Cauliflower is a very fashionable vegetable nowadays. You will see it on restaurant menus from San Francisco to New York to London, prepared in myriad ways from sliced thick and served as steak, to roasted, to grated and used instead of flour as a base for gluten-free pizza, and so on. But using it to make a sauce for pasta has not yet, as far as I know, been adopted by chefs even though it is a typical Sicilian way of using green cauliflower when in season. Some of you will already know that I am well on my way to becoming Sicilian, at least in as far as having a home there, and as a result, I am spending a fair amount of time on the island, staying on a beautiful organic farm belonging to my friend, Mary Taylor Simeti, who is also my guru for all things Sicilian — Mary is the author of the ultimate book on Sicilian food. So when I saw green cauliflower at the greengrocer, I decided to buy one before the season ends. Easter is the cut off time for cauliflower. Initially, I was going to make the pasta sauce myself. I had learned it from Mary but as she is just up the lane from my casetta, I thought why not have the master (or should I say mistress!) make it. And so it was. I carried my cauliflower to Mary’s house with my camera to snap her make the sauce while her gorgeous grandchildren sat mesmerized watching cartoons on the TV.
Well, a little later than I should, I am back with my belly dancer of the month and this time, she is not wearing the regular revealing costume but rather a chic evening gown that hugs her figure with the obligatory scarf on her hips. This is how elegant Arab ladies belly dance at parties or weddings. I think I am the only Arab lady who doesn’t know how to shake her hips which is a shame as I would have loved to have a man pull me to him with his cane the way Rushdy Abaza does to Na3ima Akef at the beginning of the clip! Anyhow, she was in her days one of the top movie star dancers in Egypt, not only belly dancing but also tap and other dancing. She is cute and sexy at the same time, and she moves beautifully without ever looking vulgar despite Abaza’s obvious desire for her. I hope you enjoy them both as much as I did when I was deciding which dancer to give you this month!
It has been quite some time since I last posted a recipe. My excuse is that I was busy changing my life as I have explained in my previous post. This put a spanner in my normal working life and throughout the time it took to move and reorganise myself, I was only able to concentrate on work that had a deadline! It is all over now and I have finally resettled in a new home where I can cook again. So, I thought I would share with you one of my favourite vegetarian recipes which has the added advantage of being very simple and quick to make. And the beautiful thing about this Turkish dish which belongs to the zeytinyagli (cooked in olive oil) family of dishes is that you don’t need to serve anything with it, not even a salad. It has a perfect balance of pulses, dairy, vegetables and even herbs to make a perfect ‘one pot’ lunch or supper. And if your mise en place is good, you will be able to prepare it in under an hour. I like to have it warm, but you can also serve it hot or at room temperature. In Turkey, they use regular carrots and their own brown or green lentils. I like to use baby carrots which I buy in my local farmers market in Bute Street and Umbrian lentils from Castellucio di Norcia. The lentils retain a nice bite as well as their shape, and of course they taste delicious, not to mention that they are also beautiful!
I seem to specialise in dramatically changing the course of my life every few years, mainly for the sake of keeping it interesting. When I was young I did it every five years or so. Now that I am older, it is every ten years or so. This year I decided to change my life again. I sold my beautiful loft to downsize in London and upsize in Sicily where I plan to build my dream house. It wasn’t a rash decision. I have been wanting to build my dream house for a few years now; and I toyed with different ideas of where to do it. Syria was once an option! Then I considered California, also France and even Spain despite not speaking any Spanish. Then one day, I decided to go to the olive harvest on Mary Taylor Simeti‘s farm in Sicily and while there I decided that Sicily was where I would make this happen. The landscape and way of life there are very close to those in Lebanon and Syria where I grew up, but more orderly and with no risk of ISIS ever coming close. I had been to Sicily before but living on Mary’s farm in my own little casetta made me feel that the island was where I could feel I was going back home without actually doing so. And so it was. Mary introduced me to a friend of hers, Giovanni Matta, who took me to three different plots in one single day and the last one turned out to be the perfect spot. I must have been born under a lucky star!