For Charlotte, last Tuesday proved to be disappointing. But it was also the start of something pretty sweet.
Our girl, unsurprisingly so if you know me, already has opinions about the weather. At the height of summer, she informed me that “nobody likes winter” and that she wanted to fly to Atlanta — the most tropical destination she knows — to while away the season’s snow and cold with her cousin Matteo and Uncle Carl.
But she is also a three-year-old with an eye for novelty. She knew that the start of school coincided with the start of autumn, and that the season started on a particular day; last Tuesday, to be exact. Going to bed Monday evening, she was excited to see what morning would bring.
Opening her blind, she questioned why all the leaves were still on the trees if today was, indeed, the first day of fall. Despite her apparent dislike for winter, she at least appreciated the fact that it comes with a world-changing blanket of white.
While we explained why leaves change colour and fall from the trees, we also know from experience that our environment isn’t always so simple. I explained to a disappointed Charlotte that just because people say something should happen, doesn’t mean it does, or even ought to.
The air had a nip to it as we walked to school that morning; by day’s end the sun had warmed it substantially. Wednesday’s nip wasn’t nearly as sharp and by Friday, we were walking in short sleeves instead of sweaters and jackets. Leaves evolved from green to gold and red, and a few had started to fall, as Charlotte excitedly noticed, picking choice samples to show off to her classmates.
But the stunning foliage is just half of the story. Summer felt subdued for some, and its sudden return feels like a gift from above. Shorts have returned to streets; sandals have returned to feet. People are out walking, riding bicycles, queueing up for that final ice cream at Hearn’s, and blanketing the patio at the Creamery. We hauled the canoe out for a surprisingly sweaty ride on Friday afternoon, and conditions were ideal for Sunday’s River Road Run.
Charlotte isn’t complaining; she asked to go to the Quarry for a swim and, as we planted tulip bulbs to eventually hibernate over winter, she commented that gardening was “awesome” — statements that can’t be attributed to a girl craving summer’s end. She has come to terms with the shifting state of weather, at least for right now, while the sun warms the landscape and her cheeks.
Children Charlotte’s age live by fairly stringent rules: boys still don’t like pink, when the bell rings, it’s time to run inside for school; there are a distinct number of Disney princesses with distinct personalities. But knowing that life isn’t always so black-and-white is a valuable lesson that comes with age… or better still, in the brilliant shades of autumn.
The article that accompanied the following recipe was a discussion on staple meals; no doubt you have dishes you can make on autopilot. Isn’t it nice to discover an unusual one to add to your repertoire?
Pasta with Caramelized Lemons
1 lb. linguine or spaghetti
4 Tbsp. olive oil, more for drizzling
1 tsp. kosher salt, more as needed
Pinch of sugar
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon chili flakes, more to taste
? cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, more to taste
½ cup celery leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)
? cup parsley, coarsely chopped (optional)
Flaky sea salt, for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Finely zest two of the lemons and set aside. Trim tops and bottoms off other 2 lemons and cut lengthwise into quarters; remove seeds. Thinly slice the quarters crosswise into triangles. Blanch the lemon pieces in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a dish towel. Blot dry.
In the boiling water, add pasta and cook until just barely al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. of the oil over high heat. Add the dried lemon pieces and season with a pinch of salt and sugar. Cook until the lemons are caramelized and browned at the edges, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Melt butter with the remaining oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the chili flakes and lemon zest; cook until fragrant. Whisk in reserved pasta water.
Toss in pasta, juice of one lemon, cheese, pepper and the remaining salt. Cook until pasta is well coated. Toss in the caramelized lemon and the celery leaves, and parsley if using. Taste and add lemon juice if needed. Serve, topped with a drizzle of oil, more cheese, and a sprinkle of sea salt.