By Nancy Caivano
To me, September has always been a month of transitions, almost more like the beginning of the year than January. Summer ends...school and harvest time begin. The days get cooler—and busier as preparations for the winter and holidays ahead get underway.
It is also the month that our food choices usually begin to change. After the long, hot summer of cool salads and grilled foods, we begin to think of simmering stews, baking bread and roasting turkeys. We almost instinctively begin to crave more hearty and sustaining foods. The weather usually begins to cool down (hopefully) so we want foods that will warm us from the inside. We rediscover the oven that hasn't been used in months, and as we cover up the patio furniture, we begin to look forward to the autumn ahead.
I have always been lucky enough to live in the Northeast, where we have seasons. I usually can't wait for the next season to begin. I crave fresh Spring Peas in February and I spend most of April and May impatiently waiting for the first barbecue of the summer. Autumn and winter are my favorite months, and by September, I am VERY ready to leave the barbecue behind and dig into warm casseroles, or hearty soups. Even if we find ourselves in an "Indian Summer" we still begin seeing the first foods of fall—shiny apples, winter squashes, more root vegetables and thicker cuts of meat. I usually can't wait to try them out!!
This month's column has six Pasta and Risotto recipes that reflect the beginning of autumn, plus a wonderful dessert for the changing season. If your market does not have the fall produce available yet, don't worry—tuck these recipes aside and use them farther into the autumn and winter.
Our first Pasta recipe is Prosciutto and Mushroom Ravioli with Sage Butter. These ravioli are marvelous—filled with a savory filling, flavored with golden sautéed mushrooms (just in time for mushroom picking), and prosciutto, and tossed in a simple sage butter. Make them in advance and keep in the freezer for unexpected company: just boil, toss with the butter and enjoy!
Next up we have Pasta with Veal Bolognese. This terrific sauce is a bit lighter than traditional Bolognese, which is usually made with a combination of beef, pork, and veal. Using all veal gives the sauce a mellow flavor that compliments any pasta. It also freezes well, so you can keep it on hand to pop in the microwave on a busy weeknight.
The last pasta recipe is Lasagne with Roasted Squash, Roasted Garlic and Herb Cream Sauce. This beautiful and luscious dish is full of different flavors: slightly sweet butternut squash, mellow roasted garlic, different cheeses and a fragrant, creamy herb sauce. This is wonderful to make ahead and just reheat (can you tell I am a BIG fan of make-ahead dishes?). It's great knowing that for unexpected company, you can just throw something like this in the oven, and really surprise your guests!
Now, on to the Risotto. Risotto with Chicken, Mushrooms and Gorgonzola, is a rich, but very easy dish. It combines golden sautéed chicken breast, a savory blend of mixed mushrooms and sharp, fragrant Gorgonzola cheese. Perfect after a long day at work, you can have a fabulous, hearty meal in 30 minutes.
This next recipe is very special. Paella Risotto combines all the wonderful tastes of traditional Paella—chicken, sausage, clams, mussels, shrimp—into a creamy, delicious Risotto. It is flavored with heady saffron and aromatic vegetables for a truly magnificent dish. It's perfect for a dinner party—your guests will request it over and over again!
Our last risotto this month is a simple one: Risotto with Red Swiss Chard and Walnuts. This dish makes a lovely first course, entree or even a rich side dish. It combines red swiss chard sautéed with garlic and spicy red pepper flakes, aromatic vegetables and toasted walnuts for a luscious combination of tastes and textures.
For dessert, I have a real sample of autumn for you: Apple Pound Cake with Caramelized Mixed Fruit. The cake is moist and dense, studded throughout with tart Granny Smith Apples and toasted almonds. The fruit could be a dessert all on its own. Fresh fruit is first cooked in a caramel, then simmered with apple cider, apple tea for a terrific melding of flavors. The fruit really compliments the cake—and you can top it with whipped cream or ice cream if you like.
I hope that you enjoy these recipes. As always, if you have any questions, or ideas, please feel free to email me. Have a wonderful month, and I will see you again in October.
This page created September 1999
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