lunedì 4 aprile 2011
Aborted Floral Meristems
What visually marks the arrival of spring? Robin red breasts, with worms in beaks. Daffodils. Hyacinths. Forsythia. Flowering fruit trees. The arrival of asparagus, fava beans, peas, artichokes, and agretti in the markets. Americans who shouldn't be wearing them clad in shorts, wearing flip flops, and entering the Duomo in Florence.
In our case, it would be Lulu with a lizard wiggling from her mouth. Or it would be another lizard, dead, lying on its back, missing a large chunk of its tail, as well as all appendages on one side, nonchalantly hanging out on our terrace.
Our dogs love to chase these harmless, lovely creatures. Once it stops moving – i.e., when it’s dead – interest in the game is off.
What are the aromatic markers of the arrival of spring? Oh, those flowering fruit trees. The strong aroma of narcissi. A soft spring rain. Strawberries. A certain sweetness in the air.
In our case, it would be the aroma – if one can call it that – of a dog who’d rolled in unidentifiable carrion. Dogs do love to roll around on the grass, in the woods. But they’re more prone to doing this when it gets a little warmer outside.
Lulu rolled in just that (some unidentifiable carrion) yesterday. The picture you see at the right is not that of a bloody retriever. No, that is a golden retriever who has been doused in passata (tomato sauce which we made last August). You might notice how the other pups and puppers are enjoying helping apply/dis-apply our remedy. (Because the tomato crop was lousy last year, our passata has leaned to the acidic. This did not seem to deter any of the canines.) Lulu looks like a 70s shag rag gone seriously awry.
918,000 hits occurred after I typed in “why dogs roll in smelly things.” I went to the first that appeared on the screen, the well-written www.schoolforchampions.com. Ron Kurtus, the author, writes, “Although there is a temptation to scold your dog [when he/she rolls in smelly things], it is best to realize it is natural behavior and make sure your pet doesn’t have the opportunity to roll in stuff.”
Given that we live in the country, and that there’s woods, this is virtually impossible.
He continues: “But first of all, you must realize that what smells bad to humans may not smell so bad to a dog.” Eek!
He then lists a couple of reasons why dogs might do this, and here's my favorite: “Advertise to the pack – Another school for thought is that dogs may roll in feces of dead animal remains to ‘advertise’ what they have found to other members of the pack.” Charming. What we know lives in the woods: wild boar (we think); fox (saw one once); porcupine (strong evidence of them rooting): black squirrels; and who knows what else. Let’s say Lulu is wearing eau di porcuspino (porcupine water). Delicious.
Perhaps I should cook up something really stinky as retaliation. Perhaps this is the time to learn how to make kimchi or sauerkraut. Although, since we don’t know what smells good to dogs, they might find the odor of fermenting cabbage aphrodisiacal [sic].
How to say goodbye to wintry foods? Finish up what’s in the refrigerator and move on to asparagus.
In this case, it means using a head of cauliflower that’s been lurking for a long time in the back of the refrigerator.
Curious about this sort of boring vegetable, I consulted Larousse Gastronique, which informed me that it was “[d]escribed by Arab botanists and known to the Romans, the cauliflower originally came from Cyprus and was introduced to France from Italy in the middle of the 16th century.”
Alan Davidson writes, “It is thought that they were first grown in the Near East, but no one is sure when. The belief of Cypriots that the cauliflower originated in Cyprus derives tenuous support from the old French name for it.” He adds that Jane Grigson dismissed the Cypriot connection and gave it over to the Arabs.
Wikipedia says that “Cauliflower is one of several vegetables of the species Brassica oleracea … It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head (the white curd) of aborted floral meristems is eaten, while the stalk and surrounding thick green leaves are used in vegetable broth or discarded.”
Now, did you know that you were eating aborted floral meristems while tucking into cauliflower cheese? I certainly did not. Did you also know that you could use the detritus to flavor a broth? Again, I did not. Guess this means said will not go directly into the compost bucket.
Wiki adds that cauliflower didn’t really take off in French cuisine ‘til the court of Louis XIV (who sat on the throne from 1643-1715 … a very, very long time).
The photo above is what we’ll be eating shortly. Does anyone eat cauliflower in the summer (apart from perhaps nibbling on a floret found on a crudite tray?).
Cauliflower can bore at a party, but when it’s roasted it somehow tastes a whole lot better.
Fusilli con cavolfiore, olive, e pinoli/Fusilli with cauliflower, olives, and pine nuts
½ lb. of fusilli (or orecchiette)
1 small head of cauliflower, broken into tiny florets
¾ c. green olives, pitted and chopped
2 T. pine nuts, lightly toasted
½ c. freshly grated Pecorino Romano
3 T. extravirgin olive oil, at least
Freshly cracked black pepper
Handful of coriander, chopped (use flat-leaf parsley if you don’t have coriander)
One hot pepper, minced
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the water for the pasta in a pot, and bring to a slow boil (because you have to roast the cauliflower first).
Break the cauliflower into tiny florets, toss with a couple of tablespoons of extravirgin olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Put in the oven, and roast for about 45 minutes, stirring about halfway through the procedure. You want it crisped and browned; you do not want it brulée’d.
Put the toasted pine nuts, pitted/chopped green olives, grated Pecorino Romano, minced hot pepper, and coriander (or parsley) into a serving bowl.
Remove the cauliflower from the oven, and add to the serving bowl. Throw the fusilli in to the boiling pot of water, and cook following package directions. Before draining the pasta, take a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid and add it to the stuff in the serving bowl.
Add the fusilli to the serving bowl, add a couple more jolts of extravirgin olive oil, and taste for seasoning. The olives and the Pecorino Romano will probably provide plenty of saline sensation – so perhaps just check for pepper.
Jennifer Harvey Lang, ed. Larousse Gastronomique, New York, 1988.
Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food, New York, 1999. The entry directly below is “cauliflower fungus,” which looks a whole lot like cauliflower. It grows on rotting conifer stumps.