A Mediterranean Feast
Clifford A. Wright. William Morrow and Co, Inc. 1999.
Travel, travel back in time to February 2001.
A price generally out of my range (under $10) for books I wanted for no good reason they …booklust.
BUT – Waldenbooks sent me a birthday gift coupon.
Thank you Waldenbooks, even though my patronage couldn’t keep you in the black…
Walden books also sent me a 5 buck certificate because of my Christmas spending – books being an Aunties best gift.
Soo – I went birthday shopping for me to Waldenbook. I took a really long time trying to figure out the best bang for my meager buck. The woman working that night knew me – my son and I were regulars. When I finally decided I would spend the money and buy the book I really, really for no logical reason wanted , I heighed me ho to the counter.
Put down the book.
Put down the 5 buck certificate.
Put down the Birthday coupon.
Put down my credit card.
She looked at the stack. Asked me when my birthday was…then she said she was going to give me a frequent customer discount…… total cost :
Happy Birthday to me!
It was a Thursday night…..and I had Fridays off, so after the boy was tucked into bed I started reading.
“ As you read the book, I hope that you will let it inform your culinary thinking, your sense of history, but I hope you will also cook from it. This is the whole point of the book: to cook the food. ….. If you are not a cook or are not a confident cook, taste an olive, read a little, and you will start to tackle the simpler recipes and perhaps gain what the Arabs call al-nafas , the culinary equivalent of the gardener’s green thumb.”
Oh, yes this was such a good choice….Oh, Clifford Wright!
Part 1: The Algebra of Mediterranean Gastronomy
Chapter 1 “The Historical Foundation of Mediterranean Gastronomy”
On page 3 there is a cabbage soup recipe…but it called for 2 cabbages – red and green, as well as pancetta and prosciutto, but also beans and potatoes, a real kitchen sink sort of soup. I have made this since then, but not the first night I read the book.
Page 15 this recipe…
This is essentially old fashioned endless stew (from the Old French aeuller, to replenish. Among the ingredients is ¾ of a pound of Savoy cabbage. I thought “I have a half of cabbage in the fridge”….so I got up and made sure.
Bean, leek, thyme – I put them on the table. One pound of potatoes – weighed out and also on the table. Cabbage – still in the fridge and fit to go. I picked through my small white beans and put ¼ pound of them on to soak.
In the morning, it being my day off, after I drank my coffee, I put the beans in my soup pot with 6 quarts of water, some dried thyme and a 2 bay leaves (they were small) and brought it to a boil.
I was lugging the book, all 800 plus pages of it around the kitchen, checking the recipe, which was simplicity itself, while also reading ahead.
While the beans simmered, I took the last large leek, a good sized chunk of salt pork (it calls for 6 ounces and this piece was close enough for horseshoes) cut them all to a dice and added to the beans at the one hour mark. I usually brown leeks and salt pork, but once begun….The directions warn you not to wander away because you need to stir occasionally, and I thought of how thoughtful Mr. Wright was….and took out some olives to snack on…..
I sliced the cabbage and peeled and diced the potatoes so that they were ready to add ½ hour after the leek went in. Tasted for seasoning, add lots of pepper and some salt, then the cabbage and potatoes.
10 or 15 minutes later all was tender and good. This is the part to add some goose of duck fat, which is not an uncommon grease to find in my fridge….some people collect Hummels, I collect grease. What, I should pour it down the drain? Anyhow, if it wasn’t fowl fat, it was some olive oil that I floated on top. Cabbage, like it’s turnip cousin, really needs to served well lubricated.
And thus, lunch was served.
With leftovers for lunch throughout the week.
Vincenco Campi , Cucina, p. 359