I love this time of year for many reasons including a few fun milestones. Mostly, the chill in the air just makes me happy and hopeful and awakens a lively feeling in me. Not only do I prefer jeans and boots to shorts and sandals, but I also prefer fall cooking to summer salads and raw veggies. It’s finally soup weather! Actually, it’s time for soup, pasta, pizza and anything that warms the kitchen and your stomach. When the air turns cold, I’m in the minority of people that isn’t just ready to bid summer farewell, but to bid it good riddance! I think this is another quirk I’ve inherited from my crazy (I mean that lovingly) mom. Although I don’t remember the seasons dictating her cooking, she’s definitely on my side when it comes to temperature.
Despite my mom’s equal disdain for the heat, regardless of the season, we were never without homemade soup or homemade pizza. Her chicken soup was and is renowned. All of her grandkids quickly developed an addiction to it and it’s delicious healing, dare I say magical properties. It really does fix what ails you. Coupled with her fresh from the oven pizza, it’s a tough call as to which is more delicious. Here’s the twist though. We never made a meal out of either one, especially pizza. When I was a kid, I heard about people who ordered pizzas on Friday night and called it dinner. How genius, I thought. When I excitedly proposed this idea to my mom, it was promptly dismissed. My dad especially thought pizza was something you had before, after or with dinner, but not for dinner. Unbelievable! Here I was with all of my brilliance, saving them time and money and practically providing my family with a hot, satisfying meal from Salvitos no less. Instead, my mom made a typical, full blown dinner, but also made homemade pizza. You have to give it to her. Her kindness was limitless. She just didn’t grasp the excitement I saw in having a pizza delivered to our door with paper plates and flimsy napkins, leaving us full, happy and with no dishes to wash. Back then I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to spare herself the work. She was so difficult, I thought.
Flash forward 20 years. Twenty? Oh boy that’s not right. More on that later. Flash forward an undisclosed number of years since I was a kid and I’m just like her. And although Mike is happy to order a pizza and call it dinner every once in awhile, he mostly agrees with my dad. We order pizza for dinner only as a last resort partially because our neighborhood is sorely lacking in good pizza options, but mostly because we prefer to make and enjoy a home cooked meal as often as possible.
October has always been my favorite month and it has become a special month for Mike as well. I feel like this year we really did it right. As soon as the temperatures dipped and the days began to shorten, our tiny kitchen was ready and so were we. Mike started things off and got our creative juices flowing by selecting a soup from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook. Don’t get me wrong. I love my mom’s chicken soup and it’s a staple in our home, but it’s just a starter, a gateway soup.
In our kitchen steam rises off the top of our largest, shiniest soup pot (compliments of mom) filling the kitchen with warmth and aroma. Mike is making the beef stock for a mushroom farro soup that will prove to be one of the tastiest soups we’ve ever had. In the meantime, I’m making dough for both pizza and pasta. It is definitely time for me to reclaim my pizza making status from the Irish guy, and I did not disappoint. Of course, none of this can happen on an empty stomach. What I’ve left out is the meal that started our day, a breakfast burger with sauteed veggies, topped with an egg sunny side up! And of course the burger and it’s contents are a result of the previous night’s dinner of tacos! One meal runs into the other around here. It’s time to really cook again and we’re just getting started!
The last thing we attempted on that food filled October weekend, was aracini.
I have always wanted to make them, and the repeated Instagram photos that kept appearing in our feed were the last straw. Abiding by our rule of thumb, the flavor and content of our next creation would depend on what we made nights before. What’s in the fridge cooking not only prevents waste, it sparks creativity and it’s really fun. Leftover mushrooms and scallions from taco night found their way into the creamy risotto along with salty chunks of the ham from a few nights prior. The whole thing was seasoned with parsley we bought from the farmers market specially for our mushroom soup. The one new ingredient to this decadent treat was saffron, an indulgent an aromatic spice that I always keep on hand. I had it in my head for years that arancini should be made with saffron. October, the month of possibilities saw my idea come to fruition and it was a success!
The weeks and weekends following would be busy with travel and happy events that would limit the amount of cooking our tiny kitchen would see, so we had to get it all in while we could. The first event was the anniversary of the day we met. I love that we remember and celebrate that day. It seems so unlikely, but we honored that momentous occasion with take-out hot wings and beer, just like we enjoyed so many times on some of our first dates. The second event was my 45th birthday and true to form, I stretched it out over two weekends (and counting…). We spent one weekend back home in Philly cooking and spending time with mom and as much of the family as possible. It makes her so happy to see us. Of course she planned a great birthday meal for me, but honestly I think she had Mike in mind more so than me. I like roast beef but not as much as Mike does, and I’ve never once requested it for a birthday meal. This makes me happy. He’s the absolute only one she lets take over her kitchen without putting up the slightest fight. Mike and I had the best time cooking in nonna’s big kitchen and it was great to do something nice for her. Going home is always bittersweet for me now and these milestones, while happy ones, serve to emphasize how much I miss my dad. But as we lose loved ones we also gain new ones. We spent a wonderful time last weekend with someone new in our lives and it really made my weekend. I’m grateful for these moments.
This weekend (my actual birthday weekend) is being spent in New York with surprise dinners, live music and lots and lots of my amazing friends. Mike has made every minute of it very special and just as we started the month out right, we plan to end it right too. Stay tuned for the next post that will be all about our end of October adventure! Buon apetito!