A few years ago, on another fall day, my brother and I went to dinner at a restaurant in Chicago's Italian Village and he ordered something for us called "chestnut ravioli." It was a savory version, kind of like this. Well, I was so taken with it, that I wanted to incorporated it somehow into the book I was writing at the time...a book that later turned out to be the novel I have coming out today, Friday Mornings at Nine.
In this story, there are three women who get together for coffee every week (bet you can guess from the title when that is), and they talk about the things many of us talk about with our friends: the men in our lives, our work, our kids, the people from our past... But, one September morning, one of the women admits she's been getting emails from her college ex, a guy she hasn't seen in 18 years. Given her marital ups and downs, it sets her wondering whether she chose the right man after all. It also makes her friends reconsider their relationships and question their choices, too.
One of those women is a character I named Bridget, and I lovingly gave her all of the cooking skills I don't personally possess. This woman can make anything. (Whereas I can only microwave stuff and, on occasion, stir-fry packaged foods. I think I need to take classes at Melissa Senate's Love Goddess' Cooking School. :) Well, I knew if anybody could figure out how to make this delicious ravioli, it would be Bridget.
But Bridget has a sweet tooth and, in researching recipes for her, I came across this gorgeous, sweet version of chestnut ravioli by About.com's Peggy Trowbridge Filippone. I read through it longingly, imagining myself getting to taste it...making only a couple of changes to the original in my fantasies of fixing it: Instead of deep frying it, I suspected health-conscious Bridget would keep it very tender -- lightly browning the raviolis in butter, perhaps, so they would be sweet pasta pillows filled with chestnut puree, almonds, candied orange peel, grated bittersweet chocolate, amaretto liqueur, cinnamon, honey and more...sigh.
This combination of flavors seemed to encapsulate the autumn season for me. I'd need only pumpkin muffins and, maybe, apple crisp with whipped cream on top and nutmeg sprinkles to complete the wheel of fall flavors. To go with them and add the crowning touch, I'd make a hot spiced chai tea like this one and revel in the scents of clove and cardamom, too.
Oh, I love fall and the bounty of its offerings! Everywhere I go, it seems, there are gifts awaiting us: the breathtaking colors of the changing leaves, the flavors and aromas of the season and a focus on celebrating the harvest at hand by sharing our gifts and giving thanks. And on that note, I have one other treat to share with you all -- a non-edible one this time:
In celebration of the release of Friday Mornings at Nine, my publisher -- Kensington Books -- is giving away FREE e-book downloads of my debut novel, According to Jane (the story of a woman who has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice). For four days, starting Wednesday (9/29) and going through Saturday (10/2), if you have access to any of these e-reader formats -- Kindle, Apple, Sony, B&N, Kobo or Diesel -- feel free to enjoy a copy! Also, I'll give one randomly chosen commenter on this post an autographed final copy of my new novel (in trade paperback), so you can read about the chestnut ravioli in context!
What are some of your favorite fall recipes? What tastes like autumn to you?
Marilyn Brant is a chocolate lover and music junkie who lives in the Chicago area with her husband, son and very paranoid guinea pig. She's the award-winning women's fiction author of According to Jane (Kensington, 2009) and Friday Mornings at Nine (out this week!). She can't cook, but she spends a lot of time online. Visit her at: www.marilynbrant.com.