Wow, now where did October go, friends? Is it really November? I can’t believe that I’ve been at the new job for a month already, or that I just finished my first graduate school mid-terms, or that my birthday twin is about to turn one year old (That would be my niece, Izzy-bear. Yes, she was born on my birthday!). What a packed year and how quickly its end approaches. Alas, that also means the end to my local Farmer’s Market, which is about to shutdown for the winter.
I hate to admit that I ended up throwing away most of the produce I’d pick up each Sunday at the market (Told you it was a packed year!). With mid-terms over and finals not quite here yet, however, I now have a weekend or two to have some foodie fun and get my kitchen creativity on. Yay! Of course, as the weather is cooling down so are the in-season selections, but it also means those spring-time cool weather crops that I missed are making their second appearance like this little, difficult to find beauty: Romanesco.
I can’t believe I actually came across this lovely piece of natural art, but there it was: a bright green mound of fractal florets surrounded by colorful orange and purple cauliflower. How could I resist? It was like when I found those fiddle-head ferns. I couldn’t wait to have some fun thinking up something fun and new.
The first step, of course, was to taste the Romanesco. From what I had read, I knew to expect some sort of cauliflower/broccoli blend. Considering that it is also more often called Romanesco Broccoli than Romanesco Cauliflower, I was prepared for my taste buds to meet something along the metallic flavor I tend to get from broccoli. To my surprise, I found Romanseco to have the sweeter profile of cauliflower, only nuttier, but still with the slight bite of broccoli. If you are a cruciferous fan, I definitely recommend this veggie!
So what to do with the two heads of Romanesco I had purchased? Since part of this vegetable’s appeal is it’s exotic appearance, I knew I wanted to maintain whole florets. However, I didn’t want to just steam the Romanesco. I mean, I was supposed to be having FUN. So of course I turned to Emilie’s and my favorite cooking resource: the Flavor Bible.
Now Romanesco is a bit too exotic to have its own entry in this tome, however now that I knew what it tasted like I flipped to the cauliflower entry and perused the suggested pairings…and at the top of the list, in bold type nonetheless, was…anchovies.
Heck, why not? Time to stretch my kitchen skills after such a long hiatus, right? Right!
Continuing down the list, I determined a simple, Mediterranean style dressing would be the perfect solution to show off these pretty florets both visually and flavor-wise. And if I do say so myself, this Romanesco salad turned out to be quite versatile. I ate it fresh (well, post photo-op) while it was warm, but throughout the week I found myself nibbling on the refrigerated leftovers. This recipe is readily a main dish, a side dish, and a tapas and can be served warm, room-temperature, or cold. Not a bad deal, I say.
And it was definitely fun.
Romanesco Mediterranean Salad
- 2 heads Romanesco Broccoli/Cauliflower
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, about 1/2 a lemon
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 2 tablespoons small capers
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
- cooking spray
- In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and anchovy paste, whisking together until emulsified. Set aside.
- Fill a saucepan with 3/4 to 1 inch of water and insert steamer basket and bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the Romanesco.
- With a paring knife, carefully cut florets from the Romanesco to preserve their unique fractal shape.
- Once the water comes to a boil, place the Romanesco florets into the steamer basket and cover. Steam 3-5 minutes depending on desired tenderness. When finished transfer florets to a large bowl filled with cool water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.
- While Romanesco is steaming, spray a pan with cooking spray and heat over medium. Once pan is heated, toast breadcrumbs for about 2-3 minutes until golden. Remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, combine steamed florets, capers, and redpepper flakes. Pour in the anchovy dressing and toss ingredients to coat. Add toasted breadcrumbs and toss one more time to combine ingredients.
- Serve at room temperature as tapas or a side dish.