Selections from "The Philosopher's
Kitchen: Recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook"
by Francine Segan
(as heard in the Greece
Chickpea Dip With Grilled Pita (serves 8)
Sappho, referred to as the "tenth Muse,"
was often quoted in ancient literature. Unfortunately, only fragments
of her poetry have survived. This dish is inspired by one such fragment
and by the many delicious chickpea purees found on the island of
Lesbos. Sappho's birthplace.
Alexis, the fourth-century B.C. playwright, joked,
"How many traps to catch bread do unhappy mortals set?,"
referring to the many dipping appetizers served before a Greek feast.
This puree makes a wonderful "trap" for warm pita or flatbreads
and is also delicious served on a bed of salad greens.
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, rinsed,
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon freshly milled pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1+1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
6 pita breads
3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1. Sauté the onion in 1/4 cup of the oil in
a large saucepan over medium heat until golden, about 10 minutes.
Add the chicpeas, oregano, bay leaf, pepper, salt, and stock. Bring
to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the chickpeas are tender
and the stock has been absorbed, about 1 hour. Allow to cool slightly.
Discard the bay leaf.
2. Put the mixture in a food processor along with
the garlic, lemon juice, and remaining 1/4 cup of oil. Pulse until
combined but still coarse. Place on a plate.
3. Preheat the grill or broiler. Grill or broil the
pita breads until warm, about 1 minute per side. Cut into triangles
and arrange them around the dip.
4. Serve the chickpea dip topped with the lemon zest
and fresh mint.
Herbed Olive Puree (serves 10)
Cato, the Roman orator and statesman, wrote a book
about small farm management in which he detailed a recipe for chopped
olives mixed with herbs and spices eaten at the start of a meal.
This modern version is not only wonderful as a dip with pita bread
but also delicious tossed with cooked spaghetti.
|1/2 cup pitted oil-cured black olives
|1/2 cup pitted large green olives
|1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
|1 garlic clove, minced
|10 fresh mint leaves
|1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
|1 teaspoon fennel seeds
|1 teaspoon ground cumin
|1 teaspoon ground coriander
|1/4 cup minced assorted fresh herbs, such as
parsley, mint, and basil
|6 pita breads, warmed and cut into quarters
1. Puree the olives, onion, garlic, mint leaves, oil,
fennel seeds, cumin, and coriander in a food processor until smooth.
Place the puree in a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and
set aside at room temperature for at least 6 hours.
2. Before serving, stir well, top with the minced
herbs, and place on a plate with the warm pita bread sections.
Candy Nut Chews (makes 2 pounds chews)
Referred to as "the cake doctor" by ancient
writers, Chrysippus is the author of a first-century B.C. Greek
cookbook, Bread-Making. His book included recipes for many
varieties of breads and desserts, such as cheese bread, spiced wine
cake, pine nut cake, and these wonderful nut chews Chysippus said
originated on the Greek island of Crete.
|1 cup finely chopped walnuts
|1 cup finely chopped blanched hazelnuts
|1 cup finely chopped blanched almonds
|1/2 cup sugar
|2 cups honey
|2 teaspoons freshly milled five-color peppercorns
|1 tablespoon ground cardamom
|1/4 cup sesame seeds
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Place the nuts
on a nonstick baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 8 to
2. Bring the sutgar, honey, pepper and cardamom to
a boil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the
mixture reaches 220° F on a candy thermometer.
3. Mix in the nuts and continue cooking, stirring
frequently, for another 10 minutes, or until the candy pulls away
from the sides of the pan and reaches 280° F. Remove from the
4. Line a large nonstick baking sheet with parchment.
5. Using 2 well-greased teaspoons, drop the nut mixture
onto the parchment 1 teaspoonful at a time, being careful not to
touch the mixture because it is very hot. Allow 2 inches between
the candies because they will spread as they cool.
6. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and allow the chews
to dry, about 30 minutes.
7. The chews can be stored on parchment paper in an
airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
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