Though the Labor Day holiday marks the unofficial end of summer here in the United States, the continual heat waves sweeping the nation may prove otherwise. That said, we’re making the most of summer corn until fall arrives on September 22.
Chef Ali Laraia of The Sosta, a fast-casual Italian restaurant in New York City’s NoLita neighborhood, gained inspiration for the spot's menu during a road trip around Italy. Laraia grew up cooking alongside her mother, Marian Laraia (currently a teacher and chef at Google), observing her ability to prepare cakes incorporating seasonal ingredients.
Last month, Laraia served her recipe for corn agnolotti at Manzo in the Flatiron District’s Eataly outpost. Agnolotti is a stuffed pasta that originated in Italy’s Piedmont region. Most commonly square or crescent shaped, agnolotti is traditionally stuffed with vegetables and meats—donkey meat, if you’re in Monferrato—but typically not cheese, which distinguishes it from the more mainstream pasta ravioli.
“Outside of corn polenta, corn is not commonly used in traditional Italian cuisine,” says Italy reviewer Monica Larner. “Fresh tomato sauce is a key element used abundantly across the Italian peninsula on most pasta dishes with the exception of agnolotti. In fact, the best agnolotti in Piedmont are served without any sauce at all, and inside a dry napkin instead of a plate. Given the international flare of this dish, I would suggest an international grape such as Merlot. The 2015 Cantina Andriano (Kellerei Andrian) Alto Adige Merlot Riserva Gant offers soft and succulent cherry fruit to match the sweetness of the corn. It also has the high-altitude acidity and mountain freshness to cut through the more robust flavors of the dish.”
Daniel Boulud’s sleek Midtown Manhattan canteen, db Bistro Moderne, is best known for marrying the classic technique of bistro dishes with market-fresh, seasonal ingredients. Falling in line with summer corn season, pastry chef Tyler Verbiak puts a compelling twist on crème brûlée using sweet corn and serving it with sablé breton, cinnamon chantilly and blueberry-lemongrass sorbet.
“Crème brûlée is commonly paired with Sauternes,” says reviewer and former sommelier Erin Brooks, “but in this case I think the dessert could easily steamroll it, as it has both the classic crème brûlée flavors and more exotic notes of blueberry, lemongrass and cinnamon. I think a rich, spicy Vin Santo would be a fun pairing here: spices and notes of caramel and hazelnut to mirror the flavors of the dessert, and plenty of sweetness and texture to stand up to it. Yum!”