On Sunday we made sure to make it up to the Bastille open-air market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir. It begins at Place de la Bastille and stretches for several blocks, four aisles wide and teeming with people, dogs and little wheeled shopping carts.
You can buy everything from tomatoes to underwear. Not to mention foie gras. And wine.
It was so exciting to see wine being sold out in the open! At a farmer’s market! We have somewhat arcane liquor laws here in Washington, it makes me easily impressed by this sort of thing.
The “as-is” bottle selection was particularly scary. Some of them were only one euro, but looked thoroughly toxic. Maybe we should have sprung for a bottle, what the heck?
There were sausages of all sorts, and complex looking loaves of pate stuffed with indescribable body parts. I saw little cups of brains and lots of tripe.
You could buy handmade pasta and gnocchi…
…and cheese of all shapes and sizes…
We bought a few vegetables, some fresh herbs and flowers, and some Moroccan bowls (only one of which survived the trip home, alas) then headed for the fish counter. Some had been cleaned and filleted, but most were intact and bright-eyed on their hill of ice. We bought a bag of fresh sardines – always a treat for me, since they’re so rarely available back home.
Back in our tiny apartment kitchen, we realized that we had a certain lack of sharp knives. Jon used a bread knife to cut a fennel bulb and some tomatoes into small dice.
I used a dull steak knife to gut the sardines. They were so tender, though, I probably didn’t even need that. I rinsed them out and patted them dry, then used a pair of scissors to cut up chives and parsley.
We had one decent skillet, so first Jon used it to saute the diced fennel until soft and caramelized. This we mixed with the chopped tomato and herbs, with a drizzle of fruity olive oil from the Ducs de Gascogne store around the block.
Once the pan was free, I fried the sardines quickly in olive oil until the skin crisped.
To accompany our fish and salad, we had a loaf of bread from the bakery down the street, plus a bottle of rose and a round of St. Marcellin cheese which we had also brought home from the market.
It was very simple, yet completely different from any meal we’ve made at home before. I loved the salad, with the deep sweet flavor of the cooked fennel and the summeriness of the raw tomato and herb. We’ll have to make it again.