Farmers’ Market Find: Romanesco Broccoli

To paraphrase a popular weekly: Food editors! They’re just like us! And contrary to what you might think we (well, I) haven’t eaten everywhere, tasted everything, or cooked out of every cookbook on the market. Case in point: Romanesco broccoli. Oh, I’d seen it before. Read about it in other magazines. But I’d never had any personal experience with the stuff until I picked up two heads at the farmers’ market.

Then, I did what everyone else does: I googled Romanesco broccoli (or cauliflower, depending on which link you look at). I found out its botanical pedigree (it’s Italian) and its culinary uses (sub for broccoli or cauliflower in recipes). I read and admired well-written descriptions (“Fractal food” and “decorate[d] with spires and minarets” were favorites, but “part psychedelic broccoli, part alien life form,” seemed a little over the top).

Rather than follow an elaborate recipe, I decided the best way to find out what the fuss was all about was to simply throw the cooked florets/spires/minarets in with some pasta, then dress with a little garlic and olive oil. Here’s what I discovered from my testing and tasting (others may disagree):

Romanesco broccoli looks and tastes more like cauliflower when it’s raw, then takes a turn towards broccoli when it’s cooked. The florets turn a brighter green, too. The advantage over broccoli is that Romanesco broccoli doesn’t get soggy if it’s cooked a little too long.

The florets cook more quickly than cauliflower—I threw small ones in with the pasta for 5 minutes and they were perfect.

Up next: Trying Romanesco broccoli in a real recipe. I’m especially curious to know how it will taste in a pickled or marinated vegetable recipe like Tangy Marinated Vegetables. And I think it would be fun to try roasting it whole like this Stuffed Cauliflower.



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