Feasting on Huîtres in the Langue D’Oc 

When people think of the Langue D’Oc, they often think of wine (for me, that’s a crisp dry Rosé on a hot summer’s day). They usually don’t think of oysters (huîtres en Francáis), but Langue D’Ocians have been harvesting and eating oysters since at least 600 BC , and ostréiculture (oyster farming) has long been both a tradition and an important part of the economy. Indeed, many villages and towns have annual oyster festivals, the best known being the annual Fete in Langue D’Oc’s oyster capital, Bouzigues. Don’t worry if you miss the Fete, fantastic shellfish is always to be found in Bouzigues! 

Me, I look forward all year to feasting on des huitres on the beaches of the Hereault, one of my favorite regions of the Langue D’Oc.  The oysters are farmed in l’Ètang du Thau, a large of a string of estuaries that run from the estuary of the Rhône River to the Spanish border.  

The French at oysters year round, and they are particularly popular at Christmas. Mediterranean oysters are considered to be at their peak from September-May because the warmer waters of the summer months are said to produce a brinier taste. I have eaten and loved them at all times of the year. My palette must not be as refined!

I love Langue D’Oc oysters paired paired with a crisp, cold Rosé.  The French eat oysters with butter, red wine vinegar, lemon and bread (just like The Walrus and the Carpenter), and that’s how I eat them when I’m here. No hot sauce!

On my way back from la plage (the beach), I often stop at my favorite magasine des huiîtres (oyster shop) for a dozen meaty, slightly briny Mediterranean oysters.

Oysters are usually eaten raw, but there are other preparations. Pictured above are Oysters aux Bechemal. The oysters are first steamed,then topped with Bechemal sauce and a sprinkling of bread crumbs and finally lightly broiled. I lack a superlative to describe how delicious these are!

Mark Twain said “twas a brave man who first ate an oyster.” Whoever that man was, he has my gratitude!

Shop Fresh. Shop Local. Shop at a Farmers Market!

When was the last time shopping at your local big box grocery store made you feel good? That’s what you’re missing if you’re not shopping at your local Farmer’s Market. Here are some GREAT reasons to shop local.

Discover Variety, Freshness and Flavor
You will find heirloom tomatoes and many more unique varieties of produce that aren’t farmed in mass on mega farms. The flavors will surprise you. Find out what a “real” tomato tastes like!
20140730-232845-84525127.jpg

Enjoy the season.
While we can now get produce of any sort at any time of year, mass-produced, hothouse-grown fruits and vegetables lack flavor and freshness. There’s a lot of pleasure to be had from eating what’s in season when it’s in season. It gives one something to look forward to and relish when you have it. Rather than settle for tasteless, bland produce that’s available year around, allow yourself the pleasure a treat…a treat that’s not always available.
Support Small Farms.
Family farms need your support. With the rapid growth of agribusiness and mega farms, family farms are struggling to compete. Without them, we will no longer have farmers who are personally involved with and truly care about what they produce and who cultivate varieties that, without them, will be lost. When you support a family farm, you make a difference, AND you know exactly where your food came from!
20140730-235633-86193618.jpg

I shop at the Uptown Westerville Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons. If you go, make sure and check out Bird’s Haven Farm for a large selection of fresh produce including heirloom tomatoes, fresh herbs and outstanding cucumbers. You can find a Farmers Market near you with the USDA Farmers Market Directory. Visit a Farmers Market and discover how much better food tastes when it’s fresh, local and seasonal!.
Bon appetit!
Tess

Summer’s Perfect Salad

Here in Ohio, summer is at its peak. Tomatoes grow exceptionally well in Ohio. A visit to an Ohio farmer’s market in July will reward you with lots of tomatoes to choose from, often including heirloom varieties such as the yellow tomatoes pictured above. The flavor of fresh tomatoes is one of the best arguments for eating seasonally. Because tomatoes are highly acidic, they can be canned in a water bath. So easy! Learn more about canning tomatoes here.

One of the easiest herbs to grow is basil. Basil does exceptionally well in containers, loves the sun and grows quickly throughout the summer. One large plant (like this one in my container garden) will keep you supplied with fresh basil throughout the summer. Plant an extra one or two and you’ll have basil to make pesto too! Pesto cannot be safely canned at home, but it does freeze extremely well. If you are freezing the pesto, omit the cheese as it doesn’t freeze well. You can add it after you thaw the pesto. Learn how to make pesto here.

20140724-104313-38593000.jpg

Plant some basil and discover for yourself the taste of your own fresh picked basil. Basil plants are often available at your grocery store.

Now for the Perfect Summer Salad! We’ve all had that most traditional of Italian salads, the Caprese. Made with just four ingredients…tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil and balsamic reduction…the Caprese comes into it’s own at summer’s peak when the freshest tomatoes and basil are available. You can reduce your own balsamic vinegar. Find out how here. It will take a few hours and must be watched closely to prevent it from over reducing. I find it much easier to purchase a prepared reduction.

I particularly like Gia Russa.

20140724-113706-41826982.jpg
Once you’ve assembled your ingredients, putting your Caprese salad together couldn’t be easier. Just follow these steps:
-Slice your tomatoes into approximately 1/2″ slices. Spread the slices out on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let the tomatoes sweat for 30 minutes.
-While the tomatoes are sweating, pick and rinse your basil. Pinch the the leaves off the stems and set aside.
Slice a log of fresh mozzarella in 1/2″ slices.
-After 30 minutes, arrange the tomatoes on a platter and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Tuck the mozzarella slices and basil leaves in between the tomato slices. Drizzle balsamic reduction over all.

And there you have it! Summer’s Perfect Salad.
Bon appetit!
Tess