November 12, 2012

bringin' Berlin home

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...


  1. Oh this looks so delicious! Maybe for Thanksgiving? So unique and fresh. Some day I'm going to paint you a detailed picture of Stafford (yes, I live in Stafford), and I promise Zurich will not feel so vanilla :) Can't wait to make this!

    1. You live in Stafford! How funny, I don't think you'v mentioned that before.

      I thought about making this for Thanksgiving, but I'm just not sure about salad at Thanksgiving, it takes up room in your stomach where extra mashed potatoes and stuffing should be. Perhaps for the day after Thanksgiving?

  2. What a beautiful salad, Talley. You know, I felt the same way about Ottolenghi's Plenty -- a really beautiful book, but it just isn't the sort of thing I reach for when I need to eat and satisfy mine and others hunger. But after browsing through Jerusalem and seeing reviews of it, I think it's very inspiring and I'm hoping to get a copy of it by Christmastime. Such fresh and bold flavors, just like in this salad!

    And I love hearing about Berlin -- love that top photo. It's always so easy to compare and want to be/live wherever we're not. I feel like sometimes all I think about is where I want to live and how everything would be so much better if I lived in Provence/the Bay Area/Italy/Spain etc, and then I have to remind myself of a quote I read in the Sun Also Rises: "You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another." Good for you for appreciating Zurich and bringing what it doesn't have (Berlin!) home with you.

    1. i guess it's a little bit of the 'grass is greener' mentality. There is something about being comfortable where you are, and maybe that comfort is what makes it vanilla-ish. Maybe vanilla is not such a bad thing.

      Glad to hear I'm not the only person who isn't wowed over by Plenty. I think we're on the same wavelength so I'm sure you'll like Jerusalem! Definitely try this salad, so fresh and clean!

  3. vanilla girl :-) this salad is also on my list..and berlin maybe friday..which place do you miss the most, warmly s.

    1. Susanne! Sorry to just be replying now. It's too late if you are already in Berlin, but if you happen to get this go to Alpenstück and try the bread - best bread I've had in a looooong time. I don't know, just explore and enjoy. The area south of Torstrasse, the old Jewish neighborhood was fun to wander around as was Kreuzberg where we eat some delicious Turkish food. Enjoy!

  4. I've been eyeing both the local cauliflower and the pomegranates at the grocery store this week. I wasn't sure that I'd find an excuse to buy specimens of either sort, let alone both! I think I need to do some shopping today and make this salad!

    I actually like Plenty quite a lot -- but maybe that's because I still cook like a vegetarian when I'm not frying potatoes in duck fat. A lot of the recipes are quite elaborate for a weeknight dinner, but I think there are still quite a few treasures buried in there. I actually cooked from it over the weekend, so I should have a post soon, if you need more convincing. But either way, I'm all for more meatball posts! And I should probably get a copy of Jerusalem for myself while I'm out...

    1. Talley, I made this for lunch today. Loved the warm spices, the sweetness of the cauliflower, the pop of the pomegranate seeds.

    2. Oh I'm so glad to hear that you made it and you liked it! I've made it twice since posting this, it's just so good.

      I'm not sure what it is about Plenty, but I think you're right, the recipes can be quite complicated and ingredient heavy for a weeknight. I'm curious to know your 'treasures'. I'll keep my eyes open for your Plenty post. Perhaps I'll leaf through it this afternoon. I need some inspiration.

      Have you leafed through Jerusalem yet? Curious to hear your impressions

    3. I had a quick look at Jerusalem in the bookstore yesterday--you weren't kidding about the meatballs! It looks like a beautiful book. I might ask for it for Christmas, but I feel as though there are a couple of other cookbooks I already have that I should get some more mileage out of first. And Octavian and I just don't prepare meat all that often, so I'm not sure how often we'd turn to it.

      As for Plenty...I just flipped through it, and you know what? I've cooked from it far less than I thought I had. There are still quite a few things that I'd like to try out at some point though. Some of the Asian ingredients are just a little too exotic for my neighbourhood grocery store though, so I'm going to have to put in some effort and look elsewhere.

      The one recipe from Plenty that I've made more than once am planning to again soon is the spiced red lentils on p. 221. The ingredients list is a long one, but it's mostly spices. And the dish is really flavourful and satisfying.