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Romanesco - the perfect vegetable

The most delightful surprise in our Cafe Troppo veggie box this week was a stunning head of Broccolo Romanesco. This is the perfect vegetable in every way - colour, shape, texture, taste. It is a vegetable designed by a mathematician. It spirals symmetrically in perfect fractal patterns, more like a gem than a plant.

The first time I saw this vegetable was in the market in Campo De Fiori in Rome and it stopped me in my steps. We can get it now in Australia, but only for a short time each year and here this alien plant doesn't seem to shine in the same way. I suppose it's a context thing.

Romanesco belongs to the Brassica family and was first written about in Italy in the 15th Century. In true Italian style, there is an argument about whether it was originally from the north or the south but regardless of this, it is a genuine heirloom vegetable as gardeners for centuries have passed on seeds from one generation to another.

Just gazing at its beauty is genuinely satisfying and it breaks your heart to cut it up and ruin its perfect structure, but it's wasted as an ornament. It is also important not to cook it in a way that is too fussy or complicated. It genuinely stands alone.

We could have cooked it with pasta as we do with broccoli or the green vegetables but I was looking for something different, something even more simple this time. I came across a charming you-tube video made by Mimmo Corcione. This recipe is a love note to the Romanesco and I had to include the video here so you can see his effusive delight as he cooks and then eats this dish.

The recipe

First, pull the little trees of the Romanesco from the head, then put them in a pot of boiling salted water for about 10 minutes or until they are cooked. Meanwhile, in the serving bowl put in 2 crushed cloves of garlic and chopped fresh chili with 4 tablespoons of very good extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar. Mix this together for a while until it emulsifies.

When the vegetable is cooked, take it out of the water and toss in the oil mixture. Serve straight away with some bread to mop up the oily juices! So simple, so delicious.

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