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Recipes in the Roman mode

April 5, 2000



PUMPKIN IN THE ALEXANDRIAN STYLE

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1 small sugar pumpkin or 1 (15-ounce) can prepared pumpkin

1/2 cup pine nuts, coarsely chopped

1 scant tablespoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

6 fresh mint leaves

1/2 pound pitted dates

1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

3 tablespoons raw, unfiltered honey

1 teaspoon garum (see note) or sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 cup white grape juice

If using fresh pumpkin, cut into pieces, seed, and boil until soft. Drain thoroughly, scrape flesh from skin; mash. Place cooked (or canned) pumpkin in a large bowl. Add salt to taste. Mix in pine nuts and spread mixture evenly into a small, greased, 8-by-8-inch oven-proof dish.

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

In a mortar and pestle or food mill - grind peppercorns, cumin, coriander, and mint leaves.

Coarsely chop dates and hazelnuts. Mix in ground spices, and add honey, vinegar, garum or salt, olive oil, and grape juice. The mixture should be easily spreadable.

Spread mixture over the pumpkin. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until hot and the crust is bubbling.

Note: Modern diners may find this dish quite strong and may prefer to serve it as a condiment to accompany meat, game, or poultry.

PEAR PATINA (CUSTARD)

2 pounds pears (about 4 medium-size)

1 pinch ground pepper

1 pinch ground cumin

1/2 cup honey

1 teaspoon garum (see note) or a pinch of kosher salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 cup white grape juice

3 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel, core, and quarter pears. Place in a small saucepan, cover with water and boil until soft. Drain and mash with remaining ingredients except eggs. Set aside to cool.

Lightly beat eggs, then stir them into the mashed pears. Pour mixture into 8 lightly buttered ramekins. Place ramekins in baking dish and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake until firm and golden on top, about 20 to 25 minutes.

May be served warm or at room temperature. (Texture will be pebbly, somewhat like tapioca.)

Makes 8 servings.

Note: Garum is a liquid seasoning made from fermenting fish in saltwater. The Romans made it from mackerel and put it in everything, often in place of salt. The perfect substitute (basically the same thing) is Nuoc Mam, which may be found in Asian food stores. You may substitute coarse salt (kosher or sea salt) or soy sauce to taste.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society