Pasta with cauliflower, raisins, saffron and pine nuts

I realize I have many cauliflower recipes and am happy to add yet another. Such a humble, unpretentious vegetable, the cauliflower, where the repertoire of flavor combinations is endless. Yet again, this Sicilian-style recipe is a must.

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Serves 4

12 oz bucatini pasta or a one of your choice
1 small cauliflower,cut into florets
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp raisins, soaked in warm water for 20 mins, drained
1 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan
2 salted anchovies, soaked in water for 1 hour,drained
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tomato, finely chopped
A good pinch of saffron strands (soaked in 1 tbsp warm water)
Approx 10 basil leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
To serve: Freshly grated pecorino cheese Toasted breadcrumbs (optional)

Fill a large (approx. 6 litre) heavy bottomed saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add approx. 1 tbsp of salt.
Add the cauliflower to the boiling water and cook for a few minutes (they should still be crunchy). Drain the cauliflower and reserve the cooking water.
Add the olive oil to the pan and gently fry the garlic and finely chopped anchovies, till the anchovies have melted and the garlic is soft.
Next add the tomatoes, pine nuts, raisins and saffron.
Cook the mixture over a medium heat, stirring regularly, for about 5-6 mins.
Add the drained cauliflower to the pan and season with salt and black pepper.
Cover and cook (medium heat) for a further 5 mins, adding a couple of tablespoons of the cauliflower water occasionally, to stop the mixture from sticking.
Reduce the heat, then remove the lid and continue cooking while you prepare the pasta (stir the cauliflower regularly).
Using the cauliflower water, cook the pasta so it’s a little undercooked (a little harder than “al dente”).
Drain,leaving a little water clinging to the pasta, then add to the sauce. Mix well, then cover and cook over a low heat for a couple of minutes, or until pasta is completely cooked.
Finally add the chopped basil leaves and stir. 1
Toss the finished pasta with a little extra olive oil and serve with some grated pecorino.
You can also serve this pasta dish topped with some fried breadcrumbs instead of the cheese.

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Simple, wonderful baked eggs

This recipe reminds me of my mother, as she would have one of these waiting for me in the oven when I came home for lunch from school as a small child. My school was on the same block as our house. These are great for all generations to eat.

There are so many variations to this dish. You can add fresh herbs, or spinach, you can grate sharp cheddar and sprinkle it over the top, you can put a slice of tomato on the bottom or top of the dish, add a chopped cooked rasher of bacon to it and  on…

Here is the basic recipe and it’s so comforting to eat. Get as creative as you like with it, it can take it.

This recipe serves 6

1 tbsp butter
6 large eggs
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp cream
1 cup grated mature cheddar cheese (optional, but nice!)

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Coat each 6 oz ramekin dish or custard cups with 1/2 tsp butter.
Break 1 egg into each prepared dish.
Sprinkle the eggs with some pepper and salt and spoon 1 tsp cream over each egg.
Sprinkle with some grated cheddar cheese if you like and place the ramekins in a 13 x 9” baking dish.
Add hot  water to the baking dish to a depth of 1 1/4 inches.
Bake the eggs for 25 minutes or until they are set and the cheese is nicely melted

 

Grilled parmesan polenta with olives, peppers, pine nuts and rosemary

So many wonderful Mediterranean flavors and gluten free!

Serves 8 as starter or 6 as a main course

2 1/2 pints water
1 tsp salt
1/2 lb polenta (It’s recommended to use the instant variety, which cooks in 5 minutes)
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 red peppers
1 yellow pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 cup pitted and chopped kalamata olives
3 anchovy fillets, drained of oil and squished (optional, but I love them)
1/4 cup fresh pine nuts
sea salt

Bring the water to the boil in a large wide (not tall and narrow) saucepan.
Add the salt, then shake in the polenta from a height. Stir continuously, using a wooden spoon.
When the polenta is cooked (5 mins for instant polenta and about 20 mins for regular polenta), stir in the butter and parmesan cheese.
Tip it on to a shallow tray and spread out to 1/2 inch thick. Smooth the surface and leave to cool. The cooked polenta can be left at room temperature for several hours, or it can be made a day in advance, but should be kept covered and refrigerated.

Blacken the peppers over a hot gas flame until well charred, put them into a paper bag (I use a paper grocery bag) and clip it shut so the peppers can steam until cool. This makes it easy to remove the skins.
When cool, remove the skins, core and seeds, put them into a colander over a bowl to catch any precious juices, and cut into fine slices.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over a low heat in a small pan and add the garlic and rosemary. Cook gently until aromatic, but don’t let the garlic color.
Add the black olives and take off the heat, then stir in the peppers and any juices caught underneath the peppers.
If using anchovies, blend them into this mixture. This can all be prepared a few hours ahead; cover and keep it at room temperature.

Fry the pine nuts in a little oil until golden (make sure you keep moving them around in the pan or they will burn) and drain on a paper towel, sprinkling them with a little salt.

When ready to finish off the polenta, cut it into squares and brush it on both sides with olive oil.
Barbecue the pieces on both sides, or grill them on an indoor griddle until light brown and crispy.
Transfer the crispy pieces onto a serving platter, spoon on the pepper topping and add a smattering of toasted pine nuts.

Serve immediately with a good, interesting green salad.

Pasta with cauliflower and anchovies

This is a Marcella Hazan recipe which is so simple and so flavorsome. It was brought to my attention recently by the person who served me at the Beverly Hills Cheese Store. Thank you!!

You can adjust the amount in this recipe if you’re using less than 1lb of pasta.

Serves 4

1 & 1/2 lb head of cauliflower
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
6 flat anchovy fillets, chopped
1/4 tsp chopped red chile pepper
salt
1lb packaged penne or other pasta
2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped

Break apart the cauliflower into florets; steam until tender, about 10 – 12 minutes.
Put the oil, garlic and chopped anchovies into a medium-sized saute pan.
Turn on the heat to medium and saute until the garlic begins to turn golden, stirring and mashing the anchovies.
Put in the cauliflower and break it up with a fork, crumbling it into peanut-sized pieces, mashing some of it into a pulp to create a sauce.
Add the hot pepper and a liberal amount of salt. Cook for a few minutes more.
Cook the pasta, place in a serving bowl and pour the sauce over it.
Toss and add the parsley.

 

Tuscan tomato and white bean soup

Gorgeous, smooth and velvety. Lovely for the Fall.

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 28oz can good quality tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 14 oz can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
finely grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan.
Cook the onion for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic and anchovies and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the broth, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper and rosemary.
Reserve 1/3 of the white beans then add the remainder to the soup.
Stir to combine and bring to the boil.
Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and puree the soup in a blender or with an immersion stick blender.
Return the soup to the saucepan and stir through the reserved white beans to heat through.
Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh parsley and remaining tbsp of olive oil.
Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese

 

Tonnato sauce

This is one of the loveliest cold sauces to put over thin slices of cold chicken, turkey, veal or roasted red peppers. The lovely tuna flavor with the capers is really special and it’s very silky.

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Sea salt
2 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 7oz can good quality tuna packed in oil
5 anchovy fillets
3 tbsp capers, drained

For garnish
extra capers, thin slices lemon, pitted black olives, parsley leaves or anchovy fillets.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 1/4 tsp salt until pale yellow and the consistency of cream.
Beginning a drop at a time, add 1 1/4 cups olive oil, whisking continually.
As the mixture thickens, you can add the oil a little quicker. When it gets quite thick, whisk in 1 tbsp lemon juice.
Continue adding the oil until the whole 1 1/4 cups has been absorbed and the mayonnaise is quite thick and shiny.
Whisk in another tbsp of lemon juice.

Drain the tuna and put it in a food processor with the anchovies, remaining cup of olive oil, remaining lemon juice and capers.
Process until you get a creamy uniformly blended sauce.
Scrape the sauce into a bowl with the mayonnaise and fold to combine.
Taste for seasoning. It should be tangy and highly seasoned.
Refrigerate until needed

 

Spaghetti with grilled shrimp, zucchini and salsa verde

Summer is the perfect time for this recipe.You can BBQ the zucchini and shrimp but I do them on the ridged pan over two gas elements. Like this one below.

Serves 4

Salsa Verde
2/3 cup lightly packed Italian parsley leaves
3 tbsp drained capers
1 large clove garlic
4 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp anchovy paste
a level 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1&1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Rest of the dish
2 tbsp olive oil
2 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
1&1/4lbs large shrimp, shelled and deveined
wooden or metal skewers for cooking the shrimp
3/4lb spaghetti

Put the parsley, capers, garlic, lemon juice, anchovy paste, mustard, 1/2 tsp of the salt and the pepper into a food processor, Pulse, just to chop, 6 to 8 times. With the machine running, add the 1/2 cup olive oil in a thin stream to make a coarse puree.
Leave this salsa verde in the food processor, if necessary, pulse to re-emulsify just before adding to the pasta.

Light the grill or heat the ridged pan to hot. Brush the zucchini with 1 tbsp of the oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp of the salt.
Grill the zucchini, turning, until just done, about 10 minutes in all.
When the slices are cool enough to handle, cut them crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces and put them in a large bowl.

Thread the shrimp onto the skewers. Brush the shrimp with the remaining 1 tbsp oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 tsp salt.
Grill, turning, until just done, about 4 minutes in all.
Remove the shrimp from the skewers, slice them in half horizontally and add them to the zucchini

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghetti until just done, about 12 minutes.
Drain. Add the pasta to the grilled zucchini and shrimp and toss with the salsa verde.