Shopping for food is one of my favorite French activities. First of all, as David Sedaris once so gleefully pointed out, when you ask for things in multiple, you don’t have to know their gender. Tongue-tied between “une pomme” or “un pomme“? Une tomate? Un tomate? Un jambon? Une jambon? Here’s a trick: ask for two.
The market is also the best source for cooking information, like 10,000 times better than Google. My produce vendor may not be able to tell one Asian chick from another, but he’s a fount of info about how to eat chicory leaves (toss them lightly with vinegar and hot, seared bacon); the poissonnier will gut my sea bass while discussing oven temperature, and show me which fin should come loose when the fish is done.
In the Provence village of Bonnieux, I came across these courgette blossoms (photo above), delicate and mysterious. Pretty, yes, but how to cook them? I asked the farm-stand woman, who replied, “Do you want a recipe?” From a hidden pocket, she handed me a slip of paper.
Did I ever!
(But just in case I needed convincing, her husband immediately launched into raptures, proclaiming the deliciousness of his wife’s courgette flower beignets.)
One euro, ten courgette blossoms, and a shallow pan of hot sunflower oil later, I had produced my first beignets.
They were as crisp, delicate, and delicious as promised. Free recipes at the market? Just one more reason to love la belle France (not that I needed another one).
Pâte à beignets pour les fleurs de courgettes
(Batter for courgette flower beignets)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup ice water
Salt, pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 egg white, beaten until stiff
Mix the flour, salt, pepper, olive oil, egg and egg yolk. Add the ice water gradually. Mix in the beaten egg white. Dip the courgette blossoms until coated. Fry in a shallow pan of hot oil until golden.
P.S. Here are reasons #1,013-1,015 for loving France: More pretty pictures from the Bonnieux market.