Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Epityrum album nigrum variumque

Salve! Spartacurtus sum!

Today, I tried out a recipe from The Classical Cookbook, by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. This book lays out huge feasts one dish at a time. The feasts' recipes vary in historical times, and geographically.

I picked out the recipe for Olive Relish, which is part of the feast for the homecoming of Odysseus. The recipe is based upon Cato's On Agriculture.
The original recipe, translated, is:

Recipe for a confection of green, ripe, and mottled olives. Remove the stones from green, ripe, and mottled olives, and season as follows: chop the flesh, and add oil, vinegar, coriander, cumin, fennel, rue, and mint. Cover with oil in an earthen dish, and serve.
-Cato, On Agriculture, 119
Here's the original Latin.

This is the recipe as interpreted by The Classical Cookbook:
4 oz black olives
4 oz green olives
4 T red wine vinegar
4 T olive oil
1 t chopped fennel leaf, or root
2 t chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 t chopped fresh rue
2 t chopped fresh mint

Chop olives roughly, add oil and vinegar. Prepare herbs by chopping finely. Add to mixture. Top off with a dash more olive oil, and seal container.

On Agriculture was written around 200 BC, by Cato, a Roman soldier and politician. The authors of The Classical Cookbook recommended that I alter the recipe, and omit the cumin. Cumin today is seed, which is very aromatic, and not the leaf, which is not. Using cumin at today's strengths from the seed overpowers the dish, so I followed the authors' recommendation, and left it out.

I am an amateur gardener, and tend an herb garden. I had rue, mint, coriander (cilantro), fennel all growing in pots in my backyard. Using fresh herbs certainly helped. This was actually the first time I had actually used the rue, which I was a bit afraid of, because I'd heard it can give you a rash if you touch it. Fortunately, this blogger was safe.

The Olive Relish turned out great! I am extremely happy with the results. I love olives in the first place, so it would have been hard to go wrong. The red wine vinegar added to the olives was a really nice touch. The herbs are an interesting addition, especially the mint. I would have to say that this olive medley beats anything they have at those olive bars, hands down. This recipe was an absolute success. I could eat this all day. I found that the dish does get better with age, even though Cato recommends serving immediately, I thought that once the herbs, oils, and olives got to mingle a bit, it only tasted better.

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