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A Good Camembert

As I headed for the door towards Tuesday’s market, shopping bags in my arms, the Frenchman called out his only request for this week – “a good camembert.”

At the Enschede market there are several cheesemongers who have Saturday market stalls as well as a permanent stall in the market square that is open every day. This permanent stall is our go-to for cheese purchasing as it is possible to literally ride our bikes up to the counter, order, and ride away without ever dismounting. Plus, it also gives out frequent-buyer chips that can be cashed in for what appear to be stuffed cows. We unfortunately only recently learned of the chips but have made progress towards a cow with 5 chips in our chip container, representing 12.50 euros in purchases. Only 45 more chips and 112.50 euros to go.

After my shopping at Tuesday’s market I stopped by the square’s cheesemonger to see about the Frenchman’s request, but the single Camembert did not look like it might fall in the “really good” category. This hunt called for a short bike ride to the other side of the city center and a pop into one of my favorite stores in Enschede, De Leckernij. One side of this speciality shop as well as the center aisle is dedicated to cheese while the other side contains vats of oil and vinegars from which I refill my oil bottles every few weeks. (The back is full of sausages, nuts roasted in-house, and olives.) This oil and vinegar concept is new to me but appears popular in Enschede as I have recently discovered another shop taking the concept further; its name – Oil & Vinegar.

The smells upon entering De Leckernij are overwhelming. The air is heavy with the aroma of cheese and garlic, which hangs on strings around the shop. Samples are a plenty, and the Frenchman particularly likes to come with me and nosh. “Can we try that one? And that one? And, what’s that one?” we ask while the clerks cut slices for us to try. “Shhhhh,” I whisper. “No more. They’re going to get annoyed with us when we only buy one thing after having sampled fifteen.”

“I’m looking for a really good Camembert,” I told the clerk this afternoon, “the best you have.” The options were many – slices of Camembert, rounds of pasteurized Camembert, raw Camembert. Always swayed by pretty things, I settled on La Petite Normande, which features a woman dressed in traditional clothing on its logo. The cheese comes from Normandy, the birthplace of Camembert, from the cheese maker Le Pic Saint-Loup, which, interestingly, is the name of a mountain situated on the other end of France outside of Montpellier, where we spent a month last year.

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After doing some at-home research, I am confident I chose the best Camembert Enschede has to offer. Per one Web site:

Domaine de Saint Loup’s ‘La Petite Normande’, . . . is one of the few remaining genuine Norman Camemberts. The cheese is made from raw cow’s milk and is hand ladled, dry salted and turned manually during maturation. When ripe the white rind is streaked with reddish brown patches and has the signature Camembert aroma of cabbage and mould. The paste should have no trace of chalkiness, but- unlike Camembert Rustique-it never becomes liquid. The flavour is full and pungent, with traces of mushrooms, butter and grass.

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Mmmmm cabbage and mould. Though the cheese was meant to be for tomorrow, as I write, I am becoming more and more hungry and head to the fridge to sample our new cheese. Even though I know full well that cheese should always be served at room temperature (or melted or baked) for the best taste I cannot resist and now sit, writing, with a piece of Camembert on a plate next to me. It is simply delicious with a full, strong taste, a very good Camembert indeed.

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* Another reason that I love De Leckernij is that it is located near both my favorite loose-tea store in the city, Tuttitalia, as well as my favorite coffeehouse (not coffeeshop,) Bagels & Beans, which is as close to a sit-and-work-on-the-computer-with-a-latte place as I’ve discovered so far in Enschede. Pretty much, it is the best block in the city.

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Autumn

Pomegranate

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Autumn

Champagne Grapes & Bean Sprouts

Tuesday’s market was a wet one, and I ventured out in the middle of the worst of it in order to get back in time for a telephone conference. Purchasing a stylish Dutch rainsuit may need to be on the calendar for this week as riding a bike in the cold and in rain-soaked jeans is an unamusing experience. Given the rain, the tents were closed in tarps and many vendors failed to show. Markets on rainy days are dreary, but on a positive note, it also means that shopping is quicker as there are fewer crowds as driving or biking from Germany or a nearby town cannot be appealing in such weather.

By the Tuesday market I have more of a feeling for how the week will go and what leftovers we will have, so I generally find myself purchasing less even though there is an extra day between the Tuesday and Saturday markets than the Saturday and Tuesday markets. Today I spent about 17 euros*, which will cover the majority of our meals from Tuesday through Friday night.

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Today was all about finding the perfect champagne grapes for this Grape, chicken, and quinoa harvest salad that we’ll try on Friday night with this creamy cauliflower and brown butter soup into which I will probably toss a few potatoes as well as last week’s impulse purchase of a 5 kg bag of potatoes for 5 euros is seeming like a poor decision as they begin to sprout all over my cupboards.

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Tonight we’ll be having modified version of this zucchini pad thai for which I searched the market for bean sprouts and learned that a 1/2 kilogram is sprouts is a lot of bean sprouts and that they are surprisingly expensive, making up the bulk of the day’s spendings at about 9 euros. In the future, I’d substitute the sprouts for mushrooms that are in-season right now or more late-harvest peppers. The piles of courgettes are dwindling and looking poor, so this may be our last chance to use our favorite vegetable until next summer.

Also on the menu for the rest of the week are these fried brussels sprouts with chili fish sauce together with these seared scallops (if I can find any at the fishmonger tomorrow) with basil and olive oil pistou. Last week, the husband mentioned that he really liked the “potato-like vegetable,” meaning the parsnips that I’d sautéed with some carrots, so, always embracing any indication that he likes a new vegetable, we’ll be trying this creamy parsnip and garlic soup on Thursday as a starter with a second course of this sweet potato gnocchi with balsamic sage brown butter. We’ll eat the leftover soup Friday for lunch together with these beet, horseradish, and smoked salmon toasts that I’ll probably also pair with some smoked trout.

* I’d like to start including how much the total price of the foods are for my own comparisons and to dismiss the idea that eating fresh and organic is expensive. Here, in the Netherlands, I find that the prices at the market range from 1/4 to 1/2 of the cost of the same products at the supermarkets. (For example, a math problem important to the husband: four piping hot pain au chocolate at the market can be bought for 1 euro while at the grocery store they are sold in plastic containers and cost 1,10 euros for a single croissant.) Note that these costs won’t include basics, such as milk, flour, sugar, etc., and, generally, will not include any meat if we eat it as I do not purchase that at the market unless it is seafood or sausage.

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Autumn

The time we bought sausage

Since we, like everyone else in the area, shop primarily at the twice-weekly market, I thought it might be interesting to share our market purchases as the availability of the produce changes. Here is last Saturday’s farmers’ market haul.

This week we spent 19 euros on sausage for the Frenchman who needed his Italian sausage fix. He’s agreed to eat it slowly instead of devouring it like the last time.
10:18On the menu this week (Saturday – Monday) is:- An experiment in oven-less cooking with a modified version of this butternut lasagne recipe – http://www.howsweeteats.com/2012/10/butternut-squash-skillet-lasagna/

– A way to make the green food-hating husband eat his sprouts with this beer-soaked breakfast hash recipe – http://food52.com/recipes/15140-brussels-sprout-and-chorizo-beer-hash

– A Thai chicken soup to help stave off the colds we are developing –http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/thai-chicken-and-coconut-soup—qfs-herbs-and-spices

– Poireaux Vinaigrette with fresh, organic hard-boiled or deviled eggs for an easy and light weekday lunch – http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Leeks-Vinaigrette

– This sage, cauliflower, and almond risotto for the rice and cauliflower-loving Frenchie – https://www.donnahay.com.au/recipes/dinners/dinners-pasta-rice-noodles/roasted-cauliflower-sage-and-almond-risotto

 

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