Posts Tagged ‘lentils’

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.

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The First Century Kitchen

November 16, 2009

A Bowl of Lentil Soup

This is not quite the age of Wolf gas ranges and Sub-zero refrigerators. You have to imagine, no electricity, no gas, no self-cleaning anything. Except during the winter rainy season, a typical first-century family used their courtyard for cooking. Households typically had a brazier, or large curved metal plate for building a fire and cooking supper. The brazier was small enough that it was moved inside during bad weather. I love the idea that someone could walk down a first century street and smell everyone’s dinner being cooked in courtyards. In addition, most families had a bread oven, too. This was a domed-shaped oven with an opening in the front. A family member built a fire every morning and by the time the dough was ready to bake, the temperature was likely well over 500 degrees.

Cities had neighborhood bakeries where people could buy bread or bring their dough to be baked. Many Mediterranean area cities and villages continued this tradition until quite recently.

Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooks used a variety of tools to prepare their meals, including mixing bowls, pots, kettles, and casseroles for stewing, braising, boiling water and for deep-frying. Some of the cooking vessels had narrow opening on top to keep the water from evaporating and escaping during cooking. These pots were ideal for making soups, porridges and were used to cook beans and lentils. First century casseroles were similar to a ceramic Dutch oven. Baking dishes were common in the Italy and Greece and were beginning to appear in Middle Eastern kitchens during the lifetime of Jesus.

Most cooking vessels were pottery, though some of them, especially those used by wealthier families, were made of metals such as copper or bronze. We know that metal pans are much better conductors of heat than clay pots, but pots and pans made of materials like copper were very expensive, just as they are today, and were well beyond the means of the average family. Pans were made by professional potters and metal workers and were made to standard sizes, such as they are today.

The home cook at the time of Jesus also had griddles for frying breads and meats. Griddles were constructed of some type of metal such as iron or copper. They also used kitchen aids and utensils such as mixing bowls, mortars and pestles, funnels, cooking and serving spoons and knives that were used to assist them with food preparation. First century cooks also had standardized measuring spoons and cups!