“I love Paris in the spring.” Cole Porter sure got that song right. I have worked and played in Paris many times, but this year while there celebrating my 50th birthday… I fell in love with Paris. Maybe I’m getting sentimental in my “ripe” old age, or maybe it is because I am so captivated by the opening to Midnight in Paris.
I think my Los Angeles-based French culinary classes have raised the standard of what I desire in food. It seemed only appropriate to take a farmer’s market cooking class while I was in Paris recently so I could experience the local food, as well as the Parisian ambiance. A special thanks to Susan Herrmann Loomis for teaching a fabulous cooking class from On Rue Tatin.
Our class began with a shopping trip to Boulevard Raspail’s Farmer’s Market in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Près. I was delighted to partner with Chef Julie of Kitchen Culinaire from Vancouver for the experience.
Susan showed us how to shop for locally produced, seasonal ingredients. I was in awe of the sheer artistic arrangement of each item in the market.
I love how the vegetables are attractively arranged – note how the white asparagus is strategically stacked by color. Did you know that white asparagus turns green when exposed to light? When this change happens, the price of these jewels decreases.
Note: White asparagus is green asparagus that has been covered with soil to keep sunlight (and green chlorophyll-producing photosynthesis) away from the ripening spears. They are harvested before their tips break through the surface.
Talk about art, this unique find is “melon de dinde” (turkey melon). The funny thing is there isn’t any melon in these gorgeously designed main courses! For an explanation of what this is and how to cook it, check out David Leboitz’s blog. I am currently on the hunt for a local source for these beauties.
Even the fish proudly rose to the occasion, competing for your attention.
After we purchased food for the class, we walked to On Rue Tatin’s apartment. Decorated to perfection, it beckoned you to don an apron and dig in. Julie and I received our assignments and did just that.
Julie braised asparagus with fresh herbs from Susan’s garden. I worked on the cucumber appetizer, and Julie helped me assemble it. They are easy to make and charmingly refreshing. (See recipe below)
I juiced oranges for a reduction sauce that would be served with the duck.
We started our meal with Cervelle de Canut, Concombre en Puree ‑ a cucumber puree with herbed fresh cheese. Followed by Magret de Canard au Syrup – a lovely duck with orange sauce, and Asperfes Blanches ou Vertes Braisees – braised green asparagus.
The next course was Salade a la Vinaigrette d’Amande – salad with almond vinaigrette, followed by two local cheeses, and a crusty loaf of bread.
For dessert, a beautiful Fraises au Vinaigre de Carmel – Strawberries in Carmel Vinegar was served with the additional surprise of a birthday cake for me. What a wonderful day this turned out to be. I can’t wait to turn 50 again next year.
Since returning home I have made the cucumber appetizer many times, much to the delight of friends and former cooking classmates. This small appetizer is called a verrine.
I hope you enjoy this immensely popular nosh-in-a-glass as much as I do.
Cucumber and Cheese Verrine
I used the recipe for Truffle Salt Ricotta as the cheese base. Click here to see that recipe. You can also use these substitutions: Persian cucumbers, Greek yogurt and white balsamic vinegar. I topped my verrines with black lava sea salt.
- 2 long European cucumbers, peeled and cut into chunks.
- 1 ¾ cups fromage blanc (fresh cheese)
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sea Salt
- 1 bunch chives
- Puree the cucumbers in a food processor. Transfer the puree to a sieve, and set the sieve over a bowl. (Chill for 1-3 hours)
- Whisk the fresh cheese until it becomes slightly lighter. Whisk in the vinegar, season with salt and pepper.
- Mince the chives and fold them into the fresh cheese.
- To serve, discard (but reserve – it is delicious to drink!) the juice that has drained from the cucumber puree. Season the cucumber lightly with salt, then evenly divide it among 8 small glasses. Top with an equal amount of the seasoned cheese, and serve immediately.
You can put the cheese mixture on top or on the bottom. It works either way. April my first taste-tester didn’t seem to care which way it was as long as she could have seconds.
- Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and carbohydrates and can provide a quick pick-me-up.
- Cucumbers are incredibly low in calories, (16 calories per 1 cup), and have no fat, cholesterol or sodium as well as being highly alkaline.
Even if you can’t get to a market in Paris, you can find a local farmer’s market that can provide you with fine locally grown foods. To find out what is growing and being sold near you in the U.S. check out www.LocalHarvest.org.
Quote of the Day:
“Mangez bien, riez souvent, aimez beaucoup”
(Eat well, laugh often, love abundantly.)
…and then, she paused for thought.