Monday, June 18, 2012

Ode to a Prune, By Michael Ferris, aka Michelino

“Prunes” and “culinary delight” are seldom (if ever) found in the same sentence in the U.S., unless the words “are not a” connect them.  Wouldn’t you agree?  In Italy prunes have not been relegated to the sole task of “regulation”, and thereby avoid the resultant biased connotation that we Americani tend to assign them.  And not only is the prune not seen as an occasional necessary evil, it is actually a sought-after tasty morsel! At a recent wine-tasting dinner at a winery and agriturismo in the rolling hills of Chianti owned and operated by our friends Mario and Elena, this much-maligned dried fruit was catapulted to this elevated status on not just my palette, but on those of the nine lady water-colorists I brought to this dinner as well!

Elena is the marvelously inventive chef at “Fattoria di Corsignano”.  She brings her own unique taste to the very traditional cucina Toscana, while her husband Mario, whose balance of the traditional and the experimental creates a host of deliciously pleasing wines…one could say that his Chianti Classico is the perfect accompaniment to her Chianti Cucina! 

But I’m talking prunes here, not marriages made in Paradiso (although, I could easily wax on and on about the delightful evenings spent at the hospitable table of this lovely Tuscan couple…).  Our antipasto plate arrived with several tastes of Tuscany upon it…and there, among the crostini and panzanella stood an unassuming, wrapped-up h’ors d’oeuvre of some kind with a toothpick sticking out of it.  Hmm…

…Mmm!  What a lovely surprise was unwrapping in my mouth! (I must have missed Mario’s broken English explanation of this delight!) Indeed, the bread- crumb-encrusted rigatino (an approximate taste for us would be bacon, except this wasn’t smoked) was giving way to the warm tomino cheese and the bold tangy prune it had concealed.  This was truly a combination of flavors that will not be soon forgotten, and will in fact be requested with gusto the next time I accompany a group to dinner at Fattoria di Corsignano!
Prugne con Tomino e Rigatino

A final thought:  the word for plum in Italian is, funny enough, prugnaPrugne secche are merely dried plums, and they are capable of taking an appetizer from “hmmm” to “mmmm” in one bite.  I think we need to lose the prunes and let dried plums take our American cuisine to new appetizing heights!  Viva la prugna!

Michelino aka Bacco!