Chef Amicius In The Kitchen: Channeling my Inner Apicius

This week, in honor of the soon-to-be-published novel FEAST OF SORROW by our very own Crystal King, we are trying out recipes from the cookbook she is releasing as a companion to her debut. I love to cook, or I should say I loved to cook, until I moved to New York. Then I admit I got into a bit of a slump, tempted by take-out and frustrated by the size of my tiny kitchen. Trying out a new recipe, especially one that is quite unlike the things I usually cook, was the perfect remedy. I’m back!!

I highly recommend stepping out of your cooking comfort zone and giving a recipe inspired by ancient Rome a try! Crystal’s collection is called A TASTE OF FEAST OF SORROW, and the recipe I tried was fabulous!!

From the many delicious options in this collection, I chose “Fritatta with Pignoli Sauce,” a frittata with ricotta and mushrooms and the accompanying sauce made of pine nuts and walnut oil, a recipe created by Chef Charles Draghi at Erbaluce in Boston, MA. I cooked this meal in about 45 minutes and – spoiler alert!! – it turned out so well, if I may say so myself!! It was absolutely delicious!

I started by assembling the ingredients I needed. Full disclosure: I used some of the substitutions allowed, such as using Thai fish sauce in place of garum. I got everything I needed together, chopped up the herbs (parsley, thyme, celery leaves, and mint) and then started by making the sauce. I used my trusty Cuisinart mini-food processor instead of a traditional mortar, and it worked very well!

Once I had all my ingredients ready to go, I made the sauce. I combined pine nuts, walnut oil, fresh thyme leaves, pepper, and garlic in the bowl of my mini-mixer and let it whirl. Then I allowed the sauce to sit for an hour, as suggested by the recipe. It has a truly yummy, nutty flavor.

Then it was time to make the egg mixture, which involved separating out the yolks and mixing the chopped up herbs into the egg whites by hand – so easy. Then I simply mixed the ricotta into the egg whites, along with the remaining ingredients (freshly ground pepper and Thai fish sauce).

Meanwhile, I cooked the mushrooms and garlic in walnut oil. At this point, my kitchen was starting to smell really good!!

Now it was time to cook the eggs. I poured the egg mixture (minus the yolks) into the pan, right on top of the mushrooms.

I covered it and cooked it on medium-low heat until the egg became firm (but still a little jiggly in the middle).

After the whites and ricotta were cooked, I poured the egg yolk on top and covered it again. How pretty is that!

Time to eat! I was worried about cutting the frittata, but it was super easy to slice into a wedge. (It held its shape just like a quiche). I drizzled the tasty, nutty sauce right over the top, and ta-da! I’m feeling like Apicius would be VERY proud of me right now! (And I know Crystal is!!) The mushrooms were flavorful, the sauce a complete change from the usual, and the eggs were light and fluffy. It was SO good!

I’m ready to try the next recipe in the collection! Want to channel your inner Apicius?? Get in the spirit of an ancient roman chef? Are you hoping to know more about Crystal, her novel, and/or her collection of recipes? Then check out her website and grab a copy of FEAST OF SORROW. Buon appetito!!!


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Amy Poeppel grew up in Dallas, Texas and left the south to attend Wellesley College. Since then, she has worked as an actor, a high school English teacher, and most recently as the Assistant Director of Admissions at a school in New York City. Her three fabulous boys are all off in Boston attending school, and she and her husband now split their time between New York and Frankfurt, Germany. A theatrical version of SMALL ADMISSIONS was workshopped at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. She later expanded it into her first novel.

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