My Vegetable Love

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:

Its spikes and turrets and towers, and its symmetrical arrangement, make it even more intricate than Shah Jehan’s love token.

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:

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14 Responses to My Vegetable Love

  1. pauline says:

    If one must fall in love with a single vegetable, you’ve chosen well! I’m of more peasant stock – give me a Brussels sprout (or a dozen of them, sauteed in garlic butter) and I’ll be smitten for hours 😉

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  2. Stef says:

    I thought I was pretty aware of most vegetables, but I admit I have never seen this one before – and it *is* beautiful.

    As for consumption, I suspect any veggie cooked in quality EVOO, garlic, and pepper flakes would be delish. 🙂

    Thank you for expanding my culinary knowledge a bit this morning!

    Stef

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Actually I use a fresh serrano or jalapeno or even a tame red one, finely chopped. I like ’em better than pepper flakes, albeit in small quantities. (The real umami secret is to melt a few anchovies in the EVOO as well, but there are anchovy-haters out there in the world, though, and one must be discreet.)

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  3. DJ Elpern says:

    Very tasteful post. I will share with http://www.ezhomecooking@wordpress.com and they may link to this. Thanks for making my day with beauty. DJE

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  4. pauline says:

    The sheep ate every one of my sprouts this year just before the first frost! My heart was very nearly broken.

    Steam sprouts for seven minutes, cut in half, brown in one T melted butter and a clove of garlic, finely chopped. Or, steam lightly before roasting in a dish with root vegetables. OR steam and smother in cream sauce! You’ll be in love, too.

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Bother the sheep! Your first riff— with the garlic — sounds immediately appealing. Cream sauce, hmmm, never thought of that. Sounds good. Did you ever try slicing them after cooking and giving them a quick stir in oil with some cumin and salt? Maybe adding some sliced chestnuts? It works for me. HOWEVER. I do love the sprouts — but it’s strictly brotherly love. Whereas the Romanesco makes me weak in the knees.

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    • Stef says:

      I’m totally a fan of the pan-roasting in the oven. The sprouts get all caramelized and delish – yum.

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  5. AR Pito says:

    Your homage to a vegetable reminds me of: “Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education. –Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar.” Keep up the good work and postings!

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to be Mark Twain? Every time you opened your mouth, out would come a quote! Thanks so much for this one.
      P.S. By this logic — I think the Romanesco has a PhD.

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  6. Marilyn de Guzman says:

    I adore all the cruciferous vegetables but have a husband who doesn’t. He has happily eaten the following…. Saute a little red onion in olive oil until soft. Add about 1/4c. balsamic vinegar (the inexpensive kind) and let it cook down to a syrup. Off heat mix in some toasted pine nuts, currants that have been plumped in hot water, and chopped parsley. Toss with oven roasted romanesco or cauliflower cut into bite sized pieces and serve over pasta.

    If you ever come across broccoli sprouts don’t pass them up.

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      This comes from one of the great cooks of all times, people, so get out your pencils and make notes!
      Marilyn — as for broccoli sprouts, that must be a Seattle Pikes market thing. We’re lucky to see bean sprouts in the Price Chopper.

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  7. I have never before seen nor heard of Romanesco cauliflower! But now, I can nearly taste it in my mouth. You have brought this unique vegetable to life with your well worded description. Thank you for introducing me to this vegetable!

    Tara

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