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Corsican leek and bean soup

(Minestra di fasgiolu e di porri)

Thick, rich, smoky, and redolent of Corsica's infamous maquis--that fragrant undergrowth of wild herbs that has hidden wild boars, fugitives, bandits, and wartime partisans throughout its history. And know where the potatoes came from? They were introduced to Corsica by local hero, freedom fighter, and reformer Pascal Paoli around 1763, upon which he was promptly named General delle patate by his enemies. Serve to 6 as a meal with crusty bread and red table wine.

Garnish: pepper

1. Drain and rinse the soaked beans, then put in a large pot with the bay leaf and salt, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for an hour.

2. In another saucepan, heat the olive oil, then add the leeks and bacon and cook, stirring, until the bacon is crisp. Stir in the tomato paste and garlic, then add the thyme by rubbing between your palms over the saucepan.

3. When the beans have cooked for the first hour, add the potato cubes and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and stir in the leek combination. Let simmer together for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. The soup should be thick--but add extra water if it is too thick.

4. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and grate fresh black pepper over each serving.