Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mixtura, Moretum, and the New York Times

Greetings, all!  Don't miss  "You Probably Don't Want to Look in the Crisper..."-- a New York Times Magazine article that features an exploration of the refrigerators of 11 New York chefs.  There are some strange items in those refrigerators...along with a surprising amount of expensive champagne.

Today we will revisit two dishes from earlier in the semester-- feta, sesame, and honey "pizza" and the herb and cheese dip Mixtura cum Caseo.  Here they are:

Mixtura cum Caseo
Mixtura contains feta, olive oil, and various greens-- leeks, lettuce, arugula, basil, mint, thyme, coriander...

The sesame-feta-honey  pizzas (Staititai) are made slightly differently from ours-- the dough is similar to our pizza dough, but instead of baking it, you shallow-fry the rolled out disks of dough in in olive oil before adding the toppings.

 To the right, the dough divided into 4 disks before rolling out on a lightly floured surface.  And below, the finished pizza, topped with a mix of chevre and feta cheeses, drizzled with honey, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. 

We will also try an amazing dip called Moretum.  As is the case with Mixtura, there are a number of variations one can make, substituting different kinds of cheeses and flavorings.  Unlike most ancient Roman recipes, this one includes garlic.  I used the recipe from Laura Kelley's The Silk Road Gourmet, which she in turn got from a restaurant I would love to visit:  Hostaria Antica Roma.  It is not the most attractive dish, especially as photographed here in a plastic tub, on its way to class, but it is fantastic.
Moretum, a minimalist version.
Here is the recipe:

4-6 medium cloves garlic (more or less as desired)
1/2 pound Romano cheese, grated (could use parmesan)
½ teaspoon salt (or as desired)
2-3 teaspooons of fennel seeds, ground
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (more as needed for consistency)
Grind garlic along with the salt in a mortar and pestle or food processor, and then add the grated Romano cheese and blend thoroughly. Add the olive oil as needed for the consistency of a smooth paste.* Garlic Flavor will be less strong if it is allowed to sit for several hours or overnight. 

Optional ingredients for this amount of moretum can also include: a small to medium bunch of cilantro, chopped; ¼ cup chopped celery and two tablespoons of young rue or fennel leaves. If herbs are added, the consistency will have to be adjusted with the addition of more olive oil. Serve room temperature or slightly cool. 

*I decided to try a trick I learned  while researching hummus-- grinding or blending in some ice water, a little at a time, to lighten the consistency.  It worked very well. It may look like mashed potatoes in the photo, but it has a much lighter, smoother texture.

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