By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
On this week's kitchen workshop, I rather bravely performed a live cooking demonstration using a vegetable I'd never cooked with before, Romanesco. Having been in lockdown now for almost 7 weeks, I get my kicks from wherever I can take them, and one place is the discovery of ingredients and produce I've never tried before. As a side dish, boiled or steamed it's hard to beat some salt, pepper and a glug of olive oil or knob of butter.
Romanesco is like a dinosaur plant. Think Madonna's bra, with an intricate fractal pattern that replicates regardless of the size it reaches.
New to me perhaps, but the truth is that the Romanesco hails from Northern Italy and has been around for over 500 years. It belongs to the brassica family, and is related to cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli; however, as an object of sheer beauty, it really stands apart from the rest.
To look at it you would expect something with such a complex structure would take years to grow when in fact from planting, in Autumn, Romanesco are ready to harvest from July through to October.
And nutritionally there's a lot to like.
Nutrients and health benefits
With all the health benefits you would expect from a vegetable in this family, it is rich in Vitamin C, B3 folic acid, potassium, and fibre, phosphorus, calcium, and iron. Scientific studies have confirmed that the regular consumption of Brassicaceae, rich in chlorophyll, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds, reduces the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. They also have potential cholesterol-lowering, antioxidative, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Low in calories, and carbs
A modest 100 g serve contributes only 50 calories (220 kJ) to your daily intake, of which 6 g is protein, only 0.5 g fat and 3.5 g carbohydrate. A whopping 5.3 g fibre will ensure the good bacteria in your gut get a feed while you maintain a healthy digestive system.
Pretty and tasty
Yes, it looks like a beautiful miracle of nature but it's simple to prepare and simply delicious to eat. If I had to describe the taste, I would say the flavour sits between the flavour of cauliflower and broccoli and is slightly more delicious than both.
Sam Grimi and his brother Steve have been growing Romanesco on their farm in Horsley Park on the outskirts of Sydney for the last 5 years, and according to Sam, the general public is catching on quick to this exotic plant food.
Once distributed mainly to restauranteurs, Covid has seen a surge in sales from cooks at home eager to try something new. They store well too, so if you're a once-a-week shopper which many of us are right now, a Romanesco, in the crisper section of your fridge is as good to eat at the end of the week as it is the beginning.
How to prepare and cook Romanesco cauliflower
Rinse whole under cold water
Cut out the central stalk at the base of the plant and the florets will fall away.
Plunge in boiling salted water and cook for no more than five minutes.
Steam for 5 minutes
Drizzle the florets with olive oil and season with a little salt. Roast in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until tender.
Back to Sam's suggestion where simple is best.
Roasted with seasoning and fresh parmesan or ricotta is delightful
Raw as crudites with hummus or other healthy dips, or in a salad
Roasted and served with lentils as a vegan main meal served with a salsa verde dressing
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