Romanesco Salad with Israeli Couscous, Mushrooms, and Asparagus

The Most Beautiful Food You Can Eat

Have you ever been served a dish with food so beautiful you felt it was a crime to eat it? Imagine a cook, who is so charmed by the natural beauty of raw ingredients and hesitates to cook them. That’s what I feel when I see Romanesco Broccoli. What is the best way to put it on a pedestal of our dinner plate? How to protect its color an shape? How to bring out its nutty flavor and crunchy texture?

Romanesco florets
Romanesco florets

My answer is blanching Romanesco in salty water and serving it as a warm salad with Israeli couscous.

Ptitim, Asparagus, Mushrooms, Pesto

Ptitim (Hebrew: פתיתים‎) is a type of pasta shaped like round pearls. In the U.S., it is typically labeled as Israeli couscous. In Israel, it originally became known as “Ben-Gurion rice,” but today it is called “ptitim.” It can be cooked using different cooking methods — like any dry pasta or rice. The variety of serving variations is also impressive — cold and hot, savory and sweet, main and side dishes. I like it the most in salads.

Asparagus doesn’t need any introduction. It is well known and pretty popular as a side dish or in salads. Juicy, with its unique bright and clean mild grassy flavor, it works very well in this salad.

Quartered and sauteed baby Bella mushrooms can be a good substitute, but Beech mushrooms — with a nutty, buttery flavor and a firm, crunchy texture — are the best here.

Breech Mushrooms
Beech Mushrooms

To flavor this salad, I used Bärlauch pesto, a gift from my friend in Germany. You can substitute it with homemade garlicky chives (available at Asian grocery stores) pesto or any other herb pesto you prefer.

Romanesco Salad with Mushrooms, Ptitim, Asparagus, and Garlicy Pesto
Romanesco Salad with Mushrooms, Ptitim, Asparagus, and Garlicy Pesto

Romanesco Salad with Israeli Couscous, Mushrooms, and Asparagus

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Appetizer, Main Dish, Salad
Cuisine: American, Middle Eastern
Servings: 4 portions

Ingredients

  • 1 head Romanesco Broccoli
  • 1/2 cup Israeli couscous aka ptitim
  • 12 spears asparagus medium thick
  • 1 pack beech mushrooms
  • 3 tbsp pesto ramps or wild garlic
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp walnut oil
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper freshly ground
  • 1 tsp kosher salt adjust to your taste

Instructions

  • Fill a large pot with water and bring it to boil. Fill a small saucepan with 1 cup of water and bring it to boiling.
  • When water starts boiling in a saucepan, add 1/2 cup dry Israeli couscous, season with a pinch of salt pepper, stir, and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. When done, turn off the heat and stir with 1 tsp of avocado oil and 1 tbsp of pesto. Let cool to the room temperature.
  • Cut off Romanesco florets. Slice large ones in half. Snap off woody asparagus bottoms. When water starts boiling in the large pot, make it sea-salty and blanch Romanesco florets and asparagus spears for 2 minutes on high heat. Transfer them to a bowl and toss with walnut oil and 2 tbsp pesto. Let cool to the room temperature and slice asparagus into bite-size pieces.
    Romanesco florets
  • Cut off just enough of the base to separate the mushrooms. Season and saute them on high heat with 2 tsp of avocado oil, stirring, for about 2-3 minutes.
    Breech Mushrooms
  • Combine all the ingredints, toss, season to your taste and serve.

Notes

Romanesco broccoli, also known as Roman cauliflower, Broccolo Romanesco, Romanesque cauliflower or simply Romanesco is an edible flower bud of the species Brassica oleracea. First documented in Italy, it is chartreuse in color. Romanesco has a striking appearance because its form is a natural approximation of a fractal. When compared to a traditional cauliflower, its texture as a vegetable is far more crunchy, and its flavor is not as assertive, being delicate and nutty.
The Romanesco has been grown in Italy since the 16th century.wiki
Bärlauch (Wild Garlic) Pesto
How to Cook Asparagus
Romanesco Salad with Mushrooms, Ptitim, Asparagus, and Garlicy Pesto