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The holiday weekend brings thoughts of pork to the table. Personally, I think of hot dogs, and yes, while I occasionally wander to fancies of hamburgers on the grill, I return to pork. My favorite pork product is the tenderloin. Small and juicy, they are neither too sweet or too salty. I know many people cook ham over holiday meals, but I never understood why. Now I know. We can thank the old Norse God of agriculture, weather and (ahem) male fertility, Freyr, for this tradition. The ham over Christmas was a tradition for “Germanic peoples as a tribute… to boars, harvest and fertility.” (Source, wikipedia). For this week’s recipe, we pay our own tribute to Freyr; may it bring us a bountiful harvest and abundant fertility!

If you recall when we first tasted a recipe from De Re Coquinaria by Apicius, we also find Aresty’s Apician Ham and Figs.

289 Fresh Ham
Musteis petasonem

A fresh ham is cooked with 2 pounds of barley and 25 figs. When done skin, glaze the surface with a fire shovel full of glowing coals, spread honey over it, or, what’s better: put it in the oven covered with honey. When it has a nice color, put in a sauce pan raisin wine, pepper, a bunch of rue and pure wine to taste. When this sauce is done, pour half of it over the ham…

I’m saving the rest of the recipe to share later, but first, let’s get to the mods!

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In The Deipnosophistae, a second century BC cookbook written by Athenaeus of Naucratis, we find many references to [cheesecakes] … cheesecakes made of cheese and cheesecakes made of everything but cheese, cheesecakes boiled in oil and dipped in honey, cheesecakes devoted to Olympian goddesses surrounded with figures of lighted torches, and wedding cheesecakes baked over an open fire and drenched with honey…

Artemis P. Simopoulos

Furthering our culinary tour of Antiquity with the Deipnosophists as our guides, it turns out something modern was mentioned by all of the diners at the Banquet of the Learned: cheesecake. It’s no wonder how this combination of sweetness, cream cheese and eggs got to be so popular. Aresty writes, “The poor man probably hungered most for cheesecake.” The topic has been discussed time and again–everything from history and recipes to blogs and birthdays.

And at long last, after patiently waiting and researching and the making of cheese, I present The Deipnosophists’ Almond Cheesecake! The following recipe was mostly adapted from the New York Honey Cheesecake on the National Honey Board’s website. You can also find the exact methodology I used there.

Ingredients

4 pkgs (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature (and if you’re one of the cool geeky kids, you’ve made some yourself…)
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup flour
5 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp lemon zest, grated
1 tsp vanilla

For the topping:

1/4 cup roughly chopped whole almonds
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg

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While I wait patiently for some items to come from leeners.com, we’re going to skip ahead a few pages and maybe a century or so to Apicius’ time. According to our text, De Re Coquinaria is “the earliest cookbook in the strict sense of recipes.” Apicius was a Roman culinarian, gourmand and all-around banquet thrower, so it makes sense we would move from the banquet of the learned to banquets of the learned who actually wrote recipes down so people could follow them. The recipe I am attempting to re-create/modify is called In Pullo Elixo ius Crudum. Translated as “Boiled Chicken in rough sauce”, but Aresty calls it “Apician Dilled Chicken.” Other recipes from the cookbook can be found here.

A footnote in Book I of a translation I found posted by Bill Thayer from a publication of De Re Coquinaria by Walter M. Hill, states, “This [section] illustrates how sparingly the ancients used the strong and pungent laser flavor [by some believed to be asa foetida] because it was very expensive, but principally because the Roman cooks worked economically and knew how to treat spices and flavor judiciously.” Book 6 finds our short recipe:

235 Raw Sauce for Boiled Chicken
In pullo elixo ius crudum

Put in the mortar dill seed, dry mint, laser root, moisten with vinegar, fig wine, broth, a little mustard, oil and reduced must, and serve.Known as dill chicken.

Clearly, the original recipe offered ingredients, but no exact quantities. (I’m glad someone used to write recipes like I currently do…) But in this case, I will give you my even-more modernized version–with exact quantities.

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“For spring the chromius is best;
The anthias in winter;
But of all the fish the daintiest
Is a young shrimp in fig leaves.”
— Ananius from The Deipnosophists

The first recipe I come across in our textbook, “The Delectable Past” by Esther B. Aresty is called Shrimp in Leaves. She writes that it’s much easier to come across grape leaves, but I rarely do anything the easy way, so I attempt to find fig leaves instead. Come on… I mean, grape leaves are easy enough to find– the ubiquitous dolmade, for example. Those little tasty bits of rice and herbs wrapped up in a brined grape leaf? But fig leaves, therein lies a challenge!

According to The Produce Hunter, “the fragrance of Fig Leaves is reminiscent of coconut.” This, my friends, would make a natural match for shrimp, yeah?

Ingredients

Raw jumbo shrimp, shelled and vein removed
Canned grape leaves (1 leaf per shrimp), or fresh fig leaves
A marinade of 2 parts vinegar to 1 part oil
(for 20 shrimp: 2 tablespoons oil and 4 tablespoons vinegar)
Pinch of oregano in the marinade

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