Market Watch: Romanesco (Not Space Broccoli)

617762114

617762114

Photo by: DGrad

DGrad

With its florescent lime-green hue and funky spire-shaped florets, Romanesco looks a little like broccoli from another planet. In fact, its alien appearance earned it a cameo in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” (In one scene, Rey is shown biting into an apple studded with Romanesco florets, which drew commentary from famed astrophysicist and Star Wars fact-checker, Neil deGrasse Tyson.)

In reality, this cruciferous veggie, sometimes referred to as Romanesco broccoli, is more closely related to cauliflower than broccoli. It’s also a bit crunchier with a milder, slightly nutty flavor.

Though Romanesco has been on the menu in Italy since the 16th century, it didn’t make its debut in the United States until the late 90s. Until recently, it was found mostly at farmer’s markets. These days, however, you might spot it at your local supermarket during the fall and winter.

Romanesco Facts

Like other members of the Brassica family, including kale and cabbage, Romanesco is high in Vitamins C and K, and is a good source of dietary fiber. Romanesco is also particularly high in carotenoids and phytochemicals.

When buying Romanesco, choose heads that are bright in color. The stem should be firm, with no signs of wilting. Any attached leaves should be perky and crisp. Pick it up: it should feel dense and heavy for its size. Store it in a sealed plastic bag and refrigerate for up to a week.

What to Do with Romanesco

Though broccoli and cauliflower are perfectly respectable vegetables, let’s face it: they get a lot of play. Romanesco, with its exotic appearance and earthy flavor, might be just the ticket to spruce up familiar dishes. Luckily, you can do just about anything with Romanesco that you might do with cauliflower or broccoli. Try it on a crudités platter, paired with an herb dip.

To preserve its brilliant color, first blanch the florets in salted, boiling water, and then shock them in an ice bath. Roasting might be the best way to concentrate the vegetable’s earthy, sweet flavor.

For a simple weeknight dinner, pair olive oil roasted Romanesco florets and canned, drained chickpeas with pasta, a handful of chopped fresh herbs, and grated Parmesan. It also makes a nice side dish for fish, steak or roast chicken: simply sauté florets in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.

The most important thing to remember: don’t overcook it! You’re aiming for al dente, not mushy.

Here are a few recipes to try (some call for broccoli or cauliflower, but you can easily swap in Romanesco):

Related LInks:

Abigail Chipley is a freelance recipe developer, writer and cooking teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Market Watch: Spring Broccoli

Broccoli is usually found later in the summer, some varieties of this vitamin-packed veggie can be found the markets now.

Market Watch: Broccoli Rabe

When broccoli rabe shows up in your CSA box or farmers’ market it can only mean one thing… spring is here!

Market Watch: Fava Beans

Rumor has it they’re incredibly hard to shell so I’ve avoided fava beans in the past. As it turns out I was worried over nothing.

Market Watch: Tomatillos

Keep an eye out for these tangy little fruits encased in papery husks next time you're at the farmers market.

Market Watch: Kohlrabi

Every inch of kohlrabi is edible and packed with fiber, vitamin C, potassium and even some protein.

Market Watch: Casaba Melon

This dazzling lemon-yellow melon is new to my kitchen. After a taste, I am now a loyal fan.

Market Watch: Dandelion Greens

First up: verdant and pleasingly bitter dandelion greens. Here's what they're like and how to use them today.

Market Watch: Garlic Scapes

Chances are you won’t find garlic scapes anywhere but the farmers’ market. They’re often passed over because people may not be sure what they are. Take advantage of this local food delicacy, but act fast, these delicious curly green shoots are only available for a short time.