By the time Memorial Day weekend rolled around, our Concert in the Park group was eager to take on the first culinary challenge of the summer. The May issue of Saveur featured a wonderful article by David McAninch called Pleasure Island and Saveur.com then put together An Evening in Corsica theme dinner party menu with recipes from the issue. Thank you, Saveur, for providing the inspiration to kick off our 5th summer of There's a Newf in My Soup Concert in the Park picnics!
"The mountainous island of Corsica is home to a cuisine that's equal parts Alpine, Mediterranean, French and Italian—and all its own... this menu features the kind of sturdy, flavorful food that's typical there: cannelloni and swiss chard dumplings, a rustic lemon-scented cheesecake, and more, all paired with our favorite Corsican wines." The Dinner Party: An Evening in Corsica
|Photo Credit: Best Beaches|
"Gale-force winds had made for a memorable overnight ferry-crossing from Genoa, but my discomfort was a small price to pay for a morning so clear that Provence seemed little more than a few valleys away. As I turned slowly to the east, the Mediterranean and France faded from view, replaced by the Tyrrhenian Sea, the island of Elba, and the coast of Italy." - George Semler, Corsica: Wild France
Unfortunately, the Coronado Community Concert Band was unable to play any of the selections from Saveur's Corsica playlist, but once the food starts circulating and bottles of wine are uncorked, the music is inevitably lost in the oohs and aahs and lively conversations.
John tingled our taste buds and triggered the oohs and aahs of the evening with an amuse bouche of Corsican Deviled Eggs.
Deviled eggs appeared in The Saveur 100 Chefs' Edition (2011), Saveur's annual list of great food finds around the world. We recently ordered them for Happy Hour off Leroy's menu and found them to be deliciously "deviled" with yellow curry, pickled red onion and mango chutney. I'm not exactly sure where John found his inspiration, but he has hatched his own challenge for the summer concert season, to create a unique deviled egg that complements each of our culinary themed challenges. Some weeks may prove to be more challenging than others! For our Evening in Corsica, he dressed up the classic deviled egg by incorporating capers and some of the herbs found on the island. He plated the eggs on a bed of lightly dressed baby arugula, garnished the star-tip piped yolks with crispy prosciutto, and added a few drops of paprika oil around the edge of the whites to finish off his elegant presentation.
|Corsican Deviled Eggs|
Although they're a pain in the butt to shell, the arrival of favas to the farmers' markets brings a smile to my face. Once the beans are released from their broad, leathery pods, a quick blanching and ice bath plunge helps loosen the exterior coating. After another painstaking session removing the outer coating, the reward is a handful of small, sweet, bright green beans that need nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil and a few shavings of Pecorino cheese. Minute Chef toyed with the idea of preparing the Fava and Pecorino Salad, until I educated him on the time involved to shell the favas. As an alternative, I suggested a charcuterie platter with a few cured meats and cheeses, but that didn't make it to the table either. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen...just sayin'
In Rome, on the first of May, Roman families traditionally eat fresh fava beans with Pecorino Romano cheese during a daily excursion in the Campagna. In Liguria, a maritime region near northern Italy, fava beans are loved raw, and consumed fresh in early spring as the first product of the garden, alone or with fresh Pecorino Sardo, or with local salami from Sant'Olcese.
|Insalata di Baccelli e Pecorino (Fava and Pecorino Salad)|
"The calling card of Corsican charcuterie is rich marbling, which owes to the free-range, chestnut-fattened Nustrale pigs, a black-skinned breed that is related to the island's native wild boars." David McAninch, The Art of the Cure: Corsican Charcuterie
|This should have been Bradley's charcuterie|
In addition to the Fava and Pecorino Salad, Saveur's Corsican Dinner Party Menu featured Swiss Chard Cannelloni. This was my first time making cannelloni, and I took on the additional challenge making homemade pasta. The cannelloni is filled with ricotta, swiss chard, garlic and mint, nestled in a baking dish, covered with a zesty homemade tomato sauce seasoned with garlic, thyme, basil, and red chile flakes, topped with fontina cheese, baked until hot and bubbly, and finished under the broiler to brown the cheese. We all loved this dish, and Carmen commented it is in the top three of everything she's ever tasted from my kitchen (please excuse the photo - it looked much prettier before the cheese stuck to the foil during transport to the park).
|Pasta Incu Bietulle (Swiss Chard Cannelloni)|
Kai prepared Stuffed Eggplant, which paired nicely with Nina's Stuffed Tomatoes. Hey, didn't we already do Battle Stuffed? We did, for the first concert in the summer of 2009 - Fill Me Up Until I'm Stuffed.
|Kai's Stuffed Eggplant|
|Nina's Stuffed Tomatoes|
Carmen was ready to rally with her Dutch oven full of Rick Stein's Corsican Wild Mushroom and Boar Stew, showcasing Corsica's wild boar, chestnuts, juniper berries, and herbs. She served it over rigatoni and it was perfect to take that slight chill out of the air. She also made Mendients, a traditional French confection composed of a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruits. Jim successfully located a few bottles of Corsican wine at Bacchus Wine Market but I didn't move fast enough to get a tasting.
|Chris tending to the Corsican Wild Mushroom and Boar Stew|
|White Chocolate Mendients|
Kudos to Sandra! I received her Cipolline in Agrodolcee e-mail and photo when we returned from the park that evening, apologizing for underestimating the time it would take to peel a bucket load of pearl onions. She raved how good they ultimately turned out, so I had to try for myself and made them to accompany grilled steaks and sausages at the OCC (Ocean Corner Compound) Memorial Day BBQ. Like fava beans, the extra time in preparation is ultimately rewarded by sweetness of the sauteed onions and raisins and tanginess from the balsamic and sugar glaze.
|Sandra's version with Pearl Onions|
|Cipolline in Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Onions)|
Two more main courses that managed to escape the photo shoot were Pammy's Crock Pot Corsican Chicken and Mom Gaddis' Corsican Seafood Stew loaded with shrimp and scallops.
I couldn't stop at cannelloni, fava beans, and cipollini onions, so I tried the Torta Pisticcina, made with the flour from Corsica's prized crop, chestnuts, studded with whole almonds (I used Marcona almonds), and topped with a scattering of sliced almonds. This tart has a very unique flavor from the chestnut flour. I borrowed this description from ChestnutsOnLine.com: To describe a flour as sweet seems odd, but chestnut flour is truly sweet and mellow and imparts a most unusual yet welcome flavor to everything in which it is used.
|Torta Pisticcina (Chestnut Flour Tart)|
There were a few negative reviews of Saveur's Fiadone, so she went with another recipe. It baked up beautifully, and looked exactly like it was supposed to look, but I didn't care for the texture. It was a cross between sponge cake and souffle, and not at all creamy like a cheesecake. As an alternative, I strongly recommend Tourteau de Chèvre, a specialty cheesecake of Poitou Charentes, also from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table.
|Fiadone (rustic lemon-scented cheesecake)|
"The rum-and-vanilla-scented batter is less cakey than custardy. And there’s only enough of it to surround the apples. It’s a very homey, almost rustic cake and it’s good no matter what kinds of apples you use. In fact, when I asked Marie-Hélène which apples she used, she said she didn’t know--she just used whatever she had." - Dorie Greenspan
|Marie-Hélène Apple Cake|
After our Evening in Corsica, I can assure you this is going to be one of our best concert seasons yet! We won't be doing a formal theme every Sunday, but I hope to have something interesting to share after most Sundays. And Corsica is now on my bucket list!
|Photo credit: A Touch of Corsica|
Additional links to articles and recipes
- Pleasure Island
- An Evening in Corsica - The Dinner Party Menu
- Island Heritage: A History of Corsica
- The Guide - Corsica
- Fresh and Aged: Corsica’s Great Cheeses
- The Art of the Cure: Corsican Charcuterie
- Corsican Wines
- New York Times Article: A Taste of Corsica
- Corsica Food & Wine
- Fine Cooking Video: How to Shell Fava Beans