Our Saturday morning routine during much of the year involves a trip (a 2-minute walk across the street) to the Adams Morgan farmer’s market, where I get a few essentials and a few extras that strike my fancy. For me, bad weather is almost synonymous with cooking, so yesterday I had to stick to my routine and go shopping outside in the rain. Cursing under my breath, I was picking through wet vegetables bins, when I was rewarded with a most beautiful Broccolo Romanesco specimen:
Broccolo Romanesco is a native of Lazio, Italy, and is known in the U.S. as Roman cauliflower, Romanesco broccoli, or coral broccoli. It is a beautiful and fascinating object on several different levels, as it is a mathematical plant (its shape is fractal, meaning each mini-floret is arranged along a logarithmical spiral, which, in turn, is part of a larger spiral).
Pasta e broccoli (exactly what it sounds like – pasta with broccoli) is a great way to showcase the nuttiness, sweetness, and fantastic texture of Broccolo Romanesco (much more versatile than regular cauliflower or broccoli). For this simple dish it is best to use short pasta, such as penne, orecchiette, rigatoni, etc. I rather like using Montebello Strozzapreti (an imported organic durum wheat semolina dry pasta), widely available at WholeFoods, Yes Organic grocery store, among other places.
Broccolo Romanesco is first blanched (3-4 min) and then very quickly sautéed in olive oil infused with garlic and crushed red chilis. Once it is added to the cooked pasta, grate a good amount of Pecorino Romano over the steaming top, perhaps, with a bit of fresh pepper. You can add some more high quality olive oil, if you’d like.
Naturally, another immediate association I have with bad weather is drinking wine, especially a nice red, especially one that has warm spices, earthiness, and depth (besides, I would not dream of having a delicious pasta without a glass of wine :-)). I cannot think of a better wine than a 2007 SanValentino Umbria IGT (a harmonious blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano, and Sagrantino, a native of Montefalco) by legendary Paolo Bea to drink with my sweetie on a cold night like this (well, out of what I currently have in my wine cabinet).
Feel free to come up with something different that will warm up your heart; maybe it will be another wine, maybe scotch, maybe a nice piece of chocolate…