We have been getting some exciting veggies in our CSA box lately, including Romanesco broccoli (Roman cauliflower) and purple cauliflower!
The math nerd in me loved the strangely intriguing Romanesco with it's wonderful logarithmic spiral and fractal patterns. And the cook in me was so excited about finding the perfect backdrop to bring out the purple-ness of the purple cauliflower.
For those of you who care about these things, purple cauliflower provides the same nutritional value as regular white cauliflower but it also contains anthocyanins, or antioxidant flavonoids. Anthocyanins are also found in red cabbage, blueberries, and my favorite source, red wine!
I did not want to overcook the cauliflower out of fear that it would lose it's bright purple-ness, so I opted to quickly boil the florets in salted water and then pan fry them for a frittata. To add a kick to the frittata, I whisked the eggs with dijon and some red cayenne pepper and used a wonderful smokey mozzarella, scamorza affumicata, that melts beautifully. The smokiness of the cheese adds an incredible depth and complexity.
Unfortunately the instant the cauliflower hit the boiling water it turned a purplish gray and lost it's brightness. I have been told that roasting cauliflower similarly causes it to lose its bright purple color.
In any case, the (gray) purple was a beautiful contrast set against the yellow of the intensely flavored fritatta, what a visually stunning dish! To balance the powerful smokey flavors, serve the frittata with peppery arugula or mixed greens dressed simply with lemon and olive oil and strawberries drizzled with balsamic and fresh mint.
As for the Romanesco broccoli, I wanted to honor it's Italian roots dating back to the time of Julius Cesar. I simply tossed it with olive oil, sea salt, crushed red pepper, and thinly sliced garlic and roasted it in the oven until tender. I tossed it with a lemon olive oil dressing and a snowy mountain of finely grated parmesan.
Despite the Romanesco's bizarre conical shapes and mathematical mystery, it was quite delicious and mild, similar to it's cousin the cauliflower. So the next time you see this strange looking broccoli-cauliflower at the market, I urge you to pick up a head for dinner!
Purple cauliflower smokey frittata
1 small head of cauliflower, leaves removed and florets cut into small to medium sized pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp dijon
1/2 tsp red cayenne pepper
1 cup smoked mozzarella, shredded
Preheat oven to 375.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt, and add cauliflower. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, drain and set aside. Meanwhile in a blender combine eggs, milk, dijon, red cayenne pepper, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Pulse for 30 seconds and well blended and combined.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a 10" oven proof frying pan. Add cauliflower and pan fry for about 5 minutes, until slightly golden brown on one side. Do not overcrowd the pan. Season with sea salt. Pour blended egg mixture over the cauliflower and use a fork to distribute the florets if they move. Add in 2/3 cup of the smoked mozzarella, gently fold in to combine. Cook for about 5 more minutes.
Top with remaining cheese and place in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until set. Let rest for 2 minutes before serving.
Romanesco Broccoli (Roman Cauliflower)
1 head Romanesco broccoli, florets cut into medium sized pieces, washed and thoroughly dried
2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
Preheat oven to 425.
Place florets on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil, or enough to coat. Sprinkle garlic and crushed red pepper over the florets. Season with salt and pepper. Toss until florets are well coated. Be sure the florets are in a single layer on the baking sheet, otherwise they might steam rather than roast. Roast in oven 20-25 minutes until tender and tips are browned. Shake the pan a couple times.
Remove from oven. Transfer to large bowl and toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, and parmigiano reggiano. Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice as needed. Serve hot.