Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Renaissance Italian Lunch

For a local SCA event, I was asked to provide a lunch. I wanted to do something based on late 16th century Venetian cookery. I did some searching online, and found out about Bartolomeo Scappi, who published an enormous cookbook in 1570. I found menus and recipes online at various places.

I will be the first to admit that the food I do is period inspired, not period accurate. My first concern is to provide a tasty, filling, and fulfilling meal that doesn't scream modern. I realize I am cooking modern ingredients for a modern palette, and first and foremost, must have happy customers. I do like to push the palette a little, making food that is familiar, but still different.

I decided on a menu of spiced chicken, salad of mixed greens and edible flowers with a simple vinaigrette, a cheese and herb pie, and Neapolitan pizza for dessert.

The recipe that I used for inspiration called for the chicken to be boiled, then have a mix of sugar and spices sprinkled on. This was an appropriate way to treat a 16th century chicken, but not a good approach to a modern bird. I decided to grill chicken breasts, and I made a mix of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, and kosher salt to season them.

The salad was half a commercial spring mix, and half fresh lettuce, arugula, basil, and edible flowers from a friends garden. Salad dressings in the 16th century tend toward simple vinaigrette. The original recipe called for red wine vinegar. I didn't have any in my pantry, so used a mix of balsamic and white wine vinegars. That was combined with olive oil, salt, and black pepper.

The pies were a standard 3-2-1 pie crust with a filling of ricotta and fresh basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley. They were brushed with an egg wash, to get a nice color. Both the salad and pies were based on items mentioned in a lunch menu by Scappi.

The Neapolitan pizza, really a fruit tart, had a base of pie crust that was blind baked. The filling was a paste of almonds, pine nuts, fresh figs (from the garden of the friend that provided the greens), dried dates, raisins, cinnamon, sugar, and eggs. We spread that over the crust, and garnished it with slices of dates and pine nuts. We baked it until the filling set., then sprinkled them with rose water.

I think this lunch went well. It was simple, but balanced and filling. I was very happy with the pizza. It was rich and sweet, and had a great texture.


Grilled Sugar and Spice Chicken

4 large chicken breasts
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Mix together sugar and spices.

Pat breasts dry. Liberally sprinkle both sides of breasts with sugar and spice mix. Place on a medium hot grill. Allow to cook 6 - 10 minutes, then turn over. Cook another 6 - 10 minutes, until a good color on both sides, and about 90% done. Move to top rack to finish, until breast is cooked through, but not dry.

Italian Vinaigrette

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a liquid tight container. Shake vigorously, until ingredients form an emulsion.

Ricotta and Herb Pies

For crust:
9 oz. by wt. flour
6 oz. by wt. butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and chilled
3 oz. by vol. ice water
1 tsp. kosher salt

Sift together flour and salt. Cut butter into flour, until it resembles course crumbs. Add ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until dough just clings together. Roll into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.

For filling:
3 cups ricotta
1/2 cup chiffonaded fresh basil
1/2 cup rough chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. kosher salt.

In a bowl, thoroughly mix together all ingredients.

For pies:
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup cold water

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut two three inch circles per pie. Place one teaspoon of filling in the center of each bottom crust. With a finger, wet edge of bottom crust with water. Place on top crust. Use a fork to crimp edges together. Transfer to an ungreased sheet pan. brush each pie with beaten egg.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until crust is cooked and golden brown. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Neapolitan Pizza

1 1/2  recipes of above pie crust
9 oz. by wt. Almonds
6 oz. by wt. Pine nuts
4 1/2 oz. by wt. Dried dates
4 1/2 oz. by wt. Fresh figs
4 1/2 oz. by wt. Raisins
6 eggs, beaten
9 oz. by wt. Sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. rose water

Pre-heat oven to 350 F

Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil. Spray lightly with oil. Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to lined pan. Cover with wax paper, then press another half sheet pan onto dough. Bake for ten minutes. Remove from oven, and remove top pan and wax paper. Let cool slightly.

In a food processor, grind almonds to course crumbs. Transfer to a bowl. In the same processor, grind together figs, dates, and raisins. Stir into nuts. Add sugar, eggs, and cinnamon. Thoroughly mix together.

Spread filling in even layer over crust. Bake 20 minutes, or until filling is firm.

Remove from oven. With a pastry brush, lightly sprinkle pizza with rose water.

Happy Eating!

No comments:

Post a Comment