ODE TO THE PAST (with the occasional nod to the present)

Cook like the ancients

July 5, 2015

Tags: food, ancient world, paleo diet

Some people jog. Some do yoga. Others tend to their gardens.

I cook.

Cooking is my zen moment, the meditation that clears the cobwebs. There's something about the scent of garlic in hot oil, or the rhythmic chopping of celery, or the soft pops as a tomato sauce bubbles that puts me in the moment. (Well, a glass of wine doesn't hurt, either.)

Food somehow works its way into other areas of my life, too. Recently, I taught a class about the ancient world at Florida Atlantic University and discussed, among other things, the benefits of the paleo diet consumed by our ancestors. Paleo (old in Greek) just means a return to whole foods, whole grains, smart protein, and a general adherence to hunter-gatherer food principles. In other words, if the earth didn't give it, don't put it on your plate.

For my class, I gave a handout with recipes, which I'll also share in this space. Below are two of my favorites ... and, yes, I have tried them in my kitchen and can vouch for their meditative value!


ETHIOPIAN SPICED LENTILS

Ingredients:

Half an onion, cut into small pieces
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
Small sweet potatoes
1/4 red pepper, cut into small pieces
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red lentils
1-2 tsp tomato puree
1 cup water
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chopped coriander
1/4 tsp pimento
1/4 tsp powdered cinnamon
1/4 tsp fenugreek
1/4 tsp ginger powder
Salt
Soy sauce
Cracked black pepper

Instructions:
Brown the onion, the garlic, the ginger and the potatoes in extra virgin olive oil on a medium heat until the onions are almost transparent. Add the red pepper and brown for 1 minute. Add the lentils, the tomato puree and the water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the paprika, the coriander, the pimento, the cinnamon, the fenugreek and the ginger powder and let boil for 20 minutes or until the lentils have become tender and the water has been absorbed. Add the salt, the soy sauce and the black pepper and serve.

Source: lucianopignataro.com


GREEK NUT CAKE

Ingredients:

1 cup shelled almonds
1 cup hazelnuts
1 tbsp bitter almonds (if not available, you can use regular almonds)
2 tbsp poppy seeds
cup sesame seeds
7 tbsp honey
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
Olive oil

Instructions:
Preheat the oven at 350 F. Mix all the nuts and bake them for a few minutes in the oven. Do the same for the sesame seeds and then let them cool down. In a small pot let 3 tablespoons of honey simmer for about 7 minutes, add the sesame seeds, mix well. Let it cool enough so that you can handle it, pour it on an oily surface and knead into a ball. Separate it into 2 pieces, roll 1 piece out with a rolling pin into a thin sheet that will fit in a shallow pan. Place the sheet on the bottom of the pan. Put all the nuts with the pepper in a blender or mixer and mix well for about 1 to 2 minutes. Boil the rest of the honey for 7 minutes and then add all the nuts and mix well. While it is still hot, pour the nut and honey mixture in the pan on top of the sesame layer. Spread evenly. Roll the other piece of sesame seed dough onto a sheet and cover the nut mixture. Let it cool for 1 hour and then cut it into small pieces.

Source: The Classical Cookbook, Dalby and Grainger

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