Category Archives: renaissance and baroque

Chickpea Flatbread with Olives

Chickpea Flatbread with Olives

In his 1474 Renaissance cookbook, On Right Pleasure and Good Health, Platina describes the variety of olives and their different culinary applications. On olives – there are several kinds of olives: the preserving kind, the long olive, the oblong olive, which is best preserved of all olives, as Varro says, the Salentine, and the Spanish. They are eaten with fish and roasted meats so as either to dispel squeamishness or induce appetite.

On the chick-pea: The chick-pea is salty, and therefore it burns the soil and ought not to be sown unless it has been soaked the day before.

1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup water
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup chopped green olives
3 tablespoons chopped rosemary
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Set an oven rack 6-inches below your oven’s broiler.

In a large bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in the water, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Whisk in olive oil. Let sit for 30 minutes.

When the batter is finished resting, place a large skillet in the top rack of the oven for about 5 minutes.

Remove the skillets from the oven using oven mitts. Add 1 teaspoon or so of olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Pour in the batter, making sure it coats the entire surface of the pan.

Top with the olives, rosemary and cheese and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, the edges should begin to brown.

Cut into thin slices and serve drizzled with olive oil.

Serves 6

Hazelnut Cake

Hazelnut Cake

Platina, in his 1474 Renaissance cookbook, On Right Pleasure and Good Health, writes on sugar – Sugar comes not only from Arabia and India but also from Crete and Sicily. Pliny calls it the honey collected from cane. The whiter it is, the better. It is good for the stomach and soothes whatever discomforts there are. By melting it, we make hazelnuts and many other things into sweets.

¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup ground hazelnuts
1 stick butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Butter and flour an 8×2 ½-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and ground hazelnuts together until well combined. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, fully incorporating each into the mixture and stopping to scrape down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.

Slowly add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly with a spatula.

Bake for about 28 to 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let the cake rest for about 10 minutes before unmolding. Remove the parchment and cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with fresh blackberries or raspberries.

Serves 8 to 10

Grilled Cauliflower with Lemon and Thyme


Grilled Cauliflower with Lemon and Thyme

Cauliflower was introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century and, though rare in French cooking, held an honorable place in gardens because of their beauty delicacy. They were written about by the gardener and scientist Olivier de Serres’ in his 1600 book Théàter de l’agriculture (Theater of Agriculture) and are featured in La Varenne’s 1653 cookbook Le cuisinier francois (The French Cook). Cauliflower’s popularity grew when the its biggest fan, Louis XIV, demanded that it be served on the grand banquet tables of Versailles.

1 large head cauliflower
½ stick butter, diced
1 small shallot, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
zest of one lemon
salt and pepper

Prepare the lemon thyme sauce. Combine the butter, shallots, olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and lemon zest in medium saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until the butter melts and the sauce is well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove leaves and trim stem of cauliflower, leaving the core intact. Place cauliflower, core side down, on a work surface. Starting at the middle of the cauliflower, slice from top to bottom into four ½-inch “steaks”, reserving any florets that break loose.

Prepare a grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil grate. Brush the cauliflower steaks on both sides with the lemon thyme sauce and season with salt and pepper. Grill until tender and charred in spots, about 5 minutes per side.

Transfer the vegetables to a platter, heat any remaining sauce and drizzle it over the cauliflower. Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve.

Serves 4

Oasis Leek Pie

oasis leek pie

Oasis Leek Pie

I have lots of favorite cookbooks but Salvador Dali’s Les Diners de Gala, first published in 1973, is not only my favorite but one of my most prized possessions. Decadent, indulgent, completely bizarre and all around fun, many of the recipes come from of the legendary Parisian restaurants Maxim’s and La Tour d’Argent. The recipes are old school French but the presentation is surrealism at its finest. This recipe instructs to sculpt a palm tree out of a leek and place it in the pie before serving. The image on the left is from Dali’s book, the other from an ArtBites class.

For the tart:
one 12-inch savory pie crust (store bought or home made – for homemade recipe scroll down)
olive oil
2 ½ pounds leeks, white and light green parts only
¼ cup Gruyere cheese, grated
½ cup milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper

If using a store bought pie crust bake in the lower third of the oven until the edges of the pastry are golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Set aside one leek for decoration. Finely slice and rinse the others. Cook the leeks in olive oil until tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the egg and egg yolk, then whisk in the milk and cream and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the leeks evenly over the pastry and pour the custard mixture over it. Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake it in the bottom third of the oven at 325° F until the top is golden and puffed and the custard is cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven. Sculpt a palm tree out of the remaining leek, place in the center of the pie and serve warm.

For the homemade pie crust:
1 ¼ cups flour, plus extra for rolling
1 stick unsalted butter, very cold, cut into ½ inch cubes
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
3 or 4 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add ice water one tablespoons at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a little more water and pulse again. Be careful because too much water will make the crust tough.

Remove the dough from the food processor and shape into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Remove the crust disk from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick.

Carefully place onto a 12-inch pie plate, gently press the dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate and trim the dough to within ½ inch of the edge of the pie dish and freeze for at least half and hour, until chilled.

Preheat your oven to 350° F. When the pie crust is sufficiently chilled, line the pie crust with parchment paper and fill at least two-thirds full with pie weights – dry beans or rice will do. Bake with weights for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool a few minutes and remove pie weights. Poke small holes in the bottom of the pie crust with a fork and return to oven (without the weights) and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the crust is golden. Cool completely before filling and follow instructions above.

Serves 6 to 8