Retour de marché


[Back from the market]

Saturday mornings are always something of a dilemma for me, or actually a trilemma, which I thought wasn’t an actual word until I looked it up. I can either sleep in, go to the pool for a swim, or go to the Batignolles market — each of the three activities fulfilling an equally important need. It is the third option that won the competition last Saturday morning, and I set out in the glorious morning sun, with my faithful Trader Joe’s tote bag and my dreams of strawberries.

A couple of hours later I returned, a little out of breath from lugging my purchases up the stairs, but happy to unload them onto the counter, admire my bounty… and realize just how much stuff I had bought. I tend to get a little carried away at the market and often buy, um, a tad more than we really need, turning the next few days into a frantic eat-it-while-it’s-fresh vegetable bonanza. There are worse dietary compulsions I’m sure.

So without further ado, I give you…

– Two betteraves cuites au feu de bois — beetroots roasted over woodfire. I like to buy beetroot that way, it saves me the trouble of cooking it myself (I tried it once and still have nightmares about the never-ending bleeding), and the woodfire gives it a pleasant smoky flavor that you wouldn’t get through regular oven-roasting (unless yours is a woodfire oven, but I’m not so lucky).

– A bunch of young carrots. I asked to keep the stalks and leaves so I can add them to the vegetable stock I will make one day with the vegetable paring I stash away in the freezer (yeah, right).

– A bouquet of borage (bourrache in French), not having the faintest idea what to do with it but thinking it looked pretty in a weird, otherworldly way. The salesgirl suggested I sprinkle some of the flowers on a salad, or use it to make herbal tea. “Ah bah oui, c’est sudorifère la bourrache!“, interjected the somewhat scruffy guy who was waiting behind me. (“Yes, borage is a sudorific!”) Um. Thank you. Most helpful.

I haven’t yet done anything with my borage because well, neither the flowers nor the leaves taste like much of anything, and the stalks are stingy and unpleasant to the touch. I have put the bouquet in a small vase though, and I am quite content to just look at it.

– A bunch of red spring onions — just like regular oignons nouveaux only more glamorous in their purple-red party sheath, and a little milder in taste.

– A bag of champignons de Paris, which are the mushrooms you can most commonly find in France. They looked super fresh, with perfect unblemished hats and dirty feet, and we had them for lunch that same day, simply sauteed in a little olive oil with one chopped red spring onion. I tasted a few raw slices as I was preparing them, and thought wow, this is like biting off a chunk of underwood, the taste was so intense! The convenience mushrooms you find at the grocery store are usually cut and sliced, and have been picked days if not weeks before, rendering them utterly tasteless. This is probably why many people think they don’t like mushrooms, and why it’s really worth it to seek out the real thing.

– A bag of roquette, our very favorite peppery salad — called rucola, arugula or rocket in English. Again, extremely fresh and tasty, we added it to the lunch menu with a simple dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

– A little bunch of cute ball-shaped radishes (radis), which we have yet to eat.

– A few hothouse tomatoes — not yet in season, true, but I find it difficult to live without tomatoes so I buy them more or less year-round and it doesn’t prevent me from enjoying them at their peak.

– A few stalks of pink rhubarb, my first this year, always a heartwarming occasion. I baked it in the oven like described here, and have been enjoying it in my morning bowl of cereals for a few days (example: cinnamon Puffins + fromage blanc + a few spoonfuls of baked rhubarb = nothing can possibly go wrong that day).

– A large bag of slightly bruised Conférence pears. The sales guy suggested them to me because I had enquired about cheap strawberries to make jam (this was what my strawberry dream was about) and he said that they still came at a high price and I should wait until later in the season, but if I wanted to make jam he could sell me pears for very little — 2 kilos (4 lbs.) for 3 euros. I know that Christine says perfect jam starts with perfect fruit, but hey, I took the pears anyway — jam story coming soon.

– In the non-produce yet market-fresh category, I also bought cheese from the tiny goat cheese stand I like so much: the products are from a family-owned organic farm in the Loir-et-Cher (about 150 km South-West of Paris), and the person selling it is the lady operating the farm herself, sometimes accompanied by her daughter. They only come every other Saturday, and not at all in the winter, because then the goats are busy feeding their offspring and don’t have enough milk to also make cheese for us! I was a little taken aback when I learned about this, it’s not so often that you are reminded that cheese is also a seasonal product — artisanal cheese of course, I’m not talking about Babybel.

As tempted as I was to buy one of each among the different shapes and aging stages, I bought a slice of tome de chèvre (a pressed, unheated goat cheese), a round of chèvre frais (fresh goat cheese) and a semi-aged chèvre cendré (goat cheese with ash).

– And finally, a bunch of delicate, silken, freshly cut tulips, pictured above — my all-time favorite flowers.

As I write this, about half of the items have been eaten or gainfully employed, so I guess the amount was about right after all. I may have to plan another trip this Saturday — but then when am I going to go swimming?

  • may

    heee! you make me smile! i’m quite like that too… carried away at the food stores… =c) i really miss the fresh markets in the continent!

  • Varnadore

    I was so excited to see borage! I have been serching fo a way to use the masses of borage that grow wild at my “Pea Patch”.Sad, a bouquet may be the best thing that can happen to borage!

  • Wow! I envy you your market – whenever I travel and can hit a market I go wild too…and then I have to try to explain to the security people at the airport that I am not crazy…just obsessed with lovely produce :P Thanks for letting me ogle your hoard :D

  • Ciao Clotilde: humble borragine is used in Italian cooking, in Liguria, as a filling for ravioli – alone, or with more herbs. And it probably could be also an ingredient for risotto (a bit like nettle, you know).

  • Stephanie

    Clotilde –

    I think the borage blossoms are traditional in a Pimm’s Cup — do you have Nigella Lawson’s cookbook Forever Summer?

    Also, I am jealous that your markets sell wood-fire roasted beets —

  • Pat

    Clotilde —

    What a lovely way to start another rainy morning in California, experiencing your sunny Paris spring.

    I misread your description of the borage stem. You called it “stingy” and only on a second pass did I get it that you meant “sting – y”, not mean. Borage flowers usually have a hint of cucumber flavor and I have liked them as garnishes on cold cucumber or pea soups, or sprinkled on salads. Perhaps yours are still too young.

    Thanks for the pleasures you take in your world and share with us!

  • I thrill to see my borage re-seed every year and fill my garden with its beautiful blue star flowers. Like other folks, I enjoy both leaves (the small ones) and flowers in salads, especially with cucumber and dill. I also like to make borage-dill vinegar by steeping the borage blossoms and fresh leaves in heated white vinegar for 2 weeks before straining into a lovely bottle.

    And if you’ve picked up goat cheeses, why not pair the borage with the goat cheese? You could wrap small chunks of cheese in the borage leaves or work them together into a salad (greens or pasta).

    Some books indicate that the name borage comes from “courage” in a couple of different languages… so have courage! and enjoy your experiments! :)

  • feste

    Clotilde, your market sounds amazing! I have never had borage, but out of “The Good Herb” by Judith Benn Hurley (an excellent book for more obscure wild herbs):

    Young borage leaves taste like cucumber and can be added to spring salads along with dandelion greens and chives. Borage can also be used instead of lettuce in sandwiches. The older leaves are too fuzzy to eat raw, but when added to soup stocks, they impart a cool cucumber flavor. Add half a cup of fresh borage leaves to one quart of simmering stock, then use the stock to make a creamy cucumber soup.
    Borage stems taste like cucumber too. Peel, chop, and add half a cup to an apple and pear salad to serve four. Or, to lighten the taste of a hearty soup or stew for four, add one cup of peeled and chopped borage stem.
    Borage flowers make charming edible garnishes. Float the cucumber-scented pink and blue blossoms in lemonade, iced tea, or pale chilled soups such as summer squash. To bring a flash of color to a green salad, add to greens after tossing with a dilled vinaigrette.

    I hope you enjoy it! Now I need to find some of that stuff…

  • AmyBee

    I use borage flowers to decorate cakes – lemon tonight, in fact. Usually I gently press the fused petals/star flower into the cake’s side and top. Tonight, I need to decorate a lemon cake for a foodie friend’s birthday. I’m thinking of tossing rose petals, borage flowers and tiny, thin curls of lemon zest just on the top. What do you think? Other ideas?
    Intriguing idea to peel the thick, prickly stems and add them to a salad. Hmmm.

  • Rainey

    “Thanks for the pleasures you take in your world and share with us!”

    THAT was certainly well said! ;>

    baklavaqueen’s note about combining the borage and cheese reminds me of an adventure in decorating the soft, edible rind of cheese with culinary herbs & blossoms and encasing it all in a clear aspic. Some of the colors bleed so it’s best done not too far in advance of serving but it makes a lovely and dramatic appearance with ann extra note of flavor.

    Speaking of appearance, the cobalt blue of borage is sooo beautiful I hope you will press some of the blossoms to add to a gift tag when you present some of your holiday treats as gifts. You’ll be charmed by them, I’m sure — as I was by the image of you toting your Trader Joe’s bag to the market in Paris! ;>

  • Cynthia

    Last fall I used very ripe pears to make Pear and Rosemary Butter- like applebutter. You use pear juice, pears, rosemary sprigs, a vanilla bean and a dab of balsamic vinegar. The recipe is on and I made it several times because it was so good.

  • Borage flowers can be crystalised with egg white and sugar for decoration.

  • joan

    any chance of a photo of the bag? pretty please!

  • sounds like a wondeful trip to the market, and I loved how you shared your purchases with us.

    I would love to see some shots of the market itself someday.
    as always, thanks for sharing.

    *Lauren in Tokyo

  • Kaira

    A very easy, clean and delicious way to cook beets is the following. Just rince them and cut the leaves (which are delicious as spinnach substitute); wrap them in aluminium foil and bake them for a while; take them out and let them cool; unwrap , peel (can almost be done by hand) and slice them and pan-roast them a couple of minutes with butter garlic and herbs.

    I usually throw a few beets in the oven while baking something else, to unwrap and serve them the following day…

  • anouna

    Top up sparkling wine with a borage infused sugar syrup to taste. And on top of each glass float – beautifully – at least three borage flowers (take out the prickly stem bit).

  • Try putting a borage flower or two in each section of an icecube tray, covering with water and freezing to make pretty icecubes. Perfect, as Stephanie said, in Pimms, but also in any another summery drink.

  • Alisa

    catching up part2:
    Great photo! So happy to see that the crabby remarks from previous “day in the life” post, did not deter you. I was fearful that you might stop them – and since *la vie quotadien* is one of the things I cherish about C&Z, you can understand my sigh of relief upon reading this.

  • eva

    where would i purchase crystalised rose petals?any ideas ,i live in london uk.thank you for any information

  • Last week at the Chelsea Flower Show I was chatting with a lovely older woman about flowers we were both looking at when borage came up. She was a wealth of information and for the borage she told me that it is an herb used for stopping bleeding, and that it is placed in Pimm’s. She said to use 1 part Pimm’s to 3 parts other liquid, such as lemonade, ginger ale, lemon/lime soda or sparkling water.

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