Monday, July 23, 2007
One of the things I love about shopping at the Cours Saleya market is that everything I prepare has significance. Producers want to know how I made use of their freshly picked vegetables and will tell me off for any lapses in judgement. Other shoppers listen in critically, throwing in their own remarks on how best to stuff les petits farcis (little stuffed vegetables) or fry zucchini flowers (the batter should be made with water, not milk, or frankly you don't deserve to frequent this market).
Producer Loulou was particularly proud of his ratte potatoes this year, which he sold at the market for two Saturdays running before there were none left. The ratte is a small, yellow-fleshed waxy potato, similar to what's called a fingerling in the United States. A similar tuber also goes by the name banana potato. When Philippe bought a large bag of these potatoes in my absence, Loulou wouldn't sell them to him until he promised that they would all be cooked within two days.
The next week, I duly reported that I had made roast potatoes, sautéed potatoes and potato salad. (Philippe, as you might have gathered, does not do most of the cooking in our house, though he makes up for it by washing dishes with boundless patience.) "How did you make your potato salad?" he retorted. "With green beans I hope? In Provence we say that's how a woman holds on to her man."
I would have thought that cooking potatoes three ways would be enough, especially for a man as easy-going as Philippe, but I've spent too much time in the south of France to discount the local lore entirely. Each time I have made potato salad since then, I've thrown in beans almost superstitiously. It helps that I have plenty of beans to choose from: yellow wax beans, purple beans that turn deep green when cooked, and the pelandron, a local variety with a mottled green-and-purple skin (again, it loses its color in contact with water, but it's a particularly tender and fast-cooking bean).
Yesterday I found myself with potatoes barely bigger than marbles from producer Dominique and the skinniest green beans with their flowers still attached, scoped out by Franck who never misses a thing at the market. Such tender little vegetables deserved careful treatment, so I forgot about my usual punchy mustard and red wine vinegar dressing and opted for simple lemon and olive oil instead. I cooked the potatoes in boiling salted water (nothing revolutionary there) and steamed the green beans lightly before tossing them with olive oil and juicy sliced garlic from organic producer Joël in a sauté pan. The green beans were piled on top of the potatoes, with some snipped chives courtesy of Sam and his scissors. Served with the crunchy, Romaine-like lettuce called sucrine and generously drizzled with the lemon dressing, this made a light Sunday night meal with George's exceptional goat cheese.
I don't know about Philippe, but I for one was happy to have my first tomato-less meal in weeks.
I'm off to Bergamo, Italy on Wednesday for two days! I'll be back to tell you about my latest adventures in one of my favorite Italian towns.