Posts Tagged ‘bread’

A Feast for Friends

October 28, 2012

Earlier this week, friends and I prepared a first century feast for sixteen friends. It was a perfect combination of food for the cold weather we have been enjoying here in the high country of Colorado. The main course was a stew with barley and beef ribs. This stew would taste good with herbs and spices like cumin and cilantro, but we used our Middle East spice mix and a lot of fresh dill. Along with the stew, we had asparagus with lemon and thyme, a wonderful salad made with cucumbers, onion, and chick peas.
The appetizers were equally appreciated: olives, pistachios, roasted almonds, and a delicious home made hummus. However, the hit of the evening was the lentils. They turned wonderfully, almost creamy, with onions, carrots, and a lot of garlic. Cumin and dry mustard are my favorite flavorings for lentils.
Dessert was pastries stuffed with figs or apricots and dates with cream cheese. We cheated and enjoyed a little coffee — certainly not very first century — but perfect with the pastries.
Homemade bread was served throughout the meal. The bread was made using the Mediterranean Grain Bread recipe from the book. In fact, all the recipes came from The Food and Feasts of Jesus. But do look for the Mediterranean Grain Bread recipe on-line. Patheos book club posted it on their site. It is a tasty grain bread!
But the true highlight of the evening was the sharing of food and wine – yes there was wine, too – with good friends. Feasting with friends is always a wonderful experience; I think it is just about the best possible way to spend an evening.
Prepare your own feast for friends and enjoy.

TEMPTATION!

September 23, 2009

I have been eating first century cuisine for only three week, full time for nine days, and already I have had to fight back temptation. Last Sunday it reached a critical point. First, instead of doughnuts after church, we served ice cream sundaes. I love ice cream. I am especially fond of vanilla with fruit toppings and/or chocolate sauce. A little boy in the congregation, who was wearing a robe and told me he was dressed like Jesus, had chocolate on him from ear to ear. He told me that he was fixing his second bowl. I believed him and began to wonder, “Since this Jesus is eating ice cream, then why shouldn’t I consider it part of my first century cuisine?” I was strong and passed on the sundaes.

Later the same day, after the requisite Sunday afternoon nap, my wife and I went to see Julie & Julia. The movie was wonderfully fun. Julie was absolute correct when she commented that she loved braised cucumbers. I developed a recipe for them several years ago and will eat them as part of this diet (and will then share my recipe). They are wonderful. But back to my point: Sally bought a large bag of popcorn and a Diet Coke and proceeded to consume them both right in front of me! I know for a fact that Jesus did not face this kind of temptation.

Right now I am eating a first century lunch: olives, fresh dates, a small bunch of grapes and a piece of pita bread. Delicious! Even though I am not doing this to lose weight, you might be amused to know that I have already dropped six pounds.

Bon Appetit.

The Olives Are Here

September 21, 2009

Olives 2
Two days ago, UPS left ten pounds of manzanilla olives on our doorstep. The olives came from Penna Gourmet Olives in California (their web site is http://www.greatolives.com). Now comes the fun part. I plan to begin curing the olives tonight and will tell you more about the details of the process in the future.

Olives are naturally extremely bitter, so bitter that I wonder why anyone tried to eat them more than once. To cure them, I will have to break the skin, either by cutting each one with a knife or by bashing them with a cast iron skillet. Then I will soak the olives for weeks, changing the water every several days. Finally I will store them for months in a flavored brine.

In the first century, the vast majority of olives were pressed for their oil. Olive groves and presses existed all over ancient Israel and the Mediterranean region. Archaeologists believe that a major area of Greece was deforested so that olive trees could be planted. Their roots are not nearly as deep as other trees and the result was massive erosion. Even though some cultures liked the slightly bitter flavor of oil pressed from green olives, most farmers waited until the olives ripened and turned black. I suspect that the first olives cured for eating were the green ones that were harvested along with the ripe ones.

Olives 3

A Gift from UPS and Penna Olives

I have been eating well and though I have been tempted by modern and ethnic foods — my wife ate popcorn and drank a Diet Coke in front of me last night — I have not strayed from first century cuisine. Last night I had a light meal of fresh figs and apricots, flat bread and provolone cheese. No I did not make the provolone. Yes, ancient Romans and others were making and eating provolone.

Wish me luck with my olives!

Blessed are the Cheesemakers … and the Bakers

September 11, 2009
Mediterranean Grain Bread

Mediterranean Grain Bread

I am a Ricki Carroll fan. “Who is she?” you may ask. She is the cheese queen. For some thirty years she has been teaching cooks how to make cheese in their homes. And she has a supply company that sells everything anyone needs to make cheese. I found Ricki Carroll two years ago when Joel Pugh, my partner-in-cooking gave me a copy of Home Cheese Making, 3rd edition. Since then I have made fromage blanc, ricotta, yogurt, mozzarella, farmhouse cheddar, and queso fresco, a Mexican farmer’s cheese. It is a wonderful and tasty hobby.

In the first century, the average family had a few goats and sheep that they milked every day. The milk spoiled quickly and had to be transformed into a product that lasted longer. So most of the milk was converted to yogurt and cheese. By the time of Jesus, cheese making was quite advanced. In order to increase its life, some hard cheese was smoked and other types of cheese were stored in brine, like feta cheese is today.

My first century pantry needed some homemade cheese. I started with fromage blanc, a creamy soft cheese that is not quite as rich as cream cheese and has a very slight sharpness. It is an easy cheese to make, and I am relatively certain that a very similar cheese could have been made in the first century. One simply heats a gallon of milk to 86 degrees and then adds a packet of starter. The packet contains a chemical that ripens the milk and rennet that separates the milk into curds (solids) and whey (liquid). Usually an acid, such as vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid serves as the ripening agent. The whole ripening and separating process takes twelve hours. The curds are then placed into cheese cloth or butter muslin and allowed to drip for another ten to twelve hours. The result is over two pounds of a delicious and versatile cheese. It can be used to make a variety of dips and spreads. I like to take it to parties with a little smoked salmon and dill mixed into a cup of the cheese. Chopped garlic and cilantro or chives with the fromage blanc also makes a delicious spread. This cheese is also wonderful with fresh fruit and pastries. My first century breakfast and lunch will often be a slice of bread with this cheese. Add a piece of fresh fruit, dried apricots and a hand full of olives and it is a simple first century feast.

Speaking of bread, I also did a little baking while making the cheese. I call this my Mediterranean Grain Bread. Joel developed the recipe and it is delicious and easy for cooks with a little baking experience to make. I will be making several different breads over the next six months, including pita bread and unleavened bread. By the first century, there were a wide variety of breads made in the Mediterranean region. Adding eggs, herbs and spices made breads special. So did the use of a more refined flour.


The First, First Supper

September 8, 2009
Our first, first century supper

Our first, first century supper

We prepared and ate our first, first century dinner. I use the plural tense because my wife and son shared the experience. While on the subject of my family, I have been asked several times if they are joining me in this experiment. No. Well, sort of. I am the cook in the family. This means that, at least for dinner, they eat what I prepare. It also means that, for breakfast and lunch, they will eat everything non-first century that they can touch or order. Burritos and potato chips will remain a staple of my son’s diet.

Back to the first supper. It was a tasty meal with a diversity of textures and flavors, and yet it remained true to the type of dinner that was served in the first century. A lentil stew was the centerpiece of the meal. Dinner also included cucumbers and yogurt, lettuce with a simple vinaigrette, Mediterranean-style olives and flat bread. I made a lot of the lentil stew, so we have dined on leftovers. It tastes better each time it is reheated.

Another rule for my diet: For the most part, I will be eating meals similar to those eaten by a first century farmer and his family. Well over fifty percent of the calories consumed came from whole grains and legumes. Average families also ate vegetables and fruits that were in season and dried fruit and pickled vegetables the rest of the year. By virtue of City Market, I will have access to fresh vegetables this winter. Eggs and milk products, such as yogurt and cheese, completed the average menu. Only at the Sabbath feast each Friday evening did they eat fish or poultry (doves, pigeons or chicken. The City Market in Pagosa Springs does not carry doves or pigeons, so I will eat chicken). Red meat was reserved for very special occasions, usually for a festival celebration like Passover or a banquet for honored guests. Goat meat and lamb were the usual fare, beef only when the cow was too old to pull a cart or plow.

You should know that a first century day laborer did not eat this well. Their dinners, when they had work, consisted of bread with beans or porridge and maybe an onion or a few leaves of wild lettuce and a glass of wine that tasted more like vinegar than a good Shiraz. The wealthiest people ate meat a little more often and had access to imported foods and a greater diversity of spices. Except for governors, emperors, and the wealthiest of the wealthy, the daily meals were vegetarian.

Enjoy the feast.