Before moving to Paris, my automatic association with anything “French” was food. Period. Now that I have been living here almost two years, this has not really changed all that much (although running a close second is the hunch that “France” may be synonymous with “ridiculously inefficient bureaucracy”) My definitions of what qualifies as uniquely Parisian cuisine have certainly shifted and expanded, but when I think about what I may miss most if/when I leave the city, the first things that come to mind are food (all dairy products and fresh bread).
Paris is known for its extensive open-air markets. Unfortunately, many of these take place on weekdays or are not convenient for me to frequent. Enter the panier. Comparable to a CSA in the US, my panier (French for basket) is filled each week with 5 vegetables and 1 fruit from local farms and delivered to nearby pick-up point each Friday (locations all around Paris). In my case, I pick up my goodies from a cute organic restaurant on the other side of la butte Montmartre, La Chaise Rouge, which, on one of these Friday evenings, will be a perfect place to have a quiet end-of-the-week dinner. Each week I contemplate this option, but am in a rush to get home to explore what vegetables and fruits I received that week.
So far, I have received my first 5 paniers, some of which are pictured here. The friends who referred me have told me that late spring/early summer was the best time to join. I have not had too much week-to-week overlap between the organic offerings and, to my delight, the summer fruits – strawberries and cherries – I have enjoyed so far have been delectable. We’ll see how it goes in the upcoming winter when I have been promised an endless supply of potatoes and apples.
This week I received the above selection (from the top, clockwise): red leaf lettuce, cucumbers, cherries, spring onions, fava beans and zucchini. Besides the health benefits of ensuring the inclusion of so much fresh produce into my diet, and the feel good-ness of buying seasonal, local products, the food just tastes good. I am also really enjoying the challenge of figuring out how to cook each week’s bounty. Some vegetables I have never seen before (kohlrabi, two weeks ago) and others (fresh shelling peas, radishes and a continuous flow of zucchini) have given me good reason to try recipes that have been bookmarked from my favorite blogs.
This week the cucumbers, onions and lettuce will go into lunchtime salads and sandwiches. The cherries are already long gone, having being made into clafoutis yesterday afternoon as part of Sunday dinner (try this with most any fruit, it is one of my favorite French desserts – I’d suggest using half of the sugar recommended).
For an easy dinner, tonight I made a salad from the previous week’s young potatoes (roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper), fava beans (the most labor intensive vegetable ever), tomatoes and feta with a light, lemony vinaigrette.
All-in-all, I am extremely happy with my panier experience. I will miss it when the deliveries stop for les vacances in August. I am looking forward to sharing my weekly harvest with all of you, and getting recommendations for new ways to enjoy eating well!