Sunday, December 9, 2012

Slow Food With Monster

The local Slow Food chapter was setting up a booth at the Place du Grand Marché yesterday morning as I walked from the bus stop to the farmer's market, at the other end of the square from the sculpture named "The Monster" (you can just see it at the center/top-left-hand side of the photo). This piece of public art is less than a decade old, and at first it seemed incongruous to me, a clumsy cartoonish chunk of metal in the midst of medieval woodwork. But I'm used to it now, as are all the other Tourangeaux et Tourangelles, and it does make a handy landmark. There's an interesting short film about the commissioning of this artwork which also shows some video of the old quarter of Tours. It's subtitled in English.

"Let's cook up a revolution together!" said the signs for Slow Food. This chapter is working on a partnership program with people in Africa; rather than having "sister cities" they're doing "sister gardens" and providing support and encouragement for local agricultural production. I picked up a brochure and found another interesting project going on in Romania, in the Carpathian mountains, supporting production of a traditional sheep's-milk cheese called Brânzá de Burduf, which is wrapped for aging in fresh fir bark, which gives it a resinous flavor. I might sign up for membership in Slow Food, especially if it gives me links to and connections with people who can help me locate interesting food projects like this. The people at the booth appeared to be preparing to serve soup along with information, but they weren't ready yet, so I continued on to the market.

Along with the apples and pears, more exotic fruits are appearing in the stalls lately. I bought more persimmons, and considered the litchi fruit, but decided to get those next week instead, if they're around. I bought clementines instead because they smelled so good, and I have a craving for citrus. I should have bought more of them because they're already half gone. I'm storing them in the refrigerator, then pulling them out to eat, slipping the loose thin fragrant peel off of the firm sweet-tart sections inside. These were grown in Corsica, where people also make excellent sheep's-milk cheeses.

The somewhat monstrous-appearing small white objects below on the right aren't larvae, though that's what they look like. They're crosnes, or "Chinese artichoke," a small tuber that's harvested in the late fall and very popular here in France, but entirely new to me. I asked what they were, and how to cook them, and got two different answers from the vendor and from the customer standing next to me, but both agreed that they're quite tasty, with a flavor sort of like a Jerusalem artichoke. Querying the reliable Google this morning I found this article from the Oregonian on how to grow them. They're not eaten raw here, as far as I can tell; I didn't find many recipes but all of them agree that the tubers need to be boiled for 10-15 minutes before being used. Now that I know what they are, and how to cook them, I will buy them at next week's market. If they're still around.

"Thoroughly cleaned and ready for the skillet!" promised the sign on a heap of yellow-foot chanterelles, and since the dirt factor was what stopped me from buying some last week, I had to get a few handfuls from this more enterprising vendor. He talked me up into a few more mushrooms than I'd intended, along with five of six of the pied bleu (though they might be pied violet) mushrooms I'd noticed previously. I am to sauté them over low heat just until they stop losing liquid, according to the vendor. I'll do that for a late lunch or early dinner this afternoon before leaving for the symphony, and will add some chopped fresh parsley from the market to them.

I also bought a half of a compact crinkly-leaved cabbage, and half a dozen onions, and sautéed two sliced onions with the sliced cabbage until soft last night, and then added the rest of the pumpkin I'd roasted earlier in the week. I had one serving left of the ginger-pumpkin rice noodles I bought in Paris, so I boiled those up, and I baked some North Atlantic salmon (farmed off the coast of Norway, according to the man at the fish counter at Auchan, but in deep water) with a sauce made from a mixture of tomato paste, honey, and soy sauce shaken up in the almost-empty jar of hoisin sauce from the refrigerator.

I need to get a small light to use when doing my photographs because after dark I have to rely on the yellow-tinged and not very bright bulbs at the house, and that makes it look like I use turmeric in everything I cook.

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