So you found some Romanesco at the farmer’s market this weekend, didn’t you… You just couldn’t resist those Fibonacci spirals and that fluorescent lime-green color. But what do you do with it?
Well, you can eat it as is: it has denser texture and so will be a bit creamier than regular cauliflower. We all know that the cauliflower is the last veg on a crudité platter – the only way to mask it’s dry and crumbly texture is to hide it underneath a generous scoop of ranch dressing. Romanesco, though, has a much sweeter, crunchier, and smoother mouthfeel and is great eaten raw.
The subtle nuttiness of Romanesco comes out when it is cooked, however - but how to cook it?
Well, first of all, it’s extremely versatile and pretty forgiving. Unlike cauliflower, which becomes soggy when waterlogged or overcooked, Romanesco’s denser texture allows a bigger margin of error, and doesn’t preclude boiling or steaming. Plus, you can cook it just like you would cauliflower – so there are already tons of recipes out there!
Still lost? I’ve written up a couple recipes in the last two weeks that are simple, but highlight the great flavor of this crazy vegetable. And I’ve also included a few ideas in this post, as well as a list of flavors that pair well with Romanesco so that you can start your own brainstorming.
What to look for when buying Romanesco:
Tightly-gathered florets and firm leaves. Avoid withered or black-spotted leaves and mold spots on the florets (black or grey on just the tips of the Romanesco are likely contact bruises and won’t affect the flavor).
How to prepare Romanesco:
Cut off florets into bite-sized chunks. Finely chop the stem and leaves – these are also delicious.
Great flavor matches
Flavor pairings for Romanesco include bright acids, salty+savory, and nuts. Most anything will do, but don’t overpower the sweet nuttiness of the Romanesco with too much of one strong flavor.
- Olives and olive oil
- White pepper
- Pine Nuts
- Lemon juice and zest
Other ideas for cooking Romanesco:
BATTER & FRY: Prepare a batter with cornstarch, cumin, paprika, and salt. Parboil the cauliflower. Dip bite-sized florets into milk mixed with flax seeds (to bind), gently toss in the batter and then fry in a half-inch of oil in a cast iron skillet for 6 minutes, flipping halfway after 3 minutes.
GRILL (or BROIL): Slice Romanesco into thick slices and brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and grill until tender. Season with your favorite fresh herb and some freshly ground black pepper.
MASH: This would make a wonderful nutty, creamy alternative to mashed potatoes - mash steamed cauliflower and prepare it as you would your favorite mashed potato recipe.
PARBOIL: Parboiled florets would make an excellent addition to a fresh salad of mâche or arugula with a dressing of salt, lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil. Bring well-salted water to a boil, add Romanesco florets, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Submerge parboiled florets in an ice bath and drain when cooled.
PURÉE: Make a soup a la an even creamier cauliflower soup. Roast florets with shallots and garlic until tender and beginning to caramelize and then purée everything with veggie stock. Finish with your best olive oil and some toasted pine nuts.
QUICK-PICKLE: Combine 1 cup mild, sweet vinegar (like rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar) with 1 tablespoon salt, 2 tablespoons sugar or other sweetener, and any seasonings – whole coriander or pepper seeds, peeled garlic, red pepper flakes, etc. Pour over bite-sized chunks of Romanesco and let marinate in the fridge overnight.
RAW: Romanesco would make an excellent addition to a crudité platter. Throw it in salads or eat it with hummus. Eaten raw, Romanesco’s flavor is subtle but exotic.
ROAST: See my recipes for Roasted Romanesco with Toasted Walnuts and Spicy Whole-Roasted Romanesco.
SAUTÉ: See my recipe for Sautéed Romanesco with Toasted Walnuts.
STEAM: Use a steamer basket to steam the florets (5-8 minutes), then drain and toss with olive oil, sea salt, fresh lemon juice and an herb or two (parsley would be perfect). If steaming whole, cut an X into the base of the stem and steam for up to 15 minutes.