Recipes from My Stories and Books

Coming soon! Recipe from Summer in a Bowl, and Rosa and the Red Apron

Giulia Goes to War


Reprinted from–these two recipes are to delight fans of the story, An Ancient Recipe which can be found in the magazine above and also in the collection of my short stories, Simply A Smile forthcoming in October 2015
As a food writer, my blog also contains some Wednesday recipe notes and you can find more of my material online at

These two recipes are used in the story to poison someone, but without the poison they are quite tasty!
Piselli Romani

(Translated from the Italian by Joan Leotta from Francesco Amata’s La Cucina di Roma Antica, an Italian translation of Apico’s Latin cookbook.)


(No amounts are given in the recipe book — all measurements are mine.)
Wash and dry about a half pound of dried peas. Pick over for any impurities. Put them in a 2-quart saucepan with water (enough to cover to a depth of about two inches) and add some salt (to taste). Bring to a boil over a low flame. When the peas come to the surface of the water and a scum rises up, add about ¼ cup chopped leeks, one tablespoon of crushed coriander seed, and about one tablespoon of cumin. Lower the heat and keep an eye on it so that all of the water does not evaporate.

In the meantime, grind about one tablespoon of peppercorns, anise seeds and mix with 2 tablespoons of minced basil. Mix that with about ¼ cup of white wine and a bit of garum (fish sauce). Some people use anchovy paste to substitute for the ancient Roman garum and others use Thai fish sauce — it’s up to you. When the peas are cooked and the water almost absorbed, and this mix to the peas, bring the mix to a boil, plate, check spicing, adding more or less of anything to your taste, and serve.

For a nice review of peas in history and their use in ancient Rome, try these websites: and

Apicus, Ancient Rome’s best known cookbook author has nine recipes for peas — sort of shows they were an important staple. Even more so, probably, for the army, since dried foods were one of the few portables in that pre-refrigeration era. For other ancient Roman recipes try this web site in English:

Just in case you were wondering about the mushrooms:

Portabellas a la Caesar

(by Joan)

(four servings — can even be a vegetarian main course)

Four large Portabella caps
3 T olive oil
1 T rosemary (fresh is best)
1 bay leaf
1T smoked paprika
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup minced fresh flat Italian parsley
fresh ground sea salt and ground pepper to taste
Pecorino cheese to sprinkle on top before serving

Wash mushroom caps and pat dry. Heat olive oil with the paprika, bay leaf and rosemary.
Sauté the mushrooms for two minutes on flat side. Turn over and add wine. Add parsley, salt, pepper. Sauté another two minutes or until as done as you wish. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with a bit of pecorino.

Buon appetito!

Joan Leotta has been writing and performing since childhood. Her “motto” is “Encouraging words through pen and performance.” Her articles, short stories, and photos have appeared in many newspapers and magazines including the Washington Post, Woman’s Day, Crimestalker, St. Anthony’s Messenger and now, OMDB!. She has performed folklore shows and one-woman shows on Civil War and Revolutionary war figures at venues up and down the east coast from schools and libraries to museums, fairs and festivals.

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