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Fancy Roman and Medieval finger food – Nutty Dates, Pickled Cucumbers, Asparagus Frittata, Mushrooms, Stewed Apricots, Pig Liver, Pears in Compost

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.

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.

Food list – Saucy Mexican Potato and Chorizo Saute

There are never enough food lists.

2 1/2 tomatoes
roasted garlic
collard greens
roasted medium-mild peppers
jalepeno peppers

1 banana
orange juice

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

random Mexican fresh cheese
sharp cheddar
cream cheese
sour cream


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.

The internet is my hive mind

Seriously – memory is outdated. So I was talking with my ex about fondue (she’s trying to convince me to visit Chicago, and the most recent motivation was the recent proliferation of fondue restaurants), and I came up with the first time I ever had fondue was on my trip to Switzerland in 1987… and it was in some town with a lovely painted wooden bridge, with buskers, that had since burned down. Fondue wasn’t the only thing on the menu, but it was exciting (this was the hot oil kind of fondue where you skewer a raw chunk of meat and boil it in oil before dipping it in a variety of tasty sauces) and there were occasional breaks for dancing and possibly yodeling.

That’s really not the kinds of details I thought I’d need to pinpoint a city through google. So, instead, I asked my mother. And she said, “Ah, that was Locano.”

So I googled it – found I was spelling it incorrectly – and then hopped over to the wikipedia page, found a picture of a bridge – only one bridge – and while I had seen that on the trip, it wasn’t the right bridge. Just in case it hadn’t made it onto the webpage, I popped over to the official city webpage, but that was in Italian, and I had gotten the vague impression (maybe from the yodeling) that the fondue had been in a city from the German-er bits of Switzerland.

Luckily, however, one of the sites on Locarno had been a tourist site for all of Switzerland with a list of the major cities. So I scrolled along looking for ones that both sounded familiar and not so familiar that I could exclude them.

I came to Lucerne and that webpage wasn’t much use, but I had a hunch – so I popped back over to google… and wasn’t convinced. For one thing, it said there were only two major bridges and the main one pictured was a lot longer than the one I remembered. I was thinking 20 feet or so… But it had been burned down in 1993, which would have been around the right time…

So I went back to the tourist page and a few other menu pages for restaurants in Lucerne and concluded that the one we went to is still there – Stadtkeller. And that I probably would never have chosen to go there as an adult with my current touristing sensibilities (I tend to suspect that places with entertainment are putting more effort into that then the food) – but nevertheless, I remember it first as a restaurant with tasty food and only secondly as one with quirky entertainment that was rather charming.

BLITEOW – Brains

Just making more food lists.

Yesterday I had salad.

Today, though, I am feeling a bit sluggish and it’s hard to get the motivation to cook anything.

What I really want is brains. Jellied, chilled brains. Maybe with some cayenne pepper.

So if any of you have some good summertime recipes that don’t require too much cooking time. Hmmm… brains soup…


ETA: My mother actually came up with a recipe from her childhood –

First you soak the brains in milk.

Then you soak the brains in ice water. After an hour, remove any stringy/membrane-y bits

Beat together about 5 eggs.

Dice the brains and mix them in with the eggs.

Scramble in a large frying pan.

Serve with toast.

ETAA: Majorcan Brains
Indonesian Brains
Nibbly brains appetizer
Spicy Chinese brains
Brains & Sweetbreads
French brains & black olives
Marinata di Cervello alla Villeroy – OMG, so rich!
Another recipe for Brains & Eggs – from a congressman! (also canned brains, but you can get fresh – they are on sale today)
Toscano Brains
Moroccan brains
Brains with Teacup Hollandaise
Not brains
Chiles Rellenos con Cerebros

Greens abound

Yes, food again. Be glad – I saved you from a very smug post about how the slow art of making soup is so much better than a restaurant or cooking school could ever manage because the process takes *days*. It was a very smug post – you are very lucky.

Nope – this is about how I am starting to have a decent amount of food, but am not in an eating mood, so I need to organize things so that food doesn’t go to waste.

First of all, I have daisy greens. I had no idea what to do with them when I bought them, but I could not resist the little old man trying to sell a few things at the farmers’ market for the first time with every sign full of unfortunate misspellings. The one for the daisy greens had me grabbing his sharpie so that he was no longer charging $1.50 per bowel. Really, with a sign like that, how could I resist? But now the greens have been languishing and I only have a vague notion that they are still good – I might end up with a clever plan for them just in time to chuck them into the compost. Perhaps that’s dinner tonight – fried noodles, greens, carrots, ginger, and peppers. Now if only I had bean sprouts.

Next, I have a few languishing bits of lettuce. (albeit sexy lettuce) Possibly, these are also going to end up in the compost. To avoid that, we’re looking at salad Wednesday night. I’ve been trying to work in a salad for about a week, and I haven’t felt motivated. Salads are a lot of assembly and putting bits together. I like a bit hot food in the salad, too, to wilt the lettuce and gooey the cheese. Well I now have cooked chicken bits. And I have cheese. And I just need to get together the enthusiasm to assemble a salad after getting home at 9pm.

And I have collard greens. These are fairly new and versatile, so I’m not worried… but I just made stock and have vague urges toward making soup – in summer, because I’m insane – and most of the soup/collard green pairings I ship are thick hearty things. I told my mother this, and she’s rooting for me to get some butternut squash so I can make this bisque-ish soup, and that sounds totally wrong in the warm months… but I do have a pod of roasted garlic (I was using the oven, so I roasted it – no plans for what to do with it), so that’s like the soup is halfway made already, right?

What else do I have randomly running around? pod of roasted garlic, cream cheese with roasted yellow pepper and roasted garlic (enough for breakfast tomorrow), chicken stock…

Okay! I think I am good for going to the produce truck tomorrow. I think I want to get more bell peppers and roast them. I have a pie crust – maybe I’ll make a roasted veggie quiche.