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Romanesco: exotic hybrid with a short season and big taste
The season is short for romanesco, so check your local farmers market for the ingredients for Romanesco Alla Diavola.
Imagine the psychedelic love child of broccoli and cauliflower with lime-green British punk hair, and you have something close to romanesco.
Romanesco broccoli is an edible flower with distinctive pointy, green florets. Cavolo broccolo romanesco, as it is known in Italian, has become increasingly popular in American cooking in the past decade, but this hybrid vegetable dates back to the 16th century.
In addition to its peculiar aesthetic, romanesco's appeal is its firm texture and earthy flavor. It is surprisingly sweet when cooked tender, like cauliflower but with a denser texture that holds up to lots of cooking methods.
Both in its native Lazio and the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, romanesco's season is brief. Look for it for the next several weeks at your local farmers market. It's hard to miss.
Romanesco can be served raw, lightly cooked or cooked through. I usually sauté it slowly with garlic and lemon zest, and punctuate with red pepper flakes for zing.
James Beard Award-winner Mario Batali, a Seattle native, is a chef, restaurateur, author and TV personality. His latest book is "Molto Batali."