Imagine the psychedelic lovechild of broccoli and cauliflower with lime-green British punk hair, and you have something close to romanesco.
Romanesco broccoli is an edible flower with distinctive pointy, green florets. Cavolo broccolo romanesco, as it is known in Italian, has become increasingly popular in American cooking in the last decade, but this hybrid vegetable dates back to the 16th century.
In addition to its peculiar aesthetic, romanescos appeal is its firm texture and earthy flavor. It is surprisingly sweet when cooked tender, like cauliflower but with a denser texture that holds up to lots of cooking methods.
Both in its native Lazio and the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, romanescos season is very brief. Look for it for the next several weeks at your local farmers market. Its hard to miss.
Romanesco can be served raw, lightly cooked or cooked through. I usually saute it slowly with garlic and lemon zest, and punctuate with red pepper flakes for zing.
Mario Batali is the owner of Babbo, Lupa, Otto and other restaurants. His latest book is Molto Batali.
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