Romanesco broccoli is one of the most stunning vegetables I’ve ever seen. Striking in appearance, its fractal form—a complex geometrical shape that looks almost the same at every scale factor— makes it look a bit like a beautiful sea creature or, something from another planet. Each spiky floret, composed of a series of smaller florets buds, is arranged in a logarithmic spiral and the fractal shape is mimicked to the tiniest of florets. I find it lovely and fascinating.
A relative of cauliflower and broccoli, romanesco broccoli can be cooked and eaten the same way as either. Its texture is similar to cauliflower, but a little more crunchy and the flavor more earthy and nutty. I like to eat it simply by steaming or roasting its florets, but it can also be eaten raw, alone or with your favorite dip.
A rare thing of beauty, it almost pained me to blend the romanesco broccoli into a soup, but it was worth it as creamy soups are soothing during cold winter months. Warm and comforting, this silky—but not too rich—goodness is a mélange of leeks, romanesco, broccoli and a potato. The added broccoli is in here mostly because it’s just so amazing for your health, the soup doesn’t need it as the delicate flavor of the romanesco broccoli can stand on its own. To serve, I balanced the smooth texture with some crispy and flavorful toppings—roasted Brussels sprout leaves, micro-greens, fried capers and nuts. Crispy, salty and briny, the sprout leaves and capers add an unexpected dimension that elevates this simple soup to another level. If you want things to remain simple feel free to try a few of your own ideas. Keep in mind, if you plan to use salty toppings, add less salt to the soup. A little bit of cayenne or a splash of chili oil would be nice too (take a look at my White Velvet (Cauliflower Soup)).
If you don’t have romanesco broccoli available, feel free to use regular cauliflower. The color will be a lighter, but the flavor will be very similar. .
Romanesco Broccoli Bisque
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and sliced
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 large head romanesco, cut into florets (stem and core removed)
1 stalk of broccoli, cut into florets
1 potato (I used a Russet potato), medium diced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon or more salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cashew cream, (optional)
brussels sprouts, to garnish (optional)
fried capers, to garnish (optional)
microgreens, to garnish (optional)
nuts, garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, toss leeks, garlic, romanesco, broccoli and potato in olive oil and salt. Spread in a single layer on baking sheet and roast until vegetables are tender, about 35 minutes.
In a large pot add roasted vegetables and 4 cups of broth. If necessary, add more to ensure all the vegetables are covered. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add thyme and simmer for about 20 minutes. If using cashew cream, add it now. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper, keeping in mind how salty your toppings will be.
Using a high speed blender or an immersion blender, purée soup until silky smooth. Ladle into bowls and top/garnish with micro-greens, crispy Brussels sprout leaves, fried capers, nuts, a drizzle of olive oil, and/or freshly ground pepper. See recipes for garnishes below.
Crispy Brussels Sprout Leaves
1-2 cups (about 10-20) Brussels sprouts, stems cut
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove outer leaves of each sprout. If you’d like, save the hearts for later use. Gently toss leaves in a little olive oil and salt, gently massaging each leaf, if necessary. Spread leaves in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast until crispy and brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup capers, drained and dried
In a small pan, heat oil, add dry capers and fry until crisp, less than a minute. Drain and set on a paper towel. Set aside until ready to use.