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Spring is Finally Here!

June 19, 2013

Never mind that the first day of Summer is in two days. Here in Paris, Spring has arrived, with sunny days, warm days, and sometimes even days that are both sunny AND warm! But most importantly, the Spring fruits and vegetables are here. Last week, we got zucchini, cucumbers, and strawberries.

zukes, cukes, strawberries

I’ve already whipped up a quick zucchini and tomato pasta dish, and the strawberries are long gone, eaten sliced over granola for breakfast or yogurt for a light dessert. The cucumbers are the icky kind, but they’re still good for pickling.

Today, the fun continued with sweet, juicy cherries and delightfully fresh peas.

hooray for spring!

I’ve actually been hoping for peas since I found a recipe for a lovely salad in this month’s Martha Stewart Living. It involves not only peas, but also asparagus, spinach, new potatoes, and prosciutto. And now I have a perfect excuse to check out the new Italian deli I noticed just down the street. For the cherries, I’m thinking of more simple yogurt-based desserts, although if the Italian shop happens to have mascarpone or fresh ricotta, well, I don’t think I could really be blamed for using one of those instead of yogurt.

Originally published on Seasonal Market Menus.

Market Spoils, 5/5

May 6, 2013

It’s May in France, and you know what that means… holidays! As such, we’re not getting any paniers this month, so Nick and I decided to head up to the market yesterday to pick up some local spring produce.

Spring has finally sprung!

We were short on onions and garlic, which was the main reason we were shopping in the first place. That, and the sun was out for a change. Most of the stands at the market only had new garlic, so we got a bulb of that. Nick wanted chives for an herb omelette, and the guy handed them to us explaining that the bulbous purple flower buds were edible, too. Very cool. And the small bunches of young chard looked too good to pass up, so though I have no plan for them, we bought two.

Of course, no trip to the market is complete without a stop at the Ultimate Goat Cheese Guy‘s stand. We grabbed a round of fresh cheese to complement that herby omelette, and a Selles-Sur-Cher for later. Ah, goat cheese season.

I didn’t want to leave without some fruit. A pile of pink rhubarb stalks caught my eye, and I made a plan then and there to bake a pie, using the rhubarb and some of the apples from our fruit bowl (yes, we’re still getting apples).

A bottle of crisp rosé wine rounded out our market bag, and we headed home, soaking up the sun along the way.

Originally published on Seasonal Market Menus.

The First Radishes Of Spring

March 20, 2013

early spring perfection

Spring officially begins this week, which means the radishes are right on time.  I sometimes have trouble coming up with anything interesting to do with them, because it’s so easy to just clean them and eat them as they are for pre-dinner snacks.  But last night, seeing the remains of a pyramide of goat cheese in my fridge and the tail end of a loaf of Poilâne bread on my counter, I decided to make tartines.

snack time

Truly, these could not be simpler.  Cut the bread into rectangles (or whatever other shape you like), place/smear some fresh goat cheese on each piece, top with rows of sliced radishes, and sprinkle with a little sea salt.  I used truffle salt, because I have some, but porcini or other mushroom salt would be good too (make your own by grinding dried mushrooms to a powder and mixing it with fleur de sel or other coarse sea salt), as would an herbed salt.

radishcanapes

 

These made an ordinary Monday night feel like something a little special, and made me feel like a bit of a domestic goddess.  If radishes, butter, and salt are a classic, this is an excellent twist on the theme, if I do say so myself.

Originally published on Seasonal Market Menus.

Midwinter Exotica

February 27, 2013

Who says winter produce is boring?  Last week I got this:

i yam what i yam

It’s a real live yam.  I’ll probably use it in a dinner similar to this one, where I roasted it to a fluffy mash, but instead of duck, I’ll serve it with fish, because I have given up cooking meat at home for Lent.  (In true Catholic tradition, fish is still ok.)  This is an odd vegetable to work with though – the long shape and hairy exterior invite all kinds of dirty jokes, which aren’t helped by the fact that when you cut or peel the thing, it starts oozing slime everywhere.  Hilarity in the kitchen.  Still, it’s a good starchy vegetable, a nice change from potatoes, if anyone ever gets tired of potatoes, that is.

I also got this:

oooh, pretty

Purple broccoli!  There were two small heads of it, with lots of deep green leaves that looked too fresh and healthy to throw away.  So I chopped them up and all of it went into a tasty green curry along with some carrots.

healthy colors

I was a little disappointed that the broccoli was white on the inside, but I was not disappointed in the way it held onto its vibrant color during cooking.  The meal was fantastically easy, one I highly recommend for any hodgepodge of vegetables, and it goes like this: chop up your vegetables.  Get a pan hot and add a little oil.  Throw in the vegetables and season with salt.  Scoop in some green curry paste (note: this also works with red and yellow curry pastes) and stir fry a few minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender.  Pour in some coconut milk, bring to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables reach desired doneness.  Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve over rice or noodles (which you’ve obviously been cooking alongside).  It is fast and healthy, and a great way to use up those lurkers in the vegetable drawer.

Originally published on Seasonal Market Menus.

Winter Whites

January 24, 2013

roots

This week’s panier included parsnips (pictured above, left) which I love and which, when asked, I tend to describe as “kind of like a big, white carrot”.  I realize these are two distinct vegetables, and that your typical parsnip is generally softer and starchier than a carrot.  I still thought it was funny when I found these white carrots (pictured above, right) next to the parsnips in my bag.  I’ve gotten yellow carrots before, and plenty of the regular orange kind, but the white ones are new to me.

Not that I’m worried about what to do with these.  I found a treasure trove of recipes featuring parsnips and carrots on Food & Wine, and I can’t decide whether I want to simply roast them (with mustard or honey) or wait for the weekend and make this biscuit-topped pot pie.  If I decide to go simple, I think a pile of roasted root vegetables can make a complete meal, especially if they’re accompanied by these savory popovers.

White is a pretty common color for vegetables in winter, now that I think about it.  Leeks and endives (both of which which I love broiled and doused in vinaigrette) are mostly white, as is celeriac.  And button mushrooms.  And look!  Here’s a divine-sounding lasagna recipe with three of those four!

Originally published on Seasonal Market Menus.

New Year, New Greens

January 8, 2013

Cime di Rapa

 

They say that eating greens on New Year’s Day will bring wealth and prosperity for the coming year.  Too bad this doesn’t apply year-round, because I love me some greens!  The lack of variety of dark green leafy vegetables available in Paris has been a bit of a bone of contention the last few years, because one can only eat spinach and chard so many times, and the climate in France should be conducive to growing all kinds of healthy greens.

Enter The Kale Project.  Kristen is something of a food superhero these days in Paris, having championed a rapidly growing movement to get kale into the markets here.  There are now a handful of places around town to buy the delicious, nutritious vegetable, and more and more farmers are starting to grow it, so I hope it will be increasingly available throughout the winter.

But kale isn’t the only green missing from my plate.  Broccoli rabe (aka rapini) is an old favorite of mine which (until very recently, anyway) I haven’t seen since moving across the Atlantic.  I’ve tried replacing it with so-called broccoli leaves and other “exotic” greens found in the city’s Asian markets, and these are good, and I’m sure very nutritious, but they lack the mustardy bite and sharp bitterness of true broccoli rabe.

So where has this delectable leafy green been spotted?  At the vegetable seller on the corner of rue Cambronne and rue Lecourbe in the 15th.  I walked by a few weeks ago, on a Sunday morning hunt for something else, when I saw a pile of leaves with small bunches of tiny flowers among them.  I did a double take, inspected the sign, which read “cime di rapa” – the Italian name – and picked it up.  The bunch was huge, so I asked the friendly Portuguese owner if he would kindly sell me half of the bunch.  He did, no problem, and then seemed surprised that I knew this vegetable.  I asked if he had it regularly, and he told me that he will be getting it in every Thursday until March.  This is very exciting news.

That first bunch I braised with white wine, tomatoes, chile flakes, a couple anchovies and lots of garlic, and it was wonderful over twirly pasta.  You can be sure I’ll be getting more before the season is through.

Now, how about some mustard greens?

Originally published on Seasonal Market Menus.

Unusual Roots

December 14, 2012

roots of parsley and chervil

Well, what do you know?  It’s been exactly one year since I posted on this here blog.  I’m still in Paris, still getting my panier every week, and still love to cook.  But I’m afraid the format here had gotten a bit stale.  I mean, there are only so many photos one can take of lettuce, leeks, potatoes, apples, carrots, and eggs. (Just out of curiosity, I looked through the tags and those are by far the most often written about here, with 48, 35, 61, 55, 40, and 80 posts, respectively.)  And only so many things to write about said ingredients, week after week.

So I’m shifting gears a little bit.  We’ll skip the bajillion poorly-lit pictures of potatoes, etc. and focus on the more esoteric and interesting seasonal vegetables that come my way, either via the panier, the market, or La Ruche Qui Dit Oui.  What’s that last one, you ask?  It’s an organization that works to link local producers with consumers.  There are ruches, or hives (as in beehives), scattered throughout France.  You sign up online for the one nearest you, and when they’re going to have a sale (about every two weeks or so) you get an email.  Then you go to the website, choose your products, and pay.  The day before pickup, they email you again with the list of things you’ve bought, and you go and pick them up.  It’s a really cool idea, and I’ve gotten some great deals on flour, honey, and even a Christmas tree!  The cheeses I’ve tried from them were both stellar, and I love knowing that none of it has had to travel very far to get to my table.  At the last sale, I picked up a small bag of chervil root – they’re the smaller, darker ones in the above photo – which I’m excited to try.

The bigger, parsnip-looking things next to the chervil root are parsley root.  They are one of my favorite oddball winter vegetables, because they are so unexpected.  Who would have thought that parsley had such a big root?  Or that it was so tasty, like an herby, vegetal parsnip?  I think the two roots will make a fine combination, peeled, sautéed, and dressed in a fennel-herb dressing that I got from Frank Camorra’s book Movida.  His recipe for zanahorias aliñadas has long fascinated me, and I finally made it a couple of weeks ago, substituting sautéed carrots and parsnips for the boiled carrots he calls for.  But oh, that dressing is a winner: a tablespoon of toasted fennel seeds, a teaspoon of dried oregano, a small handful of chopped fresh mint and parsley, a minced clove of garlic, the juice of half a lemon, two tablespoons of sherry vinegar, three or four of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix it all together and pour it over the vegetables in the hot pan when they’re done cooking, and serve hot or at room temperature.  I’m hard pressed to think of a root vegetable this wouldn’t be great with.  And I expect to use this dressing often, all winter long.

Originally published on Seasonal Market Menus.

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