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23 February, 2011

Green, alien, roasted happiness

Posted in : Fixins on by : Lauri Tags: , , , , , , , ,

No, I’m not advocating for UFO hunts or extraterrestrial genocide.  You might have seen our Facebook post from last week, singing the praises of Farm Fresh to YouThis incredible service brings organic produce to your door, locally sourced and picked according to availability.  I’ve chosen to get a delivery of mixed produce, one of their small boxes, every four weeks.  They choose what goes into each delivery, so I get plenty of favorites like leaf lettuce, Cara Cara oranges, organic broccoli and Pink Lady apples, but I also get things I would never have chosen for myself, so it stretches my horizons.  Each batch is like an adventurous challenge: can I find good uses for everything in the box?

This week’s mysteries: Romanesco and fennel.  The fennel is somewhat familiar, and I already have some recipes that are just waiting for experimentation.  (We’ll post about it at a later date.) But the big head of Romanesco was a big surprise, as I’d never seen it before.

This bizarre green growth is sometimes called “Roman broccoli”, but is more closely related to cauliflower, with some obvious differences: the flavor is milder, it’s the color of pale spring shoots, and it grows in pointed clumps rather than rounded, rather resembling the floor of an exotic wooded planet, like the top of a dense pine forest.  Cut apart, the individual tufts look like little trees, with fractal patterns that could have come straight out of a book on chaos theory.

So what does one do with a pile of little trees?  I threw them into a bowl with olive oil and kosher salt, and tossed quickly.  Then, spreading them across a baking sheet in a single layer, I stuck them under the broiler for about 8 minutes — just until the edges started to brown and the pieces were tender and steaming.  Back into the bowl for a toss with half a splash of rice vinegar and a few drops of sesame oil, some toasted sesame seeds, and ended up on a plate next to a pile of shredded chicken with Jerry’s Slice Off the Grill, my new favorite barbecue sauce.  It may seem a strange combination, but the Romanesco gets sweet and mellow when roasted, and the sesame complemented the mild, sweet BBQ beautifully.  (The sauce is laced with pineapple, making it surprisingly versatile.)  It was a nice combination, with plenty of nutrition.  If I get another chance to play with this strange new veggie, I’ll jump at it.  (How about Romanesco au gratin!?)

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