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Everything posted by Eden

  1. Well that is partly because I choose the recipes I think will be more accessible to the modern diner, but also because there's a lot of food they ate that's just not that far from what is still being eaten. for contrast, here's the third course of a menu from Maestro Martino (Napolitano ms): A quarter of good veal A quarter of good meat Hare, one Rabbits, two Capons, Four Goslings, two Ducks, three Partridges and pigeons for three Sauce of pomegranate Dressed crane Yellow blancmange (a rice & chicken dish, not modern blancmange!) Ducks, three per plate, flavored with Garlic White Tarte of Genova Pears and apples Junket of almond milk with sugar Almonds Peach pits of fine sugar [ie shaped like peachpits] Pear seethed with sugar in little plates White tarts Chestnuts Truffles Marzipans Zaldoni (a type of cookie) Hippocras (spiced wine) Confits of every sort Fennel sugared and gilded [translation mine] These are mostly pretty normal sounding dishes, but an earlier course calls for battered & broiled sows udders, entrails with parsley and spices, and marrow pastries... You are right that most of what is known is about the foods of the upper classes, although with the advent of the printing press (FYI platina's was the first printed cookbook!) the recipes that had once been the purvue of the aristocracy became more available to the middle classes, and you start to find more cookery books aimed at the middle classes as well. For information about the food of the laboring classes you have to do more work. There are snippets in contemporary literature (Bocaccio's Decameron mentioned above is FULL of comments about food for people of all walks of life, although that's medieval) Michelangelo scribbled menus on random bits of paper, household records for the wealthy sometimes mention the food supplied to their servants etc.
  2. I saw the original of this a few years ago in Florence (Botticelli fan me) . It is part of a (very) private collection, so most images of it like this one are based on old photographs. The original is much more clear and the blues are much stronger. At that time I was interested in banquets, which this appears to be and it was wonderful to see the confits, fritters etc in such detail. Excellent looking menu. A real challenge and a huge amount of work. I do hope that you enjoy the experience. Wow, I really envy you that opportunity! I have to stop in front of every early banquet or food painting we come across whenever we're in Europe for the same reason thank you (and everyone else here) for the good luck wishes.
  3. Good morning everyone, I have (hopefully) a much calmer day ahead of me, and after sleeping on it, I feel the need to go back & reanswer this question I originally took this as "how did you discover it?" but I think the intent was more "why is it interesting?" Rosewater, Sugar and Orange Juice! you see these ingredients a little bit in medieval italian cooking, but they really take off in the Renaissance. Sugar sculpture becomes more and more elaborate (see Ivan Day's website for some great examples of later English & French sugar works) A huge proportion of dishes both sweet & savory are finished with a sprinkling of rosewater and sugar, Rosewater also becomes an integral part of more dishes such as the Biscottini I'm serving in the final course - rosewater is the only liquid, and the result is a delicately perfumed and yet not excessively rosey confection. Oranges and lemons also became more prevalent and I've showcased them here in the cinnamon orange sauce from Platina, (which also contains rosewater), and in the cauliflower with sour-orange sauce. The cauliflower is representative of another reason I love early italian cooking n general, both medieval AND renaissance. Vegetables! While most early European recipe collections give little to no attention to vegetable dishes, the Italian cookbooks generally have large sections devoted to to them. Everything from a sort of turnip and cheese lasagne, to fava beans made with sage, onions and figs, to Fresh peas cooked with bacon and saba, to stuffed artichokes, the list goes on & on. There's also the pasta. Early pasta dishes of lasagne layered with cheese & spices are seen elsewhere in Europe, but the italians were also eating gnocchi, and penne/maccheroni type pastas, and 15th century italy is the first mention I've come across of pasta with a pesto like sauce (from arugula), and I find it particularly fascinating, that the title specifically refers to this as "macaroni in the Genoese style" Pizza that's not pizza! this is one of the many reasons we love Scappi as a source: "To make tart with diverse materials from Napoli called “Pizza” Get 6 oz of peeled sweet almonds, and 4 ounces of peeled sweet pine nuts, and 3 ounces of fresh seedless dates and 3 ounces of fresh figs, 3 ounces of seedless raisins and all these things ground in the mortar. Spatter with a turn of rosewater so that it becomes like paste. Add with these materials 8 fresh raw egg yolks, 6 ounces of sugar, 1 ounce of pounded cinnamon, an ounce and a half of must, made into powder, 4 ounces of rosewater and make everything into a composition. Have the baking pan with a layer of pasta royal, and the tart layered about not too thick and put the composition in the pan, mix with 4 oounces of butter, make it no more tall than 1 finger and without a cover. Make it cook in the oven and serve it hot and cold as you please. In this pizza you can put every sort of seasoning. [translation mine] As you can see once I start talking about this subject it's hard for me to stop that's why I've been wanting to do this banquet for a long time - it's got so much scope, and more importantly SO much great food!
  4. Apparently we needed dessert after all - Bill brought me this bowl of huckberry ice-cream and huckleberry sorbet, with gingersnaps. I love both, but that huckleberry ice-cream is one of his best yet. Of course I seem to always say that when he makes a new flavor This is one of the joys (and trials) of my life, living with an ice-cream fiend. I don't think we ever have less than 5 flavors of home made ice-cream in the house (plus a few purchased ones) right now it's the huckleberry twins, italian plum sorbet, quince sorbet, vanilla ice-cream, red currant sorbet, and I think there's a little gooseberry-rosemary sorbet left too. Plus a toasted almond gelato from Gelatiamo. There might be others farther down in the freezer that we've forgotten I can't eat them anything like as fast as he can make them (well, I can but I try really hard not to...)
  5. Those are Abra's fault! Abra fed me her pickled peaches last Fall, and I was just blown away by the fabulousness of them. Then when I was doing research for this banquet I came across the following quote from Platina on preserving fresh peaches I make these with white balsamic vinegar to try and add some sweetness, I also go light on the salt (Abra's have a fair amount of sugar, but Platina doesn't call for any, so I did what I could...) The result is an either love it or hate it dish (again we're serving it in the first course when people are more willing to take risks..) that does not do justice to it's inspiration, but is still pretty darn good (unless you hate it, like Bill )
  6. Tonight's plans got changed a little - I forgot that Sambar is now closed on Mondays , so we've postponed our cocktail outing till Wednesday, and used the opportunity for a "clear out the fridge" dinner. Leftover roast pork in a plum-dill sauce and baby potatoes in a gooseberry-dill sauce, which I co-opted a bit of and mixed that into a bit of mayo for a Gooseberry-dill mayonnaise to go with artichokes (after Bill took the photo). We had dill-o-rama from the farmer's market recently, so it ended up in a bunch of dishes... Definitely a gallery of regrettable foods dinner color wise, but other than the artichokes being a bit elderly it was very good. I love the sharp gooseberry flavor with the bright note of dill on potatoes. and the plum-dill sauce is a winner every time. And speaking of the fridge, here's my obligatory refridgerator shot I swear this fridge is bigger than my first apartment. I love it, and I show my love by filling it as full as possible That clear space on the right is usually taken up by some giant pot or other, but I've been trying to make room for the banquet.... Oh and here's a peek at the pile of provisions for the banquet taking over my dining room. To make up for not getting to drink at Sambar we finished up the evening with a couple "Dark and Stormies" instead of dessert
  7. A little bit of both. I try to follow the original recipe txts as closely as possible most of the time, but there are concessions I make both to the modern palate, and to the practicalities of cooking in bulk within a budget. For an example, here's the original text for the Gourd and cheese tart In the Renaissance our modern distinctions of sweet vs. savory dishes hadn't really developed yet so it was fine to have a dish that combined sugar with a sharp cheese. I love the base dish that I cooked up following Platina's proportions exactly, but I have a broader palate than Joe-on-the-street, so to feed this to a modern diner I had to scale back the sugar a bit. It's still a little unusual tasting, but we're serving it in the first course when they'll be hungry & thus more open to trying "weird stuff" You'll notice that the amount of gourd is completely unspecified in the original, but since I have fixed amounts on the cheese eggs & milk, I just started with a "reasonable" amount to make a tart that would set, but not be too custardy. That's where modern cooking experience comes into play. I had a texture in mind that I was trying to acheive - reminscent of the filling for a Ravioli di zucca, able to set up, but not so creamy that it felt like thanksgiving pumpkin pie in the mouth... And speaking of pumpkin pie, I knew we wouldn't have the manpower to actually process the squash from zero ourselves, but that I couldn't use pumpkin puree, or I'd be heading too close to Thanksgiving territory again, so we're using frozen squash puree. (I'm pretty sure it's acorn but they don't actually say on the label...) I chose the butter rather than the sow belly option in order to be able to feed the tart to vegetarians. In fact all but the three specific meat dishes (the chicken, the rice & the beef) are veg friendly, so that our small handful of vegetarians can eat anything on the menu they want other than those, and will have their own three historical recipes subbed in for the meaty bits: a roasted mushroom (portobello) to go with the garlic and green sauces a cheesy rice dish, very risotto like and stewed lentils with saffron & fresh herbs (this last dish is so good one ov my carnivorous friends was threatening to be a vegetarian for the night so she could have the lentils!)
  8. I have to say that people amaze me. The absolute drop-dead deadline for tickets was October 3rd, and of course pre-registration was absolutely required for the dinner, so that we'd know how much food to buy etc. This was published multiple times in many many places, and yet the event coordinators got a call today from someone, who we have good reason to beleive knew they were coming to the event for a while now, but somehow misssed all that & wants to know if we can fit in several more people
  9. Actually, the menu above would be considered very tame by Italian Renn. standards. It may have 6 courses, but it has only 25 dishes total. Acceptable for a simple dinner, but certainly not for a really extravagant occasion. The afore-mentioned Scappi has a menu for an October lunch comprised of over 150 dfferent dishes. Of course his guests didn't expect to get a taste of every dish, just the ones placed near them, so he had it easier in that respect... The dinner we're cooking is for a local history club, so yes all the guests will be in historic costumes of one kind or another, though not all from the same time/place as the banquet. The cooks are expected to wear costumes as well, so that if they need to run out into the hall they won't mess with the ambiance (Pain in the a--). The hall is a fairly neutral space which will get banners & fabrics draped about to make it look nicer, but it's certainly never going to look like a renaissance palazzo... What's really important is that it has God's own kitchen two commercial stoves with ovens, two regular home stoves with oven, and tons and tons of counter space for us to work on. This is just the main stove area:
  10. Here's the menu the guests will receive. (the recipe titles are given first in the original Latin or early Italian, so readers of modern Italian may find them a little odd to read...) Primo Servizio: The first half of the menu is primarily from the writings of Platina - a 15th c. humanist whose book "on right pleasure, and good health" combines recipes with commentary on the humoral (nutritional) properties of food as well as the order in which dishes should be served. First course: Bellaria - Ginger Candied Pine nuts Fructus - Fresh fruit of the season Panis - Fine white bread Torta cucurbitina - Savory cheese and gourd Pie Olea conditum - olives Persica cum aceto - Pickled peaches with fresh savory "taken as a first course they [peaches] stimulate the appetite" -Platina Second course: Pullus assum cum salsam - Roast chicken with three sauces Salsa narantia - Sweet Orange Cinnamon sauce Aliato - White garlic sauce Ius herbaceis - Lombard green sauce Tagliarini - Genoese pasta with arugula pesto (Pennette pasta dressed with cheese, Arugula and saffron) Phasellum - beans sauteed with onion & saffron "After eating beans it is necessary that one drink some pure wine" -Platina Third course: Torta Alba - White Ginger Cheesecake (made with ricotta, mozzarella and 3 types of ginger) decorated with hand made candied rose petals Confectione - Confits (silver candied fennel seeds and sweet quince paste) Caseo Vetus - Aged Cheese "Eaten at the end of the meal, a small amount [of aged cheese] has the virtue of sealing the stomach and takes away the bad effects of rich food" -Platina Intermezzo: There will be a short pause for entertainment and to allow you to move about the hall, and visit with friends and neighbors. "Besides the most delicate viands and precious wines, there were all those pleasures and amusements that are suited to the season, the guests, and the feast." - Priscianese Secondo Servizio: The second half of the menu is from the more opulent 16th century. It is comprised of dishes from various later sources, arranged in the order they would have been served, according to contemporary menus, and commentary. Fourth course: Uve zuccherate - Frosted grapes Una vivanda di riso alla lombarda - Lombard Rice withpullets & sausage (a rich rice casserole with cheese, chicken & salami) Cavolfiore all'arancia amara - Cauliflower in Sour Orange sauce (Cauliflower salad with orange vinaigrette) Carotte sotto la bragia - Roasted carrot salad. "The opening dishes of banquets are arranged from these with skill: the salads either of lettuce or of mixed greens, or of carrots...or of other similar things." -Garzoni Fifth course Per stufare il lombo del boue - Beef Loin braised in wine with dried cherries and prosciutto Cipolle in Tiella - Crispy fried pearl onions Pagnottine - small bread rolls Caciofali bonissimi - roasted baby artichokes with rosemary " The artichoke is a fruit noted by everyone; and they are very good when they are young and fresh" -Cervio Sixth and final course Torta con diverse materie, da Napoletani detta pizza - Sweet Tart called "Pizza" (a sweet custard tart with pureed dried fruits & nuts) Biscottini con mondole - Sweet almond cookies with anise Confetti - Candied almonds Frutte stagionale - seasonal fresh fruit "the making of cakes and the serving of fruit after meals all came from Florence" -Aretino "Spring is for looking, Autumn for tasting" -Castelvetro
  11. OK for the food history geeks, my sources for the 15th century course are De Honesta Voluptate by Bartolomeo Sacchi, aka Platina and Libro de Arte Coqinaria by Maestro Martino, (including the Cuoco Napoletano translated by Terrence Scully) For the 16th century course, I pulled from the above mentioned, and fabulous, Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera , the Libro Novo by Christoforo da Messisbugo, the cookbook of Suor Maria Vittora della Verde, a 16th century Nun (as transcribed by Giovanna Cassagrande) and Domenico Romoli's La Singolar Dottrina . Very little from this later era has been translated into English thus far, though I hear that a Scully translation of Scappi is in the pipeline (yay!) next the menu...
  12. Finally back at my desk, with photos working, and the adrenalin slowily leaving my system. (One of the ferrets was very sick this afternoon, she seems better now, but if there's major radio silence over the rest of the day you can assume I had to run to the Vet...) Techinically since it was around 1ish, this would have te be my Lunch: Espresso milkshake from B&O espresso - this thing has enough sugar & coffee to shoot me to the moon While I was out I stopped by PFI to pick up a couple of things for the banquet. PFI is one of those stores where you always find something you werent' expecting. Today it was boucherondin This is one of my favorite cheeses, it's fairly light chevre with a really buttery, not uber goaty flavor. The wine in the background is Viina Borgia, purchased for the banquet. (the event planners wanted to do some goofing around with poisoning since we're doing an Italian Rennaisance theme, and I said that was fine as long as it didn't touch on the food, hence the wine...) Here's the boucherondin as part of my real lunch: The tomato came from the Ballard farmer's market, and was very sweet, almost plum-like, perfect with just a little salt sprinkled over it. The crackers are just "mystery crackers" leftover from a party, they have a nice oaty flavor to them I like. And here's what it looked like outside when I came home this afternoon. Early Fall in Seattle is really beautiful.
  13. Apparently Hathor's technical difficulties were contagious, since we're now having problems with photos as well. (Bill is working on this, so hopefully this afternoon things will be all better!) Breakfast wasn't that photogenic anyway... edited to add photo belatedly: Leftover lamb Saag and basmati rice are beautiful on the palate, but not necessarily on the plate. Yes, I eat Indian food for breakfast. Bill is a 'grains with milk' boy and thinks I'm crazy, but anytime we go out for Indian food we have to bring home lamb saag, so I can have it for breakfast over the next few days. I do like traditional breakfast foods of the eggy protein heavy variety, but if I can have a rich spicy curry, that's just the best way to start my morning. I'd done a fair amount of reading and cooking from medieval and renaissance cooking sources that were already vailable in English over the years (primarily French and English recipes) but I started doing my own translating and more indepth research after my first trip to Italy back in '95. One of my fellow travellers (who studies 15th c. italian food) bought a book of about 600 years worth of historical italian recipes, several of us started poring through it & discovered that with the variuos language skills among us (French, spanish, beginning italian) we could do rudimentary translations of the recipes. From there I got hooked... I have to run out & do some errands, I will post about the menu * it's sources this afternoon.
  14. Good Morning all, for those who missed the preview thread, here's my "inspiration shot" Not that our banquet will look like this, but it's nice to dream. Big kudos to Pontormo, apparently a resident art scholar for identifying the painting: You really have to love the Decameron The banquet will be arranged in two sections: three courses from the 15th century, and three courses from the 16th century. (Pan there will be music and dancing during the pause between these two sections, as well as "boxed" music in the background throughout)I should just admit right upfront, when it comes to food history, I'm a big geek. I'd been thinking about doing a small Italian Renaissance banquet for a while now, and had a lot of fun recipes from the 15th through the 17th centuries that I was looking at, but every time I tried to put them together into a menu in my head, it bugged me, because they just don't belong together. I don't like my foods to touch And that's when I went insane and I decided I wanted to serve two meals at once, one from the 15th century and the other from the 16th century with no "cross contamination" and the base idea of my current menu was born. Thanks, you would be very welcome in our kitchen.Crepe il lupo! For those who don't speak italian, "in bocca al lupo" their equivalent of "Break a leg" means literally "in the mouth of the wolf", to which one replies "let the wolf die!" I'm going to go see if Bill is awake and can find me a USB port for the camera, and then you can see my idea of breakfast (neither traditional, nor historical ) I'll get to more questions in a bit.
  15. 150 diners, 25 dishes spread across 6 courses, 20 odd volunteer cooks of varying skill levels Two ferrets One amazingly patient husband Almost certainly some nice rainy Seattle weather And me... To introduce myself a little, I'm a researcher of Food History, with a focus on medieval Italian food. In addition to poring through books and translating recipes from medieval Italian, I enjoy actually cooking from historical recipes, and a couple times a year I get together with a local food history group to put on a large banquet cooked from historical recipes that we've reconstructed into modern tasty dishes. This coming Saturday we'll be cooking an Italian Renaissance dinner for about 150 people. Yours truly did the research on this & with my compatriots we've spent most of the last year trying & refining different recipes till I whittled them down to a six course menu of about 25 dishes. This is all a volunteer labor of love which means that things can get a little crazy since you don't have the power of the paycheck over your assistants, but it also means that people will give you 200% if they believe in the project... I'll be taking you along through the week as we do our last minute firming up of numbers, shopping, panicking, pre-prepping and of course cooking on the day of the banquet itself. And don't worry, there will also be visits to various Seattle eateries since I'm doing so much work for the event, I won't be too keen on much home cooking this week. We have reservations at Rovers for lunch on Friday, which I'm really looking forward to, drinks with a friend at Sambar Monday evening, and everything else will be decided in the moment depending on where around town I happen to be when hunger strikes... Oh, and there will be at least one gratuitous ferret posting, since my primary purpose in life is actually to serve the royal whims of Bindi & Venya, the two small furry princesses who rule the universe That's enough to start since I really ought to be in bed by now anyway (we just finished roasting 25 lbs of carrots, candying a giant bag o' pine nuts, and baking 300 cookies.) Talk to you all in the morning, Eden
  16. Fabulous pictures of all the scary mushrooms (not to mention the tasty ones.) One of my favorite memories from a previous italy trip is this two foot tall scary black mushroom just dripping with ooze - it looked like something out of a dark fairy tale... I am reveling in your pictures of Italy in the Fall, that's my favorite time of year over there, between the beautiful weather & the abundance of the harvest. There's a wonderful treat they make in Chianti during the Vendemmia called schiacciata all'uva, it's a short dense cake with fennel seeds and grapes (with the pips still in), do they do anything similar in umbria? Or any other special dishes using grapes from the harvest? Oh and I want to be Myrna Loy when I grow up too, but don't be dissin' Asta edited for egregious typo
  17. I know the running water method is supposed to work better, but I just can't take the water wastage. Some of my formative years were spent in California during a multi-year drought... I'd be interested to know the average time difference between sitting in cool water (changed occasionally) vs. under running water.
  18. Quanto bello! Really looking forward to a vicarious visit to Italy. Can we please have at least one food-porn shot of a gelato counter please
  19. To quote the great B.Kliban "bite they little heads off, nibble on they tiny feet!" (though in the case of bunnies of course one MUST eat the ears first - that way they can't hear themselves scream )
  20. I thought Salvatores had closed about 2 months ago, are they still/back in business? (maybe it was just a remodel, or else a false rumor) Congrats on the new place!
  21. A good friend uses dark corn syrup for her caramels (which are so good we refer to them as Crack!) how would this change the result as compared with the light corn syrup/glucose? on a side note, I am wondering how chewy caramels were made prior to the availability of corn syrup? Really interesting course - I make toffee at the holidays, but haven't strayed outside that much, and I keep meaning to, so hopefully this will be my push...
  22. Well for one thing (though I love Word in general) the table function in Word is clunky as hell. Excel is just easier to use when it comes to manipulating individual cells of a table, and especially when moving data around within a table. I hear the next edition of Word will be better for this, but for now I'll stick with my spreadsheet. For another I like the tabbed worksheets in Excel for sorting different aspects of a project. I grant you could just have several different tables in one Word doc, but the tabs are quick & easy to navigate. Mostly it's just a matter of what software you feel comfortable working with. My mom is an accountant & she used to use Excel to write letters - drove me up a freakin' wall to watch her do it, but it worked for her... Oh and when I'm doing a meal of 20 plus dishes the spreadsheet gets pretty damn huge and the bunny magnets just aren't that strong
  23. looks like that love grotto is designed for a threesome! ← Last time I was there it housed a foursome Gotta disagree with Henry here, I love the design of El Diablo. It's funny & funky & fabulously colorful. (plus having good drinks) If it was more convenient to Ballard it would be my go-to cafe. Fun blog guys, you deserve a rest after all this work for us!
  24. Oh I also use Excel for my list of dinner parties we've given with the main dishes & guests listed. (I try to avoid duplication this way...)
  25. The Chorizo & fig recipe was adapted from here. the onions are just simmered & the vinegar is just cheap basic red wine vinegar, but I vary the cooking process slightly to intensify the flavors, and it does a pretty good impression of balsamic & caramelized onions because of that. What fun to come home from dinner & see it already being blogged! Now I know why you guys skipped out on drinks at Union, you needed to get home & start typing By the way any funkyness in the presentation of the cheesecake is entirely my fault. Somebody let me do the slicing, and there had been a lot of wine & sangria first I loved this cheesecake - the Valdeon is much more suble than a stilton cheesecake, so you have to stop & pay attention to the flavors more. My suggestions for the Iron chef list are Cubebs & Long pepper.
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