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?

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