Speaking of romance in the kitchen — I confess my own passion for the charmer of the vegetable world:
It was love at first sight before I even knew its name. Even knew its variety. Even knew whether or not it was a cauliflower, despite its electric-green glory. (It is.)
It is, simply, the Taj Mahal of the vegetable kingdom:
Part of its awesome spiky beauty stems (no pun intended) from the fact that it is a “mathematical” plant. Its shape is fractal: its intricate clusters of closely packed florets are arranged along logarithmic spirals, in which each small spiral replicates within the larger spirals.
I finally found out its name, long after I fell madly in love that first day at the Lenox Farmers’ Market. It is ROMANESCO BROCCOLI, or BROCCOLO ROMANESCO. It belongs to the Botrytis group of the Brassica oleracea species, which makes it, botanically speaking, wild cabbage. (Or so says Google.) In truth, it is a variant form of cauliflower, despite all the technicalities.
It is (need I tell you?) delicious, with the mouth feel of cauliflower but the taste of broccoli, only better. Melt the florets in plenty of good olive oil, with a good amount of chopped garlic and a little chopped red or green chili pepper, cook it all creamily tender, then season it with salt and pepper and pour over a pasta shape, penne or orecchiete, for example, and top the whole dish with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.
(This assumes you can find a Romanesco cauliflower, my pet name for it. In the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, you’re out of luck; you’ll have to wait for next summer’s Farmers’ markets.)
I don’t want to overwhelm you, so here’s only a small photo of my lovely one. If you click on it, however, you can experience it in practically lifesize splendor: