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Broccoli Romanesco or Cauliflower “steaks” with salsa verde

Broccoli romano, also known as broccoli romanesco, is probably my favorite vegetable (although artichokes are a close second). It’s not easy to find it here in the states, but occasionally I see it at farmers’ markets or even in my supermarket. When that happens, I don’t hesitate to buy it, even though it’s a bit pricey.
Aside from the taste, which is more like cauliflower than broccoli, it’s just a beautiful vegetable that is an exquisite example of fractals (go look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls – [if it still exists] – I guess I should say look that up in Wikipedia!)

In any event, even if you can’t find broccoli romano, you can make this recipe using cauliflower, which is easy to find in the markets.

First cut off the leaves and trim the stem, then slice into pieces about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick.

Smear with some good olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then place it in the oven at high heat while you chop up herbs and other goodies for the salsa verde.

Flip the “steaks” over half way through cooking. If it’s getting too browned, lower the temperature.

Place on a platter then spoon the sauce over it.

Served with some quinoa and glazed carrots, it made for a colorful and delicious vegetarian dinner. For once, I didn’t miss the real meat.
 
Broccoli Romano “steaks” with salsa verde
1 head of broccoli romano (romanesco)
1/4 cup olive oil (plus more to brush on surface of broccoli romano)
juice of 1/2 lemon (or more if your lemon is small), plus a small piece of the lemon rind
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. red onion, minced
2 T. capers
fresh parsley, minced (about 3 or 4 T.)
salt, pepperPreheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice the broccoli romano – or cauliflower if you can’t find the broccoli romano – into pieces between 1/4″ and 1/2 ” thick. Smear them with olive oil, then sprinkle on some salt and freshly ground pepper.
Place them in the oven for about 15 minutes – flipping over once (and repeating the olive oil, salt and pepper).Take them out of the oven when they feel tender to the fork, or when you can easily pierce them with a knife. Depending on how thick you sliced them, they’ll need more time (or maybe less if they’re thinner than mine).
While they are cooking, make the salsa, by mincing the lemon rind, garlic, onion, capers and parsley. Add the olive oil, plus the lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper and stir everything together. Spoon the salsa verde over the broccoli romano or cauliflower steaks.

Cauliflower Sformato

Looking for an unusual first course for your next dinner party? Look no further. This is elegant, delicious and can be made a day ahead. It looks like it took a long time to make, but in fact, it whips together in about 15 minutes. And it goes down … like buttah!

It’s the culinary version of the little black dress – you can change it around with a different sauce, or use a different vegetable. There are endless variations … mushroom sformato with cheese sauce; zucchini sformato with red pepper sauce; asparagus sformato with mushroom sauce, etc. etc. etc.

One of the most memorable versions I ever enjoyed was a ricotto sformato, or flan, that I ate at Cibreo’s, my favorite restaurant in Florence, Italy. I should amend that to say trattoria, since I never ate at the bonafide Cibreo’s restaurant, but rather at the eponymous annex next door. It carries the same menu but at half the price. You don’t get the linen table service as in the restaurant, in fact the trattoria is downright casual, and you might have to share a table with a complete stranger. But to me, that’s half the fun. And eating Cibreo’s much-heralded food is the real reward.

So try this sformato with whatever vegetable you have on hand. I had a lot of cauliflower calling out to me. I didn’t wait for a dinner party either. I made it just for the two of us, and was happy to have the leftovers for several more meals. Even if I wasn’t at Cibreo’s.

Cauliflower Sformato

(eight 3/4 cup servings)

1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
(about 4 cups)
1 3/4 cup milk or a combination of milk and cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing molds
1/4 cup flour plus 1 T.
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt, white pepper, to taste
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

tomato sauce, about 2 cups

Cook the cauliflower in water for about 10 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain, then put back into a dry pan and cook for a few minutes to help evaporate any remaining water. Be careful not to let it brown or burn.

Butter eight 3/4 cup oven-proof custard cups or flan molds and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put the cauliflower in a food processor and puree it until perfectly smooth. Place it into a colander lined with paper towels to absorb any remaining moisture.

Heat the milk in a saucepan until warm and little bubble start to form. In another saucepan over low heat, melt the butter, then add the flour and stir and cook for a couple of minutes until smooth. It will start to get “pasty,” but that’s fine. Add the milk and continue to stir constantly, using either a whisk or wooden spoon, for about five minutes. Add seasonings and cauliflower puree.

Beat the eggs and add the parmesan cheese. Add the puree mixture to the egg and cheese mixture, starting with a small amount, then increasing the amount a little at a time. You want to slowly raise the temperature of the eggs and cheese. If you add the pureed cauliflower mixture all at once, you risk curdling the eggs.

When everything is mixed, pour into the buttered molds and put the molds in a bain-marie or hot water bath. Bake for about 40 minutes. Remove the molds from the water and let them rest at least 10 minutes before trying to unmold. If you unmold too soon, they won’t hold their shape. They actually hold their shape better the next day when you reheat them. I microwaved them in their molds, then flipped them out onto individual plates. Serve as is, or with a simple homemade tomato sauce, if desired.

Cauliflower Soup with Caramelized Onions

I’ve stared at that head of cauliflower in the fridge too long. It’s not that I don’t like cauliflower. It’s just that when I bought the monstrous thing two weeks ago at a farmer’s market, it was enough to serve the whole neighborhood. We just can’t eat it fast enough. I’ve made side dishes with it several times, but since it was as large as a soccer ball to begin with, I still had half of it begging me to come up with some other ideas. And a few brown spots were starting to appear, so the time had come to get serious. What to do, what to do? A soup came to mind, especially since the weather had taken a turn to remind us that fall is around the corner.
This is not a pretty soup to look at. It’s a rather dull-looking monochromatic exercise in brown and beige. I could have made it a white soup, had I not browned the cauliflower in olive oil first. But that step gives the soup more taste. And the taste, especially those caramelized onions resting on top, makes up for the homely appearance of this soup. DO NOT scrimp on the time needed to cook the onions. They really need the full 20 to 30 minutes to achieve that sweet and crunchy flavor. And if you’re like me, you’ll probably be wishing you had a secret stash of those caramelized onions for an extra serving.

Cauliflower Soup With Caramelized Onions

Start by peeling one large onion, slicing it, and cooking it in 1/4 cup of olive oil in a saute pan. Keep cooking and stirring for at least 20 minutes while the soup is simmering.

For the Soup:

1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
one head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into chunks
4 cups chicken stock
salt, white pepper to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the cauliflower and continue cooking the florets for about 10 minutes, or until they are partially browned. Add the potato, chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste. The first time I made this, I under-salted and over-peppered. My husband loved the piquancy, but I drank an entire large bottle of San Pellegrino before the heat in my mouth was tempered. To be on the safe side, try making it with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are cooked. Finish by pureeing in a blender or with an immersion stick blender.
Ladle into bowls and add the caramelized onions on top.