Autumn may be my favorite time of year. I may contradict myself when spring starts to whisper. But today, yes, autumn is my favorite.
Tonight our thermometer will measure 21˚F and already a thin blanket of snow covers the ground. Most evenings Keith and I sit in front of the fire, sip wine, and chat about the day. It’s dark early now, before 6 pm, and I find that my eyes grow heavy earlier than they did in the long days of summer.
This is the autumn that’s familiar, it’s the one I love the most. But it’s very different from the autumn I experienced last year in Italy.
In the US, Halloween and Thanksgiving partner with chilly air to remind us that autumn is here and winter is coming. But the seasons announce themselves differently in Italy. Though Italians have many holidays and traditions, the celebration of food is the tide that carries them from one season to the next. Many festivals celebrate the arrival of a prized fruit or vegetable. In autumn, it’s pears and apples, escarole and lacinato kale, mushrooms and chestnuts. And in October, one of Italy’s greatest treasures, the olive harvest and precious Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
The other day, I sent Giovanna (you may remember her spectacular ragu sauce) an e-mail and asked what she loves most about autumn in Italy. She responded with a lovely note all about it – including a recipe for traditional Castagnaccio – a chestnut flour cake with raisins, pine nuts, walnuts, and of course, olive oil. You can read her post here, but be warned that it may inspire you to hop a plane to experience Italy in the autumn for yourself.
The US is my home and I love our holidays and traditions, but I’ve noticed a shift in my focus on the changing seasons. I’d like to think of it as a little part of Italy that I get to keep.
This fall I’m celebrating the arrival of first crop apples, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and – one of my favorites – acorn squash. Sliced into wedges and roasted, the skin blisters and softens, the flesh turns silky and sweet. It’s the perfect ode to autumn. If you grew up eating acorn squash, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that your mom (or dad) roasted it in halves, cut side up, filled with butter and brown sugar. This recipe is just a riff on that – with a bit of depth from maple syrup and the slightest black pepper kick.
Sweet and Spicy Roasted Acorn Squash Wedges
- 1 whole acorn squash halved, seeds scooped, and sliced into 12 wedges
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup real maple syrup
- 1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line baking dish with parchment paper. Arrange squash wedges in a single layer on the parchments paper and set aside.
- Heat butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until butter has melted and mixture combines, about 2 minutes. Drizzle mixture evenly over squash wedges. Season generously with several grinds of black pepper.
- Bake wedges at 350-degrees for 30 minutes. With tongs or a fork, flip wedges and return to oven; bake 30 minutes more.
- Arrange squash wedges on a serving platter. You’ll have plenty of buttery, sugary sauce left in the bottom of your baking dish. Spoon it over the roasted squash and serve.