On the Pilgrim Trail with: St. Anselm

On the Pilgrim Trail is a new occasional series at Keeping the Feast created to highlight lesser known feast days by profiling the lives, landscapes, cuisine and culture of the holy men and women they honor.

The series begins today with Anselm, the great medieval saint and Doctor of the Church whose memorial is April 21, and three great recipes:

Antipasto Salad ala Anselm
Chicken Saute Sec
An Apple Cake for Anselm

St. Anselm

Anselm’s trail began in Aosta, Italy, continued into Normandy, France and concluded in Canterbury, England where he served as archbishop for 17 years.

In researching Anselm’s life, it quickly became clear that his was a complex existence and my main mission was to come up with an enjoyable profile that captured his dynamic spirituality, profound sense of belief and a wide range of gifts that included an eye for art and architecture.

After much searching, I found one at  www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/ANSELM.HTM  it’s highly readable and very enjoyable.

It would be a nice touch to follow the biography with prayers devoted to him on his feast day. Find them at  http://www.liturgies.net/saints/anselm/anselm.htm where they are accompanied by fine examples of medieval art.

http://idlespeculations-terryprest.blogspot.com/2009/04/st-anselm-900-years.html is another wonderful site. It’s an elegant blog that presents Anselm, the great philosopher, amid a backdrop of great artworks. It is lovely and informative. Following the links is a treat in itself. This page brings us back to April 21, 2009 – the 900th anniversary of Anselm’s death.

Set off on Anselm’s pilgrim trail in the region of his birth, the indescribably beautiful Val D’Aosta


This is a wonderful web site which focuses on the glories of Val D’Aosta in times past and present.

Then follow Anselm’s footsteps to Normandy on http://www.normandyvision.org/article18030701,asp where you can tour the Benedictine Abby at Bec which was so pivotal in the life of St. Anselm.

The earthly trail concludes at Canterbury Cathedral in England. Get there via http://www.sacred-destinations.com/england/canterbury-cathedral

This beautiful website provides a tour of Canterbury Cathedral, its history and its connection to St. Anselm who is credited with the inspiration for much of the architecture. It also provides links to major pilgrimage sites.

For the culinary stops along the trail, a three course meal was the inspiration of my sister-in-law Katherin A. Rogers, a professor of philosophy at the University of Delaware and noted Anselmian expert who suggested an Italian appetizer, a French main course and an English dessert.

I’ve researched dishes particular to Aosta, Normandy and Canterbury and come up with three that are derivative of those cultures, easy to prepare and affordable.

We’ll begin with an antipasto salad as an homage to the land of his birth, go on to a savory chicken with white wine in remembrance of his years in France and conclude with an apple cake reminiscent of those so popular in Canterbury England.

Antipasto Salad ala Anselm

Ingredients: 10 slices of proscuitto; 10 slices hard salami; 1 head romaine lettuce, cored and sliced thinly crosswise; 1 cup of thinly sliced fresh red peppers — so plentiful right now in the markets — 1 cup of roasted red peppers from the Italian deli section of the supermarket; 1 16-ounce can artichoke hearts drained and quartered; 1 10-ounce jar large, pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained; 1 15-ounce can pitted black olives, drained; 1 pound mozzarella cheese (fresh if you can) cut into 1/2 inch slices; 1/2 pound extra-sharp provolone cheese cut into thin slices; 10 anchovy filets.

Dressing: 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil; 1/4 cup red wine vinegar; 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano; 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil; 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley; 1 tablespoon minced red onions; salt and pepper to taste.

On your favorite platter, alternate slices of the proscuitto and salami around the rim. Then, cover the remainder of the platter with a bed of lettuce. Place the red peppers — fresh and jarred — in the center of the lettuce and surround them with artichoke hearts. Arrange the olives, cheeses and anchovy filets around the artichokes, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before serving, wisk all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and then drizzle the dressing over the platter.

Serve with thin wedges of Italian bread.

The recipe with echoes of Normandy was adapted from a well beloved, battered and spattered old cookbook, the first in my collection. This work by JeanneVoltz is called The California Cookbook and it’s an homage to just about every ethnic group to set foot California. It has since become a classic.

The dish I selected  is redolent with overtones of French cuisine. It is easy to prepare, very tasty and quite inexpensive.

Chicken Saute Sec

Ingredients: 1  3-pound broiler-fryer, cut up; 1/4 cup butter; 4 scallions finely chopped; 2 tablespoons chopped parsley; 1/2 cup Sauterne or other dry white wine; 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced. Flour, salt and white pepper.

Directions: Dust the cut up chicken with flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add chicken and saute until golden brown over medium heat, turning often and adding more butter if needed. Add the scallions, parsley, thyme, basil and wine. Cover tightly and simmer for 25 minutes or longer, until the chicken is done and most of the liquid is evaporated. 

Now for an English dessert.

In researching the culinary history of Canterbury, apples emerged as a primary ingredient in dessert fare. An apple tart called the Canterbury Tart is a signature dessert but it is expensive to make and painstaking to prepare.

The Apple Cake presented here contains echoes of Medieval Canterbury without the fuss and expense.

An Apple Cake for Anselm

Ingredients: 2 large tart apples; 1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour; 2/3 cup sugar; 1 tablespoon baking powder; 1 egg; 1 tablespoon dark rum (optional but very nice if included) 7 oz. hot milk; cinnamon and powdered sugar for dusting.

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square cake pan and lightly dust with cinnamon flavored powdered sugar. Cut, peel and core the apples into 12 sections each. Arrange apple slices to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mix, set aside. Meanwhile, Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, egg, rum and milk and pour over the apples. Sprinkle again with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.


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