Food from Outer Space (No, Not Really!)

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Today’s post inaugurates a brand new category of posts named “Kitchen Delights” which I hope you will enjoy. I intend to share with you some of my favorite dishes, both savory and sweet. However, the first post in the series isn’t exactly a recipe as such but rather, my account of a first encounter with a strange vegetable that I believe, is well worth a mention!

A couple of weeks ago, during my routine visit at the local supermarket, a big surprise awaited for me at the grocery section. Some very strange vegetables sat neatly in a crate under the sign “romanesque cauliflower”. Mystified, I reached out to take one in my hands and inspect it closely. It was like a physical manifestation of a psychedelic trip – the patterns of its pale green spires were mesmerizing and yet, the name was preposterous. Last time I checked, cauliflower was white, right? And what does Romanesque mean anyway? I wondered if it was an Italian epithet, pertaining to Rome perhaps and I was hooked. Intrigued and enthused, I placed it in my basket and after rushing my groceries through the till, arrived home eager to find out more. First thing I tried was to take it to my parents next door. I thought that being on this earth for 70 odd years, they’d be bound to know what it is! Conveniently, they were both in their kitchen at the time, about to have their daily ouzo and meze break, at 11:00 am sharp.

“EEEK!” goes my mother, her face crumpled with sheer distaste. “That’s monstrous!”

My dad, calmer in his reactions, merely huffed and then shook his head. “Why on earth did you buy that? It looks genetically modified!” he commented with disdain.

Undeterred, I brought my beautiful finding back home, then headed straight for my laptop. Something had to be done! My conservative parents thought that I was nuts and I had to defend my enormous curiosity that had led me to bring this little beauty home. Also, the ‘Romanesque’ part of the name had me almost convinced that this couldn’t be a modern concoction engineered in some obscure lab.

As I expected, Google swiftly came to my rescue! Not only was my finding NOT genetically modified after all, but apparently it has been farmed in Italy since the 16th century, i.e. more or less, for 500 years!

Romanesque Cauliflower aka Romanesco broccoli is a particularly nutritious vegetable, high in Vitamin C and K. It is crunchier than cauliflower and broccoli and in order for its crunchiness and nutty flavor to be enjoyed fully, it must be consumed as fresh as possible, cooked tenderly and slightly.

Among all facts that I learnt though, I thought the coolest one was this:

“The spirals on the head of the romanesco broccoli are a Fibonacci sequence. i.e. Its pattern is a natural representation of the Fibonacci or golden spiral, a logarithmic spiral where every quarter turn is farther from the origin by a factor of phi, the golden ratio.”

According to the sites I visited, many people say this vegetable resembles an alien form of life and others – just like my dad – mistake it for some malicious form of genetically modified food. Apparently, the only reason we don’t know about this incredible vegetable is because it is only now being distributed widely around the world for the first time.

I chose to cook my fascinating finding according to the instructions I read online, i.e. lightly steamed (I gave it 15 minutes and thought it was perfect!), then sprinkled with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Dinner that night turned out to be a Greek meal in a big sense as I used some organic ingredients from my parents’ homelands i.e the Greek islands of Lemnos (dad) and Corfu (mum).

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 I enjoyed the romanesco broccoli in a delightful combo of fried place and rice. After steaming it, I sprinkled on top organic red wine vinegar from Lemnos and extra virgin olive oil from Corfu. The plaice was coated with the famous Lemnos flour and even the lemon was freshly squashed on the fish, having been cut from our lemon tree in the yard, just an hour before serving. Therefore, this meal stands out in my memory as one of the most wholesome, nutritious and yummy dinners that I have had in a long time! I can vouch for the incredible crunchiness and nuttiness of this vegetable and can’t wait to buy it again! So if you spot them at your local store too, don’t miss out by thinking that this is something weird! Far from it, it could be the best thing you’ve tasted in a while!

So, grab your own specimen, stick it in your steamer and shout with delight like I did: Viva Italia! Viva romanesco broccoli!!

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Enthused? Why not find out more? Read what Wikipedia has to say:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanesco_broccoli

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11 responses to “Food from Outer Space (No, Not Really!)

  1. Romanesco is a great vegetable. I like it way more than broccoli or cauliflower. Combined with tomatoes (or carrots), cheese, nuts (almonds, walnuts), and fish – it is a culinary dream come true. 🙂

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    • Hi Karen! Thanks for letting me know! Now I am intrigued! How do you combine it with nuts? Do you boil, saute them or just crush them to sprinkle on top? A chef said he sautes the romanesco with garlic and then adds lemon zest and a bit of chilli for zing….I bet there’s many ways to enjoy it! I guess the first time I tried it as simply as possible as to get the flavour to the max.

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      • Hi Effrosyni! Almonds are roasted, walnuts are crushed. Garlic (roasted!) is also a must, as is lemon zest. My husband is the cook in our family. I just know it as I like the way he cooks. There are lots of possibilities, so much to explore. 🙂
        It is always a thrill.

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  2. We tried it a couple a months ago, and loved it! Sweeter than normal broccoli, and with a less pungent smell while cooking… what’s there not to like? 🙂

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your culinary adventures!

    Like

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