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mardi 26 octobre 2010

Day 60: Pickles!!

One of the things I've missed most since moving to Paris 5 years ago (besides family, friends, mexican food, and Californian beaches) is pickles. The French have a very cute little cornichon, which is lovely along with cheese and, for those of the meat persuasion, un peu de charcuterie- but it hasn't ever come close to rivaling my adoration of good old dill pickles.
I've tried to find them here, and it may very well be possible to get some- but I never managed too. Even when I asked at the American restaurant chain in Paris they told me they had theirs imported from the States. You can imagine my shock and awe, therefore, when I realized just this week how easy they are to make, and how amazing they taste when they are made from good, local, organic ingredients.

As you may remember from my last blog entry I found some lovely little cucumbers and fresh dill at the Marché Raspail last week, and I couldn't wait to get them into some brine to start pickling. It is really easy to do, and you can modify to make a few or many. I'm working with not a lot of space and even less material, so I had to take the proportions down a notch. The recipe I used is from Sandor Ellix Katz's amazing book Wild Fermentation (under "sour pickles"). I'm giving the proportions I used to make three pickles in one container, but you can adjust accordingly.

What you need:
-A glass, ceramic, or food-safe plastic crock
-Something to put in the crock to push down your pickles, so they're constantly covered with brine, but still have access to air
-A dishrag to throw over the whole thing, so no dust gets in

-3 baby cucumbers, not the huge ones they sell in France, really the little ones, like half the size of what you usually see.
-2-3 tablespoons of sea salt
-half a bunch of fresh dill
-4 cloves of garlic
- A handful of grape or oak leaves (these preserve the crunchiness of the pickles, I'm lucky to have a grapevine- if anyone in Paris needs leaves, send an e-mail and I'll hook you up)
-Some peppercorns (I didn't use any because we don't have any- my pickles still turned out fine)

Step 1: Rinse your cucumbers and make sure their blossoms are taken off at the end

Step 2: Dissolve your salt in 8 cups of water (I think that's about 2 liters in French talk). Stir until it's dissolved.

Step 3: Clean out your receptacle and throw in your dill, garlic, grape leaves, and peppercorn if you have it.

Step 4: Get the cucumbers in there, too.

Step 5: Pour your water/salt mixture (brine) over the lot. Then put your weight on top. I use a measutring cup that fits well in my little container, if you're thinking bigger, you can use a plate in a big bucket of brine. Put some water (or what's left of your brine) in the weight so that it puches down your cucumbers, making them totally submerged.

Step 6: Cover the ensemble with your dishrag, this prevents dust from getting in.

Step 7: Check on your crock everyday for at least a week. If it needs more brine, throw some in there. It is totally possible that you gets some white stuff whilling on top. That's okay, skim it off and let your cucumbers cocoon until they become beautiful pickle butterflies.

Finally, taste a pickle (after one week) if you're liking what you taste, you've got a finished product. Fridge them and enjoy it while it lasts. Of not, give them some time to sour up.

I've found that even if the pickles end up with a little bit of a squishy center, the taste isn't compromised. My pickles were really salty, so if you want a more subtle taste you should probably put less salt in your brine.

I am a whole new ex-pat after learning this simple and savory method for bringing pickles into my home. I hope you enjoy yours as much as I did!

Libellés : , , , , ,

jeudi 21 octobre 2010

Day 55: Marché of the Month: Marché Raspail

Just in time for the weekend, this Marché of the Month is all about Marché Raspail!

This all-organic market is the largest of it's kind in Paris, and possibly France (according to a vendor I overheard while shopping). I couldn't wait to stop by ever since TERResA recommended it to me during our interview (Day 28), and I certainly wasn't dissapointed after I made the trek from the 18th all the way to the 6th.

The vegetables are obviously organic and garden-fresh, as they are displayed in their straight-from-the-farm wooden crates and are perfectly imperfect and dirt-coated. The market boasts certain claims to fame, like the fresh squeezed juice stand (carrot and wheatgrass, about 2 euro a glass), the fresh oyster stand, and the bord à bord booth, where you can buy home made pasta along with their famous fresh butter- either au natural or with super healthy seaweeds. I bought they're seaweed butter and Tartare aux Algues, and savored the Omega-3 algae explosion that took place in my mouth when I got home later that day.

Other items I found included fresh (delicious!!) little cucumbers sold by a woman who also makes her own camembert (I had to pick some of that up, as well)! Then I headed over to c'bio and picked up some fresh dill, which was wrapped up like a little flower bouquet by the lovely vendor, who also asked kindly if I were enjoying the hot-off-the-griddle chick pea pancake with basil sauce that I was devouring as I did my shopping. The market is also a great place to grab lunch, there are many options including a wide variety of hot soups, galettes of all kinds, and easy to-go options like little cartons of grated carrots and mashed potatoes, along with main dishes, as well.

After an hour of walking around, my hands were getting full, but I couldn't help picking up a bottle of farm fresh apple juice on my way out, I had spent every last cent in my wallet so it was finally time to go, but I was happy with the treasures I was taking home!

As we speak, my lovely cucumbers are chillin' and dillin' getting all pickely and briney and ready to eat! It is clear that discoveries made at the Marché Raspail long out-live any shelf date, and I think that once you visit, it will become a regular part of your weekend schedule- so don't put it off any longer!

Marché Raspail

Boulevard Raspail,
Paris 6th, M° Rennes,
open Sundays from 9h-14h

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mercredi 20 octobre 2010

Day 53: Paris Paysanne: Grape Jam!

I'm really excited about this latest creation, because it's my first Paris Paysanne project- meaning it's homegrown and homemade. This is the second year we've had our grapevine and last year, I'm sorry to say, we pretty much just let our little grape harvest wither away. We snacked on a few, but the fruits were a bit bitter and pretty seedy- so we didn't think to use them as anything other than a decoration for our balcony. However, this year our harvest was bigger, and I was armed with books on canning and preserving and eager to make something out of the fruits of our balcony.

I used a recipe from Sherri Brooks Vinton's book Put 'em Up, as you will see I strayed a bit from her advice about halfway through, going rogue (Grizzly Grapes?) when it came to my jam. The recipe I used was meant for making jelly- but I couldn't abandon all my lovely grape skins and fleshy bits so I opted for a nice fruity jam.

My little vendange, or grape harvest, yielded about 3 cups of grapes, so I adjusted my ingredients accordingly, preparing the following:

A very generous 1/2 cup of water
A less generous 1 cup of sugar (I used unrefined)
2 teaspoons of agar-agar (Sherri calls for 1 teaspoon of pectin)

And here's what I did:

Step 1: After taking the grapes off their little branches throw them all in a pot with your very generous 1/2 cup of water (the water should almost cover the grapes, but not submerge them). Bring it to a boil and then bring it back down. While this is simmering, use a potato masher or a fork to mash the grapes until they are broken and bruised.

Step 2: Line a colander with paper towels or whatever. I ripped up an old bedsheet that already had a tear in it. You can use any fabric that will let water through. Put the colander over a bowl that will collect your grape juice, then pour your grape/water mix into the collander. During this process, you'll find that a lot of grape seeds are sitting in the bottom of the pot. I got rid of those. I think grape seeds are good for you, and there certainly were a lot that got left in, but I don't especially like their taste, so I let the stragglers go.

Step 3: Sherri says to let this whole thing drain over night, but I don't think the rules apply to me and also, while doing this I read in her book that she isn't really a fan of kimchi and I started to trust her less. So, I watched the stuff drain into my little bowl, putting the juice aside in a bottle as it drained. Then I left to teach for a few hours, and by the time I got back there was hardly any juice left to drain so I moved onto Step 4.

Step 4: Combine your sugar and agar-agar in a bowl. Put the juice in a pot and bring to a light boil, then add your grapey mess of skins, seeds, etc. Mix in the sugar and agar-agar, stirring while it dissolves. Remove from heat and let sit.

Step 5: When the jam is cool enough, you can transfer it to a jar (unless you want to can it- I haven't done that so can't tell you how). If you use a jar you can keep the jam for up to 3 weeks. Don't worry if the jam seems to liquidy, it will jelly up once it's cooled in the fridge.

Step 6: Wait until the next day- this rule probably does apply to everyone- and then enjoy! I've altered this recipe once learning from my mistakes, the first time around I put in too much sugar and agar-agar- so I encourage you to keep it to what I wrote above. Still, I was pleased with my first ever Paris Paysanne project and found that it was a great jam to be enjoyed with some organic camembert and fresh baguette. We are also going to make PB&J Crêpes with it!

Grape jam is super easy to make and grapevines are way low-maintenance (and pretty) additions to a balcony garden. You can use grapes to make many home-made products (baked in cakes would be another good one) or you can share your grapes with others, by the bunches or as juice. To make grape juice just follow steps 1-3 and then maybe bring to a boil with just some water and sugar.

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lundi 18 octobre 2010

Day 51: Jardins Partagé du 18eme

Last weekend, The Association Graine de Jardins and its community garden branch Jardinons Ensemble sponsored an open tour of the 18th arrondisement's community gardens. Despite the ominious clouds overhead and occassional rain, I wandered the nieghborhoods and managed to visit 4 out of the 7 gardens included in the tour. Each garden differed in its approach to gardening and community. If I were to choose a word to describe the general atmosphere in these gardens, it would have to be "fun" over "functional"

While the gardens offered creative examples of how to plant and grow in small/goofy places, most plots that I stopped by were more reminiscent of Miss Ming's jardin in the film Mammuth, c'est à dire what an extremely eccentric family member might do to an open space if left to their own devices, and to a 10 for a dollar bin in the toy section Value Village. It made for an interesting adventure, but I'm not sure if it was conducive to intentional gardening.

The first garden I visited was Le Jardin d'Alice (40 rue de la Chapelle- M° Marx Dormoy). Situated in a courtyard, entry is granted by ringing a bell from the exterior. As I waited to be let in, two little girls and their mothers caught up to me. The littles gripped the community garden quiz that they were meant to fill out as they completed the tour of the garden, answering trivia questions on particularities of each garden they visited along the way.
We were let in by a dude who looked a lot more Portland, Oregon than Paris, France-which was reassuring in a way. He let us wander around the space, and the girls ran to find the "toilette sèche" (an outhouse that collects human compost for better, and very organic, soil) while I checked out the veggie gardens.

The space was settled by squaters in 2009, with the goal of "increasing accesibility to the empty but livable urban spaces"in the city, their response to the "prohibitive rents in Paris" that plague artists and others. The courtyard contains a garden, where eggplants, tomatoes, and squash among other veggies, were doing their thing. The inner sanctum of this appartment building also houses a space that the squatters rent out as a rehearsal room for musicians (for the non-prohibitive price of 5 euro for 2 hours- e-mail 40jardindalice@gmail.com if interested).

I then headed across the street to Ecobox (7 impasse de la Chapelle- M°Marx Dormoy). This is when things get a little Miss Mingy; random manequin body parts and garlands made out of recycled plastic were woven into the fance that cornered of this mostly asphaulted space. While there was a bit of proper garden space on an upper level, where Ecobox really excells is at creative urban gardening.

Wooden boxes and woven baskets provided the majority of gardenable spcae. Here I saw herbs and lettuce growing happily in garbage bag lined bags. While I might not be inspired to hang amoung the severed legs in order to grow produce, my visit to Ecobox definately taught me a thing or two about the possibility and potential of gardening in tight spaces.

Another shared garden that relied heavily on the woven basket option was La Goutte Verte (36 rue des Poissonniers- M° Chateau Rouge). Visiting this neighborhood in the weekend is an event because the African market takes over the streets and vendors of everything from plaintains and salted fish to bootleg dvds and counterfit handbags.

It was therefore somewhat unsettling when I left the bustling of the street and slunk into La Goutte Verte which occupies a vacant lot between two apartment buildings and across the street from Haiti market. The kind of Parisian that used to do my head in when I worked at the bar (the "est ce-que je peux avoir un vere d'eau, mais pas trop frais, s'il vous plaît?" and then leaves no tip kind) was blocking the only path to get into the garden, giving gardening advice to a representative of La Goutte Verte and asking several questions about the space. "What do the neighbors think of what you're doing?" He asked. The answer seemed obvious: they're not concerned. I may be wrong, but this space seemed completely unconnected to the community it was meant to be a part of.

This may be unfounded and please send an angry e-mail if I'm wrong, but the fact that one of tthe gardeners had brought a camping stove and was brewing tea on an overturned door table, "roughing it" instead of getting a hot beverage from one of the many cafés crowding the street seemed to underline this disconnect.

To their credit, La Goutte Verte espoused some great small-space technics, with not only the baskets being used as planter bxes, but also overturned pellets which created a nice (and mobile) space for sprouts. I was encouraged by seeing these technics and I think that Paris Paysanne participants could use similar approaches on their balconies ans have a similar yield.

While I was a little disappointed by the fact that the shared gardens seemed more like creatively altered spaces rather than farmable gardens used by families and community members, I was reminded of the alternative when I visited Baudélire (29 rue Baudélique- M° Simplon). This site must have been included in the list as a practical joke, one that I appreciated ultimately, but had trouble chuckling over as I explained to the very confused front desk manager at the community center that I had come to see the garden. "There is a garden, yes" he explained to me, still unsure of the reason for my visit, "I could show it to you, I guess" he kindly rose from behind the front desk and walked me through someone's office where he opened a sliding door and let me peak out into a mess of overgrown grass and vines, totally out of control, an uncultivated and unused space.

As I left, I looked at the quiz question for this "garden", seeking some sort of explanation. In cities, what is this type of unused space called? I'm not sure what the technical term is, but the obvious answer is that this space is a waste of potenital, a missed opportunity, what the folks at the Jardin d'Alice would call "empty but livable". So, to a large extent I am encouraged by these jardins partagés, because they take a place that would otherwise remain unused and make it fertile, musical, and habitable. I think that is the goal of the spaces, to symbolize a different way of occupying urban space, and I like to know that exists, but don't know where it will grow from there.

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jeudi 14 octobre 2010

Day 47: Pizza Party!!

I promise not to do this too often, yet realize I already have (see Day 5: Pizza Party). Despite the fact that I think pictures of food you made the night before is often un-enthralling, I'm making an exception regarding last night's Pizza Party. Ever since mom (see Day 32 for cute photo) got us an awesome pizza pan, we've been enjoying weekly pizza parties, getting more creative with our ingredients every week.

This time around, we adorned our pizza with marinated artichoke hearts that I made all by myself! I was really proud of them and they turned out to be delicious! They were also simple to pull together and, in the same sitting I whipped up an apero involving homemade aioli (using pretty much the same ingredients I used for the hearts).

Canned artichoke hearts are super expensive in the supermarché, but artichokes can be a bit intimidating for week night dinner fare because they take so long to cook. Still, I couldn't turn down biocoop's offer of two artichokes for 89 cents, I bought first and thought later.

Luckily, I had time in the morning to steam the artichokes and let them cool before de-leafing them and getting to their hearts. I tucked the leaves away in the fridge, where they could later be retireved and offered as an apéro (French for appeteazer).

I put the halved hearts in an old yogurt jar and poured my home-made marinade (home-made-nade?) over them. The marinade was easy; I really slowly heated up a good deal of olive oil, in which I let soem roughly chopped garlic cloves, fresh parsley, lemon juice, and salt simmer. I let the oily blend cool before pouring it over my steamed artichoke hearts.

Keep the salt, garlic, oil and the other half of lemon out, because this is when you can make aioli appeteazer sauce! I cracked one egg into my blender, threw in another head of garlic, added some salt and lemon juice and let it spin- slowly dripping about a half cup of oil into the whole thing until it started getting fluffy and a littel less yellow. I also cheated by adding a bit of crème fraîche. You can tell me if this is a weak way out, but I started to get iffy about how much oil I had just used for the entire condiment/topping part of my evening's meal and felt like offsetting it a bit. In any case, both hearts and aioli were well appreciated with a simple but yummy bottle of organic Côtes du Rhone.

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vendredi 8 octobre 2010

Day 41: When the Economy Gives you Lemons, Make Artisinal Lemonade!

As the famous idiom goes, "Necessity is the mother of Invention". I was reminded of this saying when I recently read an article in the Huffington Post entitled Jobless Turning to Etsy to Make Their Hobbies Lucrative. The article told the story of several late-blooming entrepreneurs who were starting small businesses on the online store Etsy, supplementing their unemployment checks with profits from selling homemade jewelry and other crafts.

The necessity of an income therefore led to the re-invention and re-insertion of artisinal trades and markets. While none of those interviewed for the article claimed to be able to live of the proceeds of their small businesses, the participants seemed optomistic about the potential revenus in the coming holiday season, as well as pleased that their products, and productivity, was being compensated.

This return to artisinal professions, and the obvious value it has to the creator and the consumer, is a heartening biproduct of the current economic reality. Etsy is a great place for artists and crafters to sell their wares, but there are also similar sites for foodies.

Foodzie and Foodoro are both sites where local producers can sell there goods. Both sites boast both local and fairly traded food. Examples include Lavender Brownie mix made by Santa Cruz's Little Sky Lavender, Single Malt Scotch bars made in Berkeley by Bon Bon Bar. Categories on both sites include condiments, sauces, seasonings, honey, coffee, tea, and even cheese and dairy. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, neither site offers
homebrews or organic booze of any type.
You'll have to find (or make) that yourself.

While local is obviously contextual in this situation -with most producers being in the US and many on the West Coast- what I like about these sites is that they give artisinal farms and food producers the opportunity to reach a market of interested buyers, increasing the incentive to make, and share your own food.

If there's one thing to be retained from unsteady econmic times is that right now, and more and more, is a perfect time to reclaim the bits of earth we have, to treat it well, and to enjoy what it gives us. Then we can reinvent artisinal culture, which I think is a proven necessity.

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mardi 5 octobre 2010

Day 38: Jardin Partagé à Paris

I stumbled upon this tiny community garden in the 10th arrondisement while wandering around the city the other day.

The "Jardin Partagé Victor Schoelcher" inhabits a small, unfenced space that doesn't seem a likely spot for a garden. Right next to the bustling rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, the shared space boasted crops such as healthy sunflowers, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce and flowers. There may have been other hidden treasures, but the garden seemed to be a bit forgotten and needs tending to.

I did a little research and found that the garden is part of an organization called Jardinons Ensemble which aims to help the development of community gardens in France. The association offers workshops and trainings on subjects such as composting in the city. They also organise events and visits to other farms and vineyards.

It's exciting to know that there is a movement of people
encouraging community gardens. I would love to hear from anyone who has seen one of these gardens or is familiar with associations that are dedicated to this cause.

It was really exciting to see produce growing in an urban environment, such a nice surprise and the proof that you can grow a lot with a little space.

I hope readers are getting as excited as I am about the season. How great would it be to eat a home grown salad for dinner? Lettuce is definately on my list of things to grow this month!

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dimanche 3 octobre 2010

Day 36: Paris Paysanne

I was recently re-reading an interview with Sandor Katz in The Sun (May, 2010). In the interview, Katz comments on the possible increase in gardening as a response to the current recession, saying "Less disposible income means that people will have to rely on the informal economy that has always existed on the outskirts of the official economy: people growing food for themselves and trading it with other people". Not only does this make financial sense, but Katz also points out the need to get "our hands dirty in the soil and interact with the web of life on a daily basis".

I love the idea of both stepping outside of a formal economy and getting my hands dirty, but it doesn't always seem a viable option when living in an urban environment. This Summer, our balcony garden provided us with tomatoes throughout the season, and our basil plant was a loyal provider of a steady source of salad and sauce ingredients. Right now, the grapevine we've had for two seasons is producing beautiful fruit that we are starting to wonder how to best put to use. The thrill of growing food yourself, and the joy of eating it, is a wonderfule experience, but wasn't anywhere near a sustainable alternative to marketting.

I love living of our little land, comprised of a balcony and windowsills, but it obviously has limits. But then I started thinking about the potential of all the limited space in every Parisian apartment and the possibility of it being combined to become a polycultural community garden of sorts.

More specifically, what if anyone who was interested could commit to growing one or two things, like lettuce and parsley, or whatever herbs they wish, and then kept what they needed for their family, and traded the excess with another Parisian Paysanne who had grown something else. You could plant or make whatever you wanted; flowers, fruits, veg, herbs, jams, kimchi, yogurt, whatever you want to try or you like to eat and share with others.

I'd like to put this option to whoever is reading this and is interested. I'm calling the project "Paris Paysanne" and everyone is welcome. I'd like to create a site that reunites all us urban farmers so we can arrange who wants to grow what and when we can exchange our goods. For the moment, please post a commentary to this article if you're interested.

To get started, here's a list of some things to plant in October:


Biocoop has seeds in stock. I also found this site where you can order organic seeds of all kinds for very reasonable prices.

I'm planning on transitioning from tomatoes to spinach and lettuce...I'll trade you!

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