Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Ova Elixa – Eggs dressed with fish sauce

   Posted by: Livia N

This is another Roman recipe. I made it for Noisemakers IX.

So a lot of SCA events just have a bowl of hard boiled eggs in the shell – pretty much for people to fill up on when they aren’t adventurous for weirder dishes. So I found a recipe that would make hard boiled eggs one of the adventurous dishes.

These were served cut into quarters and already drizzled with the sauce, and a side pitcher so you could add more sauce, if desired.

Ova Elixa: liquamine, oleo, mero vel ex liquamine, pipere, lasere – Apicius VII, xix.2

Boiled eggs with a sauce containing fish sauce, olive oil, red wine, black pepper, asafoetida

So for the fish sauce, I ended up being convinced by my favorite cheese mongers to try BLiS barrel aged fish sauce. And I chose this dish to use it on because I thought the woodiness and the eggs would go well together.

We strewed the plate with baby arugula so the eggs wouldn’t shift in transport from the kitchen to the buffet.
The pitchers with the sauce were made by Brunissende.

And this was at the very start of the buffet so that it would be like the sources in a Roman dinner party – from eggs to nuts – but I forgot to put out the nuts in the end.


Laterculi: Poppy Seed Pop Tarts

   Posted by: Livia N

Okay, so this is not an accurate redaction. Or, well, it’s about (slightly less) as likely to be accurate as anything else.

There’s a play by Plautus (Poenulus 325-6) there’s a reference to laterculi with the only description being that they are composed of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, (wheat) flour, and nuts.

Okay, so the name is also descriptive. It’s the word for bricks or tiles.

Some people take this description and match it with gastris, a food from Crete described by Athenaeus as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and poppy seeds, with fruit, honey, pepper and white sesame seeds. That will lead you to redactions both simple and amazing.

Now that last gastris redaction – which looks to me like a seedy fruitcake – would be perfect to make in an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ shape that was not unlike a common Roman brick shape.

On the other hand, Athanaeus’ gastris recipe has fruit and no flour. But Plautus was very clear that flour was involved in this project. Flour would be easy to add to the gastris because the nuts are working in a similar way. But it’s also leeway to go in a completely different direction.

One could make candies out of the honey and seeds with just a bit of flour.

Or! And here’s what came to my mind as being kinda fun – you could make pop tarts and call them tiles.

Okay, so pop tarts. First place to go is Smitten Kitchen‘s homemade pop tart recipe.

Next the filling. I liked how La Spelonca separated the poppy seeds and the sesame seeds. It both made them look more dramatic and kept the flavors clear and less like bagel toppings. So tentative working plan is to have two different flavors of pop tarts: Poppy Seeds and either almonds or walnuts or both; and Sesame Seeds and either hazelnuts or pistachios or both.

Okay, so poppy seed filling is a thing. But my first google search yielded only recipes that called for milk… but the Romans mostly ate their dairy in the form of cheese. It just didn’t feel right.

So I kept looking and loved this one that described the method and thought process beautifully and clearly – cook poppy seeds with a minimal amount of water, grind, cook again with honey and sugar.

Okay, so first I have to find the poppy seeds. So off I go to Amazon. And the first review right off the start informs me that real bakers look for unwashed poppy seeds for a richer, nuttier flavor and a better texture. Well, okay. So off I go looking at the unwashed poppy seeds and their reviews. And then things started to get weird. There was some division, but also some overlap, between the bakers and the people making poppy seed tea. And some of the people making the poppy seed tea seemed more interested in the color of their tea than the flavor, but others loved the flavor. Erm… And then I got to the ones talking about how ‘effective’ their tea and/or baked goods were. And there was the one who assured people that the reviewer really could tell that these poppy seeds were unwashed because there was plant material included as well. Ummm… I object! Because if I’m baking and there’s plant material, don’t I then need to wash the poppy seeds? But it wasn’t all double entendre and drug references, because there were still people staunchly championing the unwashed seeds while listing their preferred baked good and their baking credentials. But then I got to the one that was all, “I just made the best batch of muffins ever. Now I’m off to take a nap.” And I just. Now I have no idea whether kolaches is actually a baked good or just a wink and nod drug reference in the land of amazon reviews. So I still haven’t what to buy for making a large quantity, but I picked up half a pound of what are definitely washed seeds at a spice shop in the Italian Market.

So poppy seeds and water in a small saucepan. Check. Going well. The poppy seeds take on moisture, darken, and swell.

Grind the poppy seeds… doesn’t go so well. I put some in my mortal and grind it with the pestle… and it goes okay, but every time any utensil touches the poppy seeds there’s mess left behind. And so after a few desultry grinding attempts I figure I might as well see if I might like the consistency of it not ground all that much. So I put it all back in the saucepan and add the honey. And then add more honey because honey was more common that sugar back in the day. And then panic! Because the honey just liquifies and everything becomes sloshy. And cooking it more doesn’t make it any drier. And what if I really needed sugar to get a good paste because of how honey is like an invert sugar? Eh, whatever – let’s refrigerate what I have and see how it moves tomorrow. Plus I’m going to add nuts to it.

And the paste is fascinating! I used a fork to move it and it’s sort of a non-Newtonian liquid. Woo!

Okay, so crust. Filling. Assembly!

I got a friend with skills and a marble rolling pin to help with the first set of rolling out (I’m hoping I can use my pasta roller when I’m on my own). I rough guessed a size that’s smaller than pop tarts. My goal is to find a size that stretches my supplies while still being large enough to not get grabbed by the handful. One or two should be an intuitively obvious portion size. These ended up about 4″ x 3″ (and I think I could go a smidge smaller and have them about the size of poker cards).

I did one batch with just an egg white wash for sealing and one with a beaten egg. I think I’ll go with the beaten egg for future versions (because simpler to brush and more efficient use of stuff).

About 2 teaspoons of filling lumped in the center. And then I spread it out with my fingers because everything else seemed to just get coated in seeds more than helping to move them where I wanted. I left 1 cm margin. I can try getting a narrower margin, but too narrow might lead to disaster. And then I crimped the edges sealed with a fork and poked holes in the top.

I started the oven at 350F. And then after 10 minutes with no obvious cooking I popped it up to 425F. Total cooking time was 25 minutes, and that was a little too much (very brown, some corners just starting to burn, still entirely edible and hella tasty). Then I looked at the recipe, which was 350F for 30 minutes. So I just panicked too early.

When they were cooking, there was enough butter in the dough to lead to puddles of bubbling fat that were almost frying the pop tarts. So not okay for a toaster! But it was kind of sexy on a lined sheet pan.

When you bite in, the first taste is browned butter. And the second bite is also butter with a bit of pastry. When you get to the filling, it’s amazing. The nuts and poppy seeds are a lovely texture among the crispy pastry flakes and I’m not going to worry about grinding the poppy seeds at all for the future. And the honey is a great balance to the butter. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. They’re going to make the best breakfast.

So plans for the future:

* reduce butter per 2 cups of flour from 1 cup to 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons)

* try rolling out with pasta roller

* Cut to 3.5″ x 2.5″

* Poppy seed & almond is great. Also try sesame seed & hazelnut.

* Make 75 of each flavor; 150 total. Freeze before baking.


giving praise

   Posted by: Livia N

I was sitting here very impressed by a chef on twitter praising one of his prep cooks for cutting up cilantro (because, really, who does that? Giving random praise by name for doing simple tasks well is awesome.)

And then I popped out, and my student worker was running around keeping a whole room full of microfilm users educated and happy – I’d had no idea we were having a rush. So I sent off a note to my boss.


YAY! ~slump~

   Posted by: Livia N

Car found!

It’s suspiciously close to a fire hydrant, but that’s where the city put it, so I’m leaving it there until streets are better.

Fine high, but not as bad as I’d been willing to grit and bear. So I’ll call that a win.

Now to summon up energy for the rest of the cooking I had planned

  • Chana Masala – Done, turned out really well! Wonderful flavor and a spice level that’s just challenging for me
  • bread baking – Done, got it nice and chewy like storebought bead (yes, this was a goal)
  • canning 1 more batch of stock – ETA:Done, now I have a full case of 12
  • and starting a pot of beans and ham hocks

Oh, yeah, and I promised the cat I’d clean her water fountain



   Posted by: Livia N

So I gambled and lost. My car has been towed.

Fine, it was a risk I knowingly took because it had been a hellish week, parking spots were scarce and last Snowmageddon I’d moved off the snow emergency route and ended up plowed in and painfully excavating the car for two days while those who’d stayed had it easy. And I figured I was okay with the consequences.

I’m oddly not okay with it. My car getting towed has got me all depressed and doubting my judgment and avoidy. Which is a little disturbing, but I plan to repress all that with further baking.

However, it did throw off my cooking game, and I should not have tried my first ever batch of brownies while iffy. And I apologize to everyone I called at midnight with random brownie questions – even though no one answered and that was confusing because I was pretty sure people would be home. But if the phone ringing frightened you because you thought a relative might have died, I’m very sorry – I just hadn’t noticed the time.

Right, so car has been towed. So I called the hotline for having your vehicle towed from a snow emergency street, and they couldn’t find a record of my car. So they told me I should just go out in the snow and wander about the two intersections where they were taking towed cars. Only these two areas aren’t places that had spots open before it snowed, and I’m a bit confused by the crazy. I don’t want to go out and randomly wander. And then the emergency hasn’t been called off yet, so if I do find my car, then where to I put it? I thought right after the streets were plowed curb to curb, I’d be able to put my car back.




   Posted by: Livia N

There’s not a single flake here yet, but I am so rooting for the snowpocalypse. (even though back in my day when we had snow, we just bitched about it a bit and shoveled it)

Even though I don’t get off work until 9pm and will be walking back through the thick of it, I can’t wait. I brought boots to work in a bag.

But I so want a weekend where I can’t leave the house. It probably means that I’ll have to take vacation days somewhere in this month to visit my grandmother during the week, but still. A whole weekend where I can’t go out.

Oh, yeah, I also want the snow to reach New York. Please. So it’s credible I can’t visit (even though I never told her I planned to visit this weekend and even though I warned her my February is crazy busy… it’d be nice to call her for my birthday without her being all disappointed I’m not there). Maybe I’ll even go up for Wednesday and Thursday (Fridays are right out because then I’d have to attend the bridge lessons from hell).

Right, so – snowpocalypse. YAY!

I have plans. I want to make vegetable stock and try canning it in the new pressure cooker.

And last time I saw my mother, she brought ham hocks and chicken leftovers. And I have crazy fancipants dried beans… and there could be soup.

And chana masala.

I bought a lot of carrots, and some is going in the soup (and the peels are going in the stock), but I might also play around with chutneys.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll try baking something that isn’t bread. There’s a brownie recipe for which I have all the ingredient.

And I could clean. It looks like it won’t be high enough above freezing for laundry until Thursday.

Oh, and I could work more on books. I am missing the official deadline for Fun-a-Day, but maybe I can turn things in on Monday. If not, I’ll have done stuff. And I have some longer term projects to work on, too. La la la.

And a book to read! I’m 3/4 through Spindle’s End

It’s going to be a great weekend! (if it’ll snow as promised)


food surplus potential

   Posted by: Livia N

So there’s this friend whose relative is starting a job at a grocery where he’ll supposedly (not proven yet) have access to expired food.

Sadly, they live about an hour away from me, and my schedule is a leetle full these days. So I could probably not acquire produce as soon as it appeared.

Therefore, I am attempting to build a list of vegetables so that should they appear, I could ask for minimal processing in order to accept them in a stable form and process them further into tasty food at home.

I shall also accept suggestions from the audience.

Vegetables in a delicate condition
(gleaned from Wikipedia’s list of culinary vegetables and a couple other wikipedia pages)

Leafy and salad vegetables – Once salad greens go bad, they turn into brown sludge fairly quickly and can not be saved. If you want to start a compost bin, however, this is a great place to start. I have plenty compost, though, so I don’t need these.

Fruiting and Flowering vegetables
– Avocado | avocados are usually on sale long past the overripe stage, so by the time they squish off the shelves, they are probably brown through. If, however, they are not completely squishy, it’s worth saving about a dozen for immediate consumption. They do not freeze! But out of the dozen expired avocados, you can probably salvage enough good bits to make guacamole for 3 people and a bowl of chips.

– Bell peppers | possibly too much work to ask of someone else, but the best way to extend the lifespan of dodgy bell peppers is to cut the flesh away from the stems (usually slicing off the big lobes works well), placing them face down on a baking sheet, and then broiling them until the skin blisters and blackens. Turn the oven off and go do other stuff for an hour or so. And then the skins should come right off. Pack the roasted peppers tightly in their own juices and/or a little vinegar or a little oil and either freeze in manageable packets or store tightly closed in sterilized jars. (or proper water bath canning, but again, a bit much to ask)

– Corn | (really, wikipedia? You’re putting corn here and not as a grain? I give you a skeptical look) Cut off the cob and freeze. Woo hoo!

– Chayote | I haven’t experimented with them fresh yet, but I keep meaning to. No idea about large quantities.

– Cucumbers | I’ve never tried freezing cucumber, but I bet that if it were peeled, shredded, and then left to dry in a colander and patted dry, then freezing it in muffin tins would produce a fully acceptable product for tzatziki and raita.

– Eggplant | One friend has had great success with cutting eggplant up, freezing it, and then adding it to dishes later. I am skeptical but willing to give it a try. I would want the first quantity to be no more than 5 lbs, peeled, and cut into reasonably saucy pieces (<1"?) - Mango | I am very interested in both damaged unripe and ripe ones, but if they are both very ripe and very damaged, there's not usually much salvageable. Again, however, these can't be frozen as is - otherwise they'll be solid and crazy. And peeling and de-seeding them is a lot of work. But, if you are interested in peeling and de-seeding them, then I can take any size chunks and turn them into jam and/or chutney. - Summer Squash | remove bad spots, and then cut thinner, even sized pieces (more like julliene or half moons than thick chunks) and freeze. Or can be shredded and frozen, but clearly labeled as not cucumber (for use in quick breads and stuff). - Tomatillo or Green Tomatoes | slice in half (through the stem bit) and freeze as is. To use them, I usually end up roasting them, anyway, so it should be good. - Tomatoes | I'm willing to try one large batch with just the bad spot cut out and frozen whole, skins on and everything. And I'd then try making tomato sauce from scratch. I'm not 100% sold on this plan, but I'd give it a shot. - Winter squash | If there are no obvious bad spots, just age, then I can take them all. Bad spots meaning brown and squishy - it it's just scrapes on the surface, then usually the squash underneath is okay. If there are no more than a couple minor but obvious bad spots, then I can take 2-3 squash for immediate conversion to roasted goodness and probably soup. But there's a limit to how much squash soup I can make/eat (and that's about 1 pot every 2 weeks) so I'm not interested in frozen quantities Flowers or flower buds of perennial or annual plants - Artichoke | no hope for the unloved artichoke - Broccoli / Cauliflower | cut into small chunks and freeze. Stems can also be cut up and frozen, but separately and they cook differently - thin thinner slices, like water chestnuts Bulb and stem vegetables - Asparagus | rinse, dry, trim of dry tip from the flowering end, and then line them all up and make one cut 2" from the tips and another cut 2" down from there. Discard (or compost) anything below. If the stems are shorter than that, just the first cut. And then freeze no more than 1lb together. And I don't think I can go through more than 5lbs of asparagus soup a year. - Celeriac | you should try and see if you like these - because I don't - Celery | Nope, I hate celery, too. - Garlic | I am rarely short of garlic, but I am willing to take any non-moldy, non-dried solid garlic and give it a good try as is - Kohlrabi | peel, slice, and freeze with the broccoli stems. Cooks exactly the same. - Leek | Get a big pot. Slice leeks in half the long way, and then in 1cm thick half moons the short way - all the way up into the dark green parts until it gets all dry and split. Dump them into the big pot. Cover with water. Swish them so well with your fingers that all the rings separate. Leave sit for 20 minutes so any dirt settles to the bottom. lift off the floating leek slices into a colander. In a big skillet, heat up some oil to frying temperature and fry the shit out of those leeks (they don't have to go all the way to crispy, but definitely into limp land. Drain on kitchen paper. Salt some and eat them right there. Cool the rest and freeze them in muffin tins or baggies or 1/2 pint containers. - Onion | Can be peeled, diced, and then frozen. You probably want to just keep these they are that awesome - Scallions / Green Onions | A little bit more problematic. If they aren't at all crispy and looking like they can keep until they are used fresh, then they probably aren't going to be worth freezing. I do use their greens to make stock, but I usually have plenty. - Shallot | again, peel and then either slice or mince and it will freeze well. Root and tuberous vegetables - Beets | if they'll keep fresh, then YAY! And they're edible way into the stage where you can bend them. But processing them to freeze them is so messy that if you aren't getting food out of it, it's not worth staining your cutting board and clothes. - Carrot | If you have a bunch of fresh carrots that need to be turned into soup, I'm here for you. But if they won't last until they see me and need to be processed and frozen, then I'm just not as interested. - Ginger | I hear that one of the best ways to store ginger is peeled and in the freezer. I haven't tried it on my own, but I'm game. If there's a lot, then I could even try candying it. - Parsnip | option 1) just trim of heads, tails, and dubious bits and freeze and I'll turn it onto stock; option 2) bring a bunch fresh, and I'll roast em or mash em or supthing; option 3) trim bits, peel, and cut into 1" chunks and I'll do any number of things with them - Potato | while there are many things to do with an abundance of potato, I have no need They are so cheap in perfect condition and I still have trouble getting through an entire bag. - Radish | good fresh and in spring, but I have no need of sketchy surplus - Sweet Potato | I haven't tried freezing these, but I just that if you just cut out any rotten bits and froze them they'd keep well enough for roasting. Then again, probably if you didn't freeze them, they'd still keep well enough for roasting. - other miscellaneous root vegetables | someday I shall be a poorer person and be grateful for them all, but right now I find they add too much bulk and not enough vitamins. Pome fruits - Apple and crabapple | Not interested in any with a waxy skin. If they can get to me fresh and whole, that's awesome. If they are in danger of all rotting to death: cut into quarters, remove seeds, cut out bad spots, freeze with or without skin - can be turned into apple sauce or apple butter - Pear | fresh is good, same procedure for freezing. If you cut into slightly rougher pieces, could probably also make jam - Quince | wash off fuzz, quarter, seed, freeze The stone fruits - apricot/peach/plum/hybrids | If they won't make it to me fresh, wash the surface, cut in half, remove the stone (if the stone doesn't come out easily, then compost the whole batch as overripe stone fruit is not hard to come by and the extra work isn't worth it - though I hear they often do taste better when in god enough quality to eat fresh), peel the fruit (I use a knife to peel, so that's easier after they are halved. If you do the parboiling method to peel, that's easier before - I don't judge), and then cut out the bad spots. freeze them by type or all together and I shall make jam. - Cherry | don't save. After they have been both frozen and cooked, they start to taste medicinal. Other fruits - Banana | there is no shortage of bananas in my world. If you want to make bread or smoothies, then they freeze well after peeling. - Berries | are going to be all moldy by the time they are expired 🙁 - Citrus | might still be perfectly happy for weeks after pulled. If some of the batch start going bad and you don't think the rest will keep fresh, and if you are willing to put in the effort, you could prep them for marmalade and then freeze. (and, yeah, that's any citrus) - Melon | I do not need more melon in my life. - Tamarind | I find the pastes in the store much easier to process than the whole pods. Herbs I don't really need any more herbs than I grow, but I hate to see them go to waste. For basil or cilantro, pick the leaves off the stems, mince finely, pack tightly into small containers, and freeze. For all other herbs, freeze as is - on the stems even - and I can chuck them into stock.


Combined purchasing

   Posted by: Livia N

One of the things I love about my local group of friends is that we have combined ordering for a few companies with high shipping (i.e. Republic of Tea, Penzey’s Spices, and King Arthur Flour)

I just put in an order to Penzey’s and need to pick it up from my mother’s this week. (eta: would anyone mind if I picked that up 1/22? I might be able to get both orders at the same time and save on gas that way)

And now I think I’m going to put in an order to King Arthur’s Flour.

Really, all I need is yeast (because my grocery store carries their flour already). But feel free to make suggestions to me of other things (not too expensive – I don’t plan to spend more than a total of $30) that I should buy for tasty bread experiments.

Also, if you are within an easy distance of me, let me know if you want to order something, too.

  • I’ll need you order by noon Thursday (1/14/2010)
  • I’ll send you the total, and then you can either paypal me or give me cash on delivery (the former, if your order is huge)
  • And, yeah, when I do the ordering, I have everything sent to my parents’ and then we’ll need to meet up, so it won’t be as timely as direct shipping

The past several years, my parents have gone to my sister’s for Thanksgiving. And she and her husband have made traditional Thanksgiving food (roast turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing from a package, gravy, and steamed broccoli).

This year, however, they shall be going to her in-laws because she’ll be too preggers to fly for Christmas.

So I get to make Thanksgiving for the second time ever. Really – just my second time cooking this mean, so I am not bored of the routine in the slightest.

So I called me mother to menu plan…

For the turkey… well, I was going to take a five or more year old free turkey from our deep freeze and turn it into something amazing through magic and impressiveness. My father, trusting neither my skill with freezer-burned meats nor the turkey in question, insisted on getting a fresh turkey. Apparently, it’s a very nice one, so I’ll go with a much simpler recipe than I had originally thought.

Actually, apparently, my mother isn’t waiting for me to think of a recipe at all. She bought a packet of turkey roasting herbs and the onion for it already. What herbs are these? Thyme, rosemary, and other things I still mostly have growing outside my apartment ready for final harvesting.

And for the vegetable, I am putting my foot down. All my father will eat for a green vegetable is either sugar snap peas or baby peas. Frozen. From green giant. And I declared that not enough vitamin content to count as worth my father’s time, so we’re having a green vegetable he won’t eat – namely, the last harvest of the swiss chard in my garden. So there.

My mother has already bought the sweet potatoes… because of my parents’ health issues, I’ll be making the traditional sweet potato casserole in individual-sized ramekins.

And then I was pondering the savoury starch option. Maybe mashed potatoes from scratch. Maybe I’ll make dressing from scratch. BUT my mother informs me she has already bought a (bag?) of Stove Top’s cornbread stuffing. Mer. So I’ll at least doctor it up a bit for fun and profit.

So all that’s left for fun is dessert. And I’m bad at desserts. I’m thinking of trying to make the old family recipe pecan pie. Unfortunately, I told my mother that, so I am betting that when I get there I will find either: a) a storebought Mrs. Smith’s pie or b) 2 brand new bottles of Caro, light and dark – even though I found half a dozen such bottles the last time I cleaned out their pantry, and I’m sure I left them one of each, kept one of each, and threw out several others.

It’s odd, because I’m pretty sure my mother understands how much fun I have with cooking and planning food. And I thought she trusted me to make fancy stuff still withing the limit of what my father’s bland tastes are willing to eat.

ETA: Oh, right – so one of the points of this whining. There’s still a random frozen turkey at my parents’ that they are never going to eat. And I have this plan for ethical meat consumption that goes: I’m going to eat all of the meat my parents have wastefully bought and then buried in their freezer. But turkeys are huge. Does anyone (well after Thanksgiving, because the turkey will keep) want to help me eat this turkey experiment? Or are you all afraid of the freezer taste, too?


menu planning this week(end)

   Posted by: Livia N

menu planning & shopping lists

  • Thursday – making dinner at parents’
    • soup
    • turkey
      • garlic
      • onion
      • herbs
      • soy sauce (take mine)
      • orange juice (buy)
    • savoury starch – stuffing from a bag
    • sweet starch – sweet potato casserole in individual ramekins
      • bring ramekins from home, and crappy baking sheet
      • mother already bought sweet potatoes
      • 2 egg whites
      • 1 orange (for zest and juice – bring zester from home
      • dairy until the right consistency
      • diced apples?
      • spices
      • marshmallows – does mom have?
    • cranberry stuff
    • green vegetables
    • dessert
  • Saturday – making dinner for friends helping me winterize my apartment (also buy plastic for windows)
    • Chicken Raft
      • thaw chicken breast meat
      • get celery flakes from mom?
      • take a jar and retrieve bisquick from mom – and recipe
      • buy milk
    • Kenyan Collard Greens
  • Sunday – fondue party
  • Friday (12/11) – Food Blogger Potluck