Spring Market inspiration. Open your eyes!
Why go to the market?
I mean the local farmer’s market, of course.
Fresh, simple, direct- a bargain.
Inspiring, colorful, nurturing- satisfaction.
Diverse, diverting, fun- amused.
All those words pop into my head when I think of the many very good markets I can throw a Gascon stone at from Camont. But versatility is reason I stay faithful to one of my first loves in this area, the little true producer’s market nestled under the unattractive eaves of the Chat d’Oc strip mall on the Avenue des Landes. Not only can I buy just picked old-timey vegetables out of neighboring market gardens, get a great baguette at l’Envie de Pain (thanks Pierre & Valerie!), take my weekly beekeeping lesson from Narcisse, pick up some house paint or maybe get a blood test at the Laboratoire and get Bacon groomed, I can also wash my car at the best carwash in town! It’s a full service strip mall French style… with wine.
What the Chat d’Oc lacks in French country charm it makes up in seriously good content. Here’s a sample of what I picked up yesterday before our MAGYC Day Cooking Class with Michelle & Rochelle where we started with a little fresh herb soup we drank as a hot cocktail.
The ‘King of the Greens’ sells his garden in bunches. He’s one of my favorite vendors selling herbs & salad greens SUPER fresh- everything from small bunches of roquette tied up with string to sorrel leaves folded into little packets of sour goodness. Scruffy chard is made into a sweet bouquet, tight bundles of fresh flowering thyme, and lyrical bay branches litter his card table stand. Most these things grow in my garden at Camont, too. But when I spotted these long sensual whips of tarragon wafting anise through the air, I went green with herb-envy! Seduced, sold and popped into my basket at 50 centimes a bundle.
Next on my shopping list and menu were some vegetables to tuck around a farm chicken then doused with a glass of water (no stock!) and let simmer under the watchful lid of an acid green vintage le Creuset. One small corn fed chicken= 11€ and two chicken carcasses for a buck each. ( I’ll post my simple version of Gascony’s regional dish- a Poule-au-Pot from A Culinary Journey in Gascony under recipes.)
In the meantime, here’s a roasted chicken version fresh herb recipe here for when the need for crispy skin and oven heat calls.
Next stall over, the first local pommes de terre paper skins and dirt announcing ‘direct from the garden!’ don’t come cheap. But a pound of marble-sized sweet-meated gems are worth adding into the pot. 2.50€
Shopping in Gascony is a joy! Never short on market inspiration, I left the Chat d’Oc with an overfull basket and a head full of menu ideas: fresh pea soupcocktail, tarragon and chervil-infused duck fat in which to sauté little new potatoes, and strawberries steeped in rosé wine & armagnac at 2.10€ for a litre and a half of good local wine from Layrac.
Start at the market and you can’t go wrong when learning to cook in season. Open your eyes and learn why something tastes good and how it is grown by being observant, week to week. That’s how I learned a little MAGYC- Mastering the Art of Gascon Cooking!