Every country/city I worked in had a food market. I loved going to them not only for the ingredients but they also brought me that much closer to people and their products. Here are some that I enjoyed.
Belleville Marche in Paris
The market in Belleville where you can buy not only the multipe bounties of nature but also a live chicken!
When I lived in Paris I often enjoyed my day off strolling through the Belleville market. Obviously I was into French cooking at that time, thinking about recipes I read about in the La Rousse (an encyclopaedia about classic French cuisine) absorbing the scents of intensley aromatic spices and enjoying every morsel of this place of trade.
One day I decided to prepare a classic chicken stew with vegetables. There were these beautiful different colored tiny peppers I bought earlier not knowing a thing about them, deep red saturated full yellow colors, so I decided they were to be cooked with chicken parts and intensely fragrant sage. Back at my apartment I had the Bresse chicken roasting. When I choped the peppers I popped one of these guys in my mouth. I experienced an unforgetable intense burn all over in my mouth. Eyes tearing I found myself growling, rolling on my back on the floor spitting, coughing and not sure at all what to do at the moment. Anyway once I figured out to drink milk instead of water in addition chewing on a slice of French baguette to absorb the burn I was able to get back to some sort of normalcy.
This is how I became familiar with HABANERO scoring a Scoville count of 200.000 to 300.000 units (degree of hotness), meaning SUPER HOT CHILE PEPPERS. Jalapeno seemed to be candy treats to these fiery guys in comparison.
Now I understood that I could not eat them popping-in-the-mouth-style.
(I found this link on the internet the same happened to me)
Milano Mercato Comunale (Piazza Wagner)
The biggest food market in Milano, with an awesome cheese collection endless variation of artisanal produced loaves and cheese aged and freshly made in addition to the bounty of the farmers’ goods. A special feature of this market are the beautiful wild and cultivated flowers which are so abundant. Experinceing this seemed to be a privilege and made me happy and smile. On the other hand I had to wonder often about the smog in Milano. When it was hot and sunny Milano was often covered with a thick layer of smog, it made me question the purity of the vegetables.
Viktualien Markt in Munich, Germany
At this market I met chefs whose cook books I had studied with passion and admiration like Eckard Witzigman a chef high-roller who trained under Paul Bocuse and was awarded three Michelin stars back in the day and Alfons Schubeck a top chef and restaurateur of Germany. These guys were motivators to me. I witnessed them jumping like little rabbits from market stand to stand hunting down the freshest baby salad or spring vegetable in the beginning of the season.
Sometimes I would also stop in to one of the beer houses in the area of the market for a giant pretzel and white sausage which I would wash down with one of the local beers.
Naschmarkt in Vienna, Austria
A long stretch of a market between two busy main streets in the middle of this beautiful city. Here I could witness sauerkraut beeing made from scratch and stored in huge wooden barrels next to spice traders laying out their amazingly fragrant spices for the gawkers. Vienna has a very large Turkish population and that is evident at this market. For me as young cook I made it my challenge to haggel the price of fruits, vegetables and spices since I was not able to afford much with my little salary working in one of the top restaurants in Austria. Plus since I was a native Austrian I felt comfortable doing it.
Rungis, East of Paris
It was always an experience when I had the oportunity to visit it early in the morning. There must have been a thousand beef halves hanging upside down in those cooling houses. It was like Sylvester Stallone when Rocky Balboa is going to jump out of one of these gigantic meat mountains after his training session.
Greenmarket Organization in New York
I was happy to eventually discover a side of New York which reminded me very much of the markets of Europe. I find the connection to farmers almost essential for my understanding of the season and first of all the products. The salad gets dug out of the moist, saturated earth and offered a few hours later at the open air markets in New York. The freshness cannot be beat.
Early in the morning when there are not too many people around is my favorite time at the market. The farmers warm their day up with a cup of coffee. Wind and weather of all seasons can be witnessed on most of their faces. Untouched almost immaculate -- the goods of nature are layed out to be grabbed and sometimes misshandled when not appreciated by the rush of people a few hours later.
The following recipe for Mason Jar Vegetables is an homage to the markets I visited to showcase the bounty of the different seasons. It should be used as a basic and changed through the months of the year.
Mason jar vegetables
(recipe for four)
Bunch carrot – 2 pieces
Golden baby beets – 4 pieces
Scallion – 1 (cut in one inch long pieces)
Cranberry beans – 1 cup
Squash of the season – 1 piece (cut into mouth sized pieces)
Baby spinach - 1 bunch
Olive oil – 2 tablespoons
Lemon thyme leafs – 1 teaspoon
Flat leaf parsley – 1 tablespoon
Sea salt – to taste
Cayenne – to taste
Fresh pepper – to taste
Peel the carrots and beets. Slowly simmer the vegetables in salted water for five minutes or until soft then add the scallions, cranberry beans and squash and simmer for three more minutes. At this point the vegetables are still firm.
In a bowl toss the vegetables with sea salt, cayenne, olive oil and lemon thyme.
Pack the vegetables in Mason Jar glasses and close with the lid. Put them in a water bath then place in a 300°F hot oven for 15 minutes.
(Photographer Thomas Schauer took this lovely photo)
Chef’s tip: Other seasonal vegetables may be substituted or added. Experiment with black truffle, add a vanilla pod. You will appreciate the aromas when you lift the lid off the Mason Jar.
Experiment with different oils for table seasoning like pumpkin seed oil, fig vinegar and dehydrated artichokes ground to powder or dried red beets ground to powder.