A Broccoli from Another Planet

A Broccoli from Another Planet

What the hell is this? I saw it at the farmer’s market the other day. Something about its swirling chartreuse peaks, like a cross between a science fiction landscape and one of Madonna’s old bras, begged me to take it home and play with it.

Turns out it’s called Romanesco broccoli. I googled it when I got home and didn’t find a whole lot to interest me, just rivers of prose attempting to describe its freakish yet beguiling appearance. There was one recipe for Maccheroncini with Romanesco, from a NYC chef named Sarah Jenkins about whom I’ve read great things. It sounded pretty yummy, but before using this vegetable in a larger dish I wanted to taste it on its own. I decided to treat it like broccoli, and sautee it with some garlic and hot pepper.

Breaking it up into florets was simple, though much more like cauliflower than broccoli—the florets are tighter, and it’s a question of nudging them off with a knife rather than chopping, if that makes sense. This should’ve been my first clue that S wouldn’t like it—one of his dislikes (which are far, far fewer than mine) is the cabbage/cauliflower/Brussels sprouts family. Broccoli’s about the only thing he’ll eat from that whole section of the seed catalog.

Once it was floretted, I tossed it into a big pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes, just to soften it up a little. Meanwhile, I warmed some chopped garlic in extra virgin olive oil, and added about half a teaspoon of my favorite peperoncino piccante paste. When the romanesco was just barely softened, I scooped it out of the water and tossed it into the pan with the garlic mixture. Zipzipzip, stir it around a minute or two more to let the flavors meld, and then serve.

So how was it, you ask? Well, it was disappointing. As predicted, S didn’t care for it at all, which at first pleased me just fine—more for me! But after two or three bites I found that I didn’t care for it all that much myself. The taste was fine, very similar to cauliflower, which I like. But the texture was strange. It felt almost fuzzy in my mouth, like I was eating cauliflower that had been patted down with an angora sweater. I didn’t finish even my serving, let alone polishing off S’s.

Romanesco broccoli will not be entering my kitchen again any time soon. But hey, if I hadn’t tried it, we’d never know I didn’t like it, right?

(One more reminder: tomorrow is your last chance to vote for my next Sugar High Friday experiment. Pumpkin Bread Pudding is way out in front, but it’s not too late for a surge of votes to push the Dried Cherry and Raisin Rice Pudding across the finish line first…)