Sweet Saffron Rice

This versatile and vibrant rice will complement so many entrees.

1 1/3 cups basmati rice
1 cup superfine sugar
1 pinch saffron threads
1 1/4 cups water
2 cloves
4 cardamom pods
2/3 cup golden raisins (optional)

Cook the rice following the package directions or your usual method.

Put the sugar, saffron and water in a small saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar over a low heat. Without stirring further, bring to a boil and bubble until the syrup reduces and thickens. Add the cloves and cardamom pods, then take off the heat and allow to infuse for 15 minutes.

Stir the raisins (if using) into the cooked rice then toss in the syrup before serving.

Serves 8-10

Sicilian Cauliflower Salad

The mixture of sweet, Marsala-soaked raisins, salty olives and a delicate saffron-scented dressing gives ordinary cauliflower the star treatment. This is a fabulous make-ahead salad.

1 head cauliflower
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
1/4 cup water from a recently boiled kettle
1/2 cup golden raisins
5 tbs. Marsala
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbs. lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup oil-brined black olives
3 tbs. toasted pine nuts
small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Break the cauliflower into florets and put these in a saucepan that has a lid. Cover with cold water, add the salt and bay leaves, put the lid on, set the pan on a high heat and bring to a boil. Drain immediately and run under cold water, then set aside.

Meanwhile, put the saffron threads in a small bowl and add the boiled water. Let steep.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the Marsala and bring to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat.

Add the shallots and lemon juice to the saffron water. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make the dressing.

Tip the still-warm cauliflower into a serving bowl and add the raisins and any Marsala, the dressing and the olives. Toss well and check the seasoning. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Toss in most of the pine nuts and parsley, then scatter the rest over the top and serve.

Serves 4-6