Romanesco Broccoli

My favorite thing to do with Romanesco Broccoli is to give it a very Italian treatment by slow cooking it with anchovies and garlic. The taste explosion is a party in your mouth. I’m not exaggerating. 

Cultivated in Italy since the 16th Century, Romanesco Broccoli is a member of the brassica family of plants which includes broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and cabbage. It’s loaded with vitamins C & K, folic acid, potassium, fiber and carotenoids, and is therefore thought to counter the effects of cell aging along with improving brain function. Eat it often, I say. What have you got to lose?

Nutritional properties aside, I also love the way its shape represents a fractal, highlighting the mathematical perfection of the natural world.

This recipe comes from the Rome Sustainable Food Project founded by Alice Waters in 2007. She and her partners created their sustainable, local kitchen at the American Academy in Rome, a place where scholars and artists come together to share ideas, themselves, cultures and great food. When I first visited Italy, the attention to fresh vegetables captivated me. I’d never before encountered a cuisine that used meat as a condiment, a secondary concern whose role in a dish is to make vegetables shine, rather like a lighting expert does for leading actresses.

Ingredients

  • 1 large Romanesco cut into florets.
  • olive oil.
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced.
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped.
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes.
  • 4 anchovies, drained, patted dry and chopped.
  • squeeze of lemon juice.

Method

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and then salt it.
  2. Blanch the Romanesco for 2-3 minutes. Drain.
  3. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan with a glass lid. Mine is 13 inches.
  4. Add garlic and cook over low heat for a few minutes until it gives off great aroma.
  5. Add the hot pepper flakes, rosemary and anchovies.
  6. Sizzle for about 30 seconds until the anchovies start to dissolve into the oil.
  7. Add the Romanesco and stir well.
  8. Cover the pan and cook the Romanesco on low heat for about 20 minutes.
  9. Keep an eye on it and stir once in a while.
  10. If the pan gets dry and the garlic and broccoli look like they might burn, add some water. A little more oil might also be needed.
  11. Once the broccoli is tender, taste and adjust the seasonings. 
  12. Drizzle over lemon juice.

Serve right away.

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