Recipe Wednesday: Ancient Vegetables

Hi!  Back with more pictures of food prepared from recipes from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, at the recent SCA Known World Cooks and Bards event held in Woodland Park, CO.

This week, I’m going to feature vegetable dishes, and in fact, I’m going to start with a dish from ancient Rome: Carotae and Pastinacae.  Or to put it more simply:  Carrots and Parsnips.

Carrots and Parsnips in Wine Sauce

Carotae et Pastinacae (Carrots and Parsnips in Wine Sauce)

 Carotæ and Pastinacæ
(Carrots and Parsnips in Wine Sauce)

(Parsnips) Another way:
Boil the parsnips hard, put them in a sauce pan and stew with oil, stock, pepper, raisin wine, strain, and bind with roux (starch).
–Apicius 119 (in Vehling)

Carrots and parsnips are fried with a wine sauce.
–Apicius 122 (in Vehling)

6 carrots
2 parsnips
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup sweet wine or sherry
rice flour or bread crumbs

Peel and slice carrots and parsnips.  Place in a skillet with remaining ingredients except rice flour.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots and parsnips are done, about 20-25 minutes.  If needed, thicken with rice flour or bread crumbs before serving.

Notes:  I combined two similar recipes to come up with this one.  Apicius 119 seems to think that the sauce would need a starch to bind it, but I’ve never found that there was enough sauce to need it.

Next, another Roman recipe, this one for gourds (squash):

Squash in Cumin Sauce

Cucurbitas Elixatas et Frictas
(Squash in Cumin Sauce)

Cucurbitas Elixatas et Frictas
(Squash in Cumin Sauce)

Aliter cucurbitas elixatas et frictas:
In patina conpones; cuminatum superfundes; modico oleo super adiecto feruere facies et inferes.

Alternatively for boiled and fried gourd:
Put the gourd in a dish and pour on a cumin sauce, add a little oil, bring to the heat and serve.
–Apicius 3.4.6 (Grocock & Grainger)

1 pound squash (yellow or zucchini)
1/2 cup white wine, boiled to reduce by half
1 tablespoon garum (Thai fish sauce)
2 teaspoons cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil

Wash squash and cut into chunks.  Bring two quarts of water to a boil and add squash.  Boil for five minutes, just until squash begins to become tender.  Drain well, squeezing water from squash.
Mix reduced wine, garum, and cumin and bring to a boil.  Pour olive oil into a large skillet and bring to medium heat.  Add drained squash, spreading to make an even layer across the bottom of the pan.  Pour cumin sauce over squash and let cook without stirring until squash is lightly browned on the bottom.  Turn squash and cook, again without stirring, until the other side is also browned, adding more oil if needed.

Notes:  It’s not clear exactly what kind of squash is meant by “cucurbitas”, but it almost certainly isn’t either zucchini or acorn squash.  Nor is it likely that it’s “pumpkins”, as one translator has it.  There is a goose-necked gourd native to the Mediterranean that seems a likely candidate, but those are not readily available on this side of the Atlantic.  I’m told that zucchini is a reasonable substitute; in this case, we used zucchini and yellow squash.

And finally, a recipe from England in the 1650’s:  Savoury Toasted Cheese and Asparagus

Savory Toasted Cheese with Asparagus

Savory Toasted Cheese with Asparagus

Savoury Toasted Cheese
by Mary Morman (Elaina de Sinistre)

Savoury toſted or melted Cheeſe:
Cut pieces of quick, fat, rich, well taſted cheeſe, (as the beſt of Brye, Cheſhire, &c. or ſharp thick Cream-Cheeſe) into a diſh of thick beaten melted Butter, that hath ſerved for Sparages or the like, or peaſe, or other boiled Sallet, or ragout of meat, or gravy of Mutton: and, if you will Chop ſome of the Aſparages among it, or ſlices of Gambon of Bacon, or freſh-collops, or Onions, or Sibboulets, or Anchovis, and ſet all this to melt upon a Chafingdiſh of Coals, and ſtir all well together, to Incorporate them; and when all is of an equal conſiſtence, ſtrew ſome groſs White-Pepper on it, and eat it with toſts or cruſts of White-bread.  You may ſcorch it at the top with a hot Fire-Shovel.
–From The Closet of Sir Kenelme Digbie Opened, published in 1669

1 pound brie
1 pound cream cheese
1/4 pound butter, or a little more
1 pound bacon, sliced
5 cups asparagus, lightly cooked
5 slices toast, well-dried, crusts removed

Put the brie, cream cheese, and butter in a bowl, and set the bowl in warm water to soften the ingredients (or nuke them in the microwave for about two minutes).  Mix the butter and cheeses together thoroughly until you have a thick, smooth paste.  Cut the bacon strips in half, and fry them until crisp.  Line the bottom of a shallow baking pan (13″ x 9″ or larger) with the slices of toast.  Add the asparagus over it.  Crumble the bacon on top.  Cover with the cheese mixture and spread it to seal from edge to edge of the pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown nicely.  (Or pull our your handy fire shovel, heat it red hot, and hold it over the dish.  Careful!  Don’t burn yourself, now!)  Let set five to ten minutes before serving.  This makes enough Savory Toasted to serve two tables of feasters (16 to 20 servings).

Notes:  This is the best way to eat asparagus, bar none, that exists in the universe.

And that’s all for this week.  Next week, perhaps I’ll discuss meat dishes.


About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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4 Responses to Recipe Wednesday: Ancient Vegetables

  1. D. E. Atwood says:

    I have to try the asparagus one either without bacon, or with turkey bacon, for my chickadee. I think we’d both really like it. Although I’m pretty sure all the healthy aspects of asparagus are drummed out by the cheese!

    • Well, I never said it was healthy! But it should work fine with turkey bacon. Just needs that bit of flavor to really pop.

      • D. E. Atwood says:

        Thankfully I can use turkey bacon. When she stops eating poultry, I’m going to go nuts cooking because my body isn’t well-designed for pure vegetarianism. *sighs*

      • I’m not sure anyone’s body is actually designed for pure vegetarianism. We evolved as omnivores, after all, designed to take advantage of a variety of foodstuffs. And meat, poultry, and fish are one of the most efficient ways to provide our bodies with certain combinations of nutrients. Though it’s true that most of us could eat more healthily (is that a word?), and that Americans in general consume more meat than they really need. I’m personally trying to eat more veggies and less protein and processed carbohydrates, but I don’t think I could eliminate meat altogether.

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