Posts Tagged ‘mushrooms’

10
Mar

Cleaning Mushrooms

   Posted by: Livia    in adoration, Food

There must be half a dozen ways to clean mushrooms – brushing off the dirt with a dry brush, wiping them with a damp towel, rinsing them in water, peeling them, and probably a few more.

Oh, yes – peeling them. I love this trick. It’s terribly time consuming, but incredibly satisfying. You get a clean surface and no additional dampness (though apparently dampness doesn’t matter for your result, just your processing aesthetic). It appeals to my cooking rhythm. You pop off the stem, and then just pinch under the cap and peel back delightful curls of the outer layer.

Another benefit of such ridiculously time consuming a method is that it really helps get your priorities in order. There are few cooking things as divisive as how to clean mushrooms, and it can be painful to watch someone try to help with a different method from the one you prefer.

Having someone help you clean mushrooms requires taking a breath and realizing that the mushrooms will get clean at the end, and you have to let the person helping you do so in her own way. And that’s one of the skills that has made a huge difference in my life.

note: I didn’t learn this skill on my own. It was taught to me by a lovely biologist in Baltimore who used to host dinner parties.

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27
Oct

More food

   Posted by: Livia    in Food, lists

Made mushroom risotto this morning, using the last of the vegetable stock I had made.

And then I finished and strained a new batch of stock. Whee!

I’m working on a pot of red beans and pork, but after several hours of cooking over two days, it’s still not coming together right. I think that’s because this is my first time trying to use canned beans instead of dried. I don’t know – I’ve just had an urge to use up my canned goods lately. Eh, even if it doesn’t develop the proper gravy-ish base, it’s still coming out with the right taste.

Tonight, I need to develop a plan for the broccoli rabe (rapini).

And then I’ll just have the copious amounts of winter squash to figure out. I think I’ll break into the sweet roasting squash first – mainly because it’s big, and I have no place to store it. I’m thinking cutting it in half and roasting it with some butter – then I’ll eat some right away with cinnamon and sugar. Make soup out of most of it. And then reserve some to make ravioli with the thai basil and then cook it in a browned butter sauce.

That’s the plan, at least.

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I bought and made so much food this weekend.

First, there was the farmers’ market out by my parents’, which I had to go to because I’d bought very promising looking butter there last weekend, but found it had gone off, when I tried it as soon as I got home. So I took it back in hopes of swapping for fresher butter, but they hadn’t made any this past week – so I swapped for two butternut squash, instead. And I bought a 4 pound sweet roasting squash on impulse.

And then I bought stuff for the Roman cooking workshop. And some broccoli rabe that looked gorgeous. And what’s a couple (or 7) beets for a buck?

So then I met up with my parents so we could try breakfast at an “authentic British pub”. And, yes, they had sourced the right kind of bacon and there was both black and white pudding. And beans from a can. But the eggs were standard tasteless American eggs and there was no grilled tomato… and the tea was only halfway in between the two countries’. I may sound a little down on it, but that’s less because of the quality of the food and more because the entire breakfast run had only one waitress, so the food wasn’t quite as hot as it could have been.

And then my parents wanted to go to a large, indoor farmers’ market. And there was a gorgeous, large, pristine, beautiful head of cauliflower. Locally picked. And some huge white mushrooms picked locally the day before. And we split 3 dozen eggs (I only took one of them) from happy, pasture raised chickens (with flavor!).

And then… just to tempt me further, they wanted to stop and show me their new fancy supermarket, which was very much like a small, off-brand whole foods. I bought an environment-friendly dish soap so that I can finally declare the Dr. Bronner’s experiment a failure. And then I binged on comforting grains – two kinds of oatmeal and some barley. Also, for you doubters of the corporate benefits of social media – I totally impulse bought an unnecessary jar of salsa because I enjoy following the guy’s twitter feed.

Then I went home.

I had completely run out of frozen leftovers for lunch, so last week I had made some desperate bulk quantities of dinner food:

  • leftover pasta salad suddenly turned into dinners
  • mexican-ish rice with chicken and beans
  • macaroni with (homemade) pesto, chicken, and zucchini

You don’t want recipes for those, do you?

This week – There was the Roman Cooking workshop.

We made a pork loin roast boiled in salt water and bay leaves (now I’ve heard of brining, but there was no mention of roasting this meat or any cooking method other than boiling. So I left it in until it started to shred, but I pulled it out then because it was already quite salty. It makes an okay sandwich with mayonnaise (almost tasting like canned chicken). But this morning I started a pot of red beans on the stove, and I used the pork with no additional salt for the beans.

And then we make the barley stew with pork – it turned out almost like risotto, and despite only having two people come to the workshop, there were no leftovers. I might need to make it again soon.

The mushrooms were very tasty (as almost always) and made a great companion to the barley.

Because it wasn’t entirely clear whether the cabbage was to be made with fresh cilantro or dried coriander seeds, I did each half differently – there was a preference for the coriander, but neither one was really exciting, and I do have a lot of leftovers for those. I’ll need to think of a way to repurpose it into something that will freeze.

The fried carrots in wine and fish sauce smelled like ass – fishy ass – while cooking, but ended up tasty enough that I didn’t get to try the finish product.

And then I was pretty much done, especially with only having two people over. SO I handed over the book, and let them select the last recipe. And sweet egg cakes were chosen. Well, it was 4 eggs to 1/2 a pint of milk (with an ounce of oil) to be cooked in a shallow pan (I don’t have the recipe in front of me for the specifics, but it was distinctly not supposed to be custard because that was the recipe above). Because the mixture was so thin and I happened to have a brand new nonstick skillet, I suggested that we could pour many thin layers and treat them as crepes. While not a single one was removed as a flat sheet, we kind of had to bundle it together into a central pile to move it successfully. Oh, and then it’s dressed with honey and black pepper before serving – and it is some tasty! Well chosen!

And then after they left on Sunday, I made two more dinners that I could pack up for lunches:

  • Smitten Kitchen’s pasta with Cauliflower, walnuts, and feta – for which I did substitute regular pasta for whole wheat because I have boxes sitting around that I’m using up before I buy more pasta – and I’m not 100% sure that either the walnuts or the feta will take well to freezing, but the recipe was too tempting to pass up. I did taste a small portion that was didn’t fit evenly into the containers, and it was amazing fresh. I’d almost forgotten the few drops of lemon juice and vinegar (apple cider), but they really brought the flavors together.

    ETA: when she says this reheats well as leftovers, she wasn’t kidding. I was seriously dubious about freezing this one on account of both the nuts and the feta – but thawing it before microwaving has produced consistently tasty leftovers

  • gobhi bharta – inspired by the recipe in my favorite Indian cookbook, but then I took a left turn with the seasonings when I saw an opportunity to use up more of my mother’s extraneous Penzey’s spice mixes – so I used Rogan Josh seasoning with sumac instead or pomegranate powder to tartness and some extra hot pepper. The recipe also called for mustard seeds, so I toasted them in a little bit of my mustard oil I keep meaning to experiment with more. For all of that, it still wasn’t particularly strongly flavored, and it might have been a mistake to put up with rice, but I’d started making it when I started cooking, and I didn’t want to have to think up another use for it.

And then this morning I made one more: pasta with stuff

First, I cooked down a diced purple onion, 2 large mushrooms having been diced, and a bunch of (homemade) turkey meatballs I have in my freezer. Once everything was softer and the meatballs were browner, I splashed some sweet red wine in the pan.

As soon as the pan was dry again, I added 2 small-medium zucchini and some cauliflower (all diced small). Cook cook cook. As soon as it started to soften, I poured in 1/3 cup pasta sauce from a jar. Stir, cook, cook. And then I added macaroni (the pasta box in front, not my first choice of shape) and another 1/3 cup of sauce. And then I took it up into containers. Would be good with cheese.

Oh, and I also did laundry this morning.

And then I pondered whether I wanted to make another set of lunches or whether I wanted to start turning over dirt for restructuring the flower bed out back. And I decided to take a nap, instead.

Now I want soup, and tea, and hot chocolate. And another nap.

I think I’m going to use the remaining stock to make risotto to use up all the surplus mushrooms, so I need to also put on more stock so I can make soup with some of these winter squashes.

I also need to make the brussel sprout and beef stir fry before the brussel sprouts go off.

And I need to figure out something to do with the beautiful broccoli rabe before it starts to taste like nail varnish remover, like the last few bunches I bought did because I didn’t use them right away.

Anyone want to come over for random dinners at 10pm this week?

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I bought and made so much food this weekend.

First, there was the farmers’ market out by my parents’, which I had to go to because I’d bought very promising looking butter there last weekend, but found it had gone off, when I tried it as soon as I got home. So I took it back in hopes of swapping for fresher butter, but they hadn’t made any this past week – so I swapped for two butternut squash, instead. And I bought a 4 pound sweet roasting squash on impulse.

And then I bought stuff for the Roman cooking workshop. And some broccoli rabe that looked gorgeous. And what’s a couple (or 7) beets for a buck?

So then I met up with my parents so we could try breakfast at an “authentic British pub”. And, yes, they had sourced the right kind of bacon and there was both black and white pudding. And beans from a can. But the eggs were standard tasteless American eggs and there was no grilled tomato… and the tea was only halfway in between the two countries’. I may sound a little down on it, but that’s less because of the quality of the food and more because the entire breakfast run had only one waitress, so the food wasn’t quite as hot as it could have been.

And then my parents wanted to go to a large, indoor farmers’ market. And there was a gorgeous, large, pristine, beautiful head of cauliflower. Locally picked. And some huge white mushrooms picked locally the day before. And we split 3 dozen eggs (I only took one of them) from happy, pasture raised chickens (with flavor!).

And then… just to tempt me further, they wanted to stop and show me their new fancy supermarket, which was very much like a small, off-brand whole foods. I bought an environment-friendly dish soap so that I can finally declare the Dr. Bronner’s experiment a failure. And then I binged on comforting grains – two kinds of oatmeal and some barley. Also, for you doubters of the corporate benefits of social media – I totally impulse bought an unnecessary jar of salsa because I enjoy following the guy’s twitter feed.

Then I went home.

~*~

I had completely run out of frozen leftovers for lunch, so last week I had made some desperate bulk quantities of dinner food:

  • leftover pasta salad suddenly turned into dinners
  • mexican-ish rice with chicken and beans
  • macaroni with (homemade) pesto, chicken, and zucchini

You don’t want recipes for those, do you?

This week – There was the Roman Cooking workshop.

We made a pork loin roast boiled in salt water and bay leaves (now I’ve heard of brining, but there was no mention of roasting this meat or any cooking method other than boiling. So I left it in until it started to shred, but I pulled it out then because it was already quite salty. It makes an okay sandwich with mayonnaise (almost tasting like canned chicken). But this morning I started a pot of red beans on the stove, and I used the pork with no additional salt for the beans.

And then we make the barley stew with pork – it turned out almost like risotto, and despite only having two people come to the workshop, there were no leftovers. I might need to make it again soon.

The mushrooms were very tasty (as almost always) and made a great companion to the barley.

Because it wasn’t entirely clear whether the cabbage was to be made with fresh cilantro or dried coriander seeds, I did each half differently – there was a preference for the coriander, but neither one was really exciting, and I do have a lot of leftovers for those. I’ll need to think of a way to repurpose it into something that will freeze.

The fried carrots in wine and fish sauce smelled like ass – fishy ass – while cooking, but ended up tasty enough that I didn’t get to try the finish product.

And then I was pretty much done, especially with only having two people over. SO I handed over the book, and let them select the last recipe. And sweet egg cakes were chosen. Well, it was 4 eggs to 1/2 a pint of milk (with an ounce of oil) to be cooked in a shallow pan (I don’t have the recipe in front of me for the specifics, but it was distinctly not supposed to be custard because that was the recipe above). Because the mixture was so thin and I happened to have a brand new nonstick skillet, I suggested that we could pour many thin layers and treat them as crepes. While not a single one was removed as a flat sheet, we kind of had to bundle it together into a central pile to move it successfully. Oh, and then it’s dressed with honey and black pepper before serving – and it is some tasty! Well chosen!

~*~

And then after they left on Sunday, I made two more dinners that I could pack up for lunches:

  • >Smitten Kitchen’s pasta with Cauliflower, walnuts, and feta – for which I did substitute regular pasta for whole wheat because I have boxes sitting around that I’m using up before I buy more pasta – and I’m not 100% sure that either the walnuts or the feta will take well to freezing, but the recipe was too tempting to pass up. I did taste a small portion that was didn’t fit evenly into the containers, and it was amazing fresh. I’d almost forgotten the few drops of lemon juice and vinegar (apple cider), but they really brought the flavors together.
  • gobhi bharta – inspired by the recipe in my favorite Indian cookbook, but then I took a left turn with the seasonings when I saw an opportunity to use up more of my mother’s extraneous Penzey’s spice mixes – so I used Rogan Josh seasoning, with sumac instead or pomegranate powder for tartness, and some extra hot pepper. The recipe also called for mustard seeds, so I toasted them in a little bit of my mustard oil I keep meaning to experiment with more. For all of that, it still wasn’t particularly strongly flavored, and it might have been a mistake to put up with rice, but I’d started making it when I started cooking, and I didn’t want to have to think up another use for it.

And then this morning I made one more: pasta with stuff

First, I cooked down a diced purple onion, 2 large mushrooms having been diced, and a bunch of (homemade) turkey meatballs I have in my freezer. Once everything was softer and the meatballs were browner, I splashed some sweet red wine in the pan.

As soon as the pan was dry again, I added 2 small-medium zucchini and some cauliflower (all diced small). Cook cook cook. As soon as it started to soften, I poured in 1/3 cup pasta sauce from a jar. Stir, cook, cook. And then I added macaroni (the pasta box in front, not my first choice of shape) and another 1/3 cup of sauce. And then I took it up into containers. Would be good with cheese.

Oh, and I also did laundry this morning.

And then I pondered whether I wanted to make another set of lunches or whether I wanted to start turning over dirt for restructuring the flower bed out back. And I decided to take a nap, instead.

Now I want soup, and tea, and hot chocolate. And another nap.

I think I’m going to use the remaining stock to make risotto to use up all the surplus mushrooms, so I need to also put on more stock so I can make soup with some of these winter squashes.

I also need to make the brussel sprout and beef stir fry before the bussel sprouts go off.

And I need to figure out something to do with the beautiful broccoli rabe before it starts to taste like nail varnish remover, like the last few bunches I bought did because I didn’t use them right away.

Anyone want to come over for random dinners at 10pm this week?

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Okay, so here’s a tentative list of dishes I could make for the Roman Cooking Workshop I’m hosting on October 25.

All recipes are from the Flower and Rosenbaum translation of Apicius.

liber VIII Tetrapus; I in apro; 2 aliter in apro
Boar, another method

boil the boar in sea-water* with sprigs of laurel until it is tender. Take off the skin. Serve with salt, mustard, and vinegar.

*Cato (De Agricultura, 106) gives
directions for the treatment of sea-water: “Take 6 gallons of sea-water from the deep sea, where no fresh-water comes in. Pound 1.5 lb of salt, put it in, and stir with a stick until a boiled hen’s egg will float on it, then stop mixing. Add 12 pints old wine,

So I’ve made carnitas, but I’ve never brined a pork roast. I have had great success with using pork loins in carnitas even though they have less fat than the recommended recipe. But, if I’m going to cook off most of the water for maximum flavor and shred-ability, I probably want to cut back on the salt and just make a mild saline solution to put the bay leaves in. Since I already have a pork loin in my freezer, this recipe will definitely be made.

liber VII Polyteles; xv fungi farnei vel boleti; 6 boletos aliter
Mushrooms, another method

Chop the stalks, place in a new shallow pan, having added pepper, lovage, and a little honey. Blend with liquamen, add a little oil. [Cook.]

For those just turning in, liquamen is a salty fermented fish sauce.

I’d need to buy mushrooms, and since I have nothing planned for the caps, we might as well make this out of whole mushrooms.

liber IV Pandecter; iii minutal de piscibus vel isiis; 6. minutal ex praecoques
fricasse with apricots

Put in the saucepan oil, liquamen, wine, chop in dry shallot, add diced shoulder of pork cooked previously. When all this is cooked pound pepper, cumin, dried mint, and dill, moisten with honey, liquamen, passum, a little vinegar, and some of the cooking-liquor; mix well. Add the stoned apricots. Bring to the boil, and let it boil until done. Crumble pastry to bind. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

I’d use dried apricots, but all of the wet cooking should do well by them. And I just happen to have diced shoulder of pork cooked previously already sitting in my freezer. I’ll have to see if there is any mint left growing. I do not think I have dill.

liber IV Pandecter; ii patinae piscium holerum pomorum; 37. patina de cydoneis
patina of quinces

stew quinces with leeks in honey, liquamen, oil, and defrutum and serve; or boil with [just a little water and then very slowly in] honey.

If I can find quinces at the farmers’ market this weekend, I am totally trying this.

liber IV Pandecter; ii patinae piscium holerum pomorum; 2. aliter patina versatilis
translated as turnover. *sceptical face*

toast pine kernels and chopped nuts, pound with honey, pepper, liquamen, milk, and eggs. [cook in] a little oil

I have a lot of pine nuts in my freezer. And I have pecans and almonds (and maybe some walnuts). I’d have to buy milk.

liber III Cepuros; XXI Caroetae seu Pastinacae; 1. Caroetae frectae and 2. Aliter caroetas
Fried carrots and Another method

fried carrots – serve with a mixture of wine and liquamen
another method – [serve raw?] with salt, pure oil, and vinegar

I’d need to buy fresh carrots, and since none of the recipes in the section mentioned pasnips specifically, I could probably use a mixture of the two for the cooked one. For the second one, I’m thinking of shredding the raw carrots.

liber III Cepuros; ix cymas et cauliculos; 2. aliter
Another method

Boil and halve the cabbages, mince the tender parts of the leaves with coriander, onion, cumin, pepper, passum or caroenum, and a little oil

Since you are boiling it whole, I’m thinking more like blanching would be best.

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I love cream cheese. If I were poetically inclined, I would write odes to cream cheese.

It makes almost everything, sweet or savory, taste better.

But most especially – bagels!

And if you’ve been buying your fancy cream cheese spreads from the store, you’ve been missing out.

Cream cheese and scallions – I think stores must try to put them through a food processor or something to universally come up with bland, stringy (but I’ll still eat it!) scallion cheese. Let me tell you how to make this one better.

Take 1 bunch of scallions. Cut off the root bits and then peel them down until you have firm, clean skin left. (If you keep a bag of onion skins in your freezer for stock, wash off these scraps and put them into the bag, too) Then line up three or four of them, and slice the thinnest rounds you can (if anything is thicker than a millimeter, slow down and try it again). And keep slicing all the way into the green parts (pulling out any that are too wilty, and then slicing up the rest until you have just the tips left… and then those can go into the stock bits bag, too).

Dump the sliced scallions into a bowl. Dump an 8oz block of cream cheese into the bowl.

Ask yourself whether you want to be creative. If yes, also add some garlic (either minced from a jar or roasted cloves, but not fresh because that ends up just a little too potent) and maybe some chipotle. See what odds and ends are hanging around your fridge looking exciting. A dollop of heavy cream makes it a very sexy dip for company. A blob of mayonnaise makes it more spreadable. A drop of worcestershire sauce may sound like a good idea to me, but it just ends up making it taste a bit off, so don’t do that.

Mix it all up. It will be the best scallion cream cheese you have ever had, and people will ask for your secret. You will end up looking at those people like they are crazy, since it’s just scallions and cream cheese – why is it so hard?

roasted red pepper and cream cheese – okay, so it took me a while to make a better one than my bagel place, but I blame that on being a relative newcomer to the wonders of roasted red peppers. One warning though, since cream cheese mold often shows up first as orange dots and this is a fairly strong flavor so it’s basic nature will mask early signs of spoilage, you do want to be careful how long this sits in your fridge – this has never been a problem for me, though.

Roast red peppers. Remove skins. Have them hanging around your fridge looking lonesome.

Lay out a kitchen towel. On top of that, put a paper towel. (or you can have lots of paper towels… or 2 kitchen towels, if you are doing laundry tomorrow, otherwise the little scraps of red pepper will get ingrained in the fabric for a while.)

Cover half of the paper towel with roasted red pepper strips (you can strip some of the moisture with your fingers while you’re still dangling them over the container… and possibly with the container resting in the sink). Fold the other half of the paper towel and kitchen towel over top of the peppers, and then just plop your cutting board on top and maybe a pitcher of water. Read some food blogs. Come back. Set aside the pitcher of water, move the cutting board, and flip over the pepper/towel sandwich. Replace cutting board and pitcher. Oh, wait, have you checked your email? Better do that again.

Okay, so you’re bored and eager to eat breakfast now. Fine. Go open up your towels. Peel the red pepper off of the paper towel, tear it into smaller strips (and inch wide or so is plenty fine) and pile them onto your cutting board. So when you were tearing them, you noticed that peppers have a grain direction, right? It runs from stem to seat. Slice the peppers into thin strips opposite the grain direction.

Dump the strips into a bowl. Add one 8 oz. package of cream cheese. And then there’s just no question on this one, go ahead and add several cloves of roasted garlic. Mush it all up.

And try not to eat it all in the first day.

Chives, fennel, garlic, and cream cheese – or you can just be creative.

I lopped off a hunk of chives from the herbs on my patio, and then used scissors to cut them into wee tiny slices.

Pulled off some fennel fronds from the bulb [redacted] gave me (note: I have done this before with bronze fennel, and it doesn’t look nearly as appetizing as with green), sliced them up into tiny pieces as best I could.

And then tossed in the rest of the cloves from head of roasted garlic.

And a stick of cream cheese.

It was delicious! And all gone.

~*~

So I was hungry this morning, but I kind of didn’t want to make a new batch of sexy cream cheese because they haven’t been lasting well in my fridge (and the box of triscuits is getting low, too…). And I thought about making oatmeal, but I have a craving for cranberries to put in them, and I haven’t made it to Trader Joe’s, which I think will be my best bet. I considered making it with dates and apples, and while that sounds good, but it wasn’t what I really wanted and I only have sexy oatmeal that requires standing for half an hour. And Kundalini yoga kicked my ass on Sunday.

So I went for squash blossom quesadillas.

My neighbor has a butternut squash plant that is planning to take over the world, so we had already talked about how it wouldn’t be any problem for me to relieve her of a few blossoms.

Only my default for quesadillas is using them to get rid of any small leftovers I have, so it ended up including: half an onion, half a bell pepper, a jalepeno pepper, the last 2 of the tiny yellow summer squash, some mushrooms – and 8 squash blossoms. Seasoned with Penzey’s fajita mix. With plain old store brand sharp cheddar cheese from the grocery (which I usually wait to buy at $2/lb, but they haven’t had that price in a while and this is my last stick. Should I keep waiting, or buy a couple at 2 for $5 to tide me over).

It ended up being full of deliciousness, but I couldn’t have told you where the flavor of squash blossoms added a damn thing. But delicious. In my mouth.

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11
Oct

New ingredient – delicata squash

   Posted by: Livia    in Recipe, vegetarian

Some kind person (I’ve completely forgotten who) randomly gave me a delicata.

And, since it’s a winter squash, it sat about on my counter for a while as I perused the internet for tasty recipes.

Finally, after much research, I decided on Delicata squash with spiced pecans and dried cranberries. Yum.

So I set about acquiring dried cranberries – which really should not be that hard. I couldn’t find them at the grocery across the street. I kept forgetting to check the indian grocer. The fancy grocery three blocks away had some tiny bags that had extra sugar added (which they all might, for all I know, but they weren’t very pleasant about giving me directions to the dried fruit area), so I didn’t buy theirs. Today, I tried the spice lady at the farmers’ market, and while I cleaned her out of dried tomatoes and passed by her dried peaches, there was not a single cranberry to be found.

Secretly, however, I had already started forming other plans a few days before the farmers’ market. And I had gone and acquired mushrooms.

And so I call my dish

Autumnal Delicata

Slice the squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Slice each half in half, and then into 1/2″ slices. Because the internet says you can eat the skin.

Chuck the slices into a plastic bag. Add 1tsp olive oil and some salt and pepper. Twist the bag closed, and then shake the squash around so it is evenly coated. Dump the squash onto a roasting pan, and stick it in a 350F oven.

Take a container of baby portabella mushrooms; peel the caps, wipe off the stems, and cut the pieces into large chunks (roughly 1″ square). Dump the pieces into the same plastic bag. Add 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, and some salt and pepper. Shake about.

When the squash is stirred/turned over (approximately 20 minutes, but I wasn’t timing it), dump the mushrooms on top and let them join in the cooking.

In a large skillet, heat up 2 tsps olive oil. Add some fresh rosemary (I find that if you get the right balance of frying the rosemary, without burning it, you get delicious crunchy pieces, instead of chewy ones, with minimal prep effort). After the oil had had a chance to bubble around the rosemary, add 1 tsp red wine and 2 tsp balsamic vinegar.

Let the wine and vinegar reduce a little, but as soon as it starts looking thick, add 1 diced onion. I also had a leek to use up, so I added it (white and green parts, sliced and cleaned) at this time, too.

Once the onions are looking all glisteny and brown from the vinegar, add some (2+ cloves) garlic.

Only once your alliums are looking seriously intimidated, pull out the pan from the oven and dump the squash and mushrooms into the skillet. (note: if you leave time for the squash to cool, it would be easy to slip off the peels at this point)

Stir, stir, stir.

I had ready some stock to add if things started to look dry, but I ended up not using any.

And then I finished off with a handful of fresh sage and fennel (leaves only, minced) and over a tablespoon (the rest of what was left in my jar) of apricot jelly.

And then I dumped it in a bowl and ate it all up.

Other things I could add: pasta/risotto, a little bit of ground clove/nutmeg, red pepper, sexy sharp cheese.

Final impression: I didn’t like the skin on the squash, so I ended up picking the squash pieces out first so I could deal with separating the skins. Just because a thing can be done, that does not necessarily mean it should be done. But other than that, the flavors came together very well and it was tres sexy. While the mushrooms where the genius that led me to this approach, the apricot jelly was the cleverest part of this scheme.

Notes for modifications to try in a future attempt: I have read on the internet that you can peel delicata raw with a vegetable peeler, but I don’t believe them. So if you want the squash peeled, you might want to be sure you time it earlier (or have teflon fingers)… and then if you time it earlier, you might want to start the mushrooms with the onions instead of with the squash. That sort of thing. But I trust you to figure out the details so that they’ll work for you.

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I have agreed to go to an SCA casual outdoor thingy this weekend, so now I have to make a potluck item… a potluck item authentic for prior to 1600.

So you get to help me with the joy of indecision mixed with compulsive planning. [ingredients I need to buy for the recipes will be in bold]

I made a poll to let people pick:

Medieval and/or Roman picnic food: At a picnic – in the heat & humidity – I’d want to eat [note: check the recipes, no really]

Nutty dates – 9 (50.0%)
Pickled cucumber – 5 (27.8%)
Asparagus frittata (served cold) – 7 (38.9%)
Mushrooms – 6 (33.3%)
Stewed Apricots – 4 (22.2%)
Pig liver “sausages” – 1 (5.6%)
Pears in compost – 9 (50.0%)
eh, screw authentic! I’ve a hankering for more strawberries in balsalmic vinegar – 6 (33.3%)

Nutty Dates
Stone dates, and stuff with nuts and ground pepper. Roll in salt, fry in cooked honey, and serve

Pickled cucumbers
Prepare cucumber with pepper, pennyroyal [lovage and oregano], honey or reduced wine, fish sauce, and vinegar. Sometimes asafoetida is added.

Asparagus frittata
Put in the mortar asparagus tips, pound, add wine, pass through a sieve. [note: I have a wee food processor now!] Pound pepper, lovage, fresh coriander, savory, onion, wine, fish sauce, and oil. Put puree and spices into a greased shallow pan, and if you wish break eggs over it so that the mixture sets. Sprinkle finely ground pepper over it and serve.

Mushrooms
Cook mushrooms in reduced (white?) wine with a bouquet of fresh coriander. When they have cooked, remove the bouquet and serve.

Stewed apricots
Take small apricots, clean, stone, and plunge in cold water, then arrange in a shallow pan. Pound pepper, dried mint, moisten with fish sauce, add honey, reduced sweet wine, wine, and vinegar. Pour in the pan over the apricots, add a little oil, and cook over a low fire. When it is boiling, thicken with starch. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Pig liver “sausages”
Make incisions in the liver with a reed, steep in fish sauce, pepper, lovage, and two laurel berries. Wrap in sausage casing, grill, and serve.

Pears in compost (note: only recipe not from Apicius – and, yeah, that’s what the title said – think compote)
Put 3/4 cup white wine, 1 tsp cinnamon powder, and 1/4 cup sugar in a large pot. Heat, and stir until the sugar melts. Add dates, pitted and sliced into thin strips; 1/2 tsp sandalwood powder [saffron & nutmeg]; 1 teaspoon ginger powder; and a dash of salt. Stir. Remove from heat and set aside. Put 2 firm ripe pears, cored and washed, in a 2-quart saucepan with enough water to cover [+ some wine for flavor/color] to cover them. Heat to boiling and cook for 10 minutes, or until pears are fork-tender. Remove pears from the water and cool. Slice the pears into eighths lengthwise and add slices to the wine syrup. Stir gently to coat the pears with the syrup. Heat the syrup to boiling and cook for 5 minutes, or until liquid is slightly thickened and turns red [yellow]. Remove from heat and pour the pears and syrup into a serving dish. Chill. Serve cold.

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There are never enough food lists.

Produce
mushrooms
2 1/2 tomatoes
roasted garlic
spinach
collard greens
eggplant
potatoes
roasted medium-mild peppers
jalepeno peppers

1 banana
apricots
cherries
strawberries
orange juice
lemons

Meat-ish
4 2 eggs
cooked chicken scraps
canadian bacon (frozen)
chorizo (portioned, skinned, and frozen)
bacon
chicken stock

Dairy
random Mexican fresh cheese
sharp cheddar
parmesan
cream cheese
sour cream

bread
tortillas

Last meal I made – Saucy Mexican Potato and Chorizo Saute
So I’ve been reading a mexican cookbook – and I didn’t make a real recipe, but I extrapolated and cobbled together stuff from my ingredients and her methodology.

Okay, so I put in my new (to me) mini food processor: 3 cloves of roasted garlic, the stems from most of a pint of mushrooms, 1 roasted mild pepper (large and pale yellow-green), a tomato – peeled and seeded, a sprig or two of fennel, half a dozen small sage leaves, and a few tablespoons of stock. And I made a sauce.

In a pan, I cooked a couple (3) diced potatoes and a diced onion in a bit of oil… not much oil, but slightly more than my usual minimum amount for sauteing because – potatoes – they make sweet, sweet loving to the oil. And then I remembered I had chorizo, so I put a third of one of the lengths into the pan… and it oozed a bit of grease as it cooked, so I probably would have been fine with less oil, if I had done the sausage first.

So. then. I believe I added the mushroom caps (larger ones were quartered) to the pan with the potatoes and onions. And then, after a bit more sizzling together, I put the sauce into the pan.

At this point I had the epiphany that some nice queso fresca (or whatever, neither the book nor the label is in front of me) would be just the thing melty all over this dish. So I turned the heat way down, and I popped across the street for some cheese and diced up about a third of that.

End result was tasty, not spicy, and kind of way too greasy. Furthermore, it didn’t even occur to me to put a portion aside to freeze for lunches, and that would have been a wise decision. But otherwise, it was pretty satisfying. It would have been good with some greens, but the recipes in the cookbook weren’t doing that kind of mingling.

Future Recipes
I dunno… I’m thinking I need some healthier food for a bit. I’m looking at the strawberries and wondering whether to marinate them with balsamic vinegar or just chomp them right from the box. Meghan also loves strawberries in salad, but she’s crazipants sometimes.

Spinach… Spinach salad… with strawberries? Done – Mmmm tasty

And the eggplant – it’s big and firm and beautiful and plucky with that sound when you tap it like the most perfect round eggplant. I could not resist buying it, but this kind of eggplant intimidates me. I am much more comfortable with the long, thin chinese eggplant that are easy to control – you can just roast them until the skin chars and you have a cooked, easy to peel eggplant with the bitterness cooked out. But this round eggplant? It’s a wild, buxom thing. Maybe I’ll look in the italian cookbook… maybe I’ll buy tofu and make my favorite spicy tofu-eggplant stir fry. With spinach on the side. OOooooo….

Meanwhile, while I’m getting my schedule aligned so that I can stop by the chinese grocer 1 block away while it’s open and I can then go back home to refrigerate the stuff, I can cook up the greens and the chicken and make quesadillas. Possibly with canadian bacon in them. And cherries? I can probably find time to just eat the cherries properly – out under the hot sun with obnoxious spitting noises as I extract the pits.

And that just leaves random potatoes, which probably means mashed potatoes to use up the rest of the sour cream after I finish with the quesadillas.

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So for making Roman Recipes, I first consulted the Vehling translation (because that was the one my mother let me take with me when I moved), but then later I consulted a more reliable translation, the Flower & Rosenbaum translation, which has the Latin and the English on facing pages. Oh, and then I am referencing a completely different translation after the fact – it’s not a good translation, but it is online so I can show you what I’m talking about.

So here’s what we had for dinner last night:
Roast Pork
The whole point of making this dinner was that I had bought a huge pork loin and had cut it into three, still large, roasts. And then my mother had been making pork roasts and sending me the leftovers. And my freezer has been slowly filling up with pork! If I made a roast on my own, I’d then still have 2/3 of the roast right back in my freezer. So I came up with the nifty theme and invited people from the SCA to join me for dinner.

I was intrigued by the Vehling translation’s description of a roast that was first broiled and then braised. And I was all, hmmm… that’s like browning it before you braise it, only we usually do that in a pan rather than an over – cool, it’ll be like brisket.

Only then I checked the Flower & Rosenbaum translation and found that Vehling had been smushing together two recipes that were supposed to be separate. I’m still a bit dubious and I am half inclined to check a manuscript edition because the Flower & Rosenbaum have very clear punctuation and separations of one thing from the next, and I suspect that is a modernization. I did not, however, get around to actually checking before I made the dinner.

So I made the simplest recipe – the one that is a lot like the way I make pork when I do not have a fancy recipe to go from: cover it in salt and roast it and then drizzle with honey right at the end.

Only I usually do all kinds of fancy things like embedding garlic cloves in the meat, and sliding sprig of rosemary between the fat layer and the meat, and studding it with cloves of garlic. The honey, however, was new.

So I figured that a little “roman inspired” creativity never hurt anything, so I lightly dusted the fat on top with asafoetida, and then a heavier dusting with ground cumin. Then I added a nice, thick coating of kosher salt. Oh, yeah, and I pinned bacon rind to all of the exposed surfaces so that the edges wouldn’t dry out during cooking.

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees, and then I lowered it to 250 as soon as the meat went in. Since I had no idea how heavy this roast was, nor do I own a meat thermometer, I went for long, slow cooking that would end up with the meat very thoroughly done, but still tender. I think it ended up cooking for about 4 hours.

And I completely forgot about adding the honey.

It was still quite tasty.

Not satisfied with how simple the roast was going to be, I gave in and decided to make one of the sauces for roasts. Since I was unable to obtain laurel berries or myrtle berries, I went for the third one – and still ended up having to skip half of the ingredients.

I put into a mortar:

  • a lot of pepper
  • dried lovage
  • dried celery leaf instead of celery seed
  • dried dill
  • asafoetida
  • cumin

and then I added slightly damp ingredients

  • ginger, cut into slices against the grain
  • parsley, shredded

then I started working in the liquid ingredients to form a paste

  • a splash of worchestershire sauce and thai fish sauce to make the equivalent of liquamen
  • olive oil
  • a wee little bit of red wine vinegar, which wasn’t in the recipe, to keep it from getting too oily

The sauce turned out very tasty and complemented the pork perfectly.

Mushrooms
This is just mushrooms sauteed with oil, liquamen, and pepper.

Almost every translator has you taking time to dry the mushrooms in the middle of cooking. Having cooked mushrooms, and read how modern cookbooks describe the process, I think Apicius is just talking about how mushrooms release a lot of liquid when the start cooking, and that you need to keep cooking through that point until the liquid evaporates before you start to add seasonings (esp. liquid ones) or you’ll end up boiling your mushrooms more than sauteing them.

Peas

Again, I chose to use yellow split peas because I like them so much that I had bought a brand new bag a while back only to come home and find that I still have 2/3 of a bag already.

So first I boiled and skimmed the peas.

In a mortar, I ground up black pepper, lovage, and cumin. I added cilantro and liquamen (worchestershire sauce & fish sauce) to make a paste. I then added about half a cup of wine (Manischewitz!) and let it sit and get happy together while the peas finished cooking, and I finished cleaning my apartment.

Then I put a decent amount of olive oil in a pan, poured in the spice and wine mixture to start

I also made some non-Roman accompaniments

After having tasted the peas, I decided that this was a rather spicy and pepper-heavy meal. So I got some yogurt, drained it, and made a raita. There are no yogurt sauce recipes in the cookbook even though there are references to soft cheeses. I think that’s because it’s a rather cold, wet sort of thing to be mixing with ones food and you never know what sort of digestive complications that might create.

And while there are recipes for cucumbers, I chose to serve them just drizzled in white balsamic vinegar to make them as refreshing as possible.

Both additions were good choices.

Elderberry Custard
I posted about this day before yesterday, when I made the first part of the recipe. While looking for the spices for the pork, I found dried elderberries for sale. So I stewed together the dried berries with a few raisins (as I did not have raisin wine, and I thought any sweetness added would be a good thing), a lot of wine (Manischewitz), and some pepper. I did add some honey because I was adding honey to the hard cider I have going, and I was very worried about the lack of sweetness to the dish.

So after it had boiled down and reduced, I strained the liquid out and refrigerated it.

After the roast was out of the oven, I beat together 6 eggs and poured in as much of the elberberry concentrate as looked right, beating it all together. Then I ladled it into greased ramekins and set them in a larger casserole that had an inch of water.

They were ready just as the musical episode of Xena (The Bitter Suite) was finishing.

I thought the end result was just too eggy, and everyone ended up adding some honey to it. I think I would like to try again with just egg whites (elderberry meringue?) and just egg yolks (elderberry zabaglione?) to see whether either one yielded a more favorable result.

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