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.
I am just back from Sicily where I intend to finish my days, that is if I find the right plot with gorgeous views that will not one day disappear if someone builds in front of me. Anyhow, the prospect of this happening is still some way off and until then, I have the ideal spot where I can live the life I eventually intend for myself, a delightful casetta with the most amazing views on Mary Taylor Simeti‘s organic farm — those who follow me on instagram will have recently seen my daily pictures of stunning sunrise and sunset. It was tenerumi season when I was there and as Mary was describing the pasta she makes with them, I asked her if she would make me some and her being the most wonderful friend, she agreed. We went into the fields to pick some. To be more accurate it was Mary who did the picking. I am hopeless at these things. Too urban I guess. Anyway, tenerumi are the green leaves of the Sicilian cucuzza, a kind of courgettes or a gourd or a squash depending on who translates it — I am almost certain it is the same as Lebanese qara’, which is also in season now and which we pick young and stuff like courgettes and aubergines and finish with a lemony ‘pesto’ made with garlic, dried mint and lemon juice. Mary picked the tenerumi young and tender with some having baby cucuzza attached to them to add a little more texture to the sauce. Here she is below picking what we need for the pasta then showing me her harvest.
This morning I woke up to the most stupendous sky changing every 5 minutes or so and as I was snapping it at different degrees of dramatic colour changes and cloud movement, I stopped to have the most intriguing breakfast: sweet pasta which my friend’s old cook had sent for Christmas. I think her version does not have any cocoa powder which I think is better, and even if I haven’t yet tasted any other versions, her balance between sweet & savoury is pretty perfect not to mention her marvellous tagliatelle fatti in casa. Wishing you all a happy christmas with a series of this morning’s changing sky with ‘my’ marvellous persimmon tree against it!
Anissa: Two days ago, it was time for my belly dancer of the month and now it is time for anther brilliant guest post by Charles Perry. It all came about because of this year’s Oxford symposium‘s theme, Wrapped and Stuffed, and when Charles sent me the pictures of the Uzbek mantis you see in this post, not only did I want to have some immediately but I thought the subject would make a great post, so, I asked Charles to send me something about them together with a recipe and here is what he has to say about this delicious looking and sounding breakfast pasta.
Charles: About 15 years ago, I spent a morning in the Nu’mankhojaev household (OK, no more Uzbek surnames from now on) eating mass quantities of potato and pumpkin manti while drinking Georgian and Armenian brandy and watching Caspar, the Friendly Ghost cartoons dubbed in Russian. That’s the sort of breakfast you don’t forget.