Bonus Episode! We have a running joke on this podcast about Demetrius Poliorcetes, Besieger of Cities. Despite having failed spectacularly at besieging Rhodes, he left a remarkable legacy across the Hellenistic world. Well, as a Christmas treat, I give you his full story.
There is no full-length modern history of Demetrius, and there ought to be. He went from young upstart general to savior-god of Athens to death in a prison cell. Very few people had the ups and downs of this man, and in the process, he experienced many of our wonders in a way that few people have. And in a very real way, his story is our story, for good or for bad.
Many thanks to Plutarch for the primary material. And Happy Holidays!
Moutabel* is a smoky eggplant (or aubergine) dip from the Levant which is particularly popular in Jordan. You would enjoy this with warm pita bread as part of a mezze, a large spread of appetizers like hummus, tabouleh, and other delicious taste sensations.
What makes moutabel different from baba ghanoush is the addition of tahini, that almost peanut buttery sesame paste. This makes moutabel significantly smoother in texture, which I like, without overwhelming the eggplant and garlic.
The key to successful eggplant spreads is the cooking. Flame-grilled is the best way to go, but roasting in an oven is fine too. It’s important not only to make sure the skin is blackened all over but that the eggplant has basically been cooked into a soft goo. If you think it’s done, it’s probably not done. The more you cook out the liquid and break down the fibers, the better your dip will be.
I’ll be honest - I’m giving this recipe now, but I won’t try it myself until the summer. Getting a perfect ripe eggplant makes a huge difference, and this is really a summery dip, with the bright lemon and garlic. So save this for later, OR if you’re one of my Australian or New Zealander listeners, enjoy RIGHT NOW! And then, let me know how it is!
Photograph from: http://bennydoro.com/chef/recipes/moutabal-roasted-eggplant-dip/ since I haven't made it myself yet.
* Moutabel, or moutabal, or muttabal, or mutabbal - I’ve seen all of these, and if anyone can tell me a really good transliteration, I sure would appreciate it.
Lost city of the Nabataeans, the rock-cut city of Petra has been rightfully celebrated as a Wonder of the World, at least since that Indiana Jones movie. But the story is well worth telling. We'll talk about the Nabataeans, their caravans, and their run-ins with the Greeks, Romans and Judeans. We'll meet Pompey the Pompous. And we'll eat Bedouin classics from underground pit ovens.
Stephanie Craig from the History Fangirl podcast shares her experiences traveling in Jordan. For such a small country, there's so much there. You will have chosen wisely to download this episode. Enjoy!
This is the easiest pasta to make, and the easiest pasta to mess up. There are four ingredients:
You’d think this would be so easy. I mean, it’s basically Roman mac n’ cheese. But you’d be surprised how easy it is to get really greasy or clumpy or both. You’re trying to make a creamy sauce from a hard cheese. But it can be done!
Here’s secret one: grate the Pecorino as fine as you can. The finer it is, the easier it will emulsify into your sauce.
Secret two: save a little pasta water - that’s the water you cook your pasta in. Makes a huge difference in making your sauce silky since the water contains starch, which will again help to emulsify.
Secret three: don’t try to make this a one-pot dish. You’ll end up overcooking the cheese, which leads to lumps. Instead try this. Cook your spaghetti in well-salted water. And yes, spaghetti really is the winner here. Not so thin that it falls apart, but not so thick that portions get uncovered in sauce. Short pastas would be less appealing here too. Before you drain your pasta, be sure to save a cup or so of your pasta water.
OK. Now add the warm pasta water to a separate pot with your finely grated cheese, about 2 cups or 110 grams. Stir until it’s all completely melty and beautiful. If it looks as though it’s breaking, add a little more pasta water. Then tong in the pasta and mix it all up so it’s all coated. Buon appetito!
Back for Part II! Nitin Sil from the Flash Point History podcast joins me to discuss the Second Punic War, Hannibal, and Scipio. Was Hannibal crossing the Alps really a big deal? How did Rome win in the end?
I also talk about mathematician and defense contractor extraordinaire Archimedes and his antique death ray!
Plus, finally, a play-by-play of the Roman Forum, how to stroll the streets of modern Rome, and enjoying pecorino romano cheese. If you don't crave spaghetti cacio e pepe now, you will!