My part in the whole enterprise was limited to
The finished product
The man I usually buy goat cheeses from — frais, demi-sec, or sec as far as stages of "ripeness" go — is Monsieur Bouland, a neighbor who with his wife owns and operates the local ferme-auberge, a "farm inn", called La Lionnière. This is a holiday weekend, and I noticed that several of the regular market vendors were absent.
This is a local chèvre frais — a fresh goat cheese.
Luckily, the line at the other cheese vendor's stand wasn't as long as it usually is. This cheese stand sells a wide selection of cheeses of all kinds from all the regions of France (and beyond), including of course local goat cheeses. I waited less than five minutes before ordering three chèvres frais, fresh goat cheeses, for 2.20€ apiece. In the display counter I noticed a Normandy cow's milk cheese called a Neufchâtel for 2.50€, so I bought that too. All the cheeses were tempting, but I resisted...
Walt making pasta for the cannelloni
I stopped to say hello to the charcutière that I've been buying things from for more than eight years now — her stand is right across the way from the cheese vendor's. I didn't really need anything from the charcuterie (pork butcher's) but I figured I'd find something good there to take home for a meal next week, and there was no line.
All the sausages, smoked and salt-cured pork, hams, salamis, rillettes, and rillons looked really good, but again I resisted. Then I noticed a big bowl of choucroute, sauerkraut. I asked if there was any raw sauerkraut available. "Yes, this the first we've had this year" was the answer. Walt and I both love choucroute garnie, and I prefer to get raw sauerkraut and cook it myself rather than buy the pre-cooked stuff. Cooking it is a long process but it's worth it (more about this later, maybe).
Cannelloni stuffed with goat cheese and spinach
We of course chatted about the weather — yesterday was a sunny, warm day that felt more like May than November. « Ce n'est pas normal, » said the charcutière. But then the weather in 2011 hasn't been normal at any time— warm and very dry all through the spring, very wet in July and August, and now warm and dry again in November. « Tout est déréglé » is what people are saying about weather patterns this year.
The only other stop I made at the market was a visit to the local mushroom lady's stand. She grows mushrooms in a cave in our village and sells them on Saturdays at the Saint-Aignan market. I can always find a use for nice fresh mushrooms like the ones she sells, so I almost always buy a pound of them (1.90€) when I go to the market, whether or not I have a specific dish in mind.
Arranged on a layer of tomato sauce
I had to get out of the market before temptation got the better of me. Besides, Walt was waiting for the goat cheese so he could make the filling for the cannelloni. When I got back home, he had nearly finished rolling out the pasta sheets using our pasta machine. You could use fresh lasagne noodles, or cooked ones, but Walt says making pasta is easy. He makes it look easy.
Ready for the oven
The filling for the cannelloni is about a pound of fresh goat cheese — or ricotta — mashed up with about half a pound of cooked spinach, finely chopped. Flavor additions include a few basil leaves — about the last ones of the season — and a minced clove of garlic, along with salt and pepper. That makes a thick paste that you can easily roll up inside a square of fresh pasta dough.
Escarole salad with walnuts and red beets
(Serve the beets on the side in case somebody doesn't like them.)
As you can see in the photos, there was enough of the goat cheese filling left so that we could dab some on the top of the cannelloni in the baking pan. It sort of melted but not too much and browned a little. Delicious. It was a nice lunch with an escarole salad made with both walnuts and beets, and with a little walnut oil in the vinaigrette dressing.