French girls are the unofficial experts in eating well, eating healthy and eating in season. After all, they’ve had to pick up a few good eating habits being surrounded by all that patisserie, cheese and wine! The truth is, most French girls learn at an early age to enjoy a balanced diet of local (and therefore seasonal) foods, only indulging from time to time in their culture’s many other culinary guilty pleasures (ahem…pain au chocolat).
On a quest to get deeper into the French girl’s food psyche, we’re talking with one of our favorite French women, Mylène. Born and raised in France, Mylène is the type of French girl who can whip up something incredible to eat, at a moment’s notice and with an empty fridge. We’ve asked Mylène to reveal some of her French foodie secrets for Fall.
LS: Why do you think French women love eating vegetables so much?
M: Of course they taste extraordinary. But also because they are excellent for our health - and our best ally for keeping slim!
LS: What are your favourite vegetables to eat in Fall?
M: In fact I like virtually all vegetables, but my favourites are leek, carrot, pumpkin, chard, fennel, endive, mushroom and potato. You’ll also catch me buying beetroot, parsnip, broccoli and cabbage at the local farmer’s market.
LS: What do you look for when shopping for fresh produce?
M: Personally I prefer to buy my fruits and vegetables at the market because I know that the produce is organic and grown locally. It's literally just been harvested. The fruits and vegetables have not been brought in from half way around the world, or picked too early to compensate for a long journey.
Another advantage of shopping at the market is that you can ask for advice from the merchants who (if you’re lucky) are still often themselves the producers. The sellers are the experts and can help you pick out that perfectly ripe piece. Not all markets offer the same standard of product, but try a few out in your area and I’m sure you’ll find one that offers what you’re looking for.
When I don’t make it to the local market, I am usually pretty happy with the organic vegetable selection at the supermarket, which also carries some regional vegetables.
LS: Do you have any special tips for choosing the best and freshest produce?
M: A fresh vegetable is recognized by its color and shine, but each has its own special characteristics to look for. Leeks, for example, must be very green. And to know if a vegetable has reached maturity, you should look for 2 things: it must not be too firm nor too soft, and it should have a pleasant scent.
Homemade French Pumpkin Soup
By Mylène Mitard-Sperber
1 kg of pumpkin
2 or 3 carrots
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
a little sugar cane
1. Peel and cut the pumpkin into pieces, not too small or too large.
2. Peel and slice the carrots into strips. Clean and chop the leek after removing the green leaves and the first leaves. Peel the onion and garlic and chop small.
3. In a large pot, heat the olive oil, and sauté the onion and garlic until golden. Then add the leek and sauté for 2 minutes.
4. Add the pumpkin and carrots and some water. But beware, not too much water, the vegetables must be just covered, otherwise the soup will not be thick enough.
5. Add some salt and sugar.
6. Cook on the stove for about 1/2 hour over medium heat.
7. Use a hand-held blender to create a smooth and thick puree.
8. Stir in the crème fraiche and mix everything together again.
When you’re ready to eat your soup, I recommend adding a few drops of pumpkin seed oil to enhance the flavour.
Voila, a sparkling, creamy pumpkin soup to enjoy on a cold and cosy Fall night in.
Do you have any tips for buying, cooking and generally enjoying Fall foods? Let us know in the comments below!
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