The only problem with our trip to Berlin was that we had to come back to Zürich. Berlin was alive with people starting things, changing things, growing things from scratch, and re-imagining things (namely, their amazing city). Zürich feels a bit dull in comparison. Let's just say that Berlin is Phish Food and Zürich is Vanilla, the blandest of bland vanillas.
And don't get me wrong, I'm a vanilla girl (well, actually I'm a strawberry girl, but strawberry is still one of the basic three), I love simplicity and purity and ease. Zürich knocks it out of the park as vanilla; it's easy to live here, it's comfortable, it's clean, things work. What it's missing is that holy-cow-that-was-a-fudgey-fish-with-my-marshmallow-swirl spark. You know?
Must. Stay. Positive...
...Zürich has mountains, née Alps, where we can frolic in the snow and eat fondue. The cute chalets where we eat bubbling cheese with long skinny forks are decked out with plaid tablecloths, plaid napkins and plaid pillows. (It's a good thing I like plaid). They are cute and cozy and completely authentic. If we don't feel like fondue we can get a bratwurst, and I'm here to tell you that after trying a curry wurst while in Berlin that I am officially on the bratwurst bandwagon. But you already knew that. And then there is my favorite cafe, which is also in Zürich. It doesn't have plaid, but it does have black and white checked tile. I was there today writing and trying to stay positive while eating pea and mint soup, which was damn good, wonderfully light and flavorful with a subtle little tang to finish things off. Speaking of light and flavorful there is also cauliflower salad, which was in Berlin, but is now, thanks to my sleuth skills, in Zürich too.
I was in Berlin for one night by myself, and feeling a tad out of my comfort zone and a bit like I just wanted a night in to sit with my feet on the couch, my body under a blanket, and my nose in a book, I decided to stay at the hotel for dinner instead of venturing out. We stayed at the Soho House, which has a wonderful lounge upstairs, and so I wandered up and took a seat at one of the plump army-green leather bar chairs and ordered the cauliflower salad with hazelnuts and the fennel sausage with roasted red pepper. The sausage was good (it was sausage after all), but the salad touched my palate in such simple yet complex ways that I put my fork down and took a good long look at what exactly was on the plate. There was roasted cauliflower and roasted hazelnuts, but that I already knew from the menu, there was also parsley, celery and pomegranate seeds. I noted all of this in my notebook app on my phone. I ate the rest of the salad slowly, trying to pinpoint the play of textures - pomegranate seeds popping and cauliflower melting - and figure out the flavors of the dressing, which were sweet, but not overly so. I ordered that salad two more times over the weekend, each time forcing myself to slow down so I could be sure my mental note box was sufficiently stocked - a heavy hand of parsley is not a bad thing - for when I tried to recreate it in Zürich.
I Googled cauliflower and hazelnut salad when we got home. I'm not sure what I was expecting to find, but I wasn't expecting to see that this exact salad that I'd eaten in Berlin is from Yotem Ottolenghi's new cookbook, Jerusalem. I know there are people out there who were waiting anxiously for this cookbook to hit the shelves. I wasn't one of them. I own Plenty, but I never use it. The recipes never really inspire me. I think it's because we are carnivores and I reach for cookbooks at dinnertime when I'm trying to find a new spin on chicken or beef. Now I'll reach for Jersualem. I bought it. After learning about the origin of the cauliflower salad I went to the English bookstore to check it out in person, interested mainly in securing the dressing recipe. I should know better. A quick flip through revealed so many different ways to cook chicken and make meatballs. A cookbook with six different recipes for meatballs, amongst other meat recipes, deserved a spot on my shelf.
I put post-it notes on the meatball recipes and set about making the cauliflower salad. It is exactly the same was the one I ate in Berlin. The same sweet cauliflower with crunchy fragrant hazelnuts, sweet and sour pomegranate seeds, crisp crunchy celery and mildly bitter parsley. With all of it's colors and textures the flavors are surprisingly balanced. The peppery bite of the parsley is muted by the sweet dressing and roasted cauliflower, leaving only the clean fresh taste of the herb behind. The pointy flat leaves settle in amongst the sweet and nutty flavors and you are left with a salad so tasty that you will wish you had made more because even though the recipe said it serves 4, it only served 2. (That seems to be a frequent occurrence in our house).
// Roasted Cauliflower & Hazelnut Salad //
from Jerusalem by Yotem Ottolenghi
* oh and that dressing, it turns out it's a toss and go salad, all the flavors coming together in the bowl and not before hand in a little dressing dish. I love the freedom of this approach.
1 head of cauliflower (660g grams / 1.3 lbs) broken into florets
5 tbsp olive oil
1 large stick of celery, cut on an angle
30g / 1 oz hazelnuts with skins
10 g / .35oz flat leaf parsley, stems removed (I used 20g)
50 g pomegranate seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 1/2 tsp maple syrup
salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 220ºC / 420ºF
Mix the cauliflower with 3 tbsp of olive oil and 1/2 tsp of salt and some black pepper. Spread on a roasting pan and roast on the top shelf for 25-35 minutes until the cauliflower has browned in places. Pull out of the oven and pour into a bowl to cool.
Turn the oven down to 170ºC / 350ºF. Spread the hazelnuts out on a roasting pan lined with parchment paper and place in the oven for about 15-17 minutes.
Allow the nuts to cool and then roughly chop them. Add them to the cauliflower along with the remaining oil and the rest of the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve at room temperature.
Now that I have the salad out of the way I can move on to the meatballs. I can see this NaPloBoMo turning into a month of meatballs. I guess it wouldn't be such a bad thing...