Friday, June 1, 2007

Mutant Ninja Baby Cauliflower

There are few things more frustrating than not being able to get the right answer. I have no problem heavily researching any subject to extract just the information I need, comparing and contrasting from many sources to make sure both they and I know what all of us are talking about.


Such has not been the case with the culinary curio known as green cauliflower. Alternately called brocciflower and/or broccoflower and/or Romanesque, these varieties are hard to classify, even for plant taxonomists. No one seems to know exactly if they are hybrids of cauliflower and broccoli (which supposedly are incapable of crossbreeding unless science interferes) or heirlooms. I’ve read that brocciflower IS a cross between the two cruciferous vegetables, and that Broccoflower is actually just a brand name that should be capitalized, but is only real Broccoflower if it’s green all the way through. The only thing anyone seems to agree on is that the funky, perfect symmetry of the Romanesque’s design is a fine example of naturally occurring fractal architecture. Depending on which article you pull up, the Romanesque may also be known as a broccoli, rather than cauliflower.


Confused? Never fear. It gets worse. Reduced to the dicey proposition that Wikipedia might sort things out, I warily consulted that massive data dump for at least one kernel of truth. Instead, I was pulled into a quagmire of yet more contradictions and dead ends. Every entry, as expected, amounted to a big mess of a ragu. After all this head banging and hemorrhaging, I am done. A ragu works for me.
Ragu of Cauliflower – Adapted from Drago, Santa Monica, CA


4 baby cauliflower heads, any color
2 Tablespoons shallots, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
2 Tablespoons raisins
1 small cluster saffron threads, the size of a dime
1 cup wine (I used Marsala)
1 cup water or vegetable stock
1 Tablespoon butter
Salt and Pepper


While bringing to boil a large pot of water, rinse the cauliflower heads, then cut the stems close to the base of each. Leave intact any small, tender leaves that hug the head.

Blanch the heads in boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove from water to cool. In a large skillet, cook the shallots in olive oil over medium heat until soft, golden and translucent. Add the wine, fennel seeds, raisins and saffron, continuing to cook on medium heat until wine reduces by half. Add water or stock, then gently place cauliflower heads in skillet. Turn heat down to low and cook until liquid is nearly all reduced. During this time, turn the cauliflower heads periodically to evenly cook and flavor in the sauce. The cauliflower will lose some, but not all, of their distinctive lime green color.

Remove cauliflower to plates and pour ragu over them. Finish with salt and pepper to taste. Serve while warm.

Serves 2. --
This post is being submitted to Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen, creator of the food blogging event, Weekend Herb Blogging.


christine (myplateoryours) said...

The recipe looks great, but those romanesque broccolis cauliflowers or whatever they are always give me the creeps. :)

Kalyn said...

Very interesting, and I have absolutely no experience with this plant other than seeing it once in a while on a blog. I think in the stores here it's most often called Broccoflower, for whatever that's worth (probably not much.) This sounds like a very interesting recipe. I'm a big fan of saffron and like the way you've used it here.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Susan, I think this is too much information for me. :)
Just kidding - your baby cauliflowers are so adorable! I bet they were delicious, too.
The romanesque looks like it was grown in outer space or something.

Mishmash ! said...

hey..this was quite an informative post.....I love this broccoflower for its colour..never tasted it though. Loved that photos too:)

Have a fun weekend

Lydia said...

Well, whatever it's called, this recipe looks absolutely delicious!

sra said...

Susan, I saw this for the first time in my life in a Paris grocery last year and didn't know what it was - just that it looked like a warty, pointy green animal. I was excited by its looks, of course, and considered buying it and stowing it away in my suitcase on the flight but the one next to it already had spots of fungus on it so I didn't risk it, even if it would have withstood Customs. I came back and did a small post on my blog called What on Earth is This and somebody told me and gave me a Wikipedia link too!

sra said...

But there was nothing baby about it, it was as huge as a normal cauliflower!

Susan said...

Christine - You are right. The Romanesque is creepy, but it's so small (only 2" x 2"), that I thought I'd be safe. ; )
Kalyn - They are too odd to ever be popular. I just happened upon a box of them at Whole Foods. They taste just like what they probably are: cauliflower. My curiosity is satisfied.
Yes, Patricia, is is too much info that reveals absolutely nothing, so study up. There will be a quiz. ; )
They were rather adorable in a quirky sort of way, and quite tasty in this recipe. Thanks!
Thanks, Shn. The color really is out of this world, as "natural" as a chartreuse veggie can get. Hope you enjoy your weekend, too.
Thanks, Lydia. It was tasty enough to make again, but next time I'll go with a standard cauliflower cut into florets.

Susan said...

Sra, you would have been pulled over in Customs and detained for hours! LOL! For all intents and purposes, it is a cauliflower mutation. I haven't seen the large ones. Mine truly were small enough to fit in my palm.

Lucy said...

Yes, I'm as confused as you are Susan! A mutant it may be, but it's a fantastic one - the colour is something else. Thank goodness you wrote this post. I came home with one of these the other day (but way bigger than your beauties) with no plan.

Now I have plans. Thanks!

bee said...

those can spike up any dinner convo. susan, you come up with the coolest creations.

Cynthia said...

Thank you for sorting through the confusion for us :)

The dish looks so vibrant, colourful and sounds tasty based on the other ingredients.

Hey, I love the extreme close up shot - excellent photography. Looks very macro-lends kinda. Is it?

Have a great weekend.

Christina said...

I have never cooked romanesque, but I've spent a lot of time looking at it. I think it is intricate and demanding, like an M.C. Escher engraving. Thanks for giving me an idea what to do with it. I love the wine/fennel/raisin combination.

Susan said...

Lucy - The color and design of these is so startling that you truly don't know what to do with them at first. This recipe really showcased the color and flavor without overwhelming them. You were right about those tender, little leaves - perfectly edible, tasty and nutritious.
Thanks, Bee. I also eat "normal" foods, like oatmeal. Really.
Cynthia - I love a good challenge, but this got the better of me. : ) Yes, that's a macro shot. It deserved all the attention I could give it. Thanks!
Christina - You are so right. It IS like an Escher; if you stare at it too long, it pulls at your eyes and stomach.

sra said...

I checked the pix again - I was talking about the one you called Romanesque in your blog.

Susan said...

I figured that, Sra. While the other green one is certainly unusual, the Romanesque is the one everyone's drawn to.

Shaun said...

Susan - If you of quizzical mind cannot resolve the provenance of this interesting (so green!) vegetable, even with consulting authoritative resources, then I trust this has to be left as a mystery. For all of us westerners born post-Enlightenment this is most frustrating. Maybe there is someone in the world who could tell you, but maybe it is not a sexy enough vegetable to write about/for which to get funding? However confusing this vegetable's past, its present incarnation in your ragu looks both healthy and dreamy.

Johanna said...

susan, I admire your enquiring mind - I found a purple cauliflower recently which I just loved for its colour but now you have me wondering was it really a cauli and how did it get so purple? And if there are purple and green are there other coloured caulis too - imagine a blue one or a scarlet one - the mind boggles :-)

sher said...

When I first saw the picture, it looked like a beautiful work of art. I always love looking at this particular vegetable--it's so striking. And how nice that it's also delicious! The recipe looks to be a great treat!

Susan said...

Shaun - It's great to be alive in modern times, but sometimes it can still feel like the Dark Ages. : / It's true that cauliflower will never be sexy like figs or oysters, but its mild yet unique flavor does lend itself to all sorts of recipes beyond the cheese sauce zone.
Johanna - I've seen them in gold and orange, too, but not purple yet. Only a matter of time. White eggplant have been around a while. They are quite pretty, though I can't vouch for the flavor or performance...yet. : }
Hi, Sher. I was struck by them, too. I couldn't bear to cut them up. Luckily they were so small, I didn't have to.

Freya and Paul said...

They sure are beautiful wherever they come from and you have utilised this anomoly to fine effect!

Sandeepa said...

I saw this green cauliflower last weeknd, and though hubby wanted to bring it home , I was a bit put off by the weirdness. Does it taste like dear old white cauliflower ?

Susan said...

Thanks, Freya - They were almost too artsy to eat. It'll be regular cauliflower, at regular prices, next time.
Yes, Sandeepa, it does taste just like the cauliflower we know. It is the real deal, as unreal as it looks. Now I am missing the standard variety; you've made it sound like a friend neglected. It is.

Mandira said...

wow, that certainly has the cool factor written all over it! and that nectarine & pistachhio is amazing! I tried pears with almonds and it was just so delicious!

Susan said...

I understand the confusion. My local farmer calls your first photo "miniature" cauliflower and the Romenesco is the same. I find the unusual colors especially appealing, and your photos are beautiful.

Susan said...

Hi, Mandira. Cauliflower IS cool sometimes; no milquetoast veggie here. Your pear and almond dessert sounds heavenly. Thanks for the idea. Fancy fruit is such a nice end to a meal, especially in the summer.

Thanks, Susan. And the mystery continues...These babies were fun to photograph; they could really strike a pose.

Kristin and Chris Ann said...

We stumbled upon your blog and the beautiful photo of baby cauliflower. We tagged you in a recent post. If you don't mind, we'd like to add you to our blogroll.
Thank you!
Kristin and Chris Ann

Sabine said...

I stumbled across your blog while looking for some recipes. What a pleasant surprise! The recipes sound delicious and the photos are beautiful.

I could add, though, that broccoli and cauliflower are actually the same species as cabbage, ramp, and brussels sprouts. They're just variations on a theme- they would have no trouble cross-breeding in the wild. The characteristic white color of cauliflower is due to the apical bud being shielded from the sun (so that it stays blanched, much like white asparagus). Green cauliflower happens when the bud is allowed to photosynthesize. Orange and purple cauliflower, on the other hand, are the result of science.