19 June 2006

Gardening and cooking

One of the highlights of the year here is Saint-Aignan is the summer vegetable garden. Nearly everybody in the country has one, and many people who live in town have a garden on a plot of land, an allotment, made available by the municipality.

Our summer vegetable garden at La Renaudière in mid-June 2006.
Here you see tomatoes, eggplants, mustard greens, and runner beans.

Gardening starts in March when the weather cooperates. People begin working the soil, either the old-fashioned way with shovel, hoe, and rake, or with more modern contraptions like rototillers. That's what we do. We invested in a gas-powered tiller three years ago after trying to dig in our heavy clay soil for a few weeks with a shovel. The rototiller makes it all possible.

In this plot we planted more tomatoes and 12 red bell pepper plants.

The things we grow in our garden are not different from what you would grow nearly anywhere in the U.S. This year, we put in tomatoes (16 plants of different varieties, so we are going to have a ton of tomatoes to eat fresh, to freeze for later, and to give away to friends and neighbors), eggplants, red bell peppers, green runner beans (thanks to Janet and David for those seeds), cucumbers, yellow and green summer squash, and mustard greens ( a nod to my Southern heritage).

This picture shows parts of 3 of our 4 garden plots. You can see that
Walt has provided every plant with a heavy wooden stake for support.

The days here are long in June. The sun comes up at 6:30 a.m. and goes down around 10:00 p.m. The growing season begins May 15, and the plants really take off during the first month of growth. We water every morning by turning on a sprinkler for 30 to 45 minutes. By mid-July, the garden should be producing abundantly, unless something unforeseeable like a hailstorm comes along and does damage.

* * *
The reason for gardening is so that you'll have something good to cook and eat. It's too early for produce from the garden, so yesterday we made a quiche with ingredients we bought at the outdoor market in Saint-Aignan on Saturday.

First you go to see the mushroom lady and buy a pound of good mushrooms. The mushroom lady grows them herself and sells them on Saturdays at the market for €1.60/500g. Wash the mushrooms under running water with a mushroom brush, and then slice or chop them as you like. Cook them in some butter and/or oil.

Mushrooms from the mushroom vendor at Saint-Aignan's Saturday market

Make a pie crust (Walt makes a classic pâte brisée with flour, butter, and a little water and salt — to me, it's magic) or buy one. Line a pan with it. Blind-bake it — that is, line it with parchment paper, put in some pie weights, raw rice, or dried beans, and cook it in the oven for a few minutes until it is set but not browned.

Grate some swiss or other cheese, a cup or so. Add some meat if you want — cooked, crumbled bacon is good, or lardons if you're in France. Some chopped, cooked chicken would be good. I had in the fridge a leftover duck sausage that had been cooked on the grill the day before, so I chopped that into small pieces and added it.

In the pie shell, sautéed mushrooms, grated cheese, chopped cooked meat

When the sautéed mushrooms have cooled, mix them with the grated cheese and the meat (if you use it). Fill the cooked pastry shell with the mixture.

Break four whole eggs into a bowl or big measuring cup. Add about a cup and a half of whole milk and beat it all together. Put in some salt and pepper. A good thing to add is a pinch or a grating of nutmeg — nutmeg enhanced the flavor of melted cheese. Pour the egg/milk mixture carefully into the pie shell so that all the filling ingredients are covered.

Mushroom quiche right out of the oven

Bake the quiche in a 200ºC/375ºF oven for about 45 minutes until it is slightly browned on top and all puffed up. Let it cool for 10 or 15 minutes before you cut and serve it. Have a salad with it.


  1. J'ai bien noté ta recette ;-) Quand je serai courageuse, je la ferai :-) Bonne soirée ! Bises. Marie

  2. Hey, your quiche looks just like my quiche! I do wonder how you manage a veggie garden and all of your great trips -- I think you really are "Living the Life!"


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