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Roman Cooking – Meatballs, Kale with Poached Eggs

*note: this entry was never finished, but it has some fun recipes nonetheless, so here’s the partial thing*

So last weekend I had people over for a workshop on Roman Cooking. Here are the recipes we got through (translations from the Flower & Rosenbaum translation of Apicius:


Isicia Omentata
liber II (Sarcoptes), i (isicia), 7

pulpam concisam teres cum medulla siligine * in vino infusi. piper, liquamen, si velis, et bacam myrtae extenteratum simul conteres. pusilla isicia formabis, intus nucleis et pipere positis. involuta omento subassabis com caroeno.

Forcemeat Sausages
II (The Meat-Mincer), i (forcemeat), 7

Chop up meat and pound with white bread without crust which has been steeped in wine. At the same time pound pepper, liquamen, and, if you like, seeded myrtle-berry. Make little forcemeat balls, inserting pine kernels and pepper-corns. Wrap in sausage-skin and cook gently in caroenum.

Right – so that sounds nothing like meatballs at all, does it? Well originally this was just a step to create the isicia that a whole other recipe called for – only we got distracted by the yumminess and ate all the meatballs plain – so I figured there had to be a meatball recipe somewhere in the book, and this was the closest I found.

When researching this recipe on the internet (hee!), I even found one guy who uses this recipe to make hamburgers. So those sausage casings the recipe is named after? Let’s forget about those. And I didn’t stick peppercorns into the center because if they were in another dish, I thought it might be too much of a texture surprise than if they were standing alone.

Right, so, what did we do?

I put on some wine to reduce by 1/3 = caroenum. And I dunked 3 or 4 slices of bread (crust cut off) into the wine and then squoze them out. The squishy bread was mushed in with roughly 2 pounds of 80%lean ground beef. We pounded (with a mortar and pestle because why not go all out?) some pepper and some dried elderberries (because I didn’t have myrtle and it seemed no fun to just do pepper), and then we added some fish sauce to turn it into a paste. Added that to the meat/bread mixture. And then we made teensy tiny meatballs (1/2″ diameter) and tucked a pine nut into each one.

I preheated the oven to 350F, put the tray of meatballs in the oven, and then poured in just barely enough of the reduced wine to mostly cover the bottom of the tray. Roughly 15 minutes (untimed) later, we had some of the tastiest meatballs ever.


And then I alternated with a vegetable – Kale with poached eggs

Patinam ex rusticis, sive tamnis sive sinapi viridi sive cucumbere sive cauliculis
Liber IV (pandecter), ii (patinae piscium holerum pomorum), 7

item facies: si volueris, substernes pulpas piscium vel pullorum.

** #6 – Aliter patina de asparagis: adicies in mortario asparagorum praecisuras, quae proiciuntur, teres, suffundes vinum, colas. teres piper, ligusticum, coriandrum viride, satureiam, cepam vinum, liquamen et oleum. sucum transferes in patellam perunctam, et, si volueris, ova dissolves ad ignem, ut obliget. piper minutum asperges .

Patina of wild herbs, black byrony, mustard plant, cucumber, or cabbage
book IV (many ingredients), ii (patinae of fish, green vegetables, and fruit), 7

Prepare in the same way, and if you wish add fish fillets or chicken meat. (So this book and another agree that this recipe should come after the Patella with horse-parsley, but I saw no reason why the recipe directly above it wouldn’t work as well. So here’s the recipe above, too)

#6 – Asparagus patina, another method: Put in the mortar asparagus tips, pound, add wine, pass through the sieve. Pound pepper, lovage, fresh coriander, savory, onion, wine, liquamen, and oil. Put puree and spices into a greased shallow pan, and if you wish break eggs over it when it is on the fire, so that the mixture sets. Sprinkle finely ground pepper over it and serve.

So here’s what we did –

Since it seemed a drying shame to use dried onions, I diced the onion first and put it in the skillet with 2 teaspoons of olive oil.

When they were just starting to caramelize, I added 3-4 big leaves worth of kale, cut thinly in a chiffionade (cause I wasn’t turning it into a paste, that’s for sure).

After a few seconds, I splashed a decent quantity (1/4 cup?) of fish sauce into the pan and let it cook down.

When the kale was bright green and a little relaxed but still perky, I added the pounded spice paste (pepper, dried lovage, cilantro, and powdered savory, mixed into a paste with wine), gave it a quick stir to distribute everything, and cracked three eggs over the top. I turned the heat down a bit and covered the pan to let the eggs poach.

When the egg whites were solid and the yolks were pinking up, but still a little runny, I finagled it all onto a plate mostly together and still looking pretty. I topped with a grind of pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Om nom nom!

(Here is someone else’s reconstruction of the asparagus one)

back to meat – I set up for a beef roast


I swanned into my old college library, flamboyantly (and possibly unnecessarily) saved the day, and then I absconded with [redacted]. We went back to my place and talked about sundries and nothings.

But the reason we were getting together was for Center City Restaurant Week and our reservations at Tinto – OMG! We ended up not talking too much at the restaurant because we were having way too much fun eating. And since we shared everything, including the cocktail but not the desserts, I’ll just list everything we had (it’s a Basque tapas restaurant).


Mairritze: Leblon Cachaca, muddled mint, lime, blood orange

First Course

Le Moulis: served with thinly sliced tart green apple, a square of quince jelly, a dab of artisanal honey, and a small spot of powdered hot red pepper.

Jamon Serrano: Just prosciutto. Well, okay, not just – we had thin flatbreads and baguette slices, and it came with a delicious egg salad. But it was really an excuse to indulge in prosciutto. Also, it was good with the apples that came with the cheese.

Montaditos de Panceta: pork belly, honey laquer, shaved apples. It was pork. It was fat. It was salty and sweet and greasy and I was so glad it was on a thin slice of baguette because otherwise its sexy juices would have been lost, and I’d have had to lick the plate. We thought this was going to be the best thing all night.

Montaditos de Pato: duck confit, black cherry, bleu de basque spread – Guh! We were wrong – the food just keeps getting better. Crispy skin, sexy duck meat – and the cherry! Okay, so I went first, and since the cherry was out to the side, I ate that off first – and it was shockingly juicy and tart. My dining companion, however, smooshed her duck a bit and then split the cherry so that she could spread it over the duck… the flavors were delightfully complimentary. But really – the duck! I love duck! I have eaten more than my fair share of the duck of the world (and shall continue to do so), and this was right up there.

Brochetas de Pollo: chicken, garbanzo puree, truffle jus, thyme marinade. They don’t mention the grapes, and they really should. Each little skewer alternated chicken, grape, chicken grape – and they were all seasoned and grilled together. Grilled grapes (when seasoned and all juicy from the chicken) are amazing. The garbanzo puree (thinner than your average hummus, so I’ll forgive them their fancipants) gave it a smoother, more filling, mouth feel and the truffle jus… well, this was the first time I have been impressed by anything truffle. It was like the essence of outdoor grilling, but there in a pool on the plate.

Second Course

Moules Basquaise: mussels & chorizo in sauce basquaise. This little bit of mussel stew had us sending for two more mini dishes of bread so that we could properly appreciate the tomato-based sauce. Lovely, tender (naked) mussels, but I would expect nothing less. It nurtured all of my fond childhood memories of mussels and it made my mouth all tingly with just a nice warmth of spicy hot.

Pulpo: spanish octopus, confit potato, piquillo pepper paint, lemon powder. I totally nabbed the slightly burny tentacle on top. I have gotten so used to fancy restaurants doing elaborate presentations to undo the chewiness of octopus that I was surprised to find this one still a bit chewy… and yet also surprisingly, that didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment at all. The pepper paint really was just a schmear across the plate as if it had been spread with a paintbrush, but MMmmm tasty. And the lemon powder straight was a bit like a pixie stick, and you wouldn’t think it would work, but it really perked up the dish and complimented the squishy seafood nicely. Also, mollusk pride!

Brochetas de Gambas: shrimp, chorizo, grape tomato, espelette chile. Whole shrimps – seasoned, on a skewer so that they wrapped around and has a tomato and tiny pieve of chorizo nestled between the head and tail on the skewer. I couldn’t figure out how to eat it together at all, though, so I had a tomato/chorizo skewer and then a gnawed into the shrimp separately. And I got my dining companion’s shrimp head as well. It had very tasty brains. I did my best to eat the exoskeleton in yummy, crunchy bites right along with the rest of the shrimp – it make me happy, so I figure it was the right thing to do. This was the dish that finally ended up with me having a greasy spot on my shirt… but I had been doing really well up until then.

Merluza en Salsa Verde: sea bass, cockles, salsa verde. So this was the only sad note of the evening. Since we had a 10:30pm reservation (since I didn’t know I’d be sneaking out sick, and because I only made the reservation one or two days ahead on restaurant week), they brought out all of our second course at once (whereas the first course had trickled in as prepared)… or it was because it was all seafood and took about the same amount of time to prepare. Either way, by the time we got to this plate, it was no longer piping hot. Only the cockles really suffered, but while I had popped one in at the beginning and it was a buttery little morsel I had to dig out with my tongue will all appropriate sexual metaphors, but the time we really devoted our attention to it, they were just little chilled seafood bits. The sea bass, however, did not suffer. It was tasty and flaky and had a lovely brown seasoned crust on top. We used up the last of our flatbreads on this.


Gateaux Basque: traditional basque cake, pastry cream, black cherries. This was my dining companion’s dessert. She seemed to like it. And even though the cherries looked like exactly the same ones as were on the duck, she said they tasted completely different (not tart, but very sweet), so I guess they had two separate marinades.

Bananas y Azafran: chocolate cake, caramelized bananas, saffron crema. It was more like chocolate fudge. Smooth, silky, and devastatingly dense. And they didn’t spare the saffron in making the crema, you could clearly tasty the iodine, and that helped clear the palate a bit. And the bananas… my only complaint was that there were only three slices, but it all blended together and added the sweetness, which the cake alone hadn’t needed.

Vegetarian Foods – Sauteed Tofu with Bitter Greens, Muhammara

I think I am excited about Autumn, since I was cooking a lot last week… but I’m still loving to cook with the available Summer produce. *shrug* who knows. It was tasty.

I cracked open the 1 pound (*cough* 14 ounces *cough*) package of tofu. Two of the blocks went in to marinate for my standard spicy tofu recipe (and are still marinating, so that should be exciting…), and the other half went to marinate for this Martha Stewart recipe for Sauteed Tofu with Bitter Greens.

So I did up the marinade according to the recipe (only cut for less tofu and longer time):

  • 1 teaspoon real soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek
  • 1/2 lime, freshly squeezed
  • a chunk of ginger, finely minced

And then I was on the phone with Meghan to help me pick out which of the prepped dinners I had available I should eat. And when I was describing this meal, it was a honey and soy sauce kinda thing. And then it wasn’t. But we both agreed that it really ought to have honey.

And she suggested corn starch because she says it fries up crispier and colors better with corn starch. Not having a comparison, I don’t know – but it sure was both gorgeous and tasty with the addition (because I trust the women completely when it comes to food).

So – I dropped 1 tsp of this lovely buckwheat honey I have into the marinade and shook it all up. And let me tell you – I’d been wondering what to do with such a dark, strongly-flavored honey, but one smell and this marinade and this honey were meant to have lots of hot sex together. I restrained myself to only one spoonful of it all raw.

And then I poured off the marinade and added more honey directly because it wasn’t sticky at all.

And then I put 2 teaspoons of cornstarch into the sticky tofu and shook it up. (We’d discussed the merits of dredging the tofu in cornstarch, but in the end I decided I was too lazy to wash an extra dish.)

Lay out a single layer of tofu in a pan with a teaspoon of oil… decide that really two teaspoons is a minimum for the oil here. And let brown. Flip. Let more brown. Guh. Because this is gorgeous – did I mention? So set them aside on a plate.

And I had some baby bok choi (well, more like teenage bok choi – 5-6″ and green all the way from tip to base) so I just washed them, shook them out, and then cut across into very rough strips about 1″ thick (and kept the very bottoms for my bag of bits for stock). That went into the same pan I’d cooked the tofu in.

And then I poured over the rest of the marinade.

I plated it up with the tofu, the greens, and a bit of short-grain white rice.

It was very very tasty, but I think the ginger ended up a little too strong – perhaps because it had longer to marinate that the recipe suggested.


And I finally made Muhammara, but I might have been led astray my westernized recipes.

So, right after reading the Vegetarian 100, I searched for a recipe and found a really tasty looking one.

So I printed it out and I took it home to put into my binder of recipes. And I did a bit of trimming of things (admitting that I will never be a great baker) and reorganizing of things (soups. then salads. then things that might be salads or might be side vegetables. side vegetables. vegetarian meals. vegetarian meals whose main bulk is beans. meals whose main bulk is tofu. meat. and then somehow I have a miscellaneous pasta dish (some vegetarians, some not) after the meats… you get the idea) I found that I already had a recipe for Muhammara (no, I can not find the link now without the paper right in front of me).

And I also had a recipe for a pomegranate & walnut spread.

Clearly, this is something I have been wanting to make for a while.

So I bought 6 large, juicy red peppers and roasted them. (and then realized that the recipe didn’t call for that many, but now I have a fridge full of tasty roast peppers) I also bought a tube of 5 heads of garlic and decided to roast them all, too, while I had the oven on anyway.

I pulled my bag of walnuts (from back when I was stuffing them in dates at the drop of a hat… no, the kind of dates that are a fried fruit/berry) out of the freezer and thawed a cup and 2/3rds.

So. my refrigerator is now its own country of abundance right there. It is so stuffed, that I had to give my new neighbor a half gallon of homemade hard cider so that I could get the door to close.

But I get ahead of myself.

In batches, toast walnuts on the stove. (I once tried to toast pecans in the oven… at 4am, just for the record… and there was no watching and hovering over them, so I swear that two second later there was a smoke alarm going off. Yeah, that was a good morning. So now I always toast nuts on the stovetop even though I secretly suspect that the innards get warmer and sexier when you do them in the oven. But no matter – because this way they get toasted only to a point where I can actually eat them.)

And then, because one of the recipes suggested it would be a good idea, I pounded the toasted walnuts in a mortar. Yes, I do have a wee tiny food processor, but I had not yet seen this Muhammara video to show me the perfect consistency and I am not used to having one available. Also, again with the liking to watch over the food.

I’ve been having a houseguest, and she asked, “So is there anything I can do to be helpful?” So I promptly told her to take over the toasting and pounding processes.

The same recipe (not the toomuchgarlic.com one) had suggested then grinding the roasted red peppers in the mortar – I, however, (because there was company) was wearing clothes. So I put the nuts into a separate bowl and then sliced three or so roasted red peppers (I find it hard to piece together whole peppers to know how many your are using when you are pulling them out of the container the next day) thinly against the grain and dumped them into the bowl, too.

Dump 1/3c. breadcrumbs into the bowl.

Add 1/4 c. Pomegranate molasses. Or you can make your own by boiling down 3 parts pomegranate juice to 1 part sugar. Me, I had bought some pomegranate concentrate from the halal down the street some months ago, and I was going to use that… with glee! Because concentrated pomegranate! I’d been looking for a use for that for months.

And then (possibly because I had decided my primary recipe source was going to be toomuchgarlic.com), I was supposed to add 12-16 cloves of garlic. The other recipe didn’t call for any. So I said to myself, “Wasn’t it clever of you to have roasted all that lovely garlic?” So I added 2 heads worth of roasted garlic (let’s call that 20 cloves). Plus 1 clove of raw garlic. And I kept her additional 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.

As I stirred it all together, I tried to mash between the tines of my fork the red pepper and the garlic cloves to make a more even paste.

Add pinch of salt, 1 tsp cumin, and the juice of 1/2 lemon.

And then I started playing.

Because the other recipe had included some birds eye peppers, I added a wee tiny pinch of chipotle pepper (I wasn’t too experimental with this because I was going to be trying to pass off some of this on my friends, and they have different standards of spiciness than I do).

Because my pomegranate concentrate didn’t have any sugar added at all, I gave it a pinch of sugar and then tasted it. And then I added a spoonful of buckwheat honey. I think this would have been just as good without sugar if we hadn’t added the lemon juice, either. So I went back and looked at the other recipes – no lemon juice in any of the others. Buggery.

So I think that, while tasty, this isn’t the conclusive version of Muhammara.

Oh, and then for my friends I also added the recipe’s amount of olive oil.

Too Much Garlic’s Muhammara Recipe

I think I should have done more research (since I found so much more while looking for that other recipe I printed out some time in the distant past). For other recipes, see:
The Washington Post, using tomato paste and suggesting that Aleppo peppers would make it more authentic.
The Perfect Pantry also believes in Aleppo pepper – and they have the order from Penzey’s to prove it
Unrequited Thai uses nuts other than walnuts to make this dip for a vegan passover.
Pikelet and Pie makes an (unorthdox) muhammara that swaps out balsamic vinegar for the pomegranate
Actually, I think I’m liking the simplicity of this recipe at Closet Cooking the best. Next time I try this dip, I’ll start here.


Also, I have reservations at Tinto, a tapas bar owned by the same people as my favorite tapas joint, for Center City Restaurant Week.

food food food

food I have
6 potatoes
1 head of garlic (roasted) + plenty raw
1 huge butternut squash (possibly ripening, possibly rotting – it was cracked when first harvested)
1 orange and 1 apple
3 nectarines
1 tomato
hot peppers galore
bag full of small bok choi (when I find a more accurate term, I’ll change this)
small amount of chinese broccoli
spring mix lettuce
3 grapefruits
3 cucumbers
1 calabash?
lemons & limes
partial leeks
roasted vegetables: 2 zucchini, 1 yellow squash, 2 red peppers

pork and cow bean chili
roughly 2 oz of thinly sliced beef
1 lb tofu (sealed package) (half marinated for spicy tofu, half marinated for Martha Stewart recipe)

Making meals
Tuesday, September 9 *done*
Gai Lan with beef (and leeks)

Wednesday, September 10
have company
fry up potatoes, onions, garlic, hot peppers, and tomato in curry powder. (see if I can stop by indian grocer and pick up fenugreek to make it closer to this recipe
Freeze into lunch portions, and then dump some onto lettuce for a salad – with a cucumber!

* Start stock *done*

Thursday, September 11
Baby bok choi – in something. How about with my signature spicy tofu stir fry? (Therefore, I’ll have to remember to put the tofu to marinate before work – no problem) That should do about half of the greens

*strain stock *done*

freeze chili into lunches

Friday, September 12
Sauteed tofu and greens (And I am kind of sad that the Martha Stewart variation won out over the Gourmet version)

So, yeah, again with setting up the marinade before work

Saturday, September 13
So I’ll go exercise, and then I’ll go to the farmers’ market, and then I’ll come home with a whole bunch of fresh greens (but nothing else because everything else I can get elsewhere cheaper) (well, maybe some more of the adorable baby yellow squash, if they’re there)

Split open butternut squash and see whether it looks tasty. If so, roast it, scoop out the innards, and then set it to making soup. Oh, wait, that means I need stock.(*)

If calabash is still perky, make that roman recipe with it.

Buy yogurt. Make tzatziki.

Make a half measure of muhammara (I blame [redacted] for the temptation).

Buy pita and make a feast of roasted squash, muhammara, and tzatziki. (and calabash on the side)

Herbed mayonnaise, Summer Garden Hoagie, Stir Fried Beef and Eggplant Salad

I made a couple delicious sandwiches last week because I claimed some bread when I visited my mother the weekend before.

Step one: Herbed Mayonnaise
Cut up into itsy bitsy pieces (if using a food processor, I would still cut them up a bit first so you don’t end up with stringy chunks) the leaves of:
Summer Savory

And then if you also want to use more distinct herbs, pick one of the following and label the jar with that one – and be careful with your amount (the others, not so careful):

And then mix with your favorite mayonnaise in a jar and let sit in the fridge for a couple days. Also good as gifts.

Step two: Sandwiches

I really love these steak rolls I claimed from my mother (claimed means that she bought them so my father could make cheesesteaks one night and then they didn’t have any use for the rest of the package).

So one of those. Spread with a teaspoon or less per half of the herbed mayonnaise.

Thinly slice:
1 slightly larger than fist-sized home-grown fresh off the vine already ripened tomato (and cut the slices in half)
1 home-grown salmonella-free sexy serrano pepper also from my mother’s garden
1 super small and cute yellow summer squash from the farmers’ market
1 ounce (well, maybe 2) of Jack cheese made by random amish farmers and sold at the farmers’ market (which is surprisingly tastier than their cheddar)

Step three: Pile only roll. Nom nom nom.


Stir fried beef & eggplant salad

Well, I promised you more salad recipes

Cold bit
spring mix
a few leaves of kale torn up, too.
a small yellow squash, sliced up (why, yes, I thought they were adorable and bought several of them)
serrano pepper (was actually too hot – leave this off)

Hot bit
I had pulled some beef I had sliced thinly for stir fry out of the freezer, so add about 1 oz of that, maybe less.
1 long, thin chinese eggplant, sliced into 2mm thick rounds
stir fried in 1 tsp of oil (mixed olive and sesame oils)
with 1 Tbsp of black pepper sauce
And then I tossed in 3 small apples, quartered and sliced crosswise, but not peeled because their skins weren’t particularly thick.

1 1/2 tsp chinese mustard (which I had thought was supposed to lose potency over time, but it could have knocked me over when I opened the jar)
1 tsp real soy sauce
2 tsp black vinegar
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
juice of half a lime

Aside from being too spicy, this was a very successful salad.