Tasting Life Twice

Author Crystal King muses on life, history, writing and food.

Posts about Recipe:

Sauce for mushrooms - An ancient Roman Recipe from Apicius

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Crystal King Oct 15, 2020 10:00:00 AM
Sauce for mushrooms - An ancient Roman Recipe from Apicius

This is one of the very first recipes that I made when I first started diving into the cookbook Apicius as part of my research for FEAST OF SORROW. It calls for caroneum which is a bit tricky to know exactly what it might have tasted like but it was a reduced grape syrup of some sort. I recommend that you substitute sapa (sometimes called saba) or vincotto, which are essentially just different names for grape must, and either would be delicious in this dish. They are easily acquired at specialty food shops or Amazon.com.

RECIPE: Buffalo Blue Cheese Sourdough Bread

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Crystal King Oct 13, 2020 8:00:00 AM
RECIPE: Buffalo Blue Cheese Sourdough Bread
So you probably know me as someone who loves historical food and recipes, but I love to bake and cook in general, and I'm lucky that I have a husband who also loves to cook. I tend to do most of the baking though, and oh do I love a good loaf of bread. I'm a bit late to the #covidcooking sourdough craze but better late than never, right? 

The Best Sugar Cookies In the World

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Crystal King Mar 28, 2020 4:22:11 PM
The Best Sugar Cookies In the World

My grandfather, whom we called Papa, loved to bake. He loved to make cookies, pies, cakes. And he loved to send big huge care packages to us from four hundred miles away full of his favorite treats. My mother learned to make many of his favorites and passed them on to my sister and I. There are many that I love, but this particular recipe is the one I love the best. They are also some of the simplest cookies to make, with only a few ingredients. 

Turkey with Pomegranate Sauce: A Renaissance Recipe

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Crystal King Nov 11, 2019 8:00:00 AM
Turkey with Pomegranate Sauce: A Renaissance Recipe
Turkey, a Delicacy 500 Years Ago

The first turkey recipes appear in the Italian cookbook in L'Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi (who happens to be the protagonist in my novel, The Chef's Secret). Turkeys found their way to Italy during the Renaissance, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the century that they were deemed suitable for eating. As you might know, turkeys are a bird native to the Americas and were prized by the ancient Aztecs and Native Americans alike. Christopher Columbus noted the bird when he first came to America, but it wasn't until around 1519 when Spanish and Italian explorers first brought turkeys to Europe. Initially they were regarded as a beautiful and strange oddity, and many nobles kept them as pets or gave them to others as extravagant gifts. They were loved for their unique look, with artists depicting them in sculpture and paintings. The sculpture you see here, by Italian sculptor Giambologna, is from 1560, of the prized pet of Cosimo di Medici. The Italians called them gallo d'India (or birds of India) because of general geographical confusion  by early explorers. Eventually, however, turkeys became even more loved for their delicious and unusual flavor.  

Tortellini with Peas

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Crystal King Oct 17, 2019 5:21:00 PM
Tortellini with Peas

One of my favorite things about writing THE CHEF'S SECRET was trying my hand at some of Bartolomeo Scappi's recipes. L’Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi includes some of the first recipes resembling what we know as pasta today, including stuffed pasta such as tortellini and tortelli. It was a fun challenge trying to figure out how to make this recipe, from Book II.252 of L’Opera, work. The dough, which is made with with sugar and rosewater but no oil, is a bit softer and more pliable than what is common today. The spices lend themselves well to the peas, however, and this makes a perfect spring dish. But if you are like me, and love peas any time of the year, by all means, go with the frozen peas. It's still a delightful and surprising dish!

Scappi's Braised Beef - An Interpretation of a Renaissance Recipe

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Crystal King Aug 25, 2018 12:02:00 PM
Scappi's Braised Beef - An Interpretation of a Renaissance Recipe

Renaissance chef (and character in my second novel), Bartolomeo Scappi, wrote a cookbook that was released in 1570 and was one of the most reprinted cookbooks over the next two hundred years. One of the most wonderful things about his cookbook, The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, is that it is still very accessible today. There are exceptions, for example, modern audiences would not be interested in some of the meats (hedgehog or blackbird anyone?), and many of the items are not readily available or, like his feathered peacock, are too elaborate too make.

Fortunately, many of his recipes are are still pretty easy to figure out. Like this one for braised beef:

Tasting the Past: An Ancient Roman Recipe for Parthian Chicken

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Crystal King Aug 10, 2017 10:28:32 AM
Tasting the Past: An Ancient Roman Recipe for Parthian Chicken

When researching my book, FEAST OF SORROW, one of the fun bits was trying out various recipes and experiencing the flavors of ancient Roman food. The book is about Apicius, a first century Roman whose name appears as the title of the oldest known cookbook.

One of the recipes in Apicius is for Parthian chicken. Parthia was part of ancient Persia, now in a region of north-eastern Iran. Much to my delight, it turns out that the Parthians really knew how to make chicken. Hands down this is one of the best chicken dishes I've ever had. It's juicy and tender with a perfectly crispy crust. 

Honey in Ancient Rome

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Crystal King Jul 2, 2015 7:09:20 AM
Honey in Ancient Rome

Back in 1987, archaeologists discovered a treasure trove in a floor drain of the Roman Forum. This "treasure" was 86 loose teeth, all intact but with cavities in various stages. Three decades later, they've finally determined that they were all extracted by a highly skilled dentist of the time.  Also of interest, up in England, researchers have pinpointed the advanced stages of dental decay in a young Roman toddler, to excessive consumption of honey.
Medicine was quite advanced in Ancient Greece and  Rome. Surgeons regularly practiced lobotomies, Caesarean sections (didn't you ever wonder where that name came from?) and amputations, and were the inventors of tools such as forceps, catheters, scalpels and bone drills. Along with all of this fancy "technology" the Romans also relied heavily on herbs and the beneficial properties of food. Pliny writes (in addition to telling us how bees manage their colonies) that honey is good for afflictions of the mouth, pneumonia, pleurisy and snake bites.

Glykinai - Sweet Wine Cakes (Crackers)

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Crystal King Mar 6, 2013 1:13:36 PM
Glykinai - Sweet Wine Cakes (Crackers)

This is an ancient cracker recipe from Athenaeus, a rhetorician and grammarian who lived in Rome in the 3rd century AD. This recipe is a delightful, snacky interpretation of a cracker that was most likely served at taverns in ancient Greece and Rome. The original recipe doesn't give us much direction, but they were likely somewhat similar to the recipe below.
Glykinai: "The cakes from Crete made with sweet wine and olive oil.”  - Athenaeus in The Deipnosophistae

Palathai - Easy, Quick and Delicious Fig Cakes

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Crystal King Feb 19, 2013 7:25:18 PM
Palathai - Easy, Quick and Delicious Fig Cakes

This is, without a doubt, one of the easiest recipes you could ever try your hand at making. These cakes are still made in Egypt and Turkey, and have been around since early Greek and Roman times.  You can find similar fig cakes sold at cheese shops and Whole Foods for ridiculously astronomical prices for what they are.
A 10th century encyclopedia, the Suda Lexicon, chronicles the ancient recipe as:

Learning More About Renaissance Chef Bartolomeo Scappi

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Crystal King Feb 18, 2013 5:32:10 AM
Learning More About Renaissance Chef Bartolomeo Scappi

As readers of this blog already know, the novel I'm currently writing is about yet another cook, Bartolomeo Scappi, who was a Renaissance chef to several cardinals and Popes. The BBC has a great special called Carluccio & The Renaissance Cookbook which aired a few years back. You can check it out here though.


Fascinating! Looks like I'll have to go to Dumenza at some point to check out the Scappi menu at that restaurant! In the meantime, I'll definitely be trying that risotto and the mushroom tart!

Parthian Chicken

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Crystal King Feb 11, 2013 12:14:11 PM
Parthian Chicken

When researching my book, FEAST OF SORROW, one of the fun bits was trying out various ancient recipes. The book is about Apicius, a first century Roman whose name appears as the title of the oldest known cookbook. One of the recipes in Apicius is for Parthian chicken. Parthia was part of ancient Persia, now in a region of north-eastern Iran. Much to my delight, it turns out that the Parthians really knew how to make chicken. Hands down this is one of the best chicken dishes I've ever had. It's juicy and tender with a perfectly crispy crust. The original recipe calls for a spice called silphium (also called laser) which went extinct in the first century. Emperor Nero is rumored to have had the last sprig.  Asafoetida powder or resin, common to Middle Eastern cooking, is believed to be the closest approximation to the taste. If you can't find that, just substitute garlic.

Crunchy Tasty Dormice

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Crystal King Jul 9, 2012 11:37:26 AM
Crunchy Tasty Dormice

In my novel, one of the treats served up by Apicius to his guests (from De  Re Coquinaria, Chapter IX, 396) is stuffed dormice. They were generally eaten as snacks and were a favorite at the tabernas and popinas (taverns and bars) but were also popular with the upper class. Nowadays the lucky little dormouse isn't eaten (although apparently they are still in Slovenia!) but way back then they were often stuffed, fried and eaten whole, bones and all. Below is the recipe found in the cookbook which bears Apicius' name.

Food for the Gods - Roman Honey Cakes

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Crystal King Jun 25, 2012 3:38:32 AM
Food for the Gods - Roman Honey Cakes

Awhile back I posted on one of my blogs about Roman honey cakes, which were primarily used as sacrificial cakes, but versions may have also been used as a snack in the tabernas and popinas.
Sally Grainger is one of the most well-known food historians, especially when it comes to the recipe book that bears Apicius' name. She is also the co-author of The Classical Cookbook, and in that book there is a recipe for Libum, a classic ancient sacrificial cake, first mentioned in Cato's On Agriculture.