Friday, March 14, 2014

Cassandra Linguine and the Chaotic Romanesco. . . (explained by Francesco)

I think this my favorite dish of the Winter!  And I have my dear friend Cassandra Linguine -- who is every bit as Bohemian as her name suggests -- to thank for it.  You see, Cassandra loves vegetables like I do, and we often swap recipes.  She also subscribes to one of those services that delivers a basket of farm fresh seasonal organic produce to her door once a week.  This leaves me in a constant state of intrigue as I wait for Cassandra to disclose the contents of her basket each week, with many items making their way into her lunch, and consequently into my lunch by proximity.  

This week's basket included Romanesco, which Cassandra and I both concluded was THE MOST GORGEOUS vegetable on God's green Earth.  It looks like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, but it's not.  Indeed, as explained by our dear friend and Friday lunch buddy Francesco, not only is Romanesco an Italian heirloom dating back to ancient Rome (hence the name), but it is also an edible fractal with each spiral bud being composed of a series of smaller spiral buds, arranged in a series of more logarithmic spirals, all of which is important in the study of chaos theory.  Whoa!

Thus, this perfect, albeit chaotic mathematical arrangement of vibrant, chartreuse-colored spiral buds, is precisely what makes Romanesco so captivating.  So, after confirming Francesco's vegetable math on Wikipedia (he was, of course, correct!), I set about finding my own Romanescos so that I could disassemble each perfect and beautiful fractal, one spiral branch at a time.  

After removing the branches, I decided to steam my Romanesco.  I considered roasting it, because I love roasted cauliflower, but I wanted to totally preserve the bright chartreuse color, so instead I opted for steaming until fork tender.

In the meantime I gathered 1 large fresh scallion, a sturdy organic Japanese cucumber, an handful of fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, and an few sprigs of fresh mint.  I sliced the onion and cucumber very thin, and gave the herbs a good chop.

After steaming the Romanesco, I let is cool down a bit before tossing in the onion, cucumber and herbs.

Then I prepared my favorite dressing -- 1/4 cup of really good extra virgin olive oil (from Turkey, of course), the juice of half a lemon, 1 clove of pressed or finely grated garlic,1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt, and a few good grinds of fresh ground black pepper, all whisked together until smooth.


Fresh Romanesco (2 medium heads or 1 large one)
1 large fresh onion (scallion) sliced very thin, including the green part
1 firm, medium-sized cucumber (skin on if organic) sliced in half longways, and then into very thin slices
1 handful for Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
10-15 fresh mint leaves, chopped

Dressing (all whisked together):
1/4 cup of very good olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 large clove of garlic, pressed or finely grated
1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

Steam the Romanesco until fork tender (20-30 minutes), and allow it to cool.  Then combine with the remaining ingredients, toss in the dressing, and serve.  I like it best at room temperature.

The best and most beautiful salad ever!  Delizioso, molto buono! Cassandra and Francesco, thanks for inspiring me to make my favorite salad this winter!

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