My old chef Andy put me in charge of making a risotto special that constantly changed with whatever his crazy connections would provide us. That was the first time I cooked with romanesco, or ate it for that matter. Sure you can put romanesco in risotto, and that's how I first cooked it, but it's much better on it's own, simply sautéed, which will allow you to appreciate it. What's so great about romanesco? besides being the most beautiful vegetable ever, it's delicious. (Also, if you like broccoli-esque things, make sure to check out broccoli leaves and spigariello).
The spirals and designs are also a perfect example of the fibonacci mathematical sequence. Looking closely, you can see that each floret is made up of another small floret, that is made up of another small floret. The sequence will create a sort of swirl pattern, a natural sort of logarithm.
I'll be honest, it is a bit difficult to come by this in Minnesota, and their season is pretty short. If you want to get ahold of some, keep your fingers on the pulse of the farmer's markets, especially the best farmers market in the twin cities, which is the one in Lowertown St. Paul.
Unlike Minneapolis farmer's markets, the St. Paul one doesn't allow mainline purveyors to sell their wares. This means you won't be confused by seeing things like bananas and pineapple, as these, last time I checked are not locally grown in Minnesota. Our local farmers should not have to compete with the economies of scale used by mainline corporate food dealers. Nuff said though, lest I get riled up.
Romanesco can be cooked just like cauliflower. Simply trim the florets and cook. It is fun to play around with different ways of preparing it though. Here are a couple different ways you might try trimming, cutting and cooking it:
- Trim into large florets, then peel the stems and saute whole
Vegetarian or Vegan romanesco "steak"
- Cut romanesco into large wedges and cook like a vegetarian piece of meat
Whole baked romanesco
- Remove the inner core and blanch in boiling salted water for a minute or two, then top with a cheese sauce and bake whole until golden brown, a stunning side
- Cover romanesco florets in a cold pickling brine and cure for a month or two, they will lose their color a bit, but their texture and crunch will be there
- Slice the florets into thin slices and then marinate with some oil, salt and pepper, a couple grates of lemon zest, and a chilli flake or two, and perhaps some mint, let the whole thing sit for 30 minutes and then eat as a side, maybe with some grated cheese
How not to cook
I would have never thought of this, but last year I was witness to a horrible crime. We had some interns or something playing around making soup. In the cooler was a ton of romanesco. I have found that my coworkers and I have a tendency to hoard it, everyone wants to use it and throw it on a different place on the menu. When I came into work one day, to my horror I saw a new soup had been created: "Pureed cream of romanesco", which is pretty much the only way you can screw up.