Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Flavor of Fall

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.


  1. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner (in Canada we celebrate in less than two weeks). My mother-in-law's turkey, carrots, and stuffing are the taste of fall for me!

  2. Oh, Marilyn, this post made me sooo hungry!!!

    It's still pretty warm here in NY, so I can't think of any fall recipes this early in the morning.... BUT I am eating my maple oatmeal as I read this, and that felt very apropos!

    I think your publisher is just GENIUS to be giving away free e-copies of your first book to promote your second one. For those of you out there who are looking for a chance to win FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE, please hop on over to my blog and enter for a chance to win!


    Doncha just love free books?!?

  3. I'm going to try the chestnut ravioli recipe this week (with your browning instead of deep frying amendments)--looks amazing! (And thanks for that fun shout-out for my book!)

    My favorite fall recipe is always pumpkin pie. I like to make it from a different recipe every time, sometimes back of the can, sometimes with a pie pumpkin (just bought one yesterday). Nothing says fall or changing leaves to me than pumpkin pie.

    Congrats on the new release--can't wait to read it. I love novels about friendship and life questions.

  4. Ossco Busco, short ribs, split pea soup. Yum. We had our first nice and cool morning today, so fall is on my mind. Marilyn, your books sound wonderful. Just got my Mom a nook and I'm going to download both your books for her to read on her trip to France.

  5. After reading this, my new favorite recipe might just be chestnut ravioli! I love fall cooking--apple pie, cajun meatloaf, soups, stews, roast chicken . . . all leading up to the wonders of Thanksgiving dinner. Great post, Marilyn!

    And I can't wait to read FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE!

  6. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for the release-day congrats!!! I'm excited ;).

    Jonita~happy early Thanksgiving! I love stuffing, and it's my husband's absolute favorite holiday food :).

    Brenda~I think maple oatmeal sounds delicious and perfect for a fall morning. And THANKS again for hosting a giveaway for me!!

    Melissa~I would LOVE to know how it turns out if you decide to make it. Seriously. Email me. I'm happy to live vicariously!

    Karin~thank you! I hope your mom will enjoy them and that she'll have a wonderful trip, too!!

    Judy~Cajun meatloaf?!! Oooh, sounds amazing! REALLY looking forward to finally getting to meet you in person this weekend, btw! :)

  7. Happy Book Release Day, Marilyn! I'll be thinking of you...and I'll be seeing you this weekend. Squee! Can't wait! I love FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE, which you already know, and Bridget's chapters made me hungry every time. I'm like you, a microwaver and heater-upper more than a cook. Can I sign up for Melissa Senate's LOVE GODDESS' COOKING SCHOOL, too??? Sending happy hugs on your big day! I just know FRIDAYS will be a smash!

  8. Happy Pub Day, Marilyn! I considered the matter of cooking in a recent blog post of my own. As a fiction writer I go too far out to lunch to get all the way home for dinner. Everything I cook turns out blackened because of all the little waiting periods cooking involves. How can a writer stay focused? Like you, I can microwave, and I'm going straight to the kitchen to wave some water for spicey chai tea. Thanks for the idea! I hope you have a great day!

  9. I have had a craving for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for about two weeks now. I am going to have to make them this weekend.

    I am eager to pick up both of you books!

    teresasreadingcorner at gmail dot com

  10. Congrats on your new release, Marilyn!

    It sounds like a beyond yummy read!!!

    And I'm sooo right there with ya on the not-much-of-a-cook thing, although I'm trying harder as of late...not sure why really but that's my current sooo-not-Martha-Stewart mood.

    But anyhoo...here's my secret, Fall ravioli weapon...and yippee...it follows our microwave kitchen menu preferences...:

    Lean Cuisine's Pumpkin Squash Ravioli

    Damn that dish is tasty!!!

    Sexy Sassy Smart Fall Ravioli and New Release Wishes --- D. D. Scott

  11. Yes, happy pub day!

    Don't you love how innocuous-seeming things, like a menu item when you're out to dinner, can inspire such great ideas? I'm all for the savory version of that ravioli--just bookmarked that recipe!--and can't wait to try it.

    Your book sounds delicious too!

    My husband makes a fantastic chestnut stuffing every year for our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Which may be one of the reasons I married him. :-)

  12. Susan, I have been thinking of you all morning!! Thank you, my wonderful friend, for all of your supportiveness and encouragement ;). I cannot wait to spend time with you this weekend!!

    LOL, Cindy! I know *just* what you mean about the blackened dishes...I swear, if there's a way to burn something, I've done it!

    Teresa~ohhhhhh, chocolate chips AND pumpkin... THAT sounds heavenly today ;).

    D.D.~I'm a fan of Lean Cuisine and I've spotted the boxes of Pumpkin Squash Ravioli but never tried it! I didn't know anyone who had, so I wasn't sure if I should take a chance -- but I will now! Thanks for the rec!!

    Therese, my husband cooks even less than I do, so I'm a bit envious that yours can make chestnut stuffing!! In my book, that sounds like an excellent reason to marry a guy :).

  13. Marilyn
    I loved this post! Right now in LA we are having a heat wave and being a native Midwesterner I keep thinking about the tastes, smells, and feels of fall. Pumpkin, cinnamon, apple, soft wool, down...aaahhh.

  14. Maggie, far too many times I've envied that gorgeous California weather (especially in winter :), but I know I'd miss the seasonal changes, too, if I didn't get to experience them for a while... You should come back to visit sometime soon!!

  15. Marilyn, your post has my mouth watering! I'm going to have to try that chestnut ravioli. It sounds delish! We're still in full summer mode here in Florida (although it got done to 65 last night- woo hoo!) but the overly opporesive humidity seems to be waning and that's the first sign of fall for me.

    Can't wait to read Friday Mornings at Nine!

  16. Marilyn, I'm from Australia and we're just heading into Spring but where I live gets pretty cold so we're still having a few fresh days that require some comfort food like my sister's apple and caramel scrolls or my pumpkin soup with sour dough bread. I'm quite a passionate cook and love novels that include food. Your ravioli recipe reminded me of one that I found not long ago but haven't had time to cook yet - pumpkin ravioli with burnt butter and sage sauce - pure luxury in every mouthful!

  17. Maria~I had a chance to experience that oppressive humidity of which you speak this summer (!!), so I can imagine even 65 degrees at night must seem like quite a relief. I think we've hit low 40s already...

    Elissa~I was an exchange student in Brisbane, Australia when I was in high school (LOVED it!!) and, so, spent my summer/your winter there that year and, again, four years later when I returned to visit everyone. What a beautiful country, and SO many kind people! You have my mouth watering with some of your comfort foods...apple and caramel scrolls...mmmm ;).

  18. Marilyn, Brisbane (or as we call it: Briz-vegas) is a lovely place but the closest they get to Winter is getting temps of about 20 degrees Celsius (68F) and where I live Winter temps are usually around -8 overnight and between 2 and 10 degrees during the day. Queenslanders HATE coming down south but I love the fact we have four seasons each year instead of just two (hot and really hot)!

    Aussies are a pretty laid back bunch and we do love our visitors (wherever they're from) and as for my sister's scrolls - they are the first thing to go at family gatherings: it's the fast or the disappointed in our house!

  19. LOL, Elissa! On my 2nd trip, I was fortunate to get to travel as far south as Canberra and as far north as Cairns, so I enjoyed seeing a range of Aussie climates, but the Brissy reaction to "winter" (using that term loosely :) was so comical to me. I'm originally from Wisconsin -- land of the ice storm -- and was used to regular winter temps at -30F or more below zero. My host family and classmates were "freezing" when the temperature dipped to 55F one night. At my Wisc. university town, that was practically shorts and t-shirt weather!! Glad you get all 4 seasons where you are!

    Oh, sigh...you've got me daydreaming about going back to visit now. ;)

  20. My first thought was apple pie. Wood Orchard's macintosh apples from Door County are my favorite! (Hey I'm from Wisconsin too!)

    Closely followed by chicken pot pie, pork stew and chili! Hot, yummy, filling dinners!

  21. Yea!! Marilyn I can't wait to get this book!! It sounds sooo good. I'm so happy for you. My house is simmering with pumpkin spice in every room right now. I absolutely love fall. It's my favorite time of the year. Chili and grilled cheese~mmmm, my favs!!

  22. Autumn tastes like Apples!! Anything apple, especially spiced apple pie, will fulfill my craving for Autumn.

    Thanks for this chance to win a signed copy of "Friday Mornings at Nine."

  23. Laurie~I'm sure we're only a *little* biased (!!), but Door Co. apple pie just has to be the best, doesn't it?!

    Tonya~ooooh, pumpkin spice!! LOVE that! And I was *just* over at The Naked Hero saying "hi" to you all ;).

    Laura~I know I seriously don't need to eat anything more this morning, but all this talk of apple pie is giving me cravings... Thank you for visiting!

    You've all been so wonderful... I'll give anyone who still wants to comment until tomorrow morning before closing the entries for the random drawing ;).

  24. Hi Marilyn,

    I enjoyed this posting very, very much :)

    Would love to read your masterpiece 'Friday Mornings at Nine' ... a signed copy, of course :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  25. Hi Marilyn,

    Congratulations on your new novel! So exciting!

    After reading your post I am starving (and I only ate lunch an hour ago). I have been doing my "fall baking" for a couple of weeks now. I start with a mile high apple pie with vanilla bean ice cream on the side. Delish! Then I make a nice pumpkin bread with a little cinammon sugar sprinkle on top. This is also the time of year that I make a GIANT pot of homemade tomato sauce with meatballs, sausages, braciole and put it in jars in my freezer. Next on my list of things to bake - cinammon buns!

    -Christine from Massachusetts

  26. Karen K~Thank you!! I love your enthusiasm and could hug you for calling the story a "masterpiece" -- LOL! So nice of you ;).

    Christine, after reading the list of things you've already made, I have just one question: Where EXACTLY in Massachusetts do you live?! (I'll be right over! No need to even freeze those meatballs and sausages... :) Wow. I'm so impressed that you can make all of this, and I think I can actually smell the enticing aroma of those cinnamon buns all the way here in Chicago...

  27. Everyone,
    Thanks again for your comments and for celebrating with me!
    I did the random drawing and TERESA (teresasreadingcorner at gmail dot com) was the winner of the signed ARC! I'll contact you today for your address.
    Hope you all have a great rest of the week/weekend :).