An unusual ingredient that we find in ancient and medieval cooking is the core of the lettuce, used to prepare soups or, like in this case, patinae. Patina is a complex term that we already found in the past, related more to the kind of pan used to prepare it than to a specific preparation, but in this case, it clearly refers to a frittata, being thickened with eggs.
Actually, the core of the lettuce is a surprisingly interesting ingredient, with an intense, aromatic flavor for most varieties of lettuce, quite bitter and strong, and for this reason, we recommend using a small quantity.
There are many possibilities to prepare this recipe, since the author of De Re Coquinaria does not provide information about the ratio among the ingredients, but based on the descriptions of other patinae, we may infer to which method he is referring, preparing a patina such as the author intended it.
The recipe is very simple: it requires lettuce cores (we recommend two for four eggs or a maximum of four for six eggs), garum (which may be substituted with colatura di alici or ancient muria, as well as two pinches of salt), caroenum (which is concentrated grape juice used as a sweetener), olive oil, and pepper.
The preparation of caroenum is very simple: pound in the mortar wine or table grapes, sift the juice, and boil it down until it reduces by one-third. The more it is reduced, the more turns out sweet. Good substitutes for caroenum are a bit of honey, raisin wine, or raisins, that you can pound in the mortar with the other ingredients. We used two tablespoons each of liquid ingredients and two pinches of black pepper to keep the patina well balanced, but as always, feel free to try different ways to make ancient Roman recipes in the way you like them most.
For more information about ancient cuisine, we suggest reading our book Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources. Moreover, the first eight books of De Re Coquinaria are available on Patreon, with other translations of ancient and medieval sources in addition to several articles on historical food.
In addition, our new book Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers is available on Amazon, in English and Italian. The text collects many recipes from the Antiquity to early Modern Era, accompanied by an introduction about vegetables in the historical Italian cookbooks and their relationship with dietetic, philosophical, and religious practices.
To know more about the passage between ancient and medieval cooking, check out our book with the translation, commentary, and glossary of a beautiful 6th-century source, De Observatione Ciborum, written by the physician Anthimus to the king of the Franks Theuderic. This book contains some of the earliest medieval recipes, in addition to information about the diet of the Franks and the differences between their food habits and the alimentation of the Mediterranean populations, showing the passage between ancient and late-medieval cooking.
If you are interested in late-medieval cuisine, we recommend Registrum Coquine. A medieval cookbook.
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2 cores of lettuce
2 tablespoons garum
2 tablespoons concentrated grape juice
Mince the cores of lettuce. Pound the pepper in the mortar and keep a part aside. Add the lettuce cores, garum, concentrated grape juice, a bit of water, and one tablespoon of olive oil. Beat the eggs. Pour the mixture with lettuce cores in a pan with a bit of olive oil. When it withers, add the eggs and cook at low heat for a few minutes. Serve the patina dusted with pepper.
Thyrsum lactucae teres cum pipere, liquamine, caroeno, aqua, oleo. Coques, ovis obligabis; piper asparges et inferes.
Another recipe for patina: grind the lettuce core with pepper, garum, caroenum, water, oil. Cook and thicken with eggs. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.
Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus. Early-medieval recipes at the court of the Franks.
Registrum Coquine by Johannes Bockenheim. A medieval cookbook
Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Sources, Recipes
Translations of Historical Sources
De Re Coquinaria by Apicius – books 1-8
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus (6th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8th-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum (11th century)
Tractatus de Modo Preparandi et Condiendi Omnia Cibaria (13th-14th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Libro de la Cocina by Anonimo Toscano (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
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