Eating Locally à la Française

Bonjour à tous!

As a follow-up to Kathryn’s post last week, I wanted to write a post about eating locally and in-season when living abroad. In the past, “eating local” meant eating foods from Ontario, or at least from Canada. Although I do admit to buying bananas year-round, when I lived in Guelph, I did my best to buy locally, at the very least when Mexican or Californian varieties were available on the same shelf as their Canadian counterparts (in Canada, this is almost always the case with apples and tomatoes, and often with vegetables like bell peppers).

Now that I’m living abroad, eating local means buying food from Calvados (our region), Normandy (our departement), or from somewhere else in France. Rather than coming from Mexico or California, most of the competing produce sold here comes from Morocco or Spain, and sometimes Portugal, the Netherlands or Belgium, among other countries. Since stores are closed on Sundays in our town, my partner and I have made recently made an effort to visit our local marché (farmer’s market) on Sunday mornings.

What’s in season right now in France? Well, like Ontario, squash, squash, and more squash!

From left to right in the photo above: Une courgette longue (a long, fat, green squash that is looks and tastes exactly like a giant zucchini), a French potimarron, halved (somewhere between a pie pumpkin and a squash, as you’ll see from the pile of innards and seeds on the plate), and a butternut squash. In the fruit bowl, you’ll also see bananas (sorry!), prunes rouges (delicious, red plums that are in season right now), and kaki (persimmon; in season in Morrocco right now – since it’s almost a neighbouring country, and every market stand is overflowing with them, we thought we’d give them a try. They are subtly sweet, have a texture similar to a melon, and have a pretty flower/star shape in the middle when you slice them. Yum!).

Here are a few photos of some recipes I’ve made over the past few weeks, all of which are vegetarian (but most definitely not vegan—cheese, milk, and cream are staples here in Normandy):

1. Potimarron (pumpkin) muffins (I loosely followed this recipe, making the following substitutions: semi-whole wheat flour instead of white, olive instead of coconut oil, cut down the sugar by about a third, and using fresh roasted potimarron instead of canned pumpkin purée).

2.   Butternut squash mac n’ cheese. I made mine with whole wheat macaroni, roasted butternut squash, sauteed onion, and a sauce consisting of: light cream, flour, and a blend of three cheeses (mine was emmental, edam and gruyère, but really whatever you’re in the mood for would work!), plus some nutmeg, black pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper (omit this if you don’t like spice). Perfect when you’re looking for comfort food on a chilly fall evening!

3.      Giant zucchini squash, ready to be sauteed and used as a side for any meal (for scale, please note that the knife in that picture is actually very large…I had to cut each zucchini slice into six!)

This past week, my fall cooking has been amped up by my recent purchase of The French Market Cookbook, an e-book written by the author of the blog Chocolate & Zucchini. The cookbook is absolutely perfect for me, as it features French ingredients but is written by an Anglophone, the recipes are organized by season—which encourages eating locally and in season, and finally, all the dishes are vegetarian, so it’s great for healthy, weeknight dinner ideas! In the past week we’ve tried two recipes from the book, which I’d like to share with you:

4.  The first was Bastelles à la Courge, or Corsican Turnovers with Winter Squash. When flipping through the cookbook, I came across this recipe, which is a traditional recipe made on November 1st in Corsica (a French, Mediterranean island that is just west of Italy). The first of November is a holiday in France (Toussaint, or All Saints Day), and as we personally have no traditions associated with this holiday, we thought what better way to spend it than by making a traditional recipe of someone who does?

The recipe involves sautéeing squash (we used butternut) with onions, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, folding the mixture into pastry dough, and baking the “turnovers” (mine were square) in the oven for a few minutes. I brushed mine with a bit of olive oil to achieve a nice, golden brown colour.

The final products are served warm with a bit of Corsican sheep’s milk cheese (by coincidence, we had herbed some Brebis Corse, or sheep’s milk cheese from Corsica, on hand from the local market!). We ate ours alongside a green salad with local tricoloured tomatoes and bell peppers, for a well-rounded All Saints Day lunch. I used a rosemary-thyme spice mix that I had on hand instead of just rosemary, and our whole house smelled like Thanksgiving afterwards. Yum!

5.  The second recipe from The French Market Cookbook that I tried is called Rose vif, or “Shockingly Pink Pasta”. The recipe is very aptly named, as the sauce is made from roasted beets (as well as light cream, garlic and cumin) and it really does turn a shocking shade of fuchsia! The pasta is easy to make, especially if you buy pre-roasted beets – all you need to do is cook the pasta and throw the rest of the ingredients in the blender! The pasta was topped with parsley, as well as roasted almonds for a bit of protein. While I enjoyed this recipe well enough (the cumin flavour really comes through), my husband raved about it! For all the beet lovers out there, this recipe is a nice change from the traditional tomato sauce.

6.   Finally, as it’s quickly started to feel like winter here in Normandy (think damp, rainy, living-in-slippers-and-drinking-tea kind of weather), we can’t get enough of this Vegan Quinoa Sweet Potato Chili. My previous roommate came across the recipe a few years ago and now I make it every fall and winter. We had a warm bowl last night topped with cilantro, avocado, and shredded gouda, with a fresh baguette on the side. I’m counting down the hours till lunch because this recipe makes for great weekday leftovers! Below is a picture from the original blog, since I forgot to take one while it was cooking!

Happy fall, et bon appetit!

Bisous xxx