I recently switched jobs, and quite possibly the very best part of my new gig is the location – directly across the street from legendary Pike Place Farmer’s Market. With over 100 years of vibrant history, the Market is widely regarded as America’s premier farmer’s market. Each day over 120 farmers set up shop and sell the freshest food to be had in all of Seattle. It’s also one of the main reasons that there are so many stellar restaurants in Seattle. Chefs procure the best ingredients straight from the Market’s vendors. There’s a good reason it’s such a tourist hot spot; it’s jumping with local energy.
Of all the produce stands, I’m partial to Sosio’s. It’s right in the middle of the main drag, across from Pappardelle’s Pasta, and dangerously close to Daily Dozen Donuts. Actually it’s not even that close to the donut place, but they are so delicious that “close” is a relative term.
Back to Sosio’s… There’s always a Sosio’s employee standing out in the breezeway of the farmer’s market slicing off pieces of fresh fruit for passers-by to sample. And these samples typically precipitate an abrupt halt as the sampler stops dead in his or her tracks to return directly to the stand to purchase fruit. Sosio’s is the only place you can purchase the infamous “holy sh!t peaches” (that’s actually what the sign says). And with one bite, you know exactly why – the Garden of Eden would be jealous.
So when someone at Sosio’s says you have to try something, you should listen up. And this is what I came home with today – a gorgeous head of Romanesco Broccoli. Isn’t it so intriguingly beautiful? The fractal shape of it seems other-wordly to me. They say you eat with your eyes first, and I couldn’t wait to see what this thing tasted like!
Romanesco broccoli is in the same family as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and collard greens, and is in season in the fall and winter months along the west coast. It prefers a cooler climate, and variations in color occur depending on how much sun the plant had shining on it. The plants are rather large, regularly growing to three feet tall, with the heads weighing upwards of 5 pounds. (Mine is a much more manageable 1 pound!) It’s packed with vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.
But what does it taste like? A lot like cauliflower, actually. But a bit milder and sweeter, and a bit more tender. It’s wonderful raw – my next crudité platter will most certainly feature some. But it really shines when roasted in a little olive oil sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. It’s delicate though, and only requires a quick roast in the oven; overcooking results in a somewhat mushy consistency. I roasted mine at 375 degrees, tossing after 8 minutes and checking at 15. Didn’t take much longer than that!
The verdict? If you like broccoli or cauliflower and you come across romanesco broccoli in your market, snatch it up! Try it raw, roasted, steamed, or pureed in a soup. Then let me know what you think. Enjoy!
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