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eG Foodblog: Eden - Italian Renaissance Banquet in Seattle


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Amazing menu, Eden. Could you perhaps tell us more about how you interpreted these dishes for the modern palate...or are you making them as they were written?

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

Gourd Pie [from Platina, translation by Mary Ella Milham]

Grind well-washed gourds as you are accustomed to do for cheese, then boil a little either in rich juice or in milk. When they have been half cooked and passed through a sieve into a bowl, mix, adding as much cheese as I described before [1.5 lbs], half a pound of sowbelly or very fat udder, boiled and pounded with a knife, or, in place of these, if it please you, add the same amount of butter or fat, half a pound of sugar, a little ginger, some cinnamon, six eggs, a cup of milk, and a little saffron. Cook this in an oiled earthenware pot with an undercrust, under or over a slow fire. Some add pieces of pastry leaves which they call crepes in place of an upper crust. When it is cooked and transferred into a dish, sprinkle with sugar and rose water.

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" :wink:

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!)

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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Tonight's plans got changed a little - I forgot that Sambar is now closed on Mondays :sad: , 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...

gallery_28660_3710_29550.jpg

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

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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 :laugh: 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.

gallery_28660_3710_304165.jpg

To make up for not getting to drink at Sambar we finished up the evening with a couple "Dark and Stormies" instead of dessert

gallery_28660_3710_130051.jpg

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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That whole menu sounds great, but I'm especially intrigued with the peaches with vinegar.

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

After choosing the best, put them in brine, and the next day take them out and clean them carefully, and put them in a container with salt and vinegar and savory.

[translation by Milham]

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 :raz: )

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gallery_28660_3710_110.jpg

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 :biggrin:

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 :blink:

I can't eat them anything like as fast as he can make them (well, I can but I try really hard not to...)

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Good Morning all,

for those who missed the preview thread, here's my "inspiration shot"

gallery_28660_3710_1626.jpg

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:

the final of four spalliere panels that recount the story of Nastagio degli Onesti from The Decameron. The moralizing tale advises women to give in to the desires of suitors lest they spend all of eternity chased naked by hounds until, exhausted, their hearts are torn out of their bodies, alive. Botticelli's workshop produced the cycle for a wedding that tied the Pucci & Bini families in the late 15th century, most likely arranged by Lorenzo de Medici.
You really have to love the Decameron :laugh:
This sounds very exciting and a huge amount of effort. Good Luck.

Is there any specific part of the Italian Renaissance that you are focussing on and what sources are you using?

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 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.

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Wow, Eden, major kitchen lust here! What hall is that? I am so impressed with both your menu and the scale of the undertaking, and cooking in period costume as well. Dress like a scullery wench!

And speaking of that, what are you using for dishes? And if something washable, yegads!

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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...

From what I"ve been told, its only a partial translation..only selected recipes. why?? If you are geek enough to want the book, you want the whole book!

How/where did you find all of these books? What fun! I've been collecting odd, old Italian cookbooks and they are really addictive. A fully open window into understanding another time and culture.

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gallery_28660_3710_110.jpg

...

What a nice hobby for a spouse to have--making incredible ice creams, gelatos and sorbets... The color of the huckleberry ice cream and sorbet is amazing.

The menu looks so appetizing; less "strange" than I thought it might be although I don't know much about Italian rennaissance cuisine. Lynne Rosetto Kasper has a few interesting recipes from the period in her Emilia-Romagna book, "The Splendid Table".

All the dish soung good but I am particularly interested in the Torta Alba.

Torta Alba - White Ginger Cheesecake

(made with ricotta, mozzarella and 3 types of ginger)

decorated with hand made candied rose petals

Good luck with your preparations this week!

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I'm intrigued by the peaches as well. Are you able to get fresh peaches at this time of year? Or are starting from an already preserved peach?

Tell us more about the costumes!

This summer, our son helped out at our medieval themed festa and he walked around in a 'dress' the night we worked in the cantina. :laugh::laugh:

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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

How did you develop your interest in Italian Renaissance cooking?

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 :biggrin: 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!

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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Good Morning all,

for those who missed the preview thread, here's my "inspiration shot"

gallery_28660_3710_1626.jpg

Not that our banquet will look like this, but it's nice to dream.

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 :smile:

thank you (and everyone else here) for the good luck wishes.

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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The menu looks so appetizing; less "strange" than I thought it might be although I don't know much about Italian rennaissance cuisine.

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...

I know nothing about medieval and renaissance cooking, so I’m looking forward to learning. Can one assume that more is known about the foods of the aristocracy? Has any information survived about what the common folks ate?
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.

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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Wow, Eden, major kitchen lust here!  What hall is that?  I am so impressed with both your menu and the scale of the undertaking, and cooking in period costume as well.  Dress like a scullery wench!

And speaking of that, what are you using for dishes?  And if something washable, yegads!

The diners bring their own plates & cutlery, but my food history group (referred to herinafter as The Guild for ease of typing) does have our own serving dishes & cookware. we have between 25 and 30 different serving dishes in batches of about 20 each. It takes up most of one of the members garages:

gallery_28660_3710_8645.jpg

Every box you see there is filled with pottery serving bowls, or little ramequins or measuring cups or pie pans, etc. In fact the reason there's a giant green salad spinner ih the picture of my dining room above is that we're running out of room in the garage, so big new items are now living at my house...

and now I must run off to buy more ingredients for the banquet, I will get to more of your questions later this afternoon & maybe show you some of the planning tools & techniques we use...

I gotta go see a man about some saffron!

edited for typos

Edited by Eden (log)

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this afternoons haul was tiny but very precious:

gallery_28660_3710_145986.jpg

a full ounce of saffron, Poudre Forte (a medieval spice mix of pepper, ginger, cinnamon, clove and grains of paradise)) and silver jordan almonds (which have doubled in price since I last bought them - they're now $30 US/lb - OWW!)

I zipped through Pike Place Market for the saffron and the almonds, but since Henry & Lorna posted great photos of the market recently I will just show you where I stopped to grab lunch - Cafe Yarmarka, Russian yummies

gallery_28660_3710_59750.jpg

This is lunch back at home

gallery_28660_3710_39270.jpggallery_28660_3710_125748.jpg

one beef and cheese, one potato and cheese, plus I whipped us up a salad because russian food is good but HEAVY...

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Backing up, here is my breakfast - chicken on a raft with cheese, and some raspberries

gallery_28660_3710_193011.jpg

and here is Venya begging for my raspberries

gallery_28660_3710_20153.jpg

which she then spit out when I broke down & gave her a piece - ungrateful wretch :raz:

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AWW! That is the cutest ferret I have ever seen! Is it still a baby?

I think your Renaisance meal is so interesting! I can't wait to see how it all pans out.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Poudre Forte (a medieval spice mix of pepper, ginger, cinnamon, clove and grains of paradise

I bet that smells heavenly (tho not as good as the saffron).

What is "grains of paradise"?

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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AWW! That is the cutest ferret I have ever seen! Is it still a baby?

Well she is my baby, but no, that is Venya (aka "V"), her twin sister Bindi is my avatar, and they're about three and a half years old. However they are the cutest ferrets you could hope to find!

Poudre Forte (a medieval spice mix of pepper, ginger, cinnamon, clove and grains of paradise

I bet that smells heavenly (tho not as good as the saffron).

What is "grains of paradise"?

Grains of Paradise is Aframomum Melegueta aka Melegueta Pepper. it's peppery and gingery and allspicey all at once.

edited for keyboard incompetence

Edited by Eden (log)

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All the dish soung good but I am particularly interested in the Torta Alba.
Torta Alba - White Ginger Cheesecake

(made with ricotta, mozzarella and 3 types of ginger)

decorated with hand made candied rose petals

Here's a photo for you from while we were testing the recipe.

gallery_20334_1469_63265.jpg

that's candied ginger strewn over the top, so it has 3 forms of ginger, fresh, ground and candied. the original text just says ginger...

Edited by Eden (log)

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^Thank you, it looks great! I love ricotta desserts and ginger and am intrigued iin picturing the mozzarella in there too! I"m sure it will be over the top with the candied rose petals...

Will there a dedicated food photographer for the event? I imagine you will be so busy.

edited to add: What a cutie pie Venya is!

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Food history is fascinating! I love looking through very, very old cookbooks and texts and trying to parse out what they ate, how they made it, how everything was served. Really looking forward to following along as you put on such an expansive dinner.

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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Eden, what an interesting blog. You are very lucky to have Bill's ice cream around (I and several other eG'ers have been lucky enough to taste his ice creams and they're really good.) I'm not a ferret fan, but that's a really cute ferret.

Jan

Seattle, WA

"But there's tacos, Randy. You know how I feel about tacos. It's the only food shaped like a smile....A beef smile."

--Earl (Jason Lee), from "My Name is Earl", Episode: South of the Border Part Uno, Season 2

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Backing up, here is my breakfast  - chicken on a raft with cheese, and some raspberries

gallery_28660_3710_193011.jpg

What is "chicken on a raft"? That just looks like bread toasted in the broiler with cheddar and mozzarella cheese to me (or is that an egg in the middle, or white cheddar?).

Back to the pickled peaches, what is "savory"? Summer savory?

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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