Serves 4-6 as a contorno (side dish)
- A head of cauliflower
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled
- Olive oil
- A handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- A handful of pinoli nuts
- A handful of raisins, soaked in lukewarm water until soft
- Salt and pepper
You begin by lightly boiling a trimmed head of cauliflower for 5-10 minutes, depending on its size, draining it and letting it cool a bit.
Then cut the head into flowerets, dividing the largest ones so all of them are of more or less equal size. You can cut up the stem as well—which is perfectly edible as well—into sections.
Allow the flowerets to braise over gentle heat in some olive oil and a clove of garlic for about 20 minutes, or until just tender. Regulate the heat if need be—the cauliflower should brown only slightly—and stir from time to time to ensure even cooking. (Remove the garlic clove if it browns too much.)
When the cauliflower is just about done, add a mixture of equal parts chopped parsley, pinoli nuts and raisins (which you will have softened in lukewarm water for about 15 minutes or so and drained). Season with salt and pepper, mix well and continue cooking until the cauliflower is tender.
The combination of sweet and savory is not a very common one in Italian cooking, but it works very nicely here. Raisins are often a sign of oriental influence. They feature in southern Italian cooking— particularly in Sicily, where the Moorish influence is strong—as well as in Venice, which carried on an active trade with the Near East.
Since we were out of pinoli nuts at home, I used roasted Mexican pumpkin seeds known as pepitas. There were an excellent substitute and perfectly delicious.
A recipe for Neapolitan style cauliflower is contained in the classic tome, La cucina napoletana by J.C. Franscesconi (recipe 527 on page 534).