“Persimmons, pomegranates, mandarins, apples, pears, and pineapple,” were the recommendations market vendor Pascal Voerman had for me for today’s market. I was being extra stubborn, inquiring about kale and why it was not yet available except for in a pre-chopped format in plastic bags. “It’s about what the people want,” he explained. “Even though now we can have any vegetable the Dutch people only want vegetables at a certain time of the year. For kale, they say, ‘It’s only a winter vegetable,’ so I only bring the plants to the market in winter. Except for cauliflower; people always want cauliflower, so we always have that. But cauliflower in spring, I cannot tell you how that tastes.”
Pascal operates one of the larger tents at the Enschede market and is on both the Tuesday and Saturday vendor list. He offers a wider albeit more expensive selection that some of the other, industrial-sized vendors who may only have pallets upon pallets full of 5-10 in-season or in-demand items. From him I buy the more difficult to locate items, such as squash, mushrooms, sprouts, and herbs.
Pascal was correct about the best options for the day as the tents overflowed with pomegranates, varietals of the orange-family, and pallets of persimmons. Even though pomegranates may be some of the most pain-in-the-butt fruits to prepare, I am always tempted by their unique looks and beautiful colors. Plus, the prices on these seasonal produce cannot be beaten: Most vendors were offering the luring deal of five pomegranates for 1 euro; compare this to the cost of a single pomegranate in the United States of around $1.50 per the USDA’s Market News Web site. Pomegranate appears on our menu Friday evening in this Moroccan-style beet recipe, but, with prices that good I could not buy just one. I hope to pair the beets and pomegranates with a nice lamb, if I can find one; if not, we will likely have a simple steak. A tip from my pomegranate vendor was to select the most square-shaped pomegranates possible as they have the best taste.
The best produce deals are currently for pallets of mandarins: 50-mandarin pallets were selling for 5 euros at today’s market. Since I attended today’s market without the strong arms of the Frenchman, taking home such a pallet was impossible, so I let myself be ripped off instead, agreeing to purchase 15 clementines for the price of 2.50 euros.
Today, I was on the hunt for kale to make an extremely modified version of this minestrone soup, which is also not going to include zucchinis (sadly) or green beans as the season for those has well passed here in the Netherlands. The only zucchinis I could find were extremely expensive or, alternatively, in bags where four zucchini sat, rotting and with their tops already cut off. At the last stall I visited the day I noticed bok choy and placed it in my purchases. It will be a nice kale substitute, I hope.
Also on our menu for the week is a simple, one-pan arroz con pollo for tomorrow night. Tonight, I used fresh purchases from the market (a butternut squash, apples (a 5 kg bag for 1 euro,) fresh thyme, and roasted pumpkin seeds) to make a version of this spectacular soup, which I cannot recommend enough. Inspired by Manger and our recent mushroom hunting adventure I also sautéed up some chantrelles and served them with a poached egg. This “who-would-have-thought” creation earned high marks from the Frenchman, that is until the final course of the evening – lettuce with a home-made vinaigrette dressing – landed on his plate.
Also in season at the moment are one of the Frenchman’s favorite foods: pistachios. From the nut vendor I picked up a 1/2 kilo bag of delicious herbed roasted nuts for approximately 5.50 euros. Given that he is always starving (the “curse” of the fast metabolism) it is nice to have some snacks around for him to munch on. In-season pistachios, Italian sausage, and Roquefort blue cheese are his favorites.
For all of the purchases, I spent approximately 20-25 euros (roughly $25-$31,) a great value as it represents the cost of most of our food for the next four days.
What are you eating this week?