A philosopher’s lunch

What a beautiful lunch we had the other day. I have to give away the secret of the most delicious dishes we enjoyed last Sunday. In fact it is not a secret at all because the recipe is from a very well known and very beautiful cookbook, the Philosopher’s Kitchen by Francine Segan.

This cookbook’s subtitle reads, “Recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook”. Nothing sounds better to the ear of a Celtic Treverer who had enjoyed Roman cuisine for a couple of centuries. We had a fish dish and afterwards a salad, that’s all, but what most delectable food this was. I would have loved to have Sucellus, Epicurus and Lucretius over for lunch that day. Only on the wine side I would have made concessions to modernity. A Sauvignon Blanc from the new world vineyards I find much more appealing than a wine of Roman times which would have needed mixing with water and honey to be drinkable at all.

Wine god

On a portal in Trier: Bacchus and vine leafs

And here is the recipe: red snapper in parchment. The ingredients are as follows:

– juice of freshly pressed lemons
– 2 garlic gloves, minced
– ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
– 4 bay leaves crushed
– 1 ½ teaspoons whole pink peppercorns
– 2 table spoons of capers, rinsed
– 15 oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved
– 2 red snapper fillets, without skin
– Salt and freshly milled pepper
– Lemon wedges

Mix and combine the lemon juice, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, capers and olives in a large bowl and soak the red snapper(in Bahasa Indonesia: Kakap Merah) in this marinade for about two hours in a cool spot. Then put the fish into the oven (up to about 200°). We put it into aluminium foil and topped it with the marinade; then closed the foil and baked it for about 10 to 13 minutes. We served the fish on a plate. We had just plain baguette with it but you can add all kinds of things, eat it with rice, potatoes, and with various vegetables. It was such a wonderful dish, mouth watering. The capers in the marinade give it a spicy edge, and this complements the white flesh of the fish. The olives and the capers take you to the Mediterranean. I could see the ocean, the sand, the beach…and taste the salt, the smells of the water….

After the main course we had a warm spinach salad. The recipe is also in the above cookbook and is called, “Baby Greens with Caper Vinaigrette”. The caper vinaigrette is similar to the marinade, just that no olives and no garlic is added. It goes as follows:

– 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
– ¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil
– 3 tablespoons of capers
– Salt and freshly milled pepper
– 3 cups of assorted green vegetables

As I said, we used spinach (Bahasa Indonesia: Bayam Hijau) which we blanched before adding the vinaigrette and the warm salad did in fact complement the first dish and harmoniously end this philosopher’s meal. I highly recommend the cookbook. It makes a wonderful gift. If you love the classics and you want to delve in the past of these two great Mediterranean cultures, you should get it (www.atrandom.com).

You will have noticed that I did not yet mention any wine so far. Well, the wine I chose was a disappointment. I though a Sauvignon Blanc would go well with it, and this is certainly so. I chose a 2006 Sauvignon Blanc from Giessen of Marlborough, New Zealand, of which I had fond memories. But what a surprise. It was stale, oily and did not display any of the varietals’ characteristics of a cool climate Sauvignon Blanc. With sadness and melancholy I thought of times gone by and our own 2002 Two Hills Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and it’s brilliant taste. Unfortunately, we were down on white wine and we just ended the meal with a port and an Italian coffee. I might have to consider buying a special wine fridge so that this cannot happen again.

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