Friday, December 15, 2017

Scott H.'s Grandma's Molasses Cookies -- A Most Favorite Recipe

I reserve the last post of the year for one of my most favorite recipes.  This one came to me from a man I worked with on an archaeological dig in 2002.  Scott H. brought these to share one day and they have such a good, rich, spicy flavor that I asked him for the recipe.  He told me they reminded him of all the times he spent with his grandmother.

Scott H.'s Grandma's Molasses Cookies

6 Tbsp butter
6 Tbsp shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses (not dark)
1 egg
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
additional sugar in which to roll the balls

Preheat over to 375 degrees F.

Melt butter and shortening together.  Cool.

Add sugar, molasses, and egg -- beat well.

Sift all dry ingredients together and then add slowly to the liquid ingredients.  Mix well.

Chill the dough until firm -- about one hour.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls.  Roll the balls in sugar to coat evenly.  Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes.

Cool slightly in pan and then remove to a rack.  

Makes about 3 dozen cookies that are great to dunk in milk!

My Notes

I took this picture of the butter and shortening melting together because I thought they made a pretty pattern.

When I think of dark molasses, I think of black strap molasses, which is very strong in flavor.  The molasses I use here might look dark but it is not too strong.  This is the step where all the liquid ingredients are mixed.

Sometimes I make these cookies into balls.  When they bake they spread enough to come out round and look very professional.  But I also like to roll the dough into a log, chill it, and then slice off the dough and bake it.  It is faster but still tastes good.  You get the added bonus of being able to make the logs in advance, freeze them, and then make the cookies when you need them. 

I slice them to about 1/4 inch thick.  They spread a little so I give them room in the pan.  Instead of rolling them in sugar, I sprinkle them.  This time I used a cinnamon sugar mix.

Sliced, sprinkled, and ready to bake! 
The challenge is always getting the timing right for baking.  My notes in my cookbook include times for various pans and ovens I have had.  This is the first time I have baked these cookies in my new oven, so I was feeling cautious.  I baked the first batch for 9 minutes.

They came out over-baked:  too brown and dry.  They still tasted good but I like them softer.  So the second batch baked for 7 minutes and I like them much better.

7 minutes on the left, 9 minutes on the right.
I think the flavor is better and, of course, they are softer.

The third batch also baked for 7 minutes but I didn't sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar just for comparison.  This is the plateful I took to a party.  They were well received.

Unsprinkled on the very top.

The Verdict

Success, of course!  These are wonderful cookies.  They are perfect for the Christmas holidays, with all their spices and rich molasses flavors.  They are sweet but not too sweet.  In the past I have put a light, powdered sugar glaze on them after they came out of the oven.  Sometimes I use water and powdered sugar and sometimes I use lemon juice instead of water.  Either way, they are a good accompaniment and remind me of the cookies my grandmother used to give me when I was little.

I hope you enjoy them for their simplicity in making, their convenient storage, and their lovely flavor.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Honey Balls -- A Ladies' Group Christmas Cookie

In the early 1980s, a friend gave me this book:

Well loved, and published in 1971
My Internet searches tell me that "The Open Line" was a radio show in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri.  Jim Loyd was the host and listeners would send in their recipes.  From that, the radio station published bulletins and, later, cookbooks containing those recipes:
The first Open Line Cookbook, "The Best of the Open Line", was offered in 1969 and included Open Line recipes collected over the first six years of a daily radio telephone program on WMT Radio called "The Open Line", first airing in 1963.  From the very beginning, recipes and questions and answers on cooking dominated the whole hour, indicating the popularity of favorite family recipes passed along for others to share and enjoy.  In the first cookbook, reluctantly, some recipes had to be passed by because a 250 page cookbook will only accommodate so many recipes.  A second cookbook called "The Rest of the Best of the Open Line" was offered in 1971, including some of the omitted recipes and new recipes received in the two years between the first and second cookbooks.  (Source:
You can find some of their bulletins here:  It is an old website, at least it looks that way from the formatting.  If you explore more of their links, you can find the cookbook I used for this recipe here.

The reason I categorize the recipe under "Ladies' Groups" is this quote from the back page of this book:
Open Line recipes have a special something in common.  They are all a favorite in somebody's family, and are offered in the hope that someone else will share the joy of discovering a way to please their own cookie eaters...
Many of them could have become forgotten recipes, the pride of a past generation.  Passing them along now will perhaps keep them alive and busy, to be enjoyed by generations to come, that remember how good Grandmother's Christmas baking always was, and now can be again in the floured hands of today's Mothers, and tomorrow's Grandmothers.
To me, these are the same thoughts and motivations the Ladies' Groups have for publishing their recipes.  The only difference is that these recipes don't have a name and location attributed to them.  In a way, that makes me sad.

So here is to all the ladies (and gentlemen) who contributed recipes to Mr. Loyd's show and thus to his books.  You are unnamed but your recipes are not forgotten!

Honey Balls
(page 43)

1 cup shortening
1/4 cup honey
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts

And powdered sugar!
Cream shortening, add honey and cream well.  Add dry ingredients, then vanilla and chopped nuts.  Roll in balls the size of hickory nuts and bake on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in a 300 degree (F) oven.  While hot, roll in powdered sugar.  Roll in powdered sugar again when cool.

My Notes

Notice these don't use eggs or any sort of leavening!  I suspect it is either an old recipe or was created during a World War when foods were rationed.

I chose a dark honey for a rich flavor.  I used almonds which I chopped and lightly toasted.

After the shortening was beaten well all by itself, I added the honey and beat it some more.  It was definitely creamed well!

The dough came together easily and wasn't sticky at all.  Then I chilled it for about 20 minutes while the oven heated and I ate lunch.

I had to look up the approximate size of hickory nuts and settled on about 1 inch diameter.  When I placed them on the cookie sheet, I wasn't sure if they would spread or not.  Sure, the recipe says they are "balls" but with all that shortening I wondered if they would spread.  So I spaced them widely apart.  The rest of the dough went back into the refrigerator.

Being cautious
The recipe called for baking them for 30 to 40 minutes and my oven tends to cook things quickly, so I chose 30 minutes.  They smelled heavenly while they were baking!  You can see they didn't spread at all.

Room to play
I rolled them in powdered sugar when they were right out of the oven.  I was surprised at how much sugar stuck to them.  In some areas, it was thick.

It was time for the second batch.  I spaced them closer together.  In taste testing the first batch, I thought they were cooked too much.  They weren't burnt but I wanted them to be softer.  So I cooked the second batch for 25 minutes.

Batch #2, closer and cooked 5 min. less
So much sugar stuck to both batches from the first roll that I wondered why I should roll them twice.  I tried four of them and noticed that they were prettier after the second roll.

The twice rolled four are in the upper right corner.
The Verdict

Several of us tested them.  We found that the honey flavor was detected after we had been chewing the cookie for a little while.  It wasn't dominant but it was there.  Mostly I tasted the nuts.

The first batch was good but a bit too dry for my tastes.  The second batch, cooked five minutes less, were better but I still think they should be cooked for only 15 to 20 minutes in my oven. 

They were good cookies!  Nutty, very slightly sweet, crunchy.  The second roll in the powdered sugar only enhanced the look and did not make the cookies any sweeter.  I think people who normally don't like sweet cookies would like these.  I also think they would go well with coffee or tea. 

Now that I know they don't spread when cooked, I would put the entire batch on one cookie sheet if I could. 

Success!  A handy cookie any time of year.  I suspect the dough would freeze well -- and maybe would be good to shape into a log and sliced.  Then the cookies would bake very quickly.  It is worth a try some day.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Arabian Lamb Cakes - Maqlūa al-shiwā

I was recently able to do some demonstration cooking and this is a recipe I picked out as part of my repertoire.  However I never got around to it!  The ingredients all came home with me and I decided to make it for this blog.

It is originally out of one of my favorite books, Pleyn Delit, which makes it medieval.

ISBN 0-8020-7632-7
There was a lot of Arabic influence in the foods of this time.  The lamb cakes stand out as Arabic primarily because of the use of lamb, mint, nuts, and the spices combination.  This is recipe #5 in the book.

Arabian Lamb Cakes - Maqlūa al-shiwā

Original recipe

Take cold roast, and cut up fine with a knife, adding the usual seasonings, together with walnuts:  then proceed as for maqlūba, with eggs.  If desired sour, sprinkled with a little lemon juice.

Redacted version

1 1/2 cup pieces of cold roast lamb
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp each ground cumin, cinnamon, pepper
2 tsp chopped fresh mint
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
olive oil for frying
juice of 1/2 lemon

Mix ingredients (not oil or lemon) and form small cakes.  Fry in oil, turning over once.  Sprinkle with lemon juice before serving hot.

My Notes

My lamb was purchased ground.  I cooked and drained it before using it (it was cold when I packed it to take to the demonstration).

I chopped the walnuts well, so no one would get a big chunk of nut in their lamb cake bite.

An original sized piece included for comparison.

First I mixed the meat, nuts, and all the seasonings together well.  Then I beat the egg before adding it to the mixture.


Post-egg.  It looks moister.

I preheated the pan and the oil.  The first spoonful of the mixture was squeezed in my hand and set into the pan.  It immediately crumbled!

Definitely not a cake.

I decided the mixture was too dry so I added another beaten egg.  Now it looked very moist.

Downright soggy now.  The particles cling better, too.

I tried making the little cake shapes again.  I was very gentle in squeezing the mixture, in placing the cakes on the pan, and in turning them over once.

Cooking on the first side.

Cooking after turning.

Despite all that gentleness, nearly half of the cakes crumbled before being put on the serving platter.  Very disappointing!

I piled the whole cakes mostly on one side of the platter and the broken bits on the other.  Everything got a sprinkling of lemon juice.  I garnished the dish with two more pieces of lemon and a sprig of mint.

The Verdict

I served them with the Sweet-and-Sour Olives and some tortilla chips for crunch.

The chips were shy and avoided the photograph.
The lamb cakes that were whole were easy to pick up and eat but you realized quickly that they had to be handled gently or they would break apart.

The flavor was good:  mostly the lamb came through and the spices were very subtle.  I wanted more of a kick from the mint.  The nuts seemed slightly toasted from the cooking, which I liked.  The cakes weren't oily, which I appreciated.  The lemon juice is a necessary ingredient to add some sparkle to a somewhat bland dish.

So success on the flavor, although I wanted more of a dance on my taste buds.

As a finger food, it was a failure.  The cakes weren't robust enough to be finger food at all.  I ended up eating most of the cooked meat mixture with a spoon.

I suspect that the addition of some dried bread crumbs would help with that.  Perhaps if I make it another time, especially as a demonstration recipe, I would add some.

Side note:  the liquid that the olives came in was also very good on the lamb cakes!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Four Sauces for a Chicken -- Sauces #3 & 4: Green Sauce

I had decided to make four sauces to serve with the roasted chicken I had purchased.  The first was a Roman Empire era sauce called "Sauce for Cooked Meat" and the second was "Cameline Sauce", a medieval era recipe that was dominant with wine and cinnamon.

Today's recipe is also medieval and from that same lovely book Pleyn Delit, by Hieatt, Hosington, and Butler.

ISBN 0-8020-7632-7
It is recipe #50, "Verde Sawse."  The authors comment:
Green sauce is the most common medieval (and later) accompaniment to fish.  The recipes vary from very simple (parsley, ground with vinegar, bread, and salt) to infinite variations:  besides the ingredients named here, some call for other greens such as sorrel, pungent roots such as pellitory, and additional spices (eg, cloves).  The Forme of Cury manuscripts themselves show various additions and subtractions:  feel free to vary the recipe according to taste and/or availability of ingredients.
The authors' redaction calls for a choice of the second herb after parsley so I decided to make two versions of the green sauce, one with sage and one with mint, for comparison.

Recall that that the original recipe is given first, then the redaction follows.

Verde Sawse

Take persel, mynt, garlek, a litul serpell and sawge; a litul canel, gynger, piper, wyne, brede, vyneger & salt; grynde it smal with safroun, & messe it forth.

Green Sauce

2-3 tbsp fresh, finely minced parsley
2 tsp each fresh, finely minced thyme, sage, or savory
1/8 tsp each ground ginger, pepper
1/4 cup fine breadcrumbs or two slices diced dry bread (crusts removed)
1 tbsp each vinegar (preferably white wine vinegar), white wine
1/2 tsp salt
optional:  1 tsp each fresh rosemary and mint, finely minced; 1 clove garlic, peeled, crushed, and minced; pinch each of cinnamon, cloves, saffron; 1 - 2 tsp horseradish (as substitute for roots such as pellatory).

You can see the mint and the sage here.
Blend the ingredients in a blender or mortar; if necessary, add more wine and/or vinegar to thin the sauce to a consistency something like mayonnaise.  Serve with poached, grilled, or sauteed fish, or with frogs' legs or goose.  The parsley sauce Chaucer's Cook served with "stubbel goos" was probably green sauce, including garlic, and this is what Platina recommends as a sauce for sauteed frogs' legs.

My Notes

I used dry bread crumbs, white wine vinegar, white wine, ginger, salt, and pepper along with the parsley.  For sauce #3 I used sage and for sauce #4 I used mint.

I put the ingredients for the sage sauce into the blender but the crumbs soaked up all the liquid immediately and there was nothing the blender blades could do to mix it.  

Sage version:  Too dry!
So I scraped it out into a bowl, added some more wine and vinegar (roughly equal parts) and blended it with a pestle.  It helped that the herbs were already finely minced because all I was doing was reducing the crumbs even more, mixing the ingredients, and adding more liquid as needed until I got the right consistency.

Sage version:  Much better!
At this point I had learned my lesson and put the ingredients for the mint sauce right into the bowl to blend with the mortar.  Again I had to add more liquid to get it right.

Mint version
Both sauces were made several hours before dinner time and had time to sit before serving.  They both made about 1/2 cup of sauce.

The Verdict

The plan was to serve the sauces with sliced pieces of chicken so that each diner could dip the meat into the sauce.  I put the sauces on plates so that two diners shared one set of plates.

Sage sauce is 3rd from the left.  Mint sauce is 4th.
These sauces were more pliable than the Roman and cameline sauces but still too stiff to easily dip a piece of chicken into.  Again, I should have tested them before serving to double check and add more liquid as needed.  Next time I won't be so easily fooled!

We ended up spooning the sauces onto our plates and spreading them onto the chicken before eating.

How did they taste?

Sauce #3, the sage green sauce, had sage leaves fresh from my garden.  I put in 2 teaspoons of finely minced leaves.  No one could really taste any sage flavor, although it did not taste just like parsley to me.  I am not sure if the sage melded beautifully with the parsley or just faded away.

It was smooth and lightly flavored.  No flavor was dominant.  Not exciting or memorable.  Just a mellow moistness to my mouth.  It was a good sauce but not anyone's favorite.   I think I would have liked more vinegar in it just to give it a sharp kick.

So success but not with any enthusiasm.

Sauce #4, the mint green sauce, also with leaves fresh from my garden, was very nice.  The mint flavor was light enough not to blast my taste buds but strong enough to tantalize.  I liked the balance of wine and wine vinegar -- no more acid was needed or it would have battled with the mint.  Tasty, indeed!  Success!

In both cases, I think I should have used fewer crumbs or more liquid.  I should have made them very wet knowing they would sit before serving and have time to thicken up again.

I would call the dinner a success, too.  My guests enjoyed trying the four sauces.  We all considered the blend of flavors, picked out our favorites when possible, and exchanged ideas on improving them later.  We shared a good meal and fun conversation.  I was glad to have them and experience my blog experiment!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Four Sauces for a Chicken -- Sauce #2: Cameline Sauce

I had decided to make four sauces to serve with the roasted chicken I had purchased.  The first sauce was a Roman Empire era sauce called "Sauce for Cooked Meat."

Today's post is about the second sauce, a classic medieval recipe from one of my favorite books, Pleyn Delit, by Hieatt, Hosington, and Butler.

ISBN 0-8020-7632-7
Recipe 48 is Sawse Camelyne, about which the authors say,
Cameline sauce is one of the most ancient and ubiquitous sauces of the Western Middle Ages.  It is difficult to define it, except that is contains, perhaps 99 per cent of the time, cinnamon.  Thus, any version that does not contain cinnamon may be suspected of being the result of careless copying ... We particularly like the version with currants and nuts as an accompaniment to roast lamb, but medieval people liked almost any version of this sauce with most meats:  eg, veal, pork, rabbit.  Currants and nuts are unusual options and may be omitted; with or without them, consider this as an appropriate sauce if you want to do something particularly festive, like a roast suckling pig.
I thought this sauce was very appropriate for my company because they are wine aficionados and this recipe gives wine as an optional ingredient.

One aspect of this book I love is that the authors give the original recipe along with their modern redaction.

Sawse Cameline

Take raysouns of courance & kyrnels of notys & crustes of brede & powdour of gynger, clowes, flour of canel; bray it wel togyder and do therto salt.  Temper it up with vyneger, and serve it forth.

Cameline Sauce

2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1/3 cup vinegar, or 1/2 cup red wine
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 - 1 tsp ground cinnamon
optional:  1/4 cup each currants and walnuts; 1/2 tsp nutmeg and/or 1/4 tsp cloves

I chose the wine, nuts, and currants version
Blend ingredients, preferably in a blender.  May be served without cooking, but if you use wine rather than vinegar it should be simmered for a few minutes.

My Notes

My breadcrumbs were dry.  I chose a good quality Cabernet Sauvignon, and I had no walnuts so I used almonds.  I used a little less than 1/2 tsp of salt and a full teaspoon of cinnamon.

I put all the ingredients in the blender and ran it until the mixture became finely textured but very thick.  It was not going to pour out of the container!  So I added a little more wine and blended it until it was soft enough to pour.

Since I was using wine, I took the authors' advice and simmered the mixture for a few minutes.

Fresh out of the blender
The sauce was still very thick.  The heat on the pan was kept very low and I stirred the mixture often to keep it from sticking and scorching.

Then I poured it into a bowl to cool.  It was still very thick so I stirred in a bit more wine to thin it.

It made a bit more than 1/2 cup.

The Verdict

I served the four sauces on plates.  Each set of plates served two people.

Cameline sauce is the second from the left
You can see how thick the sauce was.  I had it at about "mayonnaise" consistency when I was through making it but the sauce sat around for a few hours before serving and it thickened up again.  I should have thinned it again with more wine.

The idea was to dip pieces of chicken into the sauce before eating but the sauce was so thick that we all ended up spooning the sauce onto our plates and spreading it on the meat.

How did it taste?

My wine aficionados declared it to have a "complex" flavor.  The wine, the spices, the fruit and nuts all contributed to what was recognized as a medieval dish.  To me it was a strong wine flavor (but moderated off the "out of the bottle" wine flavor -- I suppose because of the simmering) with a medium strong spice dance-on-my-tongue.  It was only slightly sweet and slightly rich.

I liked it on the chicken and so did all my guest tasters.  I would not want to eat it by itself as I did the Roman sauce.  It was my second favorite sauce although one of the guests declared it to be his first favorite.

When I was making this sauce I was tempted to put in a little red wine vinegar just to get an acidic tangy sensation but I decided to let the wine do that by itself.  I am glad I left it as it was.  There was some acidity from the wine and that was enough.

It occurred to me that the ground almonds may have contributed to the moderated wine flavor.  Since they were simmered in liquid, they may have formed some almond milk, which is creamy.

I declare it a success and would gladly make it again.  Perhaps I would use fewer bread crumbs or more wine to make it thinner and more "dip-able."  And I would check it just before serving to make sure it was still thin enough to serve.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Four Sauces for a Chicken -- Sauce #1: Roman Empire!

I had company coming, someone who has been experimented on before at my table, so I felt like trying something fun.  I decided to buy two roasted chickens and make sauces to be served with them.

But what sauces?  There are so many from a variety of cultures and eras.  Well, since my love for Roman Empire food is growing, I decided to try one that appeared to be a challenge to prepare.

This recipe comes from Cooking Apicius, by Sally Grainger.  I love this book and have used it several times before for this blog.  (Do a label search on "Roman Empire."  You will find them!)

ISBN 1-903018-44-7

This recipe is on page 60 and has the undistinguished title of

Sauce for Cooked Meat

Ms. Grainger explains that a person of the time would be eating while reclining on one side, using one hand to bring the food up to the mouth.  When at first she tried this sauce, she interpreted it in a modern fashion, making it "thin, hot, plentiful and pourable" and found it disappointing.  But "When I considered them more as a pickle or dipping sauce, the likely use of these sauces became clear."  In other words, the sauce needed to stick to the meat to avoid it dripping onto the diner.

The challenge, in my view, was to make this sauce and closely follow the complicated-looking directions.  Here goes!

1 heaping tsp cumin seeds
1 level tsp myrtle berries *  (see note below)
generous freshly ground black pepper
2 heaped tsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 small leek with the dark green removed
2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
2 dessert spoons honey
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fish sauce

Ignore the dry parsley.  It butted its way into the picture unannounced.
Roast and grind the cumin and myrtle, mix with the pepper and combine with the parsley.  Chop the leek and cook in a little water.  Strain and place in a food processor or large mortar and grind or process into a paste.  Add the cooked eggs and process or grind again.  Add the spice and herb mixture, honey, vinegar, oil and fish sauce and blend by pulsing a few times.  Tip into a bowl and store until required.  Only store in the fridge if you are preparing or storing left-over sauce overnight.  Preparing it the day before does improve the flavour but bring back to room temperature before serving.

My Notes

*Special note:  I do not have any myrtle berries.  Apparently I could grow them but not in time for today's cooking spree.  To find a substitute I turned to The Epicenter which had a description:
Myrtle seeds are purple-black berries that are used whole or coarsely ground.  Its leaf is used whole or chopped.  Myrtle berries are sweet, with juniper and rosemary-like flavors.  The leaves have spice, astringent, and bitter taste [sic] with a refreshing, fragrant, and orangelike aroma.
Ah ha!  I decided to substitute in juniper berries, which I toasted, and then added a pinch of dried rosemary before grinding.

I toasted the juniper separately from the cumin seeds but combined them in the mortar.  I wasn't sure how long to toast the juniper but I stopped when I sniffed the berries and got a lovely resiny scent.


Ground (includes the rosemary).
I used about 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper.

Honest, that was the smallest leek I could find in the store!  I used this much of it:

I used one of those big white pieces.
To cook the leeks, I put them in a pan with enough water to cover.  They simmered for a short while -- I stopped cooking them when most of the pieces were transparent.

In the beginning.
Processing that small amount of cooked leeks in my food processor was probably the most challenging part of making this sauce.  I had to stop it many times to scrape the leeks down off the walls.  But with persistence, I got it to nearly a paste consistency.

Adding the eggs helped even more.

I chose to use red wine vinegar for this recipe.

The instructions say to just pulse the mixture a few times after adding the herbs and spices and liquids, so I did.  But I wasn't convinced it was that well mixed.  So I stirred it after it went into the bowl.

It made about 3/4 of a cup.
The Verdict

I served it with thin slices of chicken for dipping.  We also had some fresh bread and a simple green salad.

Both light and dark meat.
I put all the sauces on plates.  There was one set of plates to be shared between every two people.

Roman sauce on the far left.  And this gives you a preview of the other sauces!
The idea was to dip your meat into the sauce and eat it but there was a problem.  The sauce was too thick to allow for easy dipping!  We ended up spooning some onto our plates and then spreading the sauce onto each piece.

You can see how firm the sauce is.
So how did it taste?

It was very intriguing.  Creamy, lightly spiced, slightly sweet, a little rich with a good mouthfeel.  It was hard to taste individual flavors but the blend was lovely.  The more I eat food with cumin, the more I love it and this sauce was no exception.  Success!

My guest tasters all enjoyed it.  Most of us agreed it was the best sauce of the four.  I certainly did.

I think the thickness was just right once I took it all out of the food processor, however the sauce sat for several hours before dinner and I think it thickened up.  If this happens again, I would double check the consistency just before serving and thin it with a little vinegar as needed.

As for the preparation challenge, I was pleasantly surprised to find it easy to make.  I thought the toasting, grinding, cooking, processing steps would be difficult but they weren't.  It is a definite do-again recipe.

I think I could just eat this sauce with a spoon.  Yes, it is that good.