Spring remains elusive in so many parts of North America, but here in France, especially in the Southwest, it has arrived like the TGV fast train in the Gare d’Agen- at full speed and then slamming on the brakes. One day it is cold enough to huddle by the wood stove; the next I am outside in a t-shirt arranging the garden. Now after three solid weeks of luxurious sunny and warm days, the dreaded Giboulées de Mars have arrived.
The Giboulées are the Lion in the old adage—“March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb”. High winds upended the sturdy bistro chairs in the garden; heavy rains battered the skylight above my bed too early this morning; hail comes knock the fragile blossoms off the plum trees; umbrellas and market stalls are sent sailing across the market squares. That’s March for you. Waiting for the Lamb to take over, means weathering change in my kitchen, too.
This unpredictable weather engenders another sort of upheaval. I begin to liberate myself from slow winter cooking—my beloved braised meats and slow-roasted vegetables. I crave the first peppery greens like the new root radishes we eat with creamy spring butter. I want a Spring Soup—not long simmering but quick and fresh and full of life and sprinkled with a crunch of seeded croutons. And most of all I am craving spring duck, those thick red meat steaks called magrets grilled on the stove top, then served under a verdant blanket of fresh green onions, tender aillets (those first green garlic shoots), pickled guindilla peppers, and the first new mint leaves from my sleeping garden. It takes just minutes to cook, and chopping the greens happens at the same time. Put it all on a thick toasted slab of pain de campagne with crisp slices from a head of Sucrine lettuce drizzled with some walnut vinegar and sunflower oil.
Here, I used the same combination of spring onions, green garlic, guindillas along with some roquette leaves and white beans, a drizzle of oil, coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. It couldn’t be simpler and so deliciously Spring!
Cooking like this reflects the seasons-the global turning of the days, but also my own personal season of renewal, a time to reassess my direction-both in the kitchen and out. I am busy on projects, finishing old one, starting new ones. I cook to reflect the Spring frenzy of ideas that pushing out of a quiet restful winter. I eat with gusto and savor the new tastes—sharper, lighter, fresher.
One big Spring idea is to start teaching more online, using new resources to share the good food of Gascony with you. Cooking classes, shopping advice, travel tips all wrapped up in a personal package of videos, ebooks, and in person gatherings. If you are interested in being part of a pilot project, make sure to sign up for here.