This is a standard Sicilian combination that I’ve seen in many cookbooks. Sometimes the recipe also includes pine nuts, anchovies, garlic, basil, tomatoes, pasta, and/or parmesan. I’ve tried many different variants, but I’m never that excited by the dish. It’s flavorful, but somehow just not my preferred flavors. But a student of mine from Iran gave me a ton of saffron as a gift and I was trying to figure out what to do with it. I came across this Ottolenghi recipe in Plenty, and was surprised to see that—unlike other recipes which usually call for only a pinch or 1/8 tsp. of saffron— his version calls for 1.5 teaspoons (!?!) of saffron. I decided to give it a try.
The recipe is pretty simple. You combine the saffron with boiling water in a large bowl, then throw in a head of cauliflower (divided into florets); 1 large red onion, sliced; 2/3 cup golden raisins; 1/2 cup green olives, cut in half lengthwise; olive oil; 2 bay leaves; salt and pepper. You mix everything together, transfer it to an ovenproof dish (I used my cast iron skillet), cover, and bake for around 40 minutes. It’s garnished with parsley before serving.
I followed the recipe pretty closely except I cut the oil (I used 2 Tbsp. instead of the 4 Tbsp. called for), I used kalamata olives instead of green olives, and I forgot to garnish it with parsley. Even though I cut the oil it still came out tasting pretty oily.
Alma ate out all the raisins and olives and then ate the cauliflower somewhat grudgingly after I told her I wasn’t going to pick out more olives and raisins for her. She refused to eat the (stringy) onions. I gave her seconds and she again picked out the raisins and olives and ate some of the cauliflower before giving up on it. I couldn’t tell what she thought of the saffron taste.
Despite the massive amount of saffron, I (as usual) found the combination uninspired. Derek liked it more than me. He gave it a solid B. It would make a nice side dish he said, and he would be happy for me to make it again. Benard thought it was too sweet. He thought it would be quite good if we left out the raisins. I disagree, but do think that it would be much better with a tarter, brinier green olive.