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mardi 31 janvier 2012

A Salsa for every Season: Winter

Staying seasonal can be limiting when it comes to some of our favorite foods. For example, in the Summer I love to make batches of fresh salsa using sun soaked tomatoes and balcony-grown peppers, but these mason jars of Summer salsa seem to be devoured in a matter of seconds. They never last longer than the tomato season itself and I always end up facing the colder months destined to remain salsa-less.

But necessity, or gluttony in my case, does in fact give birth to invention and I decided that, instead of buying airport-food quality tomatoes from God knows where during the off season, I would attmpt to make seasonal salsas using what I could find at local markets.

My first attempt in this venture resulted in Fallsa, a blend of end-of-the-season green tomatoes and hearty helpings of cilantro. Fallsa was a fairly simple compromise between the end of Summer and the beginning of the Fall- that lovely autumnal area when the sun still lingers and therefore so do the courgettes, bell peppers, and tomatoes.

The Winter months make seasonal salsa a daunting task, with no hope of local tomatoes and the last of my cayenne withering on its weather-beaten plant, I figured I'd just have to forgo homemade salsa until the spring. But then inspiration found me in the form of a panier bio from bio c'bon.

Our first bio bag included a lovely little pumpkin that I would've just roasted and made into soup if it hadn't been for those poor cayenne peppers, which would perish if I didn't find an immediate use for them.

Thus the idea for Winter Salsa was born, with pumpkin standing in for my tomatoes I set to put a cold weather spin on a Summer classic.

Below is the recipe, note that I did include canned corn, but otherwise all ingredients can be found fresh and locally (except for the the cayenne if you didn't grow that in advance!)

Winter Salsa


1 small pumpkin or other squash
- cut the squash in half, remove seeds, and place it, flesh side up, in a oven-safe dish that is 1/3 full of water. Place the squash in an oven preheated to 400° F / 205° C for 35-45 mins (35 if you want a chunk salsa, 45 if you want a creamy one)
1 small can of corn kernels
1 bunch of parsley
1 red onion
1 dried pepper, like cayenne
2-3 cloves of garlic
hot sauce and salt, to taste
1/2 diced cucumber (optional- it adds crunch to a creamy salsa)

Step 1: After letting your squash cool, remove the rough skin and cut the flesh into cubes. If you've let the squash roast for the full 45 minutes, the cubes will become creamy when mixed in with the other ingredients. Under-cooked squash should hold up for a chunky salsa even after the other ingredients are added.

Step 2: Slice and dice up all your other ingredients, throw in the corn kernels and slowly add in the peppers, garlic, hot sauce, and salt. Mix together with a large spoon and adjust to taste.

Step 3: Enjoy!

You can serve this right away with tortilla chips or as an addition to your burritos. Get it while the getting is good- because no matter what the season, salsa never stays around for long!

Libellés : , , ,

vendredi 27 janvier 2012

Bio c'est in the bag!

There is a wide variety of options for getting farm-to-front door veggie delivery in Paris. Between AMAP associations, paniers bio, websites like Paysans.fr, and the burgeoning La ruche qui dit oui movement, city dwellers have their choice of ways to get local, organic, farm grown foods on their dinner table.

Those interested in participating in a weekly food delivery service may be overwhelmed by the available options. I know people who have tried, and been very satisifed with, the options listed above, but I myself have never signed up for any of these services.

Maybe this is due to trepidation about my family of two being able to use all the produce that is typically included in these weekly deliveries, or maybe it is due to my fear of commiting to any subscription other than the New Yorker, but for whatever reason I prefer to do my shopping at open markets or my local biocoop.

However, the recent opening of a Bio c'bon store in my neighborhood has brought me one step closer to being a panier bio buyer.

Perfect for the non-commital types out there, Bio c'bon offers shopping bags full of fruits and vegetables that you can grab on your way home from work for only 10 euro.

Another added bonus: on those days when you weren't planning on going shopping and didn't B.Y.O.B (bring your own bag) you don't have to worry- the bi bag is easy to grab and go, without having to stuff your shopping into your purse or pockets due to lack of foresight!

This has become a Monday tradition in our house and I am starting to understand the thrill of getting a mixed bag full of seasonal organic produce.

There are some staples to the Bio c'bon bag- for example you are gauranteed a head of lettuce, a hearty handful of carrots, and a replenishing stock of onions and shallots- but there is also the element of surprise which in the past few weeks has included sweet potatoes and napa cabbage (did someone say kimchi?)

Bio c'bon has stores all over the city and every one of them offers the Bio Bag. The majority of the stores are also open on Sundays, so if you can't make it to the organic Marché Raspail , I highly recommend giving Bio c'bon and their bountiful paniers bio a try!

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vendredi 20 janvier 2012

Marché du Mois: Marché Bastille

The Marché Bastille is so huge that, once I got there, I couldn't believe I had never stumbled upon it in all my time in Paris. The silver lining of the cloud that was an insanely early rendez-vous with French bureaucrats on the nearby rue de la Roquette, was that it got me up in time to check out this gigantic market that takes up a good bit of Bd. Richard Lenoir.

As I began to wander around the market in what early morning sunlight managed to break through foreboding January clouds, the revellers on their way home from the area's many bars reminded me of former nuits blanches and the fact that I don't spend too much time on this side of the sunrise.*

*Editor's note: I'm totally exagerrating, it was like 9h30 when I got to the market- but to justify my crankiness I had been up since 7 a.m, making the whole day feel like it was way too early for anything to be happening. I am not a morning person.

My uncharacteristic Early-Birdishness was rewarded when I finally got through the stands of tacky clothing and bulk deoderant and shampoo vendors (which are way too-often a part of the market and have no business being in Paris where you can buy clothes and toiletries in a great many locations) and reached the seemingly endless booths overflowing with produce and other foodstuffs.

I did my habitual tour, happy to be back in a marché after the holidays had taken over so much time that I hadn't set foot in an outdoor market almost since my last Marché du Mois adventure.

The Marché Bastille is not lacking in choices, yet it isn't immediately impressive as far as local and ethically produced items go.

Having said that, I would hazard a guess that you can find at least one local and/or organic vendor for any item you may be looking for. It seems to me that a succesful shopping trip at the Bastille market would involve finding, and patronizing, these diamonds in the ruffage.

I was laden down by a bursting dossier of originals + 3 copies of every bit of paperwork relating to my lie that I could find in order to calm les bureaucrates, so wasn't really in the market for marketing, but I managed to take some photos of vendors that I will visit on my next early morning adventure to Marché Bastille.

I hope they will help readers find spot these vendors if they have the chance to go to this market. Frequent visitors of Marché Bastille are also encouraged to share their bonnes adresses!

As far as veggies go, I saw some stands that were very loud and proud of their organic status, waving their Agriculture Biologique flags in the Winter wind, but honestly I'm kind of sick of seeing these organic vendors selling totally inappropriate tomatoes, bell peppers, and zucchinis in the middle of January. If you're dying to break from the season, then I would encourage doing it organically, but I'm not really interested in the possibility of eating an imported tomato when the bounty of the colder months is really quite rich.

That's why this little, unassuming (they didn't even have a sign up of where their farm was located as far as I could see) maraîcher stole my heart. Amid the foreign fruits and flashy vegetables, this vendor clung to agricultural tradition like the dirt on their own vegetables. So reassuring to see on so many levels.

How can anyone ignore the awesomeness of Winter produce? Carrots, brussel sprouts, black radish, spinach, turnips, leeks, the list goes on... I guess you've got to eat it to believe it, and this little vendor would be a good gateway drug to get you going...

Ever since moving to France, my holiday traditions have increasingly included oysters- it's gotten to be kind of an obsession, a pleasure that almost eclipses all the other joys of the season. My fervor for fruits de mer was dampened when my belle mère called me in a panic one day to tell me that she had seen a documentary on Arte which explained that the large majority of oysters are in fact genetically modified. The damage had been done as I had already eaten my fill of oysters from what now seemed to be surely questionable sources, but I vowed that in the future I'd try my best to find sustainable sources of organic oysters.

Enter my new favorite Poissonière at Marché Bastille. Forget pech à la ligne, these guys go after their oysters using the "Pêche à Pied" method, which means they roll up their fisherman pants and wade into the muck looking for wild oysters to bring to the market. I've read up a little on la pêche à pied and it's pretty great (if you don't mind getting dirty). Regulations on the size of the shellfish, as well as the times you can fish and the amount you can take home protect wild shellfish from being over-fished or put in any danger of extinction.

I didn't grab the name of this fishmonger (bad blogger!!) but you will recognize the family's stand because it's the only one that proudly states that they are botht the direct producteur and distributeur of their seafood.

Marché Bastille also has a large selection of bakeries selling specialty breads and butchers that probably count in their company at leqst one local producer (you're on your own for finding that diamond in the rough), but one thing that stood out to me- probably because I haven't seen it in a lot of marchés- was the fresh eggs vendor.

Gathered from free-range animals, this vendor doesn't stop at your run-of-the-mill chicken eggs, but also offers lovely, enormous goose eggs. These eggs looked so perfect in this French market that I wondered why they haven't been incorporated into a national dish of some kind. Also, why have I never tried a goose egg? Also, is there some pun in here about goose eggs that I'm missing?

All in all, the Marché Bastille is a great stop for a shop or a stroll, and I found myself taking just as many pictures of my surroundings as the Japanese tourists who were working the same circuit. The market is, more than anything- and like most things- a treasure hunt, and I hope that you will enjoy exploring it if you have the chance.

Marché Bastille
Bd. Richard Lenoir 75011
m° Bastille (line 1, 5, and 8)
Thursday: 7h30-14h30
Sunday: 7h-15h

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