Vene, Vidi, Vici. “I came, I saw, I conquered” spoke Caesar. If I spoke latin, the writer in me could only hope that our word play title above means, I came, I added Vinegar and we’ll see if it is good. For that is the approach we took when attempting to drag the Roman epicure, Apicius’ recipe for Tart Potted Salad into the modern age.
Being aware of the general consumer sentiment towards chicken liver and its availability, SK Chef and I adapted Apicius’ recipe one night and shopped for ingredients the following day. In adapting the recipe, we wanted to preserve the “potted look” of an ancient meal, but appeal to main-stream, modern tastes while creating a salute to things Roman. We made some substitutions, including the addition of Romaine Lettuce and grated Pecorino Romano. Both were obvious Roman Choices. We also upped the egg yolks, for visual appeal and swapped out the white bread, for a sliced sourdough. We thought that the robust and flavorful sourdough bread would stand up to the vinegar soaking and also lend some taste and mouth feel. The chicken livers went, in favor of chicken tenderloin sautèed with some olive oil and paprika, a period appropriate spice. We would have preferred thin sliced poblano chilies, but chilies, a product of the new world, were unknown in Rome. Finally, we used actual clay pots (well cleaned and with no drain holes) to capture the spirit of Roman earthenware cookery.
Having low expectations of the recipe from a dead empire, we were pleasantly surprised at the re-creation. While going back in time mentally, eating our Tart Potted Salad was also like doing a culinary archeological dig, spawning new thoughts on history with each layer of ingredients we dug down through. We can certainly say that the experience was interesting, in the best sense of the word and I for one, intend to attempt to recreate the past more often. Our adaptation for Tart Potted Salad which makes 2-3 good sized servings follows.
Smart Kitchen’s Tart Potted Salad
Ingredients for Smart Kitchen’s Tart Potted Salad:
1/4 lb. sourdough bread
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 package of good water packed goat Feta Cheese
1/2 medium cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup pickled capers
1/2 lb. sautèed chicken tenderloin, chopped
1/4 teaspoon of Paprika for flavor and color.
1 poblano pepper, sliced if not attempting Roman Purity
4 Hardboiled egg yolks
To Make The Smart Kitchen Tart Potted Salad
The idea here is to build the salad in layers. Begin by giving the sourdough bread a quick dunk in a mixture of vinegar and water. Remove the bread and let it rest while getting the chicken chopped, sprinkled with paprika and into the sautèe pan. While the chicken is cooking, mold the softened bread into the bottom of the salad bowls (or clay pots) by pressing it down into the dish.
Drizzle a bit of red wine vinegar on the bread layer. Then sprinkle with some of the chopped nuts and arrange the cucumber slices in a layer. Cover the strata with some crumbled feta cheese.
Cover the salad layers built so far with some more nuts. Make another layer with cucumber slices and a bit of cheese, then a fourth layer with pickled capers. About now, we’d be checking the sautèe pan and the chicken. As the tenderloin nears completion, add some more paprika to taste. If you are going to add the poblano chile this is the time to add them too. Give the chicken, paprika and maybe the chilies a bit more alone time and focus again on the salad plates.
Fan a handful of romaine lettuce in the center of your plate as a bed for the soon to be finished chicken. Spoon a portion of chicken tenderloin onto the romaine bed in each plate. Drizzle the chicken with some red wine vinegar and Pecorino Romano. Chill the salads and serve with the following ancient dressing borrowed directly from Apicius:
Ingredients for Smart Kitchen Tart Potted Salad Dressing:
1/2 t. chopped fresh mint
dash of ground pepper
1 t. honey
1 T almonds, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
2 hardboiled egg yolks
1 cup mild cheese, shredded
To Make The Smart Kitchen Tart Potted Salad Dressing:
Combine chopped mint, pepper, and honey with chopped nuts, vinegar, and olive oil. Blend with mashed egg yolks. Pour the dressing over the previously chilled salad, top with shredded cheese and serve. And enjoy the step back in time.