Monday, 25 January 2016

Bursting into Flower!

Cavolfiore "Siciliana" alla Francesco
Francesco's Sicilian Cauliflower, 
with Pine Nuts, Raisins, Anchovies, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Fennel Seeds & Parsley

I think it may be fair to say that most of us "like" cauliflower, but don't really love it. Usually when people talk about liking cauliflower, they are talking about some concoction covered in cheese or cream... which is not going to happen in my kitchen!

Nope, I am proposing something wildly different, based on deeply traditional Sicilian flavors, filled with rich taste, color and texture and much lower on fat. In fact- this is totally healthy as well as being incredibly delicious exciting!

The combination of sweet raisins with salty anchovies and sun-dried tomatoes, paired with crunchy, roasted pine-nuts, is about as typical as can be on our beautiful, sunny island of Sicily. 

Dating back to the era of Arab rule, these slightly exotic seeming ingredients make you realize that although Sicily is a part of Italy- it has a rich culture and heritage all of its own. Which is a fact that I love and that I try to celebrate whenever I can in the kitchen!

You can see the main ingredients to make this dish right here- the only things missing are a few spices. So what do we have? 1 cauliflower, 4-5 sun-dried tomatoes, 3-4 anchovies, a handful each of pine-nuts and raisins, a little fresh parsley, salt, pepper, fennel seeds, nutmeg and of course, olive oil. Very, very simple ingredients... leading to a very, very wonderful result!

The preparation of this dish is super easy as well- it all takes place in one pot, basically takes care of itself and is all done in less than 45 minutes. Sounds good, right?

I cooked mine in a tajine this evening, but you can obviously use any saucepan or deep frying pan even that has a lid... it's all good. As long as you can keep it covered, cook the cauliflower in steam and capture all of those rich flavors, it is going to work just fine!

The first thing you need to do is to slice up the tomatoes, cut the anchovies into small pieces and fry them together with a good pinch of fennel seeds in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. This will flavor the oil, which will then coat and flavor the cauliflower... which is plain, simple, common sense really!

After 2-3 minutes, add the cauliflower and season with plenty of pepper, stir it through and get it lightly coated in oil. Next, add about a mugful of water, no more, to deglaze the tajine or pan, put on the lid and let it steam away for 15 minutes or so. After 15 minutes, give it a good stir and then replace the lid and let it steam for 15 minutes more.

add any salt and do so accordingly if necessary, but ideally, the sun-dried tomatoes and anchovies will have enough seasoning to make the cauliflower delicious. In any case, at this stage you can add the raisins and grate the cauliflower generously with nutmeg, before stirring it carefully through and returning it to the heat for a final 10 minutes or so.  

And that leaves you with time to roast those pine nuts, chop a little parsley and to get ready for serving!

Remove the lid right at the end to let any excess moisture evaporate away- but what you will find is that all of the goodies in there- the raisins and tomatoes, will have sunk to the bottom. Which is great! because when you come to serve the cauliflower up, you can spoon them on top at the end and have a much more colorful presentation.

Sprinkle with pan-roasted pine nuts and fresh parsley- and prepare to be astounded at what a sublime combination those ingredients create! I do hope you will love this as much as I did!

The chances ARE pretty good though... wink emotico

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