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.
For the batter, we used a recipe I had gotten from Bill Briwa at the Culinary Institute of America, years ago when I did a short course there and he taught us to do Meyer lemon tempura. He had learned it when he was a chef at the French Laundry. Mary’s husband, Tonino, is gluten intolerant, so, she used an interesting mix of ancient grains flour that absorbed more water than regular flour. Also you may find the amount of salt too high in which case reduce to your liking — I love salt! And to follow our amazing Sicilian tempura, we had the most delicious salsiccie, grilled over the wood fire. One was made with meat from black pigs (suini neri) and the other had added cheese and aniseed and was called capricciosa. Both were incredibly delicious. I hardly ever eat sausage in England but I could eat these (made by the butcher at Delizie in Alcamo) every day. Well almost!
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
just under 1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/4 cup sparkling water
Combine the batter ingredients together and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cover with a cloth and set aside. Heat enough sunflower oil in a deep frying pan to deep-fry your tempura vegetables and/or flowers. Dip the vegetable slices or flowers in the batter, let the excess batter drain off and drop in the hot oil — the oil is ready when it immediately bubbles around your vegetables. Fry until golden brown, Remove with a slotted spoon one several layers of kitchen paper and continue dipping your veg/flowers in the batter and frying them until you have finished both — this amount of batter was enough for one cauliflower, the bowlful of flowers and sage leaves in the picture above and the pumpkin. Serve immediately.
Tagged : alcamo, bill briwa, bosco falconeria, cavolicelli, cavolicelli flowers, delizie, edible flowers, foraging, mary taylor simeti, sage leaves, salsiccia, sliq, tempura, tempura batter, tempura sicilian style 1