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More Roman food

Fair warning – there might be a lot of posts all in a row. I’m planning a ancient Roman menu and am going to be putting my thoughts together here.

Starting off with 2 main sources – Apicius, which I’m familiar with, and Mark Grant’s Roman Cookery (which references ancient sources and then sometimes veers pretty far off, and I’ll need to go back and check his translations)

Outline (links to specific posts for each recipe to come later)

First thematic group

So this Roman Cookery book has a recipe for Ham in a red wine and fennel sauce (p.124-125) that’s described in the “Heidelberg Papyrus” which I haven’t tracked down yet. But it looks simple and tasty, and more importantly looks like it can be served on the side of either sliced ham as a preserved meat or ham as a cut of meat, cooked and sliced cold.

If the latter, there is an easy recipe for pork boiled in water with dried figs and bay leaves in Apicius (VII, ix, 1 & 2)

This would be lovely near Cabbage Salad that Grant (p.142-143) cites from Mnesitheus of Cyzicus, quoted in Oribasius’ Medical Compilations. Possibly also hard to track down. But it’s sliced cabbage in vinegar and spices. The closest recipe in Apicius (III, ix, 1) has you dressing the cabbage with salt, old wine (not vinegar), and oil. But most of his recipes have you cooking tha cabbage.

this group: gluten free, dairy free, fish free

second thematic group

Cucumbers in a quick refrigerator pickle (Apicius III, vi, 3) – I’ve made this before, and it’s pretty easy. Recipe does contain liquamen.

Olives & Celery – another Mark Grant recipe (p.74) from Columella – which should be significantly easier to double check. I want to take the serving of this as an olive and celery tapenade piped into celery logs

Hard Boiled Eggs – quartered and dressed with liquamen, pepper, and asafoetida (Apicius VII, xix, 2) and I figure there will be some plain eggs held back for less adventurous people and children

Patina of Anchovies – wash the anchovy, and steep in oil. Arrange in an earthenware saucepan, add oil, liquamen, and wine. Make a bouquet of rue and origan, and put it in. When cooked, remove the bouquet. Sprinkle with pepper and serve. (Apicius IV,ii, 11) – they were available for a good price and seem iconic for Roman food.

notes for this group: gluten free, dairy free, contains egg and fish

thematic group 3

Moretum is in Grant (p.72-73) citing pseudo-Virgil, but I’m also pretty sure the Apicius listserve has had copious discussions of this cheese, herb, and garlic spread with more than one ancient source.

Goat Cheese and Rice in Vine leaves – Grant (p.94-95) from a commentator on Aristophanes. Rice and cheese wrapped up in leaves, browned and fried in honey. For some reason the directions include unwrapping the rice as a stage, and that’s weird. So I need to look into that (and find an excuse to skip that step). This is a labor intensive reach recipe I might ditch. My plan is to make it a month or so ahead (possibly host a workshop to have several people help) and take it as far as browning the wrapped packets, and then freezing them. And then on the day of they can be reheated by frying them in honey.

Selection of white brined cheeses. Totally influenced by my trip to Istanbul, but I’d like to offer a couple different feta-like cheeses that have different flavor profiles.

Selection of crudite

  • carrots
  • asparagus (blanched – Grant p.142 from Anthimus)
  • endive
  • celery
  • broccoli rabe (if fresh and affordable)
  • sliced mushrooms

Lucanian Sausage (Apicius II, iv, 1) if my sausage making friend can get it done in time to smoke and age. This is supposed to contain fish sauce, and I’m torn between leaving it out and offering versions with and without… or making people suck it up and only try if they’re willing to have some fish sauce. Whatevs. Also considering whether it would be a good idea to have this on the table with the other pork products, but I like it with this group of food items more… will think about dietary restrictions.

Almond-stuffed dates (Apicius VII, xiii, 1) – which I’ve made often and are always well received

notes: gluten free, (possibly fish free – see sausage)

thematic group 4

Sesame Crackers – yeah… there are 2 drastically different hypotheses in Grant (p.154-155) from a short line in Athanaeus, so the end product is totally unreliable, but I’ve had an Alton Brown recipe for sesame crackers that I’ve been meaning to try for months now.

Honey & Sesame Flatbread (Grant p.97 from Athanaeus) would be a performance piece made hot the day of. Only if I’m feeling up to the added stress. One of the reach goals

Mushroom-shaped Bread (Grant p.53-54 from Athanaeus) is again pretty damn hypothetical. The sources just specify the shape and the things that make it different from a standard white bread recipe. But we don’t know their standard recipe. I’m willing to do some experiments and make some educated guesses, but this is something supported by archaeology as well as text, and the redaction looks like it would be easy to make in foil tins, which would make it super easy for this sort of setting.

Fried Dough with honey & seeds (Grant p.57-58 from Cato) is the performance piece my sausage-making co-conspirator wants to make. And since several people have offered friers it wouldn’t be too logistically complicated.

And then maybe some not roman at all honey butter for the bread, and olive oil with herbs.

notes: 2 recipes are dairy free, all the gluten, fish free, vegetarian, some dairy

breakfast set up

Coffee, Tea

Hydromel (Grant p.82-83 from Bassus) actually looks like it would make a good weak hot apple cider
1 part cider | 2 parts honey | 3 parts water

Seed stuffed buns (Grant p.106-107 from Plautus) Again, a very oblique mention. I’m thinking of these like miniature pop tarts stuffed with poppy seeds & almond or sesame seeds & pistachio – or something like that. And these would be something where we’d make it way ahead and freeze and then just pop them in the oven first thing when we go to set up. **expanded here**


Prep timeline

4 months – 1 week ahead
Cabbage salad (refrigerate in jars)
stuffed dates with nuts (freeze)
Lucanian sausage (hang dry / refrigerate)
Stuffed leaves (freeze)
Cucumber pickles (refrigerate in jars)
Seed stuffed buns (freeze)
make signs and labels for everything with all ingredients

week before
boil pork / find where to buy ham (vacuum pack and refrigerate)
hard boil eggs
make olive/celery tapenade
sesame crackers
double check your signs/labels

1 day ahead
– celery, carrots, mushrooms
– blanch asparagus
– cook sauce for ham/pork
– bake mushroom-shaped bread (maybe reserve a couple to bake on site for delicious smell and hot bread-ness)
– mix dough for flatbreads
– thaw frozen things
– triple check your signs and labels

Day of event

  • start coffee and hot water
  • bake seed buns
  • make hot cider hydromel – serve in crock pot
  • is there a mini crock pot for the ham/pork sauce?
  • fry dates in honey (can be done in a tray in the oven)
  • peel hard boiled eggs
  • fry stuffed leaves in honey (can probably be done in a tray in the oven)
  • quarter eggs and dress with sauce
  • slice ham/pork
  • fill celery logs with tapenade
  • arrange crudite and cheese plates, arrange all the other things, too, why don’t you?
  • how are we feeling about the fried dough and flat breads?

pantry stock

So I’ve been having some trouble with my refrigerator, and it just started affecting the freezer, too. It might just be the seals, but I’m worried that it will need a replacement. So I did an inventory of the contents of my fridge and freezer… and then things kind of got out of hand, so there might be an inventory of all the food in my apartment (though I didn’t itemize the spices or the booze. yet.)

Note: There’s a lot of meat there. In about the last six months, I have switched my ethical take on buying meat. Instead of looking for the $2/lb stuff that is ruining the world, I’m now only eating free meat (aside from bacon). In that, over the years my mother has done things like buy a quarter of a cow and then have some of it still sitting in the freezer years later. And so my plan is to not buy meat until we’ve damn well eaten what we’ve already bought. And then I’ll re-evaluate my ethics vs income.

* asterisks mark things that will be more likely to spoil if the refrigerator/freezer fails

*6 8oz packages of neufchatel
3 8oz packages of extra sharp cheddar, 1 fancy 8oz package, 1 pepper jack
7oz parmesan
½ oz prima donna
3 oz chevre
6 6oz nonfat plain yogurt
*some heavy cream
*some low fat sour cream
*some 1/2 & 1/2 creamer packets

7.5 oz creamed coconut
small and quart jar of herbed mayo (see also condiments)
quart jar of plain mayo (see also condiments)

Jar of peeled garlic
Jar of poppy seeds
½ a lemon
*salad greens
carrots (bag of baby, 4 purple from farmers market)
1/4 purple cabbage
1 red bell pepper
2 oranges

Prepped stuff
Tiny jar of minced garlic (which I can’t open)
*Tiny jar of pesto
*Ginger juice
Thai red curry paste
3 baked potatoes
*cheese filling for stuffed dates
giant jar of applesauce I don’t know what to do with

*Orange juice
Apple cider
Hard apple cider

halved walnuts
sliced almonds

picante pot sauce base
oyster sauce
kick ass steak sauce
pomegranate molasses
fish sauce
black pepper stir fry sauce
black bean garlic sauce
tamarind honey lime sauce
coriander chutney
small and quart jar of herbed mayo (see also lipids)
quart jar of plain mayo (see also lipids)
sambal oelek
okonomi sauce
spicy stir fry sauce
Smucker’s apricot jelly
a jar of my own jam

1 doz eggs
*roasted beef (see also prepared food)
*carnitas (see also prepared food)
*Mexican chorizo

Short grain asian
*Cooked turmeric basmati (see also prepared food)
there’s also a rice breakfast cereal that needs to be thrown out next time I remember – too glutinous


*1 quart vegetable stock
*Cream of butternut squash
*Turkey & lentil
*Beef & bean Chilli

Prepared food
*Roasted beef (see also protein)
*Carnitas (see also protein)
*Cooked turmeric basmati (see also rice)
Beet/cabbage shred
Pie Crust (packaged)
large jar of applesauce (I have no idea what to do with this)
2 packages of flour tortillas

random beef products
*filet mignon? 2
*slightly larger/thinner steak: 3
*>1″ chunk of beef: 2
*1lb package of ground beef: 3
*porterhouse steak: 1
*cubed? might be beef might be a dark pork? 1
*thinly sliced beef for stir fry: 1.5 pints
Hebrew National hot dogs

*cubed? 1lb-ish: 1
*1/3 pork loin: 2
*pint container shredded pork: 1
bacon (the rest of the pound from what’s in the fridge)
*turkey meatballs
cubed roast pork shoulder leftovers
fat back
small commercial container of schmaltz (see also lipids)

4 bagels
wonton wrappers
small quantities of seeds/grains for granola someday
2 boxes of phyllo dough

slices of lemongrass
*little cubes of cilantro
*stewed tomatoes from my mother’s garden this year
roll of dried tomatoes from my garden (dried by a friend)
*pesto from the previous summer
unsweetened shredded coconut (shredded by me)

1lb pine nuts
1/3 lb pecan halves

prepared food
*3 packages of my mother’s beef vegetable soup that cures all ills
*1 package of my mother’s chopped liver
*pint of mystery soup
*some lunches to take into work

3 lbs of butter
schmaltz (see also chicken)
some bacon fat

small bottle of some fancy brand of vodka

On top of the freezer
booze (not really itemized)
red wine
white wine
white run
spiced rum
unopened cointreau
Manischewitz concord grape wine

soft drinks
ginger ale

boxed goods
1 cold breakfast cereal
1 box of graham crackers

Baker’s rack
box of dates
4 small red potatoes
1 pomegranate
1 pear
2 rutabegas
1 butternut squash
some few, small straggler tomatoes left from my garden
live rosemary and winter savory

Canned goods
2 cans of cream of chicken
1 can of tomato soup
4 cans of corn
3 big cans of chickpeas
3 big cans of black beans
2 cans tomato sauce

box of oyster crackers (hey, user name=”merisunshine36″>, you want? I forgot to offer them with your chilli)
what’s left of this week’s loaf of bread
basmati rice
whole wheat saltines (possibly my new favorite packaged cracker)

1qt brownulated
1qt powdered
1qt demerara
1pt dark brown

jar of mustard
2 8oz, 1 4oz jar of my jam left
1 jar of apricot jelly
3 jars of fancipants jam from
1 qt mayonnaise (I bought a lot when it was on sale for $1.88/qt)
1 jar spicy stir fry sauce
ketchup (occasionally it’s useful)
3 jars of Chi-Chi’s hot salsa

2 boxes of Stash decaffeinated sampler
1 canister of english tea

3.5 bars of semisweet Ghirardelli baking chocolate

cabinet over the stove
canned goods
7 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans chickpeas
3 cans black beans

2 boxes of flat, clear thai noodles

bottle of light Karo
equal (magnetic canister)
splenda (magnetic canister)

whole cloves (magnetic canister)

cabinet over drying rack
2 boxes rotini
1 box macaroni
2 boxes spaghetti
1 box Orzo
1 jar black rice
2 bags Ho Fun noodles
1 package soba noodles
1 package soba-esqe black rice noodles (which I should use for the next food blogger potluck!)

Mighty Leaf Orchid Oolong
Mighty Leaf Celebration
chinese restaurant tea
random tea swap teas
Republic of Tea Mango Ceylon
Twining’s sampler
Taylors of Harrowgate Assam
green tea sampler

Carnation hot cocoa packets
Lake Champlain cocoa mix
Mexican unsweetened chocolate with cloves for hot chocolate
shaved Santander chocolate

Cabinet under sink
jarred miscellany
Habanero salsa
2 jars roasted red peppers
shrimp paste
adobo sauce
pipian sauce
bartlett pear marmalade
Chipotle Lime Ginger marmalade
Harry & David horseradish & garlic mustard

Cabinet over microwave
popping corn
old fashioned oatmeal
steel cut oatmeal

canned goods
3 cans thai curry (red, green, penang)
3 jars pasta sauce
2 mini coconut milk
1 tomato paste
3 canned tuna in water

baking stuff?
kosher salt
baking powder
baking salt
red food color

cooking dates
jar of dried tomatoes

Tabasco (original)
El Yucateco green habanero
El Yucateco chipotle
Worcestershire sauce
browning sauce
bitters (which I have no idea what to do with, since I don’t make cocktails)

not yet itemized

other bulk goods
whole roasted (unsalted) almonds
peanut butter
demerara sugar
slightly sweetened shredded coconut

on top of cabinets
jar of kick ass steak sauce
fancy salt (gift from friends)
Lipton’s herbal tea sampler
Stash’s herbal tea sampler
Fancy canister of Oolong tea
dark Karo

Window Sill and behind stove (yes, I know this is the worst place for oils, but it’s the only place that really works in this apartment for me. But if it helps, I feel real guilty about it)

Balsamic (good, okay, white)
apple cider
distilled white
chinese black
red wine
rice (not seasoned)

white truffle (gift from friend)
olive (both good and just okay)
roasted sesame

molasses (with sulfur)
good soy sauce

Now I have to plan a schedule for converting the perishables to a more stable form (i.e. lunches to take to work and store in their freezer). There’s already a random piece of meat being turned into pot roast right now.

More food

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.

more food

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.

Food shopping! – SK’s pasta & cauliflower, Ghobi Bharta,

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?