by Mary Cokenour
Nectar and Ambrosia, the drink and food of the Gods; the Ancient Greek Pantheon that is. Sitting upon celestial thrones high upon Mount Olympus, these gods and goddesses played the humans upon the Earth as pieces on a giant chessboard. My interest in their mythology began in elementary school; in high school though is when an English teacher asked us to make recipes of the Grecian culture.
Nectar is quite easy to create; a mixture of whole cow’s milk, honey and the stigmas (only 3 per flower) of Crocus flowers aka saffron threads. Crocus, being a plant of the mountains is sacred to the Gods; it gives a golden color to the drink, with extraordinary rejuvenating and energizing powers. Ambrosia, in its original form, is a honey cake laden with apples and figs; the modern version is a simple mixture of fruits, honey and Greek yogurt.
Ah, but now we come to the Americanized version of this simple Greek recipe; we’ve all seen it in any salad bar. That wondrous mixture of fruits, coconut flakes, marshmallows and whipped topping; looking like a total mess, yet tasting so cool and refreshing…Ambrosia salad. This is one of those recipes where almost anything can be added, and it doesn’t go wrong; even pasta! That’s right, pasta, which brings me to a popular dessert salad that dates back approximately 40 years to a recipe on a box. Acini di Pepe, also spelled Acini de Pepe (pronounced ah-CHEE-nee dee PAY-pay); “Acini” means “berries”, “Pepe” means “pepper”, so “pepper berries” or “peppercorns”. If you are a fan of Italian Wedding Soup, then you have eaten Acini di Pepe; and it gives Frog Eye Salad its unusual name.
The original name of the recipe was “Ambrosia Salad with Acine di Pepe”, but as it made its rounds through home kitchens, it picked up the name of “Frog Eye Salad”. How is a good question, but the only guessed at reasoning was that someone’s child must have said, “Yuck, that looks like frog eyes in there!” As the recipe was passed along, the nickname stuck as it traveled throughout the United States, and to the dessert salad loving state of Utah. The first time I’d ever heard of, or tasted, it was at an annual holiday party; the pasta being a chewy addition to the salad. The consensus is, some love it, some hate it; some don’t care, its food, so just eat it. Personally, I didn’t see the point of adding the pasta while my husband enjoyed it; so to each his/her own.
One recipe I found was supposedly from the original box of pasta put out by the Ronzoni Company. I contacted them for verification, but, as yet, they have not bothered to respond with an answer. So, I’m using a recipe from The Salt Lake Tribune’s “What’s Cooking in Utah Kitchens” cookbook (no date) which is extremely close to the other recipe I found. It also makes a quantity that could feed a small army (about 20 servings), so cut the recipe as needed.
Frog Eye Salad
(page 66, by Donna Kastler)
1 1/2 cups (12 oz. box) Acini de Pepe (macaroni product)
2 quarts boiling water
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. oil
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cups pineapple juice
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 cans (11 oz. each) mandarin oranges, drained
1 can (20 oz.) chunk pineapple, drained
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup coconut
1 carton (9 oz.) frozen whipped topping
Cook Acine de Pepe in boiling water with the 1 teaspoon salt and oil for 8 to 10 minutes. While macaroni is cooking, combine the sugar, flour, ½ teaspoon salt, eggs and pineapple juice; cook until thick, stirring constantly. Stir in lemon juice. Cool and pour over well drained macaroni. Stir and refrigerate overnight.
Several hours before serving, add the mandarin oranges, pineapple, marshmallows and coconut. Stir well; add frozen whipped topping. Fold together.