There will also be a cookbook put together after 15 or 20 meals, so join me for the whole series and get the cookbook for free!
The recipes for each week will appear at the bottom of the article.
This post will be the last “normal” article for The Hungry Mind. Tune in next Monday, February 27th, for the first episode of the The Hungry Mind, the Video Blog!
This week: When In Rome…
Ah, Rome. Cradle of Western Civilization, foundation of the American system of government, location of men in skirts and women with bad makeup.
Luckily the men wear pants now and the ladies have toned down their makeup. Well, mostly.
In last week’s Hungry Mind I prepared a dish that would have been eaten by Mayan kings and another dish that would have more likely graced the table, or floor, of a Mayan peasant. I was trying to be fair. When talking about ancient Rome and the culinary habits of those fascinating people, however, there isn’t as much of a class-based division. Sure, the upper classes had access to and consumed a wide variety of very strange things that the poor would never even be aware of, let alone eat, but the stuffed dormice, steamed larks’ tongues (yep), aardvark ovaries and minced ostrich testicles would have been reserved for only the ultra rich. (I will be preparing some very weird things for the cookbook at the end of the series. Stick around!) Even the lowest of Roman peasants would have been able to provide a balanced and nourishing diet for himself and his family.
And, no, I was not making up any of those dishes. Little side note, here: do yourself a favor and rent/netflix/whatever the HBO series “Rome.” Highly accurate depiction of life during that period and plenty of footage of weird food and such.
Our main course today is a simple tuna steak with a traditional vinaigrette. You can still find this dish in some form or another at almost any quality restaurant. Like I always say, the ancients had some things “figured out” long before we ever “modernized” anything.
Brush your tuna steak with olive oil and sprinkle some kosher salt and black pepper on it. It’ll look like this:
Grill one side for three minutes. Flip and brush with the vinaigrette. Repeat. Done. The tuna should be pink in the middle. If you’re one of those folks who can’t do delicious, tender and perfectly cooked meat and prefer things well-done…sigh. Go ahead, I guess.
Top with the rest of the vinaigrette. So simple, so wonderful and healthy. For side dishes, the ancient Romans loved their bell peppers, onions, leeks, garlic, mushrooms and eggs. Not all mixed up together, though. Be creative with any Mediterranean fruits and vegetables and you can’t go wrong.
Only one rule: NO TOMATOES!!!! The tomato was not introduced to Europe until the 1500s when it was imported from the New World. Fact. Maximus would not be entertained by a marinara sauce.
Include your kids in the historical fun, too. Give ‘em a falafel pita with feta cheese or a bowl of chopped apples with yogurt and honey. Most youngsters, rich and poor, would have eaten these staples regularly. The good ‘ol fashioned hamburger was common, as well. Just no ketchup…
The quince, called “golden apples” by the ancient Greeks, is a cross between a pear and an apple. Imagine a pear that smells like baked apples when cooked. That’s a quince. A little difficult to prepare, but ridiculously delicious. Just remember, they can’t be eaten raw, so don’t. They have to be cooked. Probably why you don’t see them around much these days. Here’s a very basic recipe:
Peel 4 quinces, putting them into cold water immediately or they’ll turn brown and gross. Core them, chop them into bite-sized chunks and simmer them in equal parts water, wine and honey. When almost all of the liquid is gone they’re done. Chill the good quince chunks.
Now, use the quince to make your favorite version of a Jello fruit salad. Easy as pie. Or Jello fruit salad.
Ready to get weird? Before you put the quince/jello combo in the fridge to set, mix in a half a cup of garum.
Garum is the ancient Roman version of Asian fish sauce. Yes, I said “fish sauce” and I want you to put a half a cup of it into your jello mix before chilling. Now you’ve truly created a traditional ancient Roman dessert. Don’t be scared. Just think “sweet and salty.” That’s what we’re going for here.
If you do what I say and Tweet about it, you get a free cookbook! I’ll know if you’ve actually tasted it, very unique flavor. In your Tweet, describe your reaction. My handle is @jlandoncocks.
Now, go out there and defeat Joaquin Phoenix! Salut!
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp garum (Asian fish sauce)
9 tbsp olive oil
4 finely chopped shallots
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp fresh chopped mint
Mix your vinegar, oil and garum well, then add the rest and stir. Let all the ingredients hang out together for at least 15 minutes before using.