Market Saturdays in the summer is always like an approaching Christmas. From mid-June to mid-September there seems to be new surprises and new treats growing into maturity. This week had the mathematically designed Romanesco cauliflower.
Why do I say mathematically designed? If you look at each spiky spire on the head of cauliflower it seems to have a repeating pattern. And as you look closer and closer that same design repeats on a smaller scale. This is known as fractal geometry in math. The idea of self-similarity.
The second mathematical design that occurs is that every Romanesco cauliflower has a certain number of spires. They always are in a mathematical sequence known as the Fibonacci sequence. This involves starting from 0 and count. 0 to 1. Add them up and get 1. Add the last two numbers in the sequence so far: 0, 1, 1. You get 2 as the next number. 2 becomes 3, 3 becomes 5. 5 to 8 and so on.
When I found this vegetable at the market it had romaine lettuce next to it. It was as if they liked the play on words. Romaine. Romanesco. Romaine. Romancesco. At least I liked the word play. So I decided they were destined to be in a salad together.
I needed a way to tie them together with a dressing. Another vendor sold a variety sheep’s milk cheeses. Their fresh, soft cheese, akin to chevre, is called fresco. Romanesco. Fresco. Romanesco. Fresco. It went along with my delightful word play, so I had another step in my salad.
I finished the fresco dressing with a medley of fresh herbs, yogurt, honey and vinegar and a simple but flavourful salad was complete.
Romaine Romanesco Salad with Herbed Fresco Dressing
For the Herbed Fresco Dressing:
2 Tbsp fresh parsley
1 Tbsp fresh dill
1 Tbsp fresh mint
1/4 cup fresco cheese (or other soft cheese like chevre or marscapone)
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp cold pressed canola oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
In a blender, add all of the dressing ingredients and purée until smooth. Set aside.
For the salad:
3 cups romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
8 medium spires of romanesco cauliflower (I try to cut nice sized spires/florets directly from the stem for a dramatic look and to showcase the uniqueness of this cauliflower. Any cauliflower or broccoli would work well in this recipe too)
Reserved Herbed Fresco Dressing
Steam the cauliflower spires for 7-10 minutes until softened slightly but with a bit of bite remaining. Immediately remove from the steamer and chill in ice water.
Toss the romaine with the dressing and mound over two plates. Scatter the steamed cauliflower around each plate. Serves 2.