Playing in the Kitchen

Last night I made something new.

Okay, it was actually very old. Very, very old.

I made this recipe I found in Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), which is my favorite magazine. The recipe comes from Babylonian tablets originating in ancient Mesopotamia. I’m guessing that means the recipe is at least 2,500 years old.

It is pretty simple to make. I cut up the bunch of leaks and sautéed them in olive oil with some fresh chopped garlic — about four cloves. Just for grins, I put some powdered garlic in as well. I let them cook down for about ten minutes, which is longer than the recipe in the magazine suggested, but I found after four minutes my leeks were still a little firm. I put in plenty of pepper and kosher salt.

When they had cooked down a bit, I added the cilantro and let that simmer, then I added four cups of vegetable stock. Twenty minutes of simmer, and I topped it with a generous double handful of sourdough bread cut into tiny pieces.

I serve it to my family, and they all really liked it. It was far tastier than I had envisioned. When I make it in the future, I will add an onion to the leeks when I cook them down. Carrots, I think, would be good in here too. If you want meat, chicken stock would work well, but I can see in my mind beef, making it almost like pho without the noodles.

I found the name of the stew. The Babylonians called it ‘unwinding’ to refer to what the bread does when it hits the soup — expand and get soggy. It is an interesting way to describe the action. This is a good lesson in the way the ancients used words and, how I might better understand the way I apply the word ‘unwind’ to my own actions. I unwind when I release the tension holding everything tight.

Try it, you might like this old Babylonian stew. I will eat it again.