Romanesco with pecorino
This alien looking vegetable a joy to photograph, but even more importantly it is absolutely delicious. Several years ago I first saw these trifid-esque brassicas in New York at the Union Square farmers market. Their delicate, pale green spirals caught my attention and started an unrequited love affair. I say unrequited because the things are so darn hard to find here in the UK! I can't wait to have a go at growing my own.
For the mathematicians or trance kids among us romanesco broccoli is fascinating because the vegetable actually approximates a natural fractal. The 'cones' are arranged in a classic logarithmic spiral and each 'cone' itself is composed on smaller buds in the same formation. Like galaxies, hurricanes and nautilus shells, the romanesco's spirals are really quite beautiful to look at. I was not entirely surprised when I found jewellery cast from the brassica on display at the Collect exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery earlier this year.
My favourite way to eat romanesco is one of the simplest. Try to use a hard, sharp pecorino cheese, ideally a pecorino Sardo, but a creamier pecorino Toscano will still be delicious.
1 romanesco broccoli
½ lemon, juice only
Excellent extra virgin olive oil
What to do
Bring a small pan of water to the boil. While you wait, break off individual cones from the romanesco and slice them thinly from top to bottom. I like making lots of weird yet lovely shapes and leaving some of the tips whole so they look like little trees in profile.
When the water is boiling, throw in a couple good pinches of salt and then add the romanesco slices. Cover the pan and keep the heat high. As soon as you can hear the water coming to the boil again immediately take it off the heat and drain under cold running water to stop further cooking. You could be super professional and dunk the drained slices into a bowl of iced water, but a cold tap will also do fine.
Scatter the romanesco over a large wide plate and squeeze lemon juice all over. Drizzle liberally with olive oil. Top everything off with shavings of pecorino cheese. You could use a vegetable peeler to peel off thin shavings of cheese, or just grate it finely with a microplane.
Season with salt and pepper and tuck in, probably with your fingers.