Romanesco Broccoli with Toasted Bread Crumbs

This vegetable, actually part of the cauliflower family is wonderfully nutty and nutritious.  It’s grown locally this time of year.  The heads are a series of little stalks with peaks that look more like a desert cactus than an edible crucifer.

Their craggy and nubby surfaces turn a nice golden and become sweet and caramelized when sauteed.

Tonight I want to finish these vegetables with a little crunch, so I’m toasting some seasoned breadcrumbs and sprinkling them on top right before serving.  This is a brilliant way to add crispness to any number of dishes.  My mother toasts breadcrumbs and garlic and tops cavatelli with them.  In fact, there are several pasta dishes in Italy that are finished with toasted breadcrumbs instead of grated cheese (because of the stringent rules of when and when not to use grated cheese in Italy).

I’ve made my own seasoned crumbs tonight with odd pieces of stale bread that I keep for months on end, leaving them to dry on a tray in the oven when it’s turned off.  In addition, I’ve added chopped parsley, nutmeg, chives and pecorino cheese.  Then I’ve toasted them in a skillet with olive oil until they turn golden–the aroma alone is worth the trouble!

Tonight, I’m serving the broccoli with simple seared scallops and boiled new potatoes with olive oil and chives.

Romanesco Broccoli with Toasted Bread Crumbs

serves 4

2 heads Romanesco Broccoli

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs (see below)

1/4 c olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Remove the base and outer leaves from the broccoli.  Cut into quarters and break down the stalks into smaller stalks.

Drop in salted boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes, or until crisp-tender.  Drain.

Heat olive oil in a broad skillet for a minute.  Saute the florets approximately 8 – 10 minutes, or until golden and lightly caramelized.

Top with toasted breadcrumbs.

Toasted Bread Crumbs

2 c bread crumbs made by grinding stale bread pieces finely in the food processor

1/2 c grated pecorino romano

2 tbls fresh chopped parsley

2 tbls fresh chopped chives

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 olive oil for frying

Combine ingredients in food processor and grind until incoporated into a coarse powder.

Heat oil in a 10″ nonstick skillet for a minute.  Add crumbs and saute, stirring and tossing often, until crumbs turn golden brown.  Do not overcook.  Remove from skillet immediately once crumbs are golden.  Can be stored in the fridge or freezer indefinitely


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