What Is Romanesco and How the Heck Do You Cook It?
You may have seen this alien-looking green thing lurking in cooler-season farmers' markets, but probably haven't tossed it into your eco-friendly tote since, ya know, you don't have any idea what the heck it is or what you'd do with it.
Meet your new fave fall veggie, romanesco. Here's everything you need to know.
What Is Romanesco?
This funky looking vegetable is also called Romanesco broccoli or Roman cauliflower, but it's neither broccoli nor cauliflower. Some also call it broccoflower, but that name refers to green-colored cauliflower, which it is not. (It's not broccolini or caulilini either.) Rather, romanesco is part of the brassica family along with cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. As such, it's more closely related to cauliflower than broccoli. (Did you know there are a bunch of different types of kale?)
Romanesco dates back to 16th century Italy but didn't debut in the U.S. until the 1990s. It has a texture similar to cauliflower but is slightly crunchier with a bit of a nutty flavor. It's covered in cone-shaped florets that make it look sort of like a miniature Christmas tree. (Cute, right?)
It's available during the late fall and winter and you'll find it sold as a head (similar to cauliflower), which can be up to 5 pounds each (!!). You can probably find it at your local farmer's markets or in select supermarkets when it's in season. (Keep an eye out for these other fall fruits and veggies at the farmer's market, too.)
Romanesco Nutrition Facts
One-half cup chopped romanesco provides 10 calories, 2 grams carbs, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram protein, and is fat-free. It also provides numerous vitamins and minerals including a whopping 90 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K (important for bone and heart health) and 60 percent of the daily recommended amount of the antioxidant vitamin C. It's also a good source of folate and vitamin A, providing 10 percent of the daily recommended amount of each. (Nutritionally, it's pretty similar to broccoli: One-half cup of chopped broccoli provides 15 calories, 3 grams carbs, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram protein, and is fat-free.)
Buying and Storing Romanesco
When selecting Romanesco, look for heads that are bright in color and have their leaves still attached. The stems should be firm and show no signs of wilting. When you pick up a head, it should be heavy for its size. Once you bring it home, store your fresh Romanesco unwashed in a resealable plastic bag in the fridge for up to 1 week.
How to Cook Romanesco
You can prepare romanesco similar to cauliflower or broccoli—raw or cooked—but remember that it still has its own unique flavor.
- Blanch romanesco florets for several minutes in boiling water then shock on ice so they don't get mushy. Add larger chunks to crudité, soups, or grain bowls, or chop and add to pasta, rice dishes, or omelets. (Try this recipe for squash and rice grits with romanesco.)
- Steam the florets and remove immediately from the heat so they maintain their crispiness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
- Add it to a tofu, chicken, or beef stir-fry with other vegetables like carrots, snow peas, and mushrooms.
- Roast them (like in the recipe below) or this recipe for roasted romanesco with caper-mint salsa and chili flakes.
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Garlic-Roasted Lemon Romanesco Recipe
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 1 pound Romanesco, cut into bite-size florets
- 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- In a large bowl, add romanesco and garlic. Drizzle olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss evenly to coat.
- Spread romanesco florets on prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, turning florets halfway through until slightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool
- Drizzle with lemon juice and serve warm.