The Spanish took many products from the Americas and introduced them to the world where they had a huge impact. The history of the world, for example, would be very different had it not been for the Andean potato, which allowed populations to boom in many places. But for some reason, almost no Andean condiment made that transition, and yet they are still used today in the foods of Cuzco. In the Cuzco markets you can buy bunches of herbs called asnapa that are classic for Cuzco cuisine. The asnapa generally includes oregano, rue (a plant that is almost never used for food in Anglo North America), cilantro, yerba buena (“good herb” or a sweet mint that can often be a form of muña), parsley, muña, huacatay, and paiko. Although the asnapa contains some European imports: oregano, rue, cilantro, and parsley, and even these are not always so clearly foreign as in “oregano” and “yerba buena”, nevertheless the core flavors come straight from the Incas and before. I got to see some unusual herbs in Aguas Calietes and some plants used for food, like the Arrowleaf Elephant Ear that I thought I would share in this post.
There are a lot of open air markets in Paris but this one on Avenue President Wilson, just down from the Trocadero is said to be one of the largest. This market is technically in the 16th arrondissement, but so close to the 7th that everyone from the neighborhood shops there. The market is open Wednesday and Saturday mornings, from about 7:30 to about 1:30. If you are coming from the left bank, walk across the Alma bridge and turn slightly left up Avenue de President Wilson – you can't miss the white trucks which have brought wines, cheeses, oils, spices, breads, meats and flowers from the country, parked on the street. Similarly, if you get tired of the Eiffel tower, go up to the Trocadero and turn right on Avenue President Wilson.
In a previous post, I mentioned that I had bought some fresh haricot a ecosser (cranberry shelling beans) and that I was going to make a salad with them. In the US we don't usually get them fresh, usually they are dried, canned or frozen. I started with about a 1 cup of haricot a ecosser, and put them in lightly salted boiling water for about 30 minutes, until they were cooked but still firm. I drained them and put them aside. I then blanched a handful of green beans (about 3-4 minutes in the same water) and drained those. While those were cooking, I sautéed two shallots and two cloves of garlic in about 1/4 stick of butter. I then tossed in the beans as seen above, and added the zest of 1/2 lemon and about 1/8 cup slivered green almonds. I cooked for about 5 minutes and put them in the refrigerator to chill.
While those were chilling, I sautéed 2 additionaI shallots and cloves of garlic in olive oil. I took about 1/2 kilo of fresh lamb that I got from the local butcher and threw those into the pan with olive oil, salt and pepper to brown. I added two teaspoons of herbs de Provence, a liberal amount of fresh cilantro cut by chiffinade and the remaining zest from the lemon. When they were close to done, I added the juice from 1/4 lemon, took the chilled bean salad out and used 1/4 lemon juice on that as well.
The final result is seen above. This is a really easy dish to make and pretty yummy. This is meant for two people, although I had some bean salad left over. You can use other kinds of beans and even add asparagus and/or cherry tomatoes if you like. Try to get firm beans if you can, I think Garbonzo beans would be good. You don't have to use green almonds, I had them and the taste is very nice. The cold and crisp green beans with the al dente cranberry beans are really good, especially on a hot day (we had it with cold beer). Make the recipe even larger and take it to a potluck picnic.
We were in Chicago recently for the annual ASCRS convention. While we were there we took the opportunity to visit the Field Museum. We saw two great exhibits, one on the Mongol Empire and second on prehistoric Indian artifacts in North and South America. I got some great photos of very interesting subjects which I will share in a later post by today I’d like to focus on what I found in the gift shop at the end of the exhibit. We were wandering around looking at the various items and I found a display of seeds which was a little surprising. The exhibit was for Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. Since 1975 members have been passing on our garden heritage by collecting and distributing thousands of samples of rare seeds to other gardeners You can find the website at http://www.seedsavers.org/.
I think this is a really good idea. While I was there I bought several packets of seeds including the Genovese basil and purple tomatillo. I planted them in my garden and look forward to reporting the results. There are several important takeaways from this experience. First is the fun of growing unusual herbs and produce to use in my own cooking. When I cook at home or when we go out I will almost always choose dishes with unusual ingredients or tchniques that I haven’t tasted before. In my little garden I grow all of the tomatoes that we use and virtually all the herbs that we need for cooking. We also have each pear, apple, plum,loquat and big trees that I can for later use. In this age of intensive industrialized farming with only a few species it is very important to maintain biodiversity. It is both an honor and a treat to encourage this biodiversity in our own backyards. I hope that you will contact the site and get some seeds of your own. If you enjoy learning about the medicinal uses of plans be sure to check out the gallery of medicinal plants that I found in Sweden.