Monday, September 24, 2007

Late Summer Bouquets

We quietly slipped into autumn this past week. The light is beginning to change to something softer, more diffused – as if the sun’s rheostat has been turned down a notch. Just one of the signs that another summer has come to an end.

Then there is the change happening in the marché. The melons are no longer worth even buying. The price is right but cut them open and they reveal a pale and rather tasteless meat that has a texture more like an over-ripe apple...nope, I'm afraid their time has come and gone this season.

The last of the tomatoes are piled into big tubs. Looking bruised and a bit like the step-children of the garden’s bounty, the price is right and the quality is great for making fresh tomato sauce (or even a batch of enchilada sauce!) to stash away in the freezer. That taste of summer will be particularly delicious when the days are short and cold!

Even though the basil is looking pretty seedy these days, I tend to make the most of it with a few batches of pesto for the freezer as well. We’re definitely moving out of the lovely lush and green days of summer when the basil leaves were fat and round and their fragrance perfumed the entire Petit Marché.

As a part of the long good-bye to this lovely summer, I was inspired to grab a bouquet of herbs and a few year-round characters...

...having been inspired by another type of bouquet: a bouquet of channels (that’s what they call the package of cable channels available here). Just as I was getting ready to change internet/cable servers due to all too frequent crashes and interruptions of service and being knocked offline at any given moment and not being able to retrieve email, not to mention the thousands (not kidding) of spam messages that come into my old email address due to any kind of spam filter for this server being an additional expense...just as I was revving up my French motor to pick up the telephone and order service from a new company, the old guys up and add Cuisine TV to my bouquet.

I’ve been told by many of my friends and instructors that I need to be listening to French radio or watch French television as much as possible to keep my ear tuned up. As I joined everyone else in La Rentrée, I decided it was as good a time as any to take those suggestions to heart and limit my viewing and listening of English language and take the leap into more full-time French.

I have had difficulty watching French television. Other than the news, I do not really enjoy dubbed German police dramas or stale American sit-coms (what an export that is!) I am happy to stick with a good French film and see it all the way through to its dramatic end but was not finding them easily in the midst of my “bouquet”. Enter stage right, Cuisine TV. Hallelujah! Not only something to which I can relate, but a vocabulary that I’m happy to develop further in French! Yippppeeee! This is something I can have on in the background while I do other things around chez La Fourchette.

And it was just such a moment that inspired me to run out to the marché before it closed the other morning and gather up a bouquet of summer greens for this sauce.

I didn’t catch the particular amounts but you can use your intuition as I did and do it to match your own tastes.

It proved itself to be a lovely alternative to the pesto that goes so well with roasted salmon. I was delightfully surprised by the bright (yes, I would call it "bright") flavor that results from the blend of minty herbs, mustard and cornichons once they all introduce themselves and begin dancing together in the bowl.

And what’s more, it’s a lovely way to squeeze just a little more summer out of these transitional days.

Bon Appétit!

Fresh Herb Sauce for Roasted Salmon

Handful of flat-leafed parsley
Handful of mint leaves
Handful of basil leaves
1 clove of garlic, smashed and minced
1 anchovie, minced
1 teaspoon capers, minced
1 small cornichon, minced
1 teaspoon good quality Dijon mustard (or more to taste)
Balsamic vinegar
Good quality olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Give a fine chop to the parsley, mint and basil leaves and set aside in a small bowl. Mince garlic clove (or your taste), capers and anchovie together and add to the chopped herbs. Add the mustard, a slosh of vinegar and mix. Add a slosh of olive oil. Mix again. Taste for seasonings. Serve in a dollop over roasted salmon and enjoy.

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