Spring Fever @ the winter market

On my last post, Meredith K wrote: “what to prepare when your body hasn’t shed the “winter” coat but your nose smells spring around the corner”

I decided I would think about it and aim for that as the theme for this week.
When she wrote this however, my nose was not “smelling spring” as I was recovering from my tough week and it was still cold…
Then Magic: Monday the sun came out in full force with wonderful mild spring temperatures and I was hit with spring fever.

Our friend Adam arrived from Paris and brought with him the most amazing spices he picked up in Saudi Arabia: Cardamom, cumin, dry lime, zaatar, sumac and more. Of course you can find most of these at local middle eastern markets but not as fragrant and fresh as the ones he picked up for us. At his local spice markets, he was able to try many varieties of each spice and choose the best ones. And just like that, my head started cooking up recipes.

On Monday we went to the Van Meenen square market as Adam wanted to cook a Saudi dinner for us and a few friends. We went to Elementerre who gave me another funny carrot, this one shaped like orange pants! I ran into my sister there  and William the owner had her try every kind of apple he had and declared: “apples are my religion”. As usual with Elementerre, we had a blast. We picked up some nice lamb at the little farm stand and walked around the market to get all the things Adam needed.

After we were done, we headed for our usual post market draft beer at “Moeder Lambic”. There we met my cousin Béa and a few other friends.

I would say this week is definitely starting on the right foot!

Adam cooking

On Tuesday Adam went for dinner at my sister’s and François and I went out for a really nice “solo” dinner. After such a lovely evening, the idea of waking up at dawn for our Wednesday morning market might just ruin the goof mood… Lucky for us, there is an afternoon market at Place du Châtelain. Though not labeled organic like Sainte Catherine, the Châtelain market actually has a larger selection of organic produce and products as it is simply a much bigger market. It also has a larger variety and great stands like “La Piola” an Italian stand where we always end up chatting with the owner for as long as an hour. His passion for superior products and his love for small producers is like a good drug to me… I could listen to him forever and François LOVES any chance he gets to speak Italian and feel at home. I know… his name is François and though he is not Italian (yet), he considers Italy home. At  Châtelain you can also eat and drink anything from oyster with white wine to Moroccan with mint tea, need I say more?

All this bounty comes with slightly higher price tag and a clientele that is, as my nephew puts it, made of “Italian men wearing really tight pants and even tighter shirts and assorted Euro Trash”… Yes, true,  but all of it mixed with the usual hippy market clients, little old ladies dressed up with full on make-up walking with little dogs, girls in animal prints wearing the highest heels I have even seen carrying even smaller dogs in their purses and lastly a few regular folks like me… 😉 All in all absolutely fabulous people watching!

Wednesday was another gorgeous day and the market was bustling… We might have to make this our semi-regular Wednesday appointment.

Our first stop, the tea and coffee stand. I had bought tea from them before and the quality is amazing. They roast their own beans… mmmh, “I could make a batch of my Ratafìa al Caffè”It requires green coffee beans as well as roasted ones. I asked the owner if he had any green un-roasted coffee beans and he said “Pas içi, à mon Atelier” which I took for a “no”… he disappeared without a word and came back a few minutes later with a bag of green beans and gave them to me as a gift in exchange for a taste of the liqueur once it is done!

The coffee they roast is amazing! He gave me a Guatemalan Arabica that is so aromatic I think the liqueur will turn out fantastic.Look for them if you are here: Café Di Santo Nicola.

Spring was definitely in the air but NOT at the organic stands… All the organic ones were still filled with roots and winter greens.

What was I going to make to answer Meredith’s question? Perhaps a transition menu. One made with mostly winter vegetables but prepared in a fresher more spring like fashion.

I believe that in this mid-season, we need even more immune boosting vegetables as the weather is so unstable we are more prone to catching a cold draft.

I bought Kholrabi (Choux-rave in picture above) as it is rich in vitamin B which energize you out of winter funk (including Niacin which reduced cholesterol) rich in vitamin C to still protect you from the chill. In fact 100 grams of this veggy has 102% of your RDA of vitamin C… Plus being part of the cabbage family it protects you from colon and prostate cancer. It has lots of minerals such as potassium. The taste is a sweet version of Broccoli stems. Really good raw or cooked. I also bought golden rutabagas and pumpkin. Then I was in the mood for a very “green” spring elements so I bought Parsley, chervil and a winter salad similar to Mâche and thought of couscous.

For my protein, I bought some beef and lamb to grind.

While waiting for Adam to join us at the market, we enjoyed a freshly made mint tea from a Moroccan stand.

This week, LIFE IS GOOD!

Since we were going to be 8 for dinner, I opted for all the food to be served together family style. I wanted an easy meal that was good served warm.

My menu:

Moroccan meatballs with preserved lemon sauce
Green couscous
Roasted vegetables
Harissa Yoghurt
Zaatar and olive oil
Mixed olives
A few radishes with salt 

Moroccan Meatballs

Serves 6-8

Fo the Meatballs:
3 lbs of ground beef/lamb
1 tsp Ras-el-Hanout (recipe)
1 cup Flat leaf parsley
2 med Onions
2 tbs yoghurt
3 tbs olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

For the Sauce:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
2 preserved lemons

Prepare the Sauce:
Peel the preserved lemon and cut the peel of half a lemon into nice strips to decorate
Put the rest in a blender or food processor with the oil and water and blend well. It will be a bright lemon puré.

For the meatballs:
In a sauté pan, add olive oil and onions with the teaspoon of ras el hanout and cook on low heat until tender.

In a large bowl, mix the meat, cooked onions, chopped parsley, yoghurt, salt and pepper and mix well.
With wet hands, shape meatballs with about 1 tablespoon full for each. You should have 4-5 meatballs per person.

Chill the meatballs while you prepare the vegetables and yoghurt

After you have baked the vegetables, Bake the meatballs at 400 ℉ for 6 minutes
Heat the sauce and finish the meatballs in the sauce for a couple of minutes.

Roasted Vegetables

1 large slice of pumpkin
3 Kohlrabi
5 rutabagas
Sage and thyme
olive oil

Simply cubed all 3 vegetables and keep the pumpkin separately

mix the rutabaga and kohlrabi with some olive oil, some thyme and sage and salt and bake at 400 ℉  for 20 minutes
Push the vegetables to half of the baking dish to make room for the pumpkin.

mix the pumpkin with olive oil and sage and add to the baking dish return to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes

Remove from the oven and cover with foil to keep warm while you bake the meatballs.

Harissa Yoghurt & Mast-o-Khiar

These are 2 yoghurt based sauces, one is hot and one is cool. I serve them with the meatballs but they are delicious on their own or with pita style bread.

2 16oz tubs of greek style yoghurt (1 for each sauce)
1 tbs Harissa
1 english cucumber or 4 persian/israeli cucumbers
1 tbs dried mint
a few leaves of fresh mint
2 tbs olive oil
salt to taste

For the Harissa, just mix 1 tbs of olive oil and the harissa to 1 tub of yoghurt. Add desired salt and mix well. Refrigerate. (I used Adam’s sumac to decorate)

For the Mast-o-Khiar, mix 1 tub of yogurt with cubed cucumbers, mint, olive oil and salt. Mix well and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour.

Yes it is that simple!

Green Couscous

Another super fast recipe
Simply put 1 and half bunch of flat leaf parsley, 1 bunch of chervil and 2 bunches of winter salad or a few bunches of mâche into a blender or food processor.
Add 4 tbs of olive oil, and 1 cup of hot water. Add salt to taste and blend until smooth.
In a very large bowl put 2 lbs of couscous (bowl should be at least 3 times the size of the couscous)
Mix the green pure to 1/2 liter of boiling water and mix well. Pour over the couscous evenly. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for about 5 minutes.
With a fork, separate the couscous and fluff it well. Add olive oil if necessary.

I put some Zaatar in little bowls with a side of olive oil (you dip bread in olive oil then in Zaatar… yum)

Made a couple of radish dishes with dipping salt and placed some olive bowls with pit dishes (please always give pit dishes when serving olives)

Dinner is served!

Now you know I don’t post any desserts… I am not saying I never will… In the mean time however, my friend Yann posted what looks like a delicious chocolate dessert and it is super easy to make… I will try making it, I invite you to do the same and report back.

Yann’s Chocolate Parfait

Bon Appetit and until next time I send you many “bisous”

Catherine@Sainte Catherine (and beyond)

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Kim says:

    Just stunning ! You know I go insane for the Moroccan ! The first picture.. a still life and I’m painting it. Can you come to Paris on July 10 – 14 ?

    1. Merci KIM! Paris in July.. yes why not. Let’s meet there. email me @gmail and we’ll chat about it.

  2. Kató says:

    For those desperate (like me) to eat spring fare: I advise to look for wild garlic (ail des ours) which is the very first edible plant that comes out after the winter, at the same time as snowdrops. I have a carpet of it on the edge of my wood, next to my house (in Hungary). It is delicous and full of the minerals and vitamins you need to get rid of the winter blues! Should be eaten before flowering. Any bear’s garlic recipe suggestion dear cousin? K

    1. they are called ramps in English and are delicious! Have not seen them yet here in Belgium. Very short season. Really good grilled or sautéed with pancetta in a frittata.

      1. If I find some next week, I will make a rampelicious blog.

  3. Elisabeth says:

    Dinner was sublime. Although all was delicious, the geen coucous and the Zaatar w olive oil was my favorite. Thanks Catherine

    1. Thank you Adam for bringing the Zaatar

  4. Meredith k says:

    Oh thank you for this post! Bright and tangy flavors to get the body ready for bright sunny days. It’s perfect! And yes, i cannot wait for ramps season. The start of spring flavors for this Brooklynite.

    1. mmmmh, my farmer told me yesterday she has not seen ramps yet and that the daffodils are just coming out now… so another 2 weeks at least. When I asked about Fava beans she looked at me as in ‘cmon, fava beans, really? May/June! So my springfest might come after yours… I am north.

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