Fish and Figs

by David

Sardines Inspired by “The Borgias”

Another history-ish series that I adore is “The Borgias”, with Jeremy Irons as the Borgia Pope. Historical accuracy gives way for great, gruesome storytelling. I think writer Neil Jordan may have decided to throw in every single act of treachery the Borgias were ever accused of whether or not any proof exists. The sets, costumes, and hair are fantastic. Great acting, particularly by Irons and Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia, overcomes the mediocre acting of the Borgia sons.  Gina McKee looks like she is about to burst out laughing in a bedroom scene.

Sadly, for my purposes, much of the food depicted in the Borgias is poisoned! There is also a “dinner” depicted that is the most gruesome you can possibly imagine! But the characters’ excitement over the latest technology— the two-pronged fork for dining— is priceless.

I’ve dressed up the Lenten sardines that Pope Alexander faithfully eats. The recipe is from Lorenza de’ Medici’s “Italy Today the Beautiful Cookbook”.  Pope Alexander wouldn’t dream of eating anything from the hand of a Medici family member. But we safely can.

  • 1-pound sardines beheaded and boned,
  • 1 yellow onion
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1-tablespoon oregano
  • Heat the oven to 400.
  • Reduce the onions until soft and fragrant, up to 30 minutes.
  • Add to the sardines, which you have opened flat in a baking dish.  Cook for ten minutes.

This is a true fish lovers dish, as sardines taste… well…fishy. A strong wine is called for.

Figs in Red Wine Inspired by “The Borgias”

Lucretia Borgia, in the HBO series “The Borgias”, starts out as an innocent, coddled but lovable and loving, who we see slowly made worldly by her society and her family. In one scene her mother, using the delicacies at hand, explains to her how she can marry one man and carry on with his brother who she prefers, thereby enjoying both “figs” and “torrone”.

Torrone, the delicious honey and nut confection, can certainly be made at home, but it’s rather troublesome with double boilers, candy thermometers, and much stirring. Buy house-made at your local Italian deli or bakery or packaged in pretty boxes at an import store.

Dried Figs in Red Wine and Basil

  • About 2 cups Chianti, Zinfandel, or an Argentinean sangiovese
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 pound dried figs with the tops picked off
  • 2 or 3 leaves of fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • Add ingredients to a saucepan.
  • Cook slowly over low heat for about an hour until the figs are tender and the wine is greatly reduced and honey like in consistency.

Cool, Serve with a cookie, over ice cream or with whipped cream, sweetened ricotta, or crème fraiche.  Or alongside torrone or course.

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