Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Arles' Saturday Market

Before I begin today's post about the market and give a recipe, I need to add more information about yesterday's festivities. I just came in from having a nice glass of rosé and looking at today's newspaper, La Provence. Yesterday was the 77th Cocarde d'Or, a competition for the courses camarguaises, held in the Roman arena. These are bull races, with young men, called rasateurs, dressed in white, chasing after big black bulls in order to get a little pouch of money from between their horns. They wear a contraption on their hands that will remove the pouch if they can get close enough to the bull. It looks totally crazy to me, as the bulls are agile and can jump over the wall of the arena in order to try to impale the rasateur with its horns. There are rarely serious accidents, but I did see a photo of a young man with a horn stuck clear through his behind... ouch or aïe, aïe, aïe.
Arles has an outdoor market twice a week, a small one on Wednesdays and a large one on Saturdays. Just about anything you can think of is for sale at the market, from chickens to rabbits, to thongs to coffee makers. It is supposedly the largest outdoor market in France. It is where I am convinced I will run into Brad Pitt one of these days when he and Angelina and the kids are out shopping for their Saturday lunch. I'll keep you posted and promise photos! We have already had one client for a cooking course claiming to be Brad, but I didn't fall for it. I think he was from Illinois...
This past Saturday, we picked up oysters, tellines, little shells that you find buried in the sand that are delicious steamed so that they open, enough strawberries to make 7 large jars of preserves (I think it takes one kilo to make one jar), garlic, tomatoes, peaches, and zucchini. Chef Érick insists upon buying from local, organic producers who come to market to sell their own produce.
Growing up, my parents and grandparents always had a garden. Being sent out to hoe or weed the garden was never my idea of a good time, but it was well worth it when vegetables got ripe and showed up on the table. I even tried planting a garden of my own once when we lived on Lassiter Street in Durham. Mr. and Mrs. Davis, our neighbors and owners of Davis Baking Company (it doesn't exist anymore, unfortunately), offered me their little plot of land to try my hand at gardening. About the only thing I had any success with was zucchini. Zucchini bread became a staple at our house. I wish that I had had the recipe that follows!
After a trip to the farmer's market, enjoy the courgettes et tomates with a nice chilled white or rosé wine and fresh French bread. I am not sure you need anything else... well, maybe something sweet at the end!

Tian de Courgettes et Tomates
(a tian is a baking dish)

For 5 people

1 kilo (2.2 lbs) fresh zucchini
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 kilo (2.2 lbs) tomatoes, peeled and chopped coarsely
3 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
3 bay leaves
2 tsp. sea salt
fresh water, as needed

Optional: grated cheese to top off the dish (gruyère, Swiss, emmental, parmesan)

First, start the tomatoes. In a large saucepan, pour in the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and add the second sliced onion. Simmer until the onion is translucent (sweated), about 2-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook until they release their juice (5 minutes or so), and add a bit of water if necessary. Add the garlic, the bay leaves and let it simmer the length of time it takes for the zucchini to carmelize.

Slice the zucchini in rounds if it's small or quarter if it's large. Pour the olive oil into a heavy bottomed sauce pan, put in the onions and cook until they begin to brown lightly. Add the zucchini and do not cover, letting simmer and cook until the zucchini begin to brown as well. Stir occasionally but not too much so that the zucchini doesn't turn to mush. Depending upon how many you are cooking, you may have to do this in stages. You should have a single layer in your pan. Don't overcrowd the zucchini. After about 30 minutes of gentle cooking, the zucchini should be caramelized.

Take a large casserole dish and pour in the zucchini, pour over it the chunky tomato sauce and you can sprinkle cheese on top, if you like.

Serve hot today and cold tomorrow!

Bon appétit!

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