A few years ago, an odd-looking chartreuse veggie started appearing in various markets. I didn’t pay it much notice until one market featured the alien-looking heads with a big, shouting sign about a year ago—ORGANIC ROMANESCO! The sign made me realize I might be missing something. I took home a head, roasted it, and got hooked.
Romanesco may be a new kid on the veggie aisle, but it’s not actually new at all. Many botanists believe it was developed in Italy through selective breeding in the 16th century. It is an edible flower from the brassica family, the one that includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Its spiky buds form fractals; each bud in the spiral is composed of a series of smaller buds.
Romanesco can be used interchangeably with cauliflower. Its taste is milder and slightly nutty. My favorite way to cook it (so far) is to roast it in my countertop convection oven. It’s very simple and allows the flavor to shine through. Roasted romanesco makes a great side dish to your Meatless Monday entrée.
Meatless Monday: Roasted Romanesco
- 1 head romanesco
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, depending on the size of the romanesco head
- pinch salt, to taste
- pinch pepper, to taste
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut your romanesco head in half vertically, then cut the little cones off the stem. Discard the stem, as it contains the same toxic substances as rhubarb leaves, including oxalic acid.
- Place the romanesco in a large mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt and toss. Start with a small amount. You can always add more later after you’ve finished roasting them.
- Grind some pepper into the bowl and toss again.
- Drizzle the olive oil into the bowl and toss to coat.
- Spread in a single layer onto a rimmed cookie sheet.
- Bake for 20 minutes, until some of the edges are slightly browned.
- Adjust for salt if need be.