Romanesco. It sounds sexy, alluring, Italian. Like a tall, dark and handsome Roman God. But, in reality, it is nothing like the vision the name conjures up. Our eyes met in the produce department of a specialty food store last year. Its tall and pointy bright green clusters of organized mini Christmas trees spoke to me. “Pick me! Pick me!”
Little did I know that this newish, trending vegetable would become one of my favorites. A cross between broccoli and cauliflower and of Italian origin (I love anything Italian!), its densely packed flower buds form repeating spiral patterns that scientists have fun with. Called a “fractal” vegetable, it’s been discussed in mathematical and architectural circles as a miracle of nature.
The taste is earthier than broccoli and the body is firm with a texture more like a cauliflower. I cook it al dente so it retains its bite on the inside while having a softer first outer layer.
When I saw the seedlings in my local nursery last fall, I snatched them up, eager to have a love affair with Romanesco all spring. Watching my new garden additions grow was every bit as exciting as my fava bean experiment. Something different, a new character in my raised beds. The plants took off quickly, shooting three feet skyward, their enormous, sturdy leaves folding over one another. After four months of doting on my Romanesco, waiting for the spiky green vegetable to birth, I almost lost faith. All I had was a garden full of big leaves. Until one day, at the beginning of month five and after my daily inspection, a small chartreuse cone caught my eye, pushing up from the cuddle of her mother leaves. It was happening!
These plants are teaching me patience. Once emerged, they grow quickly. They are so gorgeous, I hated to cut the umbilical cord but I did. I shared this special gem, a la Italian, with my foodie cousin Ali and my gourmet mom.
There are so many ways to prepare Romanesco. I wanted to give it an Italian flair so I cut off each spiral, roasted them and then tossed with fried capers, olive oil, roasted red peppers, minced garlic and red pepper flakes. It does lose some of its vibrant green color in the cooking but the flavor and texture make up for it. There are four more plants in my garden in various stages awaiting for me to show my appreciation by cooking them in some creative way. I have all spring!
Ciao for now,