In our town of Saintes, Charente-Maritime, we have a produce market in different locations every morning, except Mondays. On Saturdays, my wheeled shopping trolley with matching umbrella
and I like to hike the exhausting distance of about one hundred meters [300 feet] to the market snuggling against the rugged ancient walls of the cathédrale Saint-Pierre.
This Saturday was special because we had traveled so much these past months that it was my first marketing adventure since May, our glorious asparagus season.
The stalls are lined up in a long, slightly crooked triple row in the shadow of the cathedral, their awnings forming a colorful canopy for the mingling crowd of shoppers. Interspersed with the fruit and vegetable vendors offering mostly locally grown produce, you find tables, booths and even caravans selling baked goods, fresh pasta, honey, eggs, Pineau [a local cognac product], oysters, pantoufles [warm fabric slippers for winter evenings], spices, kitchen gadgets, prepared dishes and roasted chickens and couscous, cut flowers and potted plants, and sometimes even rugs. There is also a heavenly table from which flavored salts and olives are sold. You can choose from a dozen or so different types of marinated olives for apéro, other savories like capers, or salt-cured lemons. Meanwhile, the indoor market hall houses the fishmongers, the beef, pork and horse butchers, the charcuterie, the cheesemongers and poultry vendors, several more bakeries, as well as merchants offering pastries, chocolates, and other sweets.
Aside from shopping, I was also looking forward to socializing, because that’s what you do on Saturdays. You buy provisions for the weekend, then you hang out with friends. Behind the market hall stretches a terrace overlooking the river. A local bar offers drinks and tidbits and one of the fishmongers supplies chucked oysters. You sit under umbrellas, drink rosé, slurp bivalves and gossip. Lovely!
Back home I unpacked my goodies. Potatoes, leeks, fennel, onions, flat parsley, butter lettuce, tomatoes, lemons, croissants, cervelat, salami, Emmental cheese and salmon steaks. The potatoes, aromatic vegetables, and the fish were to become a one-dish oven-roasted concoction, while the cervelat was destined to mix and mingle with the Emmental de Savoie, an unpasteurized semi-hard cow’s milk cheese with quite a bit more character than your average pre-packed “Swiss Cheese”! Those two were going to form the basis for my hearty Wurstsalat, whereby the translation ‘sausage salad’ simply sounds silly.
If you have chronic ‘mal au dos’, backache, like I have, any prolonged posture or activity causes trouble. By necessity, I switch back and forth between activities as much as possible. That’s a great excuse for buying croissants because one has to sit down with a snack to recuperate from dragging the heavy cart home, naturally. Cooking is also better broken up into activity sections, getting the preps out of the way before the actual cooking begins with a couple of rest periods in between. After some slicing and dicing, I took pictures of several bowls lined up for the eventual cooking orgy.
One bowl contained potato pieces in cold water, another one fennel, leek, garlic, yellow onion, red pepper, and parsley marinating in lemon juice, white pepper, coriander powder and olive oil. The smallest of the bowls contained very, very finely diced fennel heart and fennel greens mixed with a lot of very finely chopped parsley, coarse sea salt, white pepper, some powdered ginger, olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, sheep milk yogurt/cottage cheese [Fromage blanc au lait de brebis], and a dollop of heavy cream.
I took pictures of the assembly of ingredients and seasonings so I would remember what I used for my salmon casserole.
And why am I not showing you these or other pictures I took of the finished product? Or, for that matter pictures of that brilliantly gorgeous full moon which rose over the Charente river that evening?
Because I inadvertently deleted all of them. Every single picture. Dammit!
All I have left is a picture of the leftovers. How appropriate 😦
But the recipe is straight forward and slight variations surely won’t matter.
- Wipe an oven proof dish with olive oil. Add the dried potato pieces. Season with black pepper, salt and rubbed dry thyme, sprinkle with olive oil. Roast the potatoes in the oven at 180ºC/350ºF for 15 mins.
- Add the marinated vegetable mix, combine with potatoes and bake a further 15 mins.
- Take dish from oven. Increase temperature to 200ºC/400ºF
- Remove skin from salmon and add salmon chunks to the casserole. Snuggle the fish against the roasted vegetable mix and douse with the parsley cream, covering the fish quite thickly.
- Shove the dish back in the oven and roast till the fish is done. The timeframe depends entirely on the thickness of the salmon steaks. We had very thick chunks and they were packed a little too closely together. Ultimately they took almost 15 minutes to be heated through. Salmon is a very fatty and dense fish, which takes a little more time than let’s say whitefish. Just don’t let the fish dry out!
Juicy fish over aromatic veggies – what could be better!!
On Sunday we had the Wurstsalat, composed of the French “Swiss” cheese, cervelat [akin to bologna], red onion, cornichons and tomatoes, dressed in an emulsion of Chardonnay vinegar, a splash of pickle juice, sweet Dijon mustard, a pinch of sugar & salt, white pepper and cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. Served over the sweet and crunchy leaves of a butter lettuce – ever so tartly delicious!
Since my no doubt, fabulous moon pictures are gone, I’ll say goodbye with a zoom shot of an egret, whom we observed stalking his prey during our Sunday afternoon walk through La Palu, our local wetland preserve.