Mathematics on your plate -- Romanesco with potatoes!

Now I know the title has your interest peaked! Mathematical equation on your plate! you are probably thinking you don't want the plate if it comes with an equation... or if you are more like me, then you are torn between two of the things you like a lot - mathematics and cooking! But don't worry this is a very beautiful mathematics equation which is super tasty and is not intimidating at-all.. okay okay, before you think this girl has lost her mind, let me explain :)

Have you ever heard of fractals? I first learnt about them a few years ago when I happened to stumble across a TV documentary (NOVA) about fractals and since then I have been so amazed with these little known mathematical phenomenon that even on my food blog I can't stop ranting about them :) Fractal is any geometric shape that can be split into multiple small shapes and each of the smaller shape will be an exact replica of the original shape! Now you can inturn split the smaller shapes into even more tinier shapes and they will still be the replica of the original image.. fractals have this recursive self-similarity which makes them so very unique and so very beautiful! Wikipedia has a very good article about fractals here with some of the most beautiful fractal images. If mathematics has ever come so close to beauty, this is it!!!

Now before you wonder where exactly this girl is going with fractals and dry sabzi, let me tell you the connecting link: today's ingredient, romanescos, are among the most admired natural fractals (others are snowflakes, cauliflowers, tree leaves)! There are just so many examples of fractals in the nature, only if we know to look for them :) Look at the picture of romanescos at the end of this post (its a cross between broccoli and cauliflower) and you will know what I mean! Food on your plate can be derived by a mathematical equation, food for thought indeed, right!

(Follow the read more link below for the rest of the recipe...)
Romanescos are a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. They are known for their most beautiful structure and a pale green color. I was first attracted to them in my farmer's market because of their beauty. The vendor gave me a small piece to taste and it tasted very much like cauliflwers. So I bought a bunch and cooked them the way I usually cook my broccoli with potatoes sabzi.

Recipe: Romanesco potatoes dry sabzi
Source: Something simple I put together.
1 Romanesco - chopped into smaller pieces
2 medium size russet potatoes
3 green chilis
3 cloves of garlic
1tsp cumin seeds
1/4tsp turmeric powder
1tsp coriander powder
1tsp dried kasoorti methi

Garnish: lime juice & chili flakes, salt-pepper to sprinkle on top
  1. Chop romanesco and potatoes into byte sized pieces.
  2. Steam romanesco pieces for around 7-8mins (more or less depending on the size of the pieces and the amount of romanesco). Don't let it get mushy.. when it comes out of the steamer it should be al-dente (it will cook a bit more with potatoes). Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1Tbsp of oil. When the oil is hot temper with cumin seeds followed by chopped chili peppers and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
  4. Then add potatoes and turmeric and pan-fry (uncovered) for ~10 mins on medium high heat uncovered.
  5. Add the steamed romanesco pieces to the potato mixture and cook (uncovered) for few more minutes; add kasoori methi, season with salt & pepper and drizzle a bit more of olive oil on top. 
  6. Serve with some fresh lime wedges and hot chapati!
  7. Marvel at the mathematics in-built in nature while you eat :D okay, just enjoy!
You see I can not stop thinking about fractals whenever I am chopping a cauliflower or romanescos, I guess I can't stop writing about fractals either when I am blogging about them :) Some things never change, they say..... :D


    1. Hey P J

      Romanesco potatoes sabji looks very colourful and fresh...never seen or heard about it, may be seen not noticed..i'll must try..any green veg, usual perfact photoes and post..


    2. Mathematics did scare me but I mustered up the courage to read on :) Glad that I did..It looks so beautiful, like little star fish!

      PJ,see, food is always connected with cute memories..
      but you should have seen the number of reality shows on Indian channels now..

    3. Hey pj this is my first visit to ur blog...u have a very nice blog with awesome recipes...this romanesco stir fry with potatoes luks very attractive n delicious...nice recipe...and u hv explained the concept of fractels very nicely...i am following ur blog so that i can track all ur future recipes and comment on them...vl visit u often now.

    4. PJ lovely dish with Romanesco and an even lovely post explaining Fractals.

    5. Omigod PJ,this is so absolutely beautiful....Romanescos...what a lovely name though i never saw ur heard about this gorgeous one....
      Love ur take on mathematics on ur plate....thats cool....
      and the recipes good too!!!
      HAve a fantastic brite weekend...

    6. Maths has indeed come so close to beauty! I should find them in farmers market next time I go there....loved the dry curry recipe. A must try as well. A lovely prelude Prajakta!

    7. One of the amazing thing is finding new veggies in our local farmers :) I ve never seen such a beauty - excellent pairing and click!

    8. Romanesco potatoes sabzi looks delicious and colorful but I have never seen or heard abt it.. Looks very beautiful..

    9. Jagruti, thanks! They taste very much like cauliflower but are just very pretty and colorful. Do try them if you find them in any farmers market/whole food stores.

      Ruchika, thanks! I know, I love using romaescos for their pretty effects to the plate! Aha, Indian reality TV isn't something I am following very closely, but looks like a lot of the concept has propped up recently.

      Siddhi, welcome to my blog! I am glad you enjoyed your first visit here and look forward to many more! I am off to visit yours now,.

      A2Z vegetarian cuisine, thanks! I am so glad you liked the recipe and the fractals :)

    10. VanillaStrawberrySpringfields, thanks! Yes, I thought the name romanescos was very cute too.. reminds me of some royal spanish or italian vegetable :D

      Preeti, thanks! Our farmer's market in CA is carrying this currently, so I am sure you will find it somewhere nearby. They definitely give such a pretty take on any cauliflower dish!

      Cham, so agree.. farmers market is such a great resource to finding such beautiful and lesser known fruits and vegetables! I am so glad you liked the recipe.

      Anu, thanks, they are indeed such a pretty vegetable! A bit heard to find though, I agree, specially out of farmer's markets. I am so glad you liked the recipe though!

    11. Romanesco, indeed a beautiful veggie never tried to give a try at home...lovely dish..

    12. wow...these are so adorable..i would probably just like to see them than having on the plate !!! You know what an another interesting phenomenon called Chaos theory which say a flutter of butterfly wings can cause cyclones in other parts of the world...uffffffff....the subji looks great !!!

    13. Priya, thanks! Do give this veggie a try if you find it nearby.. it tastes like cauliflower but is just so beautiful!

      SE, I know! I struggled with eating them for a while too :) Interesting info about Chaos theory, I just looked it up along-with butterfly effect on wiki; its amazing how such small irrelevant events have such far-reaching consequences.. science at its best really.. Thanks for sharing!

    14. ah..Fractals!! I agree with you ..if there is beauty in is this it is this it is this..

      by the way the romanesco is not only fantastic looking..but when you look at it is even prettier!

      Lovely lovely lovely post!

    15. I have never seen this vegetable at all,first time am hearing the name romanesco,just the name of it sounds so interesting then the taste must be really good too beautiful and lovely pale green colour veggie...ill see whether i can get this and will try ur recipe with it..thanks for sharing it PJ

    16. Jhonny, I so agree with you! All the time I am prepping romanescos, fractals and the beauty of the recurrance pattern is all on my mind (more so than recipe sometimes :D) I am so glad you liked the post.

      Sushma, I know, the name does sound very spanish regalic vegetable name to me :D It is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower; hope you find it closeby!

    17. Wow What a beauty .I am seeing this for the first time .Never heard of this before.Looks colorful and sounds interesting.Thanks for the information.

    18. Oh I love the looks of it. I have seen purple and orange colors of the very same vegetable I suppose.

      But how are they made these romanescos I mean? Are they cross breed of broccoli and cauliflower?

    19. ohh Math did scare me but this is too good..thanks so much for the info, now will start looking at things from the fractal point of view :)..nice clicks..great recipe..never seen it though in India.

    20. Padhu, thanks! I am so glad you liked the post. Yes, they are a bit hard to find particularly in regular supermarket grocery stores.

      Indo, very good question.. I looked around a little bit and looks like they were first references in Italy in 1600's (; the vendor told me this is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower; but now I am wondering if he meants cross in a more generalized way; that is it tastes more like a cross instead of it being a genetic cross.. I'll ask him next Saturday at farmer's market again :)

      Deepa, thanks! Isn't this the most beautiful math that you have ever seen! I so much like to just look at it. My Mama at Banglore seems to have used them but I agree, they are more hard to find.

    21. Hi PJ, thanks for visiting my blog and leaving such a nice comment! Romanesco is one of my favorite vegetables and the biggest disappointment in my garden this year, I just couldn't get it started in time. I can't believe that I actually have to buy it this year. Your recipe looks delicious and I would love to try it. I'm not familiar with kasoorti methi though, could you tell me what it is?

      Love your photos! I'm going to have to look around your blog a bit more.

    22. PJ, delicious dish with Romanesco and I loved your post:) Nice clicks.

    23. ~almost fainted~ to see this beautiful vegetable and ur mathematics connection!

      Now, i'm feeling embrassed that we live on just on handful veges and have had no idea about other beautiful veges. :(
      By the way, thanks for pointing out and gorgeous click PJ! :)

    24. Michelle, thanks! I am so glad you liked my blog and the recipes! I very much enjoyed browsing through your vegetable garden and the fresh new veggie varieties that you had cooking. Kasoor methi is dried fenugreek. This is pretty much an optional ingredient which you can easily skip or substitute fresh fenugreek, if you have that growing in your garden :)

      Rachana, thanks! I am so glad you liked the post, recipe and the math behind the romanescos :) I had fun writing about it!

      Sonia, you are too nice, girl! Thanks so much for your kind words as always... honestly, I just have an addiction of trying new vegetables that my husband regularly comments on, but see, he can't complain because he gets to taste all the new veggies prepared for him every week :)

    25. loved your post... i can trust an engineer to come up with such interesting mathematical facts. fractals! yes the romanescoes are a fascinating looking vegetable. i've never eaten one though... only looked at it from faaar. i first saw them in the early 2000 (in delhi) where the local vegetable seller was selling them as chinese gobhi. must be its pagoda like structure! and since then ive been thinking yaar ye chinese ke vegetables bhi chinese lagte hain. i stand corrected over the years :P

    26. this is why God is known to be the best Artist. what a pretty, perfectly shaped vegetable. I would have never known such a beautiful vegetable exists without your post. love it PJ and the curry is as usual nutritious and tasty.

    27. Pj,Math and me are poles apart but looking at your description I think I will start liking it.Haven't seen these veggies yet.Looks lovely!!!

    28. Excellent pic deary!!!! But this veg is new to me..n dfntly the name ;)
      looks awesome n yummy

    29. Rajani, thanks! Interesting that you mention you saw this in Delhi.. I was wondering if these are available just in US or can be found in India also.. thats great! Pagodika naam to ekdam fit lagta hai is veggi ke liye :)

      Sayantani, thanks! I so agree with you, God is the greatest of the creatures and the most beautiful artist ever known! Imagine the amazement of the scientist who found out fractals mathematically and then realized they have been there all around him buried in everyday things of nature :)

      PJ, thanks! Isn't this the most beautiful and the most non-scary math ever! I am so glad you liked it.

      Sarah, thanks! I am so glad you liked the veggie and the post!

    30. Nice post and such an interesting vegetable. Must look for it!

      Btw I just added you to my blog roll!

    31. Whoa PJ, What a post. Dil khush Ho gaya. But I guess I'm late with my comments. I have never heard abt Romanescos. But with ur informative and beautiful post. I know abt these beauties. Awesome Clicks and yummylicious inviting subzi. I have to confess when u sd Mathematics on a plate..I was ready to run a mile'm glad I stayed and got to read abt these fractals.

    32. Radhika, thanks! I am so glad you liked the post and the recipe and thanks so much for adding me to your blogroll :)

      Dolly, thanks! Isn't this the most beautiful and most non-intimidating mathematics incarnation ever! :D

    33. Happy Republic Day!
      romanesco potatoes is a new and innovative dish. Looks delicious and tempting. I will definitely try your lovely recipe.

    34. Hey i had seen these beauties back in swiss but at that time i never knew we cud use them to make such a delicious dish! Overall a fantastic post!

    35. Beautiful post....and the veg looks beautiful!! wish we would get them here...

    36. WOW those are some amazing cauliflowers alright,lucky you found them :D

    37. Babli, thanks and a very happy republic day to you too! I am so glad you liked the recipe.

      Parita, thanks! I am glad they were available in swiss, they are kind of hard to find. Glad you liked the post!

      s, thanks! aren't they so pretty? You might get them there but may be difficult to find. My mother's brother (mama) gets them in Balnglore.

      Yasmeen, thanks! Yes, they were so very pretty indeed. I had a lot of fun cooking with them :)

    38. I have never tried this veggie before and what a beauty ,it is(I got it, it's a natural fractal, rt)...Wonderful clicks PJ..and lovely combo !

    39. I was a math lover until going to MIT beat it out of me. Sometimes there is such a thing as too much calculus.

      I have seen these romanescos before and marveled at their beauty and symmetry. nature can be so gorgeous...

      Your dish looks delicious!

    40. Gulmohar, thanks! yes, it is indeed a natural fractal :)

      Joanne, agree, there really can be such a thing as so much of a subject! that happened to me and Biology; I liked it until I just hated it :) Nature can really be so artistic, right! I am so glad you liked the post!

    41. Quite an impressive post. I am equally in love with romanesco. Awesome job and thanks for introducing this fantastic vegetable..

    42. I love maths - as much for the symmetry and order it seems to bring as the fact that there is a solution for everything! ;)

      Havent seen this before - ut you're right - they are beautiful!

    43. Nostalgia, thanks! I am so glad you liked the post and this fantastic vegetable!

      Miri, I so agree with you! There are life lessons sure to take from studying maths.. thanks for stopping by.

    44. its very interesting to know about fractals..will read more on wiki later..and your recipe is amazing

    45. Thanks PJ for your sweet words , it meant a lot!!
      Now this romanesco is a new name to me but interestingly i have them in my garden right now n i thought some of the broccoli are less green because of less stupid i am ...will post a few pictures of them soon..

    46. Preety, thanks! fractals are so amazing! I am glad you liked the post and the recipe :)

      Sangeeta, I can not tell you how happy I am to see you here! Wow, you have romanescos in your garden, thats so wonderful! Looking forward to your pics :)

    47. Dear PJ,
      OMG, that's such a beauty. God is great with it's creations. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about fractals, great info, will ask S to read about it, he enjoys reading all this stuff.
      Coming to ur recipe, I like aloo gobhi with kasoori methi so can imagine the taste. I am still wondering how am I so late to comment...lazy me I guess. :-)

    48. Pari, thanks! If you like aloo gobhi with kasoori methi then you are sure to like this one! I am so glad you liked the writeup also :)

    49. Love your love for fractals...ummmm now whenever i'll be cooking gobi i'll be looking at it with different view....never cooked with romanesco...

    50. Enjoyed knowing more about fractals today...thank you so much for this wonderful post here...yeah yeah i agree, understood to the core' by looking at the food picture:)

    51. Spice, I know I get a bit carried away whenever I think about fractals and romanescos.. aren't they though the most beautiful veggies ever!

      Malar, thanks! They are sure my favorites! I am so glad you liked the post and the photo :)

    52. Hi PJ,
      Thanx for ur comment about my acrylic painting! And you have a wonderful blog here! And interesting fractals too. Beautiful click with nice food texture and perfect lighting!

    53. Your pictures are gorgeous

    54. This is my first visit to your blog & wow!!, what a great space you have. the pictures are so perfect & inviting.

    55. I never knew vegetables come in so many different forms and shapes! I think if i follow ur blog regularly I would gradually get to know all of those available in US atleast! Your blog is very informative! Right now i feel like a newbie...dont even know the names of most veggies u mention here :D..someday hopefully.....!

    56. Never thought I will be learning something new as fractal from a food blog. Thank you. and you have a great blog.


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