Gustatio - Appetizers - Second Course
MORETUM : Garlic, Herb, and Cheese Spread
Derived from the poem, Moretum: The Ploughman's Lunch
author unknown, attributed to Virgil
translated by Andrew Dalby, in The Classical Cookbook, Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger
lightly digging into the ground with his fingers,
he pulls up four heads of garlic
with their thick leaves;
then he picks slim celery-tops
and sturdy rue and the thin stems
of trembling coriander
With these collected
he sits before the fire
and sends the slave girl for a mortar.
He splashes a grass grown bulb with water
and put it to the hollow mortar.
He seasons with grains of salt, and
after salt, hard cheese is added.
Then he mixes in the herbs.
With the pestle, his right hand
works at the fiery garlic
then he crushes all alike
in a mixture. His hand circles.
Gradually the ingredients lose
their individuality; out of the many colours emerges one -
neither wholly green
(for the white tempers it)
nor shining white
(since tinted by so many herbs).
The work goes on;
not jerkily as before,
but more heavily the pestle make its slow circuits.
So he sprinkles some drops of Athena's olive oil
and adds a little sharp vinegar,
and again works his mixture together.
Then at length, he runs two finger
round the mortar,
gathering the whole mixture into a ball,
so as to produce the form
and name of a finished moretum.
Meanwhile busy Scybale has baked a loaf.
This he takes after wiping his hands..."
120 cloves (approx. 10 heads) Garlic
1 Tb. Salt
5 large handfuls Cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh Lovage Herb or Chinese Celery Leaf
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian (flat leaf) Parsley
1/4 cup plus 1 Tb White Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 Tb. Olive Oil
2-1/2 lb. Pecorino Romano cheese
1. Separate and peel the garlic cloves - I bought already peeled garlic cloves for the feast.
2. Optional: The cook who made this recipes decided to parboil the garlic. The original doesn't, but this makes the garlic less harsh. If you prefer strong garlic, don't parboil it, or only parboil part of the garlic. I thought it was perhaps a bit too mild, but i suspect diners appreciated it.
3. Grind garlic with salt in blender or food processor.
4. When pureed, add greens and olive oil and grind.
5. When pureed, add remaining ingredients.
6. Taste and add more salt only if needed.
7. Form into 10 balls and chill overnight.
ARTICHOKES IN HERB SAUCE
Another cardoon recipe: rue, mint, coriander, fennel, all very green. Add pepper, lovage, honey, fish sauce, and oil.
[ ----- Apicius - Book III, Chapter XIX, Recipe 2]
two 5-1/2 lb cans of halved or quartered Artichoke Hearts (in water, salt, & citric acid)
1. Drain artichokes of can liquid.
2. Rinse with fresh running water.
3. Drain well. While draining, make sauce.
Romans would use cardoons, but they aren't readily available these days, so i used their more easily found relative, artichokes.
I disliked the taste of the pre-made artichokes - i think what i objected to was the citric acid. It isn't really a *bad* taste, but the flavor seemed out-of-place to me. This would have been much better with tiny baby fresh artichokes. But they were too expensive and the prep time involved in snipping off the thorns at the tops of the leaves and cooking them was too great for a large feast.
3 Tb. and 1 tsp. Honey
3/4 cup Tiparos (brand) Thai Fish Sauce
5 cups Olive Oil
3 Tb. and 1 tsp. chopped fresh Lovage or Chinese celery
3 Tb. and 1 tsp. chopped fresh Cilantro
3 Tb. and 1 tsp. chopped fresh Fennel Leaves
3 Tb. and 1 tsp. chopped fresh Mint
2-1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
2-1/2 tsp. Lovage or Celery Seed
1. Mix together honey and fish sauce until well-blended, then stir in olive oil.
2. Chop fresh green herbs.
3. Grind spices.
4. Mix liquids and seasonings.
5. Pour over well-drained artichokes, and mix gently to coat well.
6. Cover and marinate over night.
TUNA WITH DATE SAUCE
Ius in Cordula Assa: piper, ligusticum, apii semen, mentam, rutam, caryotam, mel, acetum, vinum et oleum. convenit et in Sarda.
Sauce for Roasted Young Tuna: pepper, lovage, celery seeds, mint, rue, Jericho dates, honey, vinegar, wine and oil. Suitable also for (sarda).
[ ----- Apicius, Book IX, Chapter X, Recipe 5]
7 Tb. Lovage Herb or Chinese Celery Leaves
7 Tb. chopped fresh Mint
3 Tb. chopped fresh Rue (Opt.)
80 pitted Dates
5 tsp. Celery Seeds
1 Tb. Ground Black Pepper
Salt, to taste
2 cups Olive Oil
1-1/4 c. Vinegar
1-1/4 c. Wine
1 c. Honey
1. Chop herbs in food processor.
2. Add dates, spices, and salt to herbs in processor, then add liquids and honey into processor container.
3. Puree dates and liquid.
4. Taste and adjust seasonings.
5. Warm sauce.
Serve with cooked tuna as dipping sauce.
The sauce is light golden tan in color, although because of the dates many people expected it to be dark brown.
10 lb fresh Albacore or other inexpensive tuna or bonito
1. We cut the tuna into serving pieces - that took some time.
2. Then we baked it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes, then checked on them.
3. The slabs were thick and moist so they took a bit longer to cook than i had expected - they needed another 10 minutes or a little less.
I called around and finally found fresh locally caught albacore for around $7 per lb. at a Japanese fish market. I bought about 2 oz. per person. This was a "treat" in the meal, since most of the meat in the feast was inexpensive (chicken $.99/lb and lamb $1.99/lb).
It is important not to overcook the fish. It should still be moist inside. The fish will continue cooking a bit after it is removed from the oven. Of course, no one wants under cooked fish, but overcooked fish is dry and fibrous and tough and no fun to eat at all.
In this case, the tuna was cooked to perfection (well, my idea of it), and most of it was eaten. The bits and pieces that remained were taken home and i got compliments a few days later from one of my cooks who'd taken it home.