A Chilling Surprise…

Days are getting longer. I woke up and it was not the middle of the night anymore. The sun was not up yet but the sky was already bright and as I got ready it started shining through our veranda. We have been promised 3 days of sunshine and blue skies… The good news end here.

Let me begin again… I woke up to a freezing  -9 °C (15.8 °F) it was so cold, as soon as I went outside, my jeans felt like I had left them in the freezer overnight. I could feel frostbites forming on my legs. My nose was so cold I thought if I touch it it would break. OK, both my sweedish and Canadian friends are probably laughing at me thinking they would not even wear a hat for a mear  -9. But let me tell you how cold it was! It was so cold… our farmer friends at “Champ d’ail” did not show up at the market as their vegetables would have frozen and would have been as good as compost.

At first I though they had encountered traffic or mechanical problems or even that I was too early, ok, maybe not that I was too early… so François and I decided to go to the “Pain Quotidien” (it is a Belgian chain you know) and warm up to some tea and baguette while we waited for Christian to arrive or for my brain to warm up enough to think of a plan B.

When we returned, Christian was not there and Ignace, our cheese guy, told us Christian did not have his winter equipment and would not come.

Ignace, told me his sheep just had their litter and he started milking them again. Naturally I bought the fresh sheep’s milk cheese “fromage blanc” as well as my favorite goat yoghurt and 2 kinds of aged cheeses.

I decided to go to the other vegetable stand (I had bought my ingredients there the first time around). They are not producer but re-sellers and are divided in two sections: The local organic seasonal produce and the “exotic” section with organic produce arriving from everywhere, tomatoes from Italy, galangal roots from Brazil, Moroccan melons and so on.

I stayed on the local side and bought a basket full of local roots and cabbages to mimic what I thought I might get in Christian’s basket. But here is the “chilling surprise”… while at Christian I had paid 12 euro for my 3 bags… This basket cost me almost 49 euro! My ticket says I have 15 items, and thought it is 2 more different items than last week, I bought less of each of them as we are leaving Saturday for a week.

I am going to have to make this week’s recipes extra delicious so I don’t feel so bad. At least I know the quality is great as I have tried their produce before.

For my final stop, I went to Corposain the wonderful organic butcher.
He was not there but a delightful woman (his wife?), greeted everyone with a warm “bonjour madame, bonjour monsieur”.  And thought her fingertips were turning blue and she had bright red cheeks, and even her cleaning rag was frozen SOLID and looked like a yellow metal sculpture, she still managed to be all smiles and jokes. A very kind woman just ahead of us, went to get her a nice cup of steaming coffee at a nearby cafè. J’adore!

I bought 2 lbs of ground meat (beef and pork), 6 eggs and some nice “jambon à l’ancienne”, a wonderful rolled shoulder ham that is roasted with herbs.

Ok, my brain has finally reached a nice temperature and I have had a delicious 5 minute lunch to re-fuel.

I took a couple of spoonfuls of the “fromage blanc” (think a cross between a sweet ricotta and a tangy yogurt). I put it on a bed of spicy rocket (arrugula) and drizzled it all with a good Tuscan olive oil, salt and fresh black pepper. On the other side of the plate I put 2 slices of the “jambon à l’ancienne”. Simple, clean and healthy.
I can now get to the planning of my meal which I will execute tomorrow.

I am going to stay local for the first course and travel to India for the main course. So here is what I bought at the produce stand:
1 butternut squash
1 cauliflower
1 green celery
3 yellow rutabagas
1 chard
2 brassica Rapa….  very fancy name for what looks to me like bok choy
4 yellow carrots
2 lemons
2 pears
a bunch of parsley
a bunch of cilantro
1 head of salad
2 zucchini
some arrugula
a handful of shallots

The menu so far:
First course: Vegetarian saffron Pot-au-feu with millet and a harissa sauce
(I found the millet at an organic market at the “Palais du Vin” rue des Tanneurs where they have a great selection of old grains and many Italian specialities.

Main course:  “Kebabs” with a side of cauliflower and bok choy “Aloo Gobi style”. Traditionally, Aloo Gobi is made with cauliflower and potatoes (the name actually means “cauliflower potato”), but since I will have potatoes in the Pot-au-feu, I will add the bok-choy instead to keep it lighter. The original recipe calls for fresh tomatoes but since it is not the season I will add tomato paste for color and concentration of flavors.

In NY, I had an good selection of spices and had made my own spice mixes. From persian Advieh, to last week Moroccan Ras el Hanut to the one I will need this week… Garam Masala. I am slowly replenishing my pantry and as I do, you get the recipes ♥

Saffron Pot-Au-Feu with Harissa and Millet

Clean and peel all of your vegetables keeping the Squash and potatoes separately.
I used leeks, yellow carrots, yellow rutabagas, butternut squash and, the potatoes and carrots from last week.

Peel 1 onion (should be yellow or brown but I only had red and I believe you shouldbe able to cook with what you have around so feel free to always add what you have).

Prepare a nice “bouquet garnis” by tying together a bunch of parsley, some thyme and a few bay leaves and spike the onion with 2-3 cloves.

Next take a pinch of saffron threads and some rock salt and you are going to crush it together in a mortar. In your large stock pot, adda few tablespoons of olive oil and add the saffron salt. Heat it and let the saffron release its aroma. Add the leeks, carrots, rutabagas and the onion. Mix the vegetables to coat well with the saffron and then add 2.5 litres of water (a bit over 2.5 quarts) and the bouquet garnis. Set your timer to 30 minutes.

Cover your pot and when it starts boiling, reduce the heat to low. While you wait, start preparing your sauce, see recipe below. After 30 minutes, add the squash and cook for another 15 minutes. Finally add the potatoes and cook again for 15 minutes. At the end of your hour, all vegetables should be cook evenly. In the last half an hour you can start cooing the millet which you needs about 20 minutes in salted boiling water. Drain it and set aside.

* The pot au feu can be prepared in the morning or the day before. While making it, I also sautéed some swiss chard and boiled some Basmati rice and combined the drained rice into the swiss chard for a nice, very quick healthy lunch.
Harissa Sauce
In a mini food processor, add 2 tablespoons of capers, 1 shallot, 1 teaspoon or harissa, some chives and 5 tablespoons of olive oil. Pulse until you have a nice creamy sauce. Serve it alongside your millet and pot au feu to flavor the broth. This sauce can also be made 1 day in advance.

Tonight we are invited for dinner so tomorrow, I will prepare the main course, finish this post and add photos . I will however publish this tonight so you can get started.         A demain!


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Kim Vincent says:

    silk long johns, my darling. for you and françois for valentine’s day. end of suffering.

  2. I have not yet figured out what long johns are called in french! today was only -3… getting better… and we were mostly indoors aside from our dinner party this evening. Missing you, come visit soon and keep cooking from my blog, giving me feedback and spreading the word! I love you.

  3. I am extremely impressed along with your writing talents and also with the structure on your weblog. Is this a paid subject or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the excellent high quality writing, it is rare to peer a nice blog like this one nowadays..

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