Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cato's Cakes for Religious Services

Today we go back to Cato and look at his recipe for 'libum', a sacrificial cake that was often piled up (into a pile called a 'strues') to make an offering to the gods. The recipes from Cato are often maligned, in fact, Varro (who wrote a book on agriculture around 100 years after Cato) mocked them in antiquity and the modern translator of the Loeb edition even footnotes this recipe with, "these recipes cannot be considered alluring." Well, they are all wrong! Cato, you have delicious recipes!
Cato's 'Libum' - An Ancient Roman Sacrificial Cake
15 oz Ricotta
half cup flour
1 egg
bay leaves
honey and poppy seeds (optional)
1) Gather ingredients.

2) Combine the ricotta, flour, and egg in a bowl. One could use many different cheeses for this recipe, all that is specified is that one passes the cheese through a sieve until it is homogenous. Ricotta is already homogenous and was present in antiquity and tastes really good. So, I recommend it. For the amount of flour, I follow Cato's suggestion for what to do "if you wish the cake to be more delicate." If you have no need for delicate in your life, then use one cup flour instead.
4) Mix it up!
3) Cato says to cook the cakes on a bed of leaves, so I spread some bay leaves on a baking sheet and placed each cake on a bay leaf.
4) Heat your oven up to 350 and put in your sheet pan of cakes. 
5) Remove from oven when they are starting to look golden brown and delicious.
6) Then they are ready to eat. I like to put honey and poppy seeds on them as well (kind of making them the baked version of Cato's globuli!). You can then put them on a plate:
or pile them up into a proper strues for a god:
These are really rich and good. I hope that all your sacrifices will go much better since now you will make the proper cakes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lucian's Wine Fish Tempered with Water Fish

For this recipe we turn once again to Lucian's amazing work, The True History. At book I section 7, Lucian and his shipmates land on an uncharted island and discover a river of white wine. The fish they catch in this river of wine make them so drunk when they eat them that they decide to temper these Wine Fish with fishes caught in water. See, because in the ancient world people used to temper wine with water, Lucian tempers Wine Fish with Water Fish! Lucian is funny stuff! So, inspired by Lucian's lead, we will make Wine Fish and temper them with Water Fish!
Lucian's Wine Fish Tempered with Water Fish
2 largish beautiful fish recommended for poaching to you by your local fish monger
8-10 fresh sardines
white wine
bay leaves
olive oil
1) First, prepare the Water Fish. If needed, gut and clean the sardines. If you find that off-putting, make sure to buy already cleaned sardines. Then put a wedge of lemon and some fresh or dried thyme inside the cavity of each. Rub with a little bit of olive oil and place on a pan. At this point you can turn on the broiler in your oven.
2) Now, lets get going on the Wine Fish. Place your fish in a sauce pan and cover with white wine. No water, only wine! These are fishes that live in wine and must take on a very strong wine flavor for this dish! I also threw in a few bay leaves for flavor.
3) Turn the heat up to mid high. You do not want to boil the fish. You only want to get the temperature up to around 180 degrees or so, which is around when teeny bubbles are coming to the surface. Once you get to this temperature, adjust your heat to keep the temperature at this point for about 10-15 minutes, depending upon how big your fish are.
4) While your Wine Fish is poaching, put your Water Fish under the broiler until they are cooked - which will only take 4-5 minutes.
5) Then place your broiled Water Fish on a serving platter and place your cooked Wine Fish on top!
You are now ready to eat like Lucian on his uncharted island! Just be careful not to kiss the Vine Ladies that live on the island because they will never let you go! There will be more Lucian recipes to come. In fact, at some point this semester some of my colleagues are going to help me recreate Lucian's entire battle between the Sun-ites and Moon-ites in food! Not only is that battle an incredible piece of satire about historiography - it will make an amazing banquet! I am very excited. Here is today's dish again at a different angle:
Now, be careful with this dish! Make sure everyone present tempers bites of Wine Fish with Water Fish so that everyone does not get too drunk. Fish poached in wine is wonderfully delicious and the contrast in textures with the crispy sardines will make you very happy. Don't forget to eat the cheeks, they are the best part. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Apicius' Carrots with Cumin

We go back to Apicius today and look at at his recipe #113, 'Another method for cooking carrots or parsnips.' This is a fun recipe that shows off the difficulties in using Apicius because he says to cook the carrots in 'cumin sauce', and specifies that this is the same 'cumin sauce' from the section on cabbages. But there is no 'cumin sauce' in the section on cabbages! But, however, there are some sauces that have cumin in them in the section on cabbages. If you have been reading the Apicius recipes in this blog so far you might have noticed that Apicius is crazy for cumin. You are right, he sure is!
Apicius' Carrots with Cumin
olive oil
white wine
salt and pepper
1) Heat up oil in a pan.
2) Add carrots. cook for a couple minutes and then some white wine. Depending on just how saucy you want it is how much to put in. As with all recipes from Apicius, there are no amounts specified of anything, so it is up to you to make such decisions on your own!
3) Add spices. Don't skimp on the cumin! That would make Apicius sad.
4) Simmer until carrots are done. Please do not over cook them because that is gross. Leave them with some body and eat them! The sauce is quite nice, little bit sweet from the carrots, rich from the cumin.
I forgot to take any pictures until I was done! Enjoy!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Prometheus' Roasted Fennel

So, the story goes, at least according to Hesiod, that Prometheus stole fire from the gods and brought it to men by hiding it in a giant fennel stalk. This makes sense because a giant fennel stalk is hollow and has these stringy things in it which can be used to keep sparks and flames alive. See, the giant fennel plant has nothing to do with what we call fennel here in the ol' USA. Ferula is the proper term for giant fennel. The Thyrsus, that big stick Dionysus and his crazed maenads carry is also a ferula. Where am I going with this? Okay, so I figure after Prometheus got punished (chained to rock, eagle eating liver) and freed (I have an earlier post on this and Hercules) he made this dish quite often.
Prometheus' Roasted Fennel
fennel bulb
olive oil
aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper or just black pepper
1) See, I figure Prometheus would want to eat this spicy, roasted fennel bulb to remember how he stole fire in fennel. So get yourself a fennel bulb. Trim off the top and bottom.
2) Then cut it into slices, put in into a bowl and toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and the spices. 
3) Then spread on a sheet pan and roast in the oven at 400 for about half an hour. Then check on it and roast it more if you need to. It will look like this when done:
I really love roasted fennel and it is easy to do and delicious. And, it takes fire to roast it and without fennel's namesake we just wouldn't have any fire at all! This dish is a celebration of fire. So, roast some fennel and be happy that ol' Mr Foresight stole us humans that fire! Enjoy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Apicius' Lamb Stew

Today we are looking at Apicius' recipe #360, "Another Stew for Lamb." I cooked this dish with lamb ribs because they are delicious and cheap. Shanks, shoulder, or even leg would work great as well. This is a great dish for a cold night because it is rich and comforting yet the strong cumin flavor still gives it a taste of the exotic.
Apicius' Lamb Stew
3 pounds lamb ribs
1 onion
salt and pepper
olive oil
red wine
parsley or cilantro
1) Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pot. Then add lamb ribs and brown all over. 
2) Then add the onion and the parsley or cilantro. 
3) Then add spices.
4) Give a good stir and add wine. I added lots of wine because I wanted lots of juice to dip bread in or pour over some farro.
5) Then cook for hours and hours! At least 4. More if you've got the time! This dish just ends up mouthwateringly soft and rich. The long cooking really mellows out the spices and you might find you have to add more cumin and pepper to bring out the flavors later. I will warn you that this dish is rich and fatty. So fatty, in fact, that you might want to skim off some of the fat. I however think you should eat that fat and revel in its unadulterated wonderfulness. Enjoy!