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Molly Beauchemin

Everyone Is Obsessing Over Romanesco Broccoli

A few years ago farmers in Chicago introduced a kale-brussel sprout hybrid: a new vegetable known as Kalette or BrusselKale. In Chicago– a city know for its deep dish pizza and hot dogs– people were lining up at the farmers market to buy– of all things– a vegetable. Soon, foodies and chefs were calling it “the next big thing”.

Vegetables, like clothing, tend to go in-and-out of fashion depending on who’s wearing what– or this case, who’s growing what.

This is why we need to talk about Romanesco broccoli.

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Romanesco broccoli– also known as Romanesco cauliflower or simply as Romanesco– is a cruciferous vegetable which, like broccoli, is technically a flower. It grows in cone-like clusters that look like mini evergreen trees, and it tastes like a sweeter, nuttier version of cauliflower.

I first heard about Romanesco when my aunt, a foodie who paid me a visit in New York last weekend, said that she and my cousin loved cooking it with butter because it was “beautiful” and “so, so good”.

As if by design, I happened to see some beautiful Romanesco at my local market that Sunday, so I bought it and prepared it simply: I gave it a light steam and then braised it with Pistachio Oil before dusting it with my favorite fleur de sel. (We’ve attached the recipe below.)

Before I did this, I googled around to see what people were saying. Every food authority from Bon Apetit to The Kitchn are espousing the merits of this new vegetable: “It looks like miniature Christmas trees and tastes like broccoli. Yep, we’re into romanesco,” wrote one Bon Apetit critic.

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Romanesco has been called “stunning”, “cool”, “psychedelic”, “distinctive”, and “alien”– bloggers love how it looks and how it tastes, and numerous chefs are clamoring over its beauty as much as its bite. Everyone seems to agree: Romanesco is a gorgeous, unique-looking plant.

As a vegetable preparation, Romanesco can be roasted, braised, baked, stewed, boiled, and eaten raw– just like broccoli or cauliflower. You can add it to frittatas and salad, or simply cook it alone. And the best part is: it’s also easy to grow. Consider adding it to your garden next fall (Romanesco requires a slightly shaded location, alkaline soil, and room to spread. It’s fleurettes grow up to 3 feet in height, and it does well if you start the seeds in moist potting soil before transplanting them about 6 weeks before the expected frost in your region.)

Until that time, look for Romanesco at your local late fall/early winter farmers market. This vegetable has been around since the 15th century, and its more popular than ever.

Molly Beauchemin for GC

Romanesco Braised with Pistachio Oil and Salt

Ingredients

Method

  1. Steam Romanesco for 5-8 minutes in water. Remove, drain, and add to thick-bottomed sauce pan.
  2. Add pistachio oil and braise until tender (about 3 minutes).
  3. Sprinkle with salt, and enjoy!
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