Among the many cool things you can find right now at local farmers markets is cauliflower, not only the traditional pale orbs and the very pretty purple and orange variations, but Romanesco cauliflower. A number of Romanescos in formation, like these on Alex Weiser's table at the Santa Monica farmers market on Wednesday, looks surprisingly like a tiny bright forest of Christmas trees.
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Romanesco cauliflower is an heirloom -- not a hybrid of cauliflower and broccoli, or cauliflower and an M.C. Escher print -- and also a near-perfect example of naturally occurring fractal. (Fractal: A fragmented geometric shape composed of smaller parts that are copies of the whole.) Mathematicians actually study them, hopefully before eating them for dinner.
As it seems a shame to puree something so utterly beautiful for soup, we'd suggest roasting them instead. Some olive oil, sea salt and black pepper maybe, then into a very hot oven. If you want something slightly fancier, here's a Deborah Madison recipe for cauliflower and Brussels sprouts salad with mustard-caper butter. Or just string some cranberries around the whorls and worry about eating them later.