Foodie Madness contest, where bloggers from all over the world showcase their national flavours and battle it out in the kitchen. We presented ourselves with the most traditional ricotta and spinach ravioli. You can find the recipe here.
My grandmother taught me to make fresh pasta from scratch when I was a teenager: eggs and flour, and the magic begins. Growing up the ravioli with ricotta and spinach would never miss on a festive Sunday table, simply dressed with brown butter and crisp sage leaves. It is one of the recipes that best represents Tuscan home food, cooked with love.
It guess it must have been written in our soccer tradition, as the first round is Italy vs Germany. The German bloggers are showcasing a sumptuous dish, typical of their culinary tradition, with venison, blackberries and chanterelles. If you want to support Italy you can vote for us here, but take also some time to have a look at the other video recipes, it will be like travelling from kitchen to kitchen though the world!
Secondi – Main courses
Along with the smell of fireplace and wood, here it comes also the reassuring aroma of roasts, a Sunday symbol and a way to organize weekly meals among first times, leftovers and salads.
I started cooking again arista con le mele, the pork loin with apples and onions, grateful for this dish that you can prepare in about half an hour, without special care, and that gives you a juicy meat, an unusual side dish of apples and onions and a gravy which seems to be the output of hours of patience.
Replace the pork with turkey, apples and onions with potatoes and mushrooms and the result does not change: it is time to include the stuffed turkey roast in your weekly menu.
When you have just eggs and tomatoes, prepare for your weeknight dinner a frittata trippata, an omelet cooked in tomato sauce.
I’m also working on seasonal meatballs, after those with eggplants. Think lamb and squash… but there will be a moment to talk about this soon…
Contorni – Side dishes
We don’t pay enough attention to the side dishes. I could give up first courses, appetisers, mains or even desserts, but a meal without a serving of vegetables would not be considered a proper meal in my book. If you chose wisely, following the season and the availability, a side dish is what sets up the tone of a lunch or dinner.
A few days ago at the market, chatting with a smiling vendor as bubbly as her red hair, I discovered what later became the side dish that best represents the sweetest days of the year, when the autumn days are still gifted by the last fruits of summer. Would you ever think of putting together tomatoes and grapes?
This dish belongs to the peasant cooking, it is prepared only for a very short time, when the tomatoes on the vines do not have enough sun to ripen. The farmers would find themselves with baskets of green tomatoes and ripe bunches of grapes. I’d love to hug the first person who came up with this idea of pairing green tomatoes and grapes.
There are only four ingredients – green tomatoes, grapes, garlic and chilli – yet each one is essential. The pan-fried green tomatoes are meaty and fresh, the grapes add a delicate sweet note, the garlic gives an aromatic twist, the chili warms it up.
Cut the tomatoes into thick slices, coat them with flour and fry them in a pan with a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic and some crushed chilli pepper. Fry the tomatoes in batches, placing them in one layer and turning them once golden. When all the tomatoes are ready, move them back into the pan, cut in a half a dozen grapes, remove the seeds and add them into the pan, too. Season with salt and cook for a few more minutes until the grapes are almost collapsing. Serve it immediately or keep it warm until it’s time to eat. I’ve already cooked it twice during the classes and the answer has been unanimous: unexpected, surprising, I am going to replicate it as soon as I get home.
As for salads, add this to your menu, with purple cabbage and mixed seeds.
Dolci – Desserts
It is the time of apples and pears, of olive oil cakes, of chocolate, which makes a triumphant entrance into your kitchen after a long summer.
Last year, after many tests made during the cooking classes, I fell in love with this pear and chocolate cake, which I have already baked for every occasion, as afternoon snack or Sunday breakfast, as dessert to end an informal meal or to bring to friends’ dinners and parties.
The same ingredients can also become something very refined if presented with a tad of elegance, as in the case of these red wine poached pears with a dark chocolate sauce.
I can’t wait to tell you about my new favourite apple cake, with olive oil, of course.
I could not leave you without some interesting links! I have a stack of books that is growing vertiginously on the bedside table, but I know they will have to wait until November. How it was? The waiting increases pleasure?
- I finally received Coming To My Senses: The makings of a counterculture cook, Alice Waters’ autobiography. I pre-ordered it more than a month ago on Amazon, I was really excited to read more about her. Let’s see how long I can resist without reading it, adding it to those who are already waiting on the aforementioned bedside table.
- I found this article written by Sophia very interesting, you can learn a few recipes to glaze a cake.
- How not to love Regula’s last post, where she explains the Swedish kanelbullar recipe with photos with a Flemish flavour. This is something else I’m going to bake as November comes, or maybe I’ll be lucky to taste one if she will bake some for the gathering!
I hope I have given you some ideas for an autumn cooking marathon, and I do hope now you’ll be waiting for the next new recipes with curiosity. I promise I will do my best to be back here on the blog as soon as possible with these new recipes, as some have been unexpectedly promoted into my cooking repertoire, and I’m sure they will get into yours, too!
Wait for us, but in the meantime follow us on Instagram to attend – albeit from far – the food photography and food styling workshop and the creative gathering!