Foraging has been all the rage for some time now but in many countries people have been doing it forever. In Lebanon, people go out in the spring to pick wild greens they call sliq and in Sicily, where I am right now on Mary Taylor Simeti‘s farm, they pick whatever is edible and use it one way or another. It was my first time there in February and I was surprised by how glorious the landscape was with almond trees in full bloom and the fields covered with yellow flowers, some of which are edible cavolicelli flowers with a slightly peppery taste. As I was admiring and tasting them, I suggested to Mary that we try them tempura style. She liked the idea and we picked some, together with sage leaves, a green cauliflower and a pumpkin to do a mixed tempura.
I am slowly moving towards another momentous step in my life with the possible purchase of a spectacular plot of land in Sicily where I will build my dream home. Well, perhaps not quite a dream house but certainly one with a separate laundry room and cinema room, and with gorgeous views whichever way I turn, although perhaps not as varied as those on Mary Taylor Simeti’s farm where I am spending more and more time getting used to life in Sicily. And one way of getting used to life in a new country is to cook the local food which I did recently, grilling stigghiole (baby lamb’s intestines) with Mary and Tonino, her lovely husband. I should really be frank here and admit to having done nothing apart from watching them do the grilling.
It was lucky I rented my little Sicilian casetta during orange blossom season. I had included a recipe for the jam in the book I am working on right now and was wondering how I was going to test it. Well, I didn’t have to wonder too long as I walked with Mary through her citrus grove and found the trees bursting with blossom. All I had to do was decide which of the blossom were the right ones for the jam — some were small and others large and fleshy. Thinking back to the orange blossom jam of the Lebanese sweet-makers, I decided to go for the fleshier kind and the next day, Amy and I went down early in the morning to pick 1 kilogram of blossom, which was the quantity I needed for the recipe. We quickly realised that if we were to pick so much, we would be spending the rest of our week making the jam. Not only would it have taken forever to pick the blossom — the flowers are surprisingly light — but we would have had to spend hours picking the petals off them. So, I decided to cut down the recipe to a quarter of the quantities and after a good half hour at least, we had picked what we needed.
Only one day since my return from Sicily and I am already missing it. I think I will retire there, preferably on a property like Mary‘s, in the middle of fabulous countryside with gorgeous views wherever you look and organic fruit and vegetables to pick whenever you want. I had invited Amy to stay with me in the casetta I had rented and she cooked the most delicious meals with our freshly picked produce while I tinkered on my computer, mostly working. But it was Mary who cooked our last dinner (barbecued artichokes). We had planned to have it outside but it was a little chilly, so, we barbecued in Mary’s fireplace. But first we had to pick the artichokes and not longer than an hour before we needed to cook them according to Mary. Read more >