From Eggs to Apples Episode IV: Ancient Rome (Peach Patina with Cumin/Wine Sauce & Stuffed Dates)

Did you know that the Western custom of starting a meal with salad and ending with a sweet dessert comes from the Ancient Romans? In this episode, we talk about Ancient Roman desserts and make two examples from the Roman cookbook Apicius: a patina (baked flat dish) of peaches with cumin/wine sauce, and honeyed dates stuffed with nuts.

Patina is a general term for anything baked in the flat, round dish of the same name, whether sweet or savory, and I’ve made two savory ones plus other Apicius recipes, on this blog before; I have also made the honeyed dates numerous times but never actually posted the recipe. They’re super easy–try them!

Peach Patina with Cumin/Wine Sauce

4-5 firm peaches, peeled and pitted
1 cup grape juice
½ cup Port or other sweet wine
¼ cup fish sauce (available at Asian grocery stores)
1 ½ tablespoons powdered cumin
2 tablespoons honey
3-4 sprigs of fresh mint (optional)
Olive oil

Cut peaches into slices and arrange in the bottom of an oiled, oven-safe dish. Bake peaches at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. While peaches are baking, prepare the sauce. In a saucepan over high heat, reduce grape juice, honey and wine to a syrupy consistency (about 25 minutes) along with mint leaves. Stir continually to prevent burning. Remove mint leaves. Add fish sauce and cumin and reduce, continuing to stir for a few more minutes. Take peaches out of the oven, drizzle with olive oil and pour the sauce over them. Garnish with mint if desired.

Stuffed Dates

1 cup dates, pitted
About ½ cup whole almonds (one per date)
2 tablespoons honey
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground black pepper

Place an almond inside each date in the space where its pit originally was. Squish the dates around the almonds to conceal them. Place dates in a saucepan over medium heat and drizzle with honey. Heat until the honey begins to bubble, about 1 minute. Flip the dates so they are coated with honey on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, remove from the pan, and serve. (Optional: don’t tell your guests there’s an almond inside the date. At the Roman banquet, the element of surprise is everything.)

From Eggs to Apples is hosted by Andrew Coletti (@passtheflamingo) and Fiorella Di Carlo, RN, CDC (@fiorellaeats). Special thanks to Kevin Schreck, Henry Liu, Walden Wang, Huỳnh Nguyễn Tường Băng, Ismail Butera, and Kamilo Kratc. In memory of Bill Mullen.

From Eggs to Apples Episode II: Ancient Egypt

The second episode of From Eggs to Apples, my food history video series, is now online! In this episode we investigate the beverages of Ancient Egypt, including the barley beer that was the dietary staple, and the surprising ancestor of modern horchata.

Egyptian Porridge Beer

1/2 cup red wheatberries
1 cup barley
3 cups water, plus more to cook barley
Pomegranate juice (optional)

Soak wheat berries in a bowl of water overnight. Drain and transfer to a glass jar or container. Cover the jar with a light cloth, such as cheesecloth, secured with a rubber band. Let stand at room temperature for 1-3 days, or until you see little tails sprouting from the grains. During this time, make sure the grains stay moist but not submerged in water. Once a day, shake the jar gently to help air circulation. Once your grains have sprouted, spread them on a baking sheet and roast at 300 degrees F for about 3 hours. When done, they should be completely dry and dark brown and give off a pleasant, nutty aroma. Grind the malted grains into coarse flour in a food processor or with mortar and pestle. Place barley in a pot and add water until just covered. Boil until barley is mushy (about 30 minutes), adding more water as needed to keep from burning. Let stand (unrefrigerated) until cooled but still warm (about 1 hour). Combine barley porridge with the ground-up wheat berries and another six cups of water. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. Strain (optional) and serve. Add pomegranate juice if desired.

Egyptian Horchata

1 cup tigernuts
4 cups water
¼ cup honey
¼ teaspoon each ground fennel seed and coriander seed

Soak the tigernuts in water until softened (at least 12 hours, or up to 24). Pour the water and tigernuts into a blender. Add honey and and blend into a smooth paste. Smooth the mixture with more water if necessary. Allow the paste to sit in the fridge for an hour to rest. Strain the mixture. Be sure to press all the moisture out of the solids before discarding. Mix in spices and serve.

From Eggs to Apples is hosted by Andrew Coletti (@passtheflamingo) and Fiorella Di Carlo, RN, CDC (@fiorellaeats). Special thanks to Kevin Schreck, Henry Liu, Walden Wang, Huỳnh Nguyễn Tường Băng, Ismail Butera, and Kamilo Kratc. In memory of Bill Mullen.

Join us next week for Episode 3: Ancient Greece!