Romanesco, simply prepared
(serves 4 as a side dish)
Romanesco is such a beautiful, complex-looking vegetable that it begs to be prepared simply. Quickly searing it coaxes out a nutty flavor. This dish comes together in the blink of an eye. Have all your ingredients ready before you turn on the flame.
1 head of romanesco
2-3 Tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed
Salt to taste
Using a pairing knife, cut the stems off of the head of romanesco so that a miniature Tuscan tree forest is left on your cutting board. Slice through the larger clusters vertically so that they are about 1/4 - 1/3 inch thick. Leave the spiral clusters that are the size of your fingernail whole.
Add olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium heat. Allow the oil to warm up for about 30-60 seconds so that when you put the palm of your hand 6 inches over the pan, you can feel its warmth. Do not allow the oil to start smoking at this point. It will burn your romanesco and will taste bitter. Start over if you need to. It’s worth it.
Add the romanesco to the pan, spreading it out to a single layer. Using tongs or a spatula, as the larger slices start to get slightly brown (after about a minute), turn them over. Gently toss the smaller clusters around so they all get some surface time with the pan. Sprinkle with a little salt.
As the second side of the sliced romanesco starts to gain color, sample a small piece for doneness. It tastes best al dente, like pasta. Not mushy but not raw, somewhere in-between. Just before you turn off the flame, toss in the garlic and give it a stir. Turn off the flame and slide the romanesco into a bowl. Add the lemon juice, zest, peppercorns, a bit more salt and a drizzle of olive oil.