Romanesco, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Cranberry & Pecan Salad

pinit fg en rect gray 28 Romanesco, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cranberry & Pecan Salad

Romanesco New Romanesco, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cranberry & Pecan Salad

True confession. This is my first close encounter with romanesco. Tempted many times over the years at the Portland Farmers Market, this past weekend, I succumbed. I bought two heads without a clue what to do with them.

Romanesco at Portland Farmers Market Romanesco, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cranberry & Pecan Salad

A member of the brassica oleracea family, romanesco has an exotic, almost alien beauty and can be a little formidable to the uninitiated. I mean, should you eat it or use it as a table arrangement for Thanksgiving? It looks like the radically punked out cousin to the more dowdy cauliflower but should not be confused with other brassica exotica, such as broccoflower or orange or purple cauliflower. It is a distinct vegetable with a wide range of possibilities.

Ramanesco at Portland Farmers Market closeup Romanesco, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cranberry & Pecan Salad

After I got my romanesco stash back to the OtherWorldly Kitchen, the first thing I determined was whether it would hold its gorgeous chartreuse color when blanched. It does! The second thing I determined was whether it tasted more like cauliflower or more like broccoli. Cauliflower! But slightly more subtle and tender to the bite. It has a desirably dense, almost creamy texture. And it’s delicious raw and cooked.

For my first romanesco dish, I wanted to retain the full vibrancy of the color and the entire crunch. So that meant raw. With Thanksgiving only a few days away, all those delectably rich, cream-laden dishes practically begged for a cold, tangy, festive salad. I envisioned an array of colors, so cranberries came to mind, and then apples, pecans, red onions, and smoky bacon for depth.

Romanesco preparation Romanesco, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cranberry & Pecan Salad

Modeled loosely on the Ubiquitous Broccoli Salad, with a nod to its distant cousin, the Waldorf Salad, here’s a variation on the theme that is guaranteed to ROCK YOUR WORLD. Let’s just say that this salad for eight was devoured by two people in one day. If you want left-overs, you might consider making a double batch.

Blanched romanesco in a bowl Romanesco, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cranberry & Pecan Salad

Romanesco Tips & Tricks

  • Romanesco season is unfortunately brief and availability at farmers markets is sporadic. When it appears in September through November, pounce on it.
  • Select firm, heavy heads with vibrant color and no discoloration at the tips of the flowerets.
  • To store, seal whole in an airtight plastic bag and refrigerate.
  • Romanesco tastes very much like cauliflower and can be used in the same ways.
  • Take advantage of the beautiful color and form. It seems a shame to puree this vegetable.
  • To prepare, use a small paring knife to cut the florets from the core. Large florets can usually be broken into smaller florets, but when that isn’t possible, cut the florets lengthwise in halves or quarters.
  • Blanch or steam romanesco briefly (3-5 minutes) to deepen the flavor, while also retaining a bit of bite. It can also be roasted.

Romanesco salad in the bowl Romanesco, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cranberry & Pecan Salad

Romanesco, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Cranberry & Pecan Salad

This festive, colorful salad beats any raw broccoli or cauliflower salad I’ve ever eaten. It’s loaded with raw romanesco, tangy dried cranberries, applewood-smoked bacon, toasted pecans, and apples. You have two choices for the dressing (one mayonnaise based and one yogurt based), both with a sweet and sour play between apple cider vinegar and wildflower honey. As a bonus, it can be made a day or more ahead.

Honey Cider Dressing or Yogurt Honey Dressing (recipes below)

1 head romanesco, cut into small florets (4 cups)
6 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, fully cooked and crumbled (3 thick slices)
1 cup plump, moist dried cranberries
1 medium-small red onion, peeled, cored, and chopped (1 cup chopped)
1 cup whole pecans, lightly toasted, cut in half lengthwise
1 tart red apple, cored and chopped (1 cup chopped)

  1. Prepare one of the dressings. Reserve.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the romanesco, bacon, cranberries, onion, pecans, and apple. (If making more than a day ahead, add the apple shortly before serving.)
  3. Add ½ cup of either of the dressings (recipes below) and toss gently to combine. Taste and add additional dressing if desired.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Cover and fridge until ready to serve.

Makes about 8 cups; Serves 6-8.

Honey Cider Dressing

This dressing is rich and creamy, sweet and tangy. It’s my current favorite vegetable and fruit combo salad dressing.

½ cup homemade or premium mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
1½ tablespoons wildflower honey
1½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar  1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
fine sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream until smooth.
  2. Whisk in the honey, vinegar, and mustard.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Cover and fridge until needed, up to one week.

Makes about ¾ cup.

Yogurt Honey Dressing 

This dressing is rich and creamy, even without mayonnaise. It’s wonderful on vegetable and fruit combo salads.

½ cup Greek yogurt ¼ cup sour cream 2 tablespoons wildflower honey 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard fine sea salt, to taste freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt and sour cream until smooth.
  2. Whisk in the honey, vinegar, and mustard.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Cover and fridge until needed, up to one week.

Makes about ¾ cup.

Additional Inspiration

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.

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