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If I had time to either shop or cook…

July 28, 2009

One of the [many] bonuses of living in Belgium are the ubiquitous markets. Brimming with fresh produce. Fragrant flowers. Artisanal cheeses. Olives. Homemade pastries. Chocolates. Waffles. Meats directly from the butcher.

Oh how I love olives.

Oh how I love olives.

Seriously. I *love* olives. Especially from markets. Like this one in Leuven.

[Mmmm. Is it lunch yet?]

There are over 20 produce markets each week in Brussels alone. Just in Brussels! In Belgium it seems the only requirement for holding a market is a town center or a square-ish area – be it a park, an empty lot or a random street. Given that this charming little country no bigger than Maryland has parks and random streets to spare, I’m confident in the statement that there are more markets in Belgium than Wal-Marts & Targets in Maryland. Which is fairly impressive. I can think of two in Cranberry. And, while wonderful, those only come around in the summer.

Unfortunately, it is that time of year. Busy Season. BS (appropriately) for short. As a result, when not searching the countryside for Minis, I can go an entire week without stepping outside.

For me, it’s bed > garage > highway > garage > office > garage > highway > garage > bed.

[Proof that symmetry is not always beautiful.]

However. If I were one of the cool kids (like my coworkers’ wives who do not work) I would be spending my weeks going to a different market every day. I’d prepare fresh dishes each night and have a healthy lunch ready on the counter for BF each morning. I’d be the consummate earth mother wearing organic clothes I air dried on the line.

Instead I’m wearing a cotton poly blend shirt & pants that most definitely would not fit if it weren’t for the bit of spandex woven throughout (I’m fairly certain that’s the opposite of organic). Lunch today? Diet Coke (or, excuse me, “Coca Cola Light”) and leftover tortellini from last night’s dinner (precooked. pot to plate in 3 minutes.). Delicious but hardly the stuff of my seasonal menu dreams.

Anyways. If I were one of these mythic domestic goddesses, the dishes I would serve (on my perfectly set table complete with fresh flowers, obvi.) would include:

1. Strawberry Dumplings. Two of my favorite things in the whole world in one dish. Unlikely yet spectacular.

There is a professional recipe here from And then one I’d actually follow (from one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen) right here. Honestly, she makes it look SO easy and delicious it’d be a crime not to give it a try if you have any access to fresh strawberries.

2. Tomato & Watermelon Salad. Another unusual yet delicious combination. Yet one whose success depends wholly on the quality of the ingredients. Average watermelon or tomatoes will result in a terrible-at-best, inedible-at-worst dish.

NYTimes “Bitten” blog recipe here or “Southern Living” magazine recipe here. Though I am most tempted by Smitten Kitchen’s wonderfully altered version here. Not sure why I bothered looking for this recipe anywhere else.

3. Seared Salmon with Rhubarb Bay Leaf Sauce. Sadly, the recipe for this dream dish cannot be found with a quick online search. It may be in a cookbook somewhere or buried in between the lines of a food blog, but I can’t find it. Although, I’d be lying if I said it’s unattainability didn’t add to its mystique.

I had this dish back in April when BF and I went to Hidden Kitchen in Paris (I really must post about that amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience one of these days). Most likely the brainchild of the incredible hosts of Hidden Kitchen, the dish was nothing short of legendary. The perfectly seared North Sea salmon was delicious on its own but the addition of the rhubarb bay leaf sauce… oh did your taste buds jump. And do somersaults. And other happy “mmm”‘ sort of contortions.

Ever since then I’ve had a craving for this dish. While I can’t find the proper recipe online, I suspect this one may do some credit to the original. Perhaps add a few bay leaves to the marinade? “Sauteed Salmon with Rhubarb Marinade” [From Food & Wine dot com.] I’m sure it won’t be able to touch the magnificence that was the original, but… it may give you a hint of its deliciousness.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    July 28, 2009 2:50 pm

    I love olives too. When I come to visit, we can visit one of the markets together and impersonate Julia and whip up a delicious concoction of our very own! Love ya. Mom

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