Pašticada is a long-simmered piece of beef, the kind of beef that would normally be tough and chewy, but when you cook it low and slow melts in your mouth. Flavored with vinegar, fruit, veggies, and spices, it’s a traditional holiday or Sunday night meal,
Basically, you take a big ol’ slab of top round, or silverside in the UK, stick cloves of garlic and pieces of prosciutto inside it, douse it in vinegar, and leave it overnight to marinate. The next day, you quickly sear it Then you roast it with veggies like onion, celery root, carrots, plus prunes, and wine and olive oil. Low and slow in the oven.
When it’s done, as the meat rests, you puree the fruit, veggies, spices, wine, and drippings into a succulent sauce. And serve it all over njoki (gnocchi if you’d rather), which is far easier to make at home than you think.
Every Croatian grandmother has her own recipe; this is one that seems like a winner to me. Since, as I may have mentioned, my wife doesn’t eat red meat, I’m reliant on you to try this out.
Recipe adapted from https://www.petersommer.com/blog/another-bite/pasticada
Rome was entrenched in chaos, until one man took charge, and through sheer force of will - and the army - remade the Empire into a completely new government, one that would last for over a thousand years. Then he retired to farm cabbages, moving into an incredible palace on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, a palace which today forms the core of Split, Croatia's old town.
Rob and Jamie from the Totalus Rankium podcast drop by once again to discuss Diocletian, one of the most significant emperors, whose legacy paved the way to medieval Europe. We dig into the good, like his bureaucratic reforms, the bad, like his persecution of Christians, and the ugly, like his edict on prices.
Listener Hrvoje Tolić calls in to discuss Split, the sights, and the cuisine. Pašticada, a long-marinated beef roast served over njoki, is the recipe of the day.
Ma’amoul (Date Cookies)
Ma’amoul are shortbread cookies, filled with a sweetened date puree, baked until just golden, and dusted with powdered sugar. They are traditionally served for Eid, as a welcome sweet reward following the fasting of Ramadan, and for Easter, as a welcome sweet rewards following the fasting of Lent, for Rosh Hashanah for a sweet new year… Basically, no matter what your religion, in the Levant, if you want a sweet treat, these cookies are your go-to.
Making them traditionally requires two things you likely don’t have, but I’ve got ways to work around those. First, you probably don’t have the traditional wooden mold that you use to shape the cookies - but that’s OK. You can use your palm or anything else you have on hand to mold small cookies. Or you can order one online.
Second, traditionally, these cookies include mahlab, a spice made from cherry pits, which gives an amaretto-like flavor. Easy to find at a Middle East specialty market, but not accessible anywhere else. You can substitute almond extract or just leave it out.
Building the cookies are easy. Mix up the dough, knead it and let it sit.
Pit and chop the dates - I like medjool dates for this, but if you have deglet noor, those work too, they just aren’t as sweet. Letting the dates cook a bit helps to break down the fibers, enrich the spices, and build up the sweetness.
Roll out the dough into little balls, then take one, press it out in your hand, add some dates, and fold the dough around it. If you have a mold, put the cookie into it, press gently to get the shape, and then whap onto the counter to release it. If you don’t have the mold, it’s fine - consider using a fork to make indentations to form a pattern.
Then bake until just golden - do NOT overbake - and dust with powdered sugar.
So good. IF you like dates.
FOR THE DOUGH
FOR THE FILLING
Recipe adapted from https://www.munatycooking.com/maamoul/ Image from the Guardian
In 2015, ISIS terrorists destroyed the Temples of Bel and Baalshemin in the Syrian desert city of Palmyra, temples which had remained in pristine condition since their city's glory days in the 3rd century.
Back then, under the capable leadership of its rulers Odenaethus and the "Warrior Queen" Zenobia, Palmyra rose from wealthy caravan town to leader of the Eastern Mediterranean, taking advantage of the chaos of the Roman Crisis of the Third Century. So. Many. Emperors. So. Much. Chaos.
Scott Chesworth from the Ancient World podcast returns to finish his tale of Roman Syria, discussing how Palmyra challenged two empires, and how they very nearly pulled it off.
Also, listener David Adam recounts his trip to Palmyra before the temples were destroyed; you'll appreciate how he brings the humanity of modern Syrians into the story. And you can see his photos here: https://www.wonderspodcast.com/single-post/2018/07/10/The-Temple-of-Bel-at-Palmyra
The destruction of Palmyra and of Syria has been a great human catastrophe, and by acknowledging and remembering lost Palmyra, we might hope to prevent the next one.
Also, there are cookies! Date-filled cookies, in honor of the date palms that gave Palmyra its name.
Kibbeh are delicious Lebanese dishes made of ground meat (usually beef or lamb), bulgur wheat, onion and spices. Very simple, very delicious. Sometimes kibbeh comes as a baked casserole, like a meatloaf, and sometimes it’s a deep-fried croquette, shaped in balls. Sometimes, it’s eaten raw, like steak tartare.
I genuinely like fried kibbeh best, but it’s pretty similar to falafel in looks, and you might be tired of fried food, so y’know what, we’ll try the baked variety. I think you’ll like it, and maybe your arteries will too!
A couple of things: If you can’t get the meat for the kibbeh layer ground finely from the butcher, you’ll need to grind it super-fine yourself, but if you’re like me, you don’t have a meat grinder lying around. So what to do? You may have to use a food processor to grind it down. Not great, but it’ll do.
Second, the meat will stick to your hands. Having ice cold water on hand to moisten your hands and keep them free from stickiness will help a lot. Just make sure not to get too much water into the meat.
For bulgur mixture (kibbeh)
Recipe adapted from Maureen Abood’s Rose Water and Orange Blossoms (https://www.maureenabood.com/baked-kibbeh-you-say-meatloaf-i-say-meatlove)
Photo from sbs.com.au