Somewhere between cauliflower and broccoli lies romanesco with a mellow and subtle flavor. Lemon juice and zest rubbed over the vegetable add brightness, balancing its nutty flavor. A hint of fresh thyme and crushed garlic add another layer, resulting in a beautiful side dish.
By Stephanie Kirkos
It’s easy to get too comfortable in the kitchen, working with the same ingredients or techniques because it’s what we know and what we’re good at – especially when we’re busy and short on time.
The best way to snap out of the cook-one-thing pattern is to work with a new ingredient – something you either haven’t tried, or have rarely used. It’s both a breath of fresh air and a gentle kick in the pants, an effective way to shift perspective and keep creativity thriving in the kitchen. My most recent “snap out of it” moment was courtesy of this Lemon and Thyme Roasted Romanesco.
My first romanesco tryst resulted in a gluten-free pizza with romanesco florets, purple potato slices, leeks, vegan white Béchamel sauce and dairy-free mozzarella shreds (okay, there was a bit of sautéing). Seeking to break from a recent cook-one-thing pattern, I turned to romanesco once again.
Romanesco’s flavor is not nearly as strong or distinct as cauliflower, it’s much more mellow and subtle, like an earthy nuttiness. The lemon juice and lemon zest rubbed over the romanesco add brightness, balancing this nutty flavor. A hint of fresh thyme and crushed garlic add another layer of flavor, resulting in a veggie side dish that may be preferred over the main entree.
To serve the whole roasted romanesco, slice it as you would a cake into beautiful wedges. The shallots, roasted along with the romanesco, make for a delicious garnish. As a vegetarian option, sprinkle Parmesan over the romanesco just after it comes out of the oven, which will melt into a thin, creamy layer just before serving. The slice of romanesco can either be eaten as is, or paired with your favorite dipping sauce, such as a creamy aioli or simple marinara.
As much as I would love to turn to romanesco the next time I catch myself preparing the same thing for dinner a few times in a row, I don’t want this approach to turn into a pattern, too. Ramps and fiddleheads have been calling my name, so they may make an appearance on the blog soon!
I would love to hear from you. Are you a fan of romanesco? How do you prepare it?
- 1 head romanesco
- 1½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Juice from 1 lemon, divided, plus zest from ½ lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ tsp fresh thyme, minced
- 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- salt and pepper, to taste
- ? tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- ? cup Parmesan (optional, non-vegan)
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the romanesco stem and leaves, then lay flat on a rimmed baking sheet. Tuck shallot slices and springs of thyme underneath the romanesco.
- Drizzle or brush olive oil over the head of romanesco, then rub the crushed garlic and lemon zest over it with your fingers. Squeeze juice from half of a lemon over top, then season generously with salt and pepper. If a little heat is desired, add ? to ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
- Bake in the center of the oven for 40-50 minutes, until golden brown and softened (you can cook longer if you want the romanesco more tender, testing by pricking the romanesco with a fork).
- Remove from oven and squeeze juice from remaining lemon half over the romanesco. If desired, sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan on top.
- To serve, slice romanesco like a cake into generous wedges. Garnish with additional cheese, if desired. Option to pair with aioli, marinara sauce, or your favorite dipping sauce.