Saturday, October 18, 2008

Romanesco: Eating Mathematics

Cauliflower or Broccoli? Broccoli or Cauliflower? The Romanesco something was discovered in Italy in the 16th century and is believed to actually be a variant of cauliflower but is green just like a broccoli and is often sold as such.

Heralded for its anti-carcinogenic properties, like most Brasssica genus, it's heavy in vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, riboflavin and fibre. This ingredient makes a fabulous center piece in any dish or meal.

One study noted its level of isothiocyanates (ITC's) which are bioactive compounds that inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells. Only black and purple cabbage showed higher levels.

The florets grow from a pattern called the Fibonacci series which is a fancy way of saying the sum of two numbers is equal to the two previous. It is also a premise for a bad Dan Brown novel, but this post is supposed to be about cool vegetables and not sour grapes..

Years ago back in film school, a professor got bored showed the class a documentary on fractals and the nature of chaos and how evolutionary biology can be understood mathematically. Well he wasn't very good anyway but that was eye opening.

I like the Romanesco because it's both broccoli and cauliflower and yet something completely different all at the same time. That is an outlook I find both philosophically comforting and pithily descriptive of myself in many ways. All of nature should give me this much satisfaction wrapped in a vibrant green parcel, but alas that is not always the case. Besides, any vegetable could do math better than I could and yes I'm anthropomorphizing but every so often I like to think nature has a sense of humour.

There is more to be learned from its complex replication of simple fractals patterns which make this healthy vegetable (broccoli or not) a mesmerizing substitute for the ordinary offerings at the big box grocery store. It's almost a shame to chop.

Mmmmm... this needs a song.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Are Barracuda good to eat?

I'm not sure if this is a good ingredient, but the idea seems interesting enough. Here is video footage that I took in Saona Island south of Dominican Republic in the town of Manu Juan.

Apparently they are very oily and have a strong fish taste. That may account for a high degree of Omega 3 fatty acids which are quite healthy and are responsible for the fish taste.

Perhaps it was best I didn't get a taste as they have a toxin (ciguatoxin) in them that can cause diarrhea and even neurological problems according to this health warning. Cooking doesn't help as ciguatoxin has a high tolerance for heat. People have died from eating it though so I'll likely stick to salmon.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Smoked Salmon Spirals

This is a simple and old family recipe and is in my book along with many recipes that have been passed down through the ages. Some of these recipes have come as far away as Glasgow and the Isle of Skye. It's great for tea time or even adding as an appetizer for a soirée for friends and family.


Smoked salmon thinly sliced
Chive cream cheese
Salt and pepper
Romaine lettuce, center 'vein' removed
Flour tortillas


Spread tortillas with chive cream cheese. If you can't find chive cream cheese, substitute plain cream cheese and use fresh chopped chives. Top with salmon slices in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add a leaf of romaine lettuce. Roll up tortillas tightly and wrap each in plastic wrap.

Place in a dish and store in the fridge. When ready to serve, unwrap and cut tortillas on the diagonal.

For a low-carb alternative, omit the tortillas. Spread each salmon slice with cream cheese and sprinkle with pepper. Use the romaine leaf as a wrap.