Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Farmer's Market Dinner, With a Side of Herring

Ok, so now we're back in Maastricht, on Day 3 of my parents' visit (not counting their arrival, which was really more of a half day). This happened to be a Friday and, as you know if you've been following this blog for a little while, Friday is market day in Maastricht. We decided, therefore, to go shopping in the morning and then cook dinner at our apartment with my parents later that night. So we set out bright and early (actually it was more like 10; the Dutch don't seem to really do "early") and headed to the Markt, where the market was in full swing:

We headed straight to the fruit and vegetable stands, where I guy was squeezing fresh orange juice*:

Look how pretty all the produce is:

My mom (whose an excellent cook) led the way and we grabbed a bunch of what looked good (spinach, kohlrabi, snap peas, fingerling potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms) to make a stew, plus some lettuce mix, cherry tomatoes (which were some of the sweetest I'd ever had), and white and purple asparagus to make a first course salad (ever seen purple asparagus? I hadn't, but they aren't that exciting because they just turn green when cooked). We also paid a visit to the funny fruit men who yell and toss fruit around:

There I saw something that excited me greatly. Remember my post about the Boqueria market in Barcelona, where I sampled dragonfruit juice? Well they sell dragonfruit at the Maastricht fruit market, so now I can show you a picture:

It's the spiky purple fruit with the white, seeded flesh inside (they can be bright purple inside too, like the juice I had in Spain). Get a load of that watermelon, too, isn't it beautiful?

We bought some teeny tiny, wonderfully sweet strawberries from Belgium, two big baskets that were gone the next day (I think I consumed at least a kilo):

And then we headed over to take a look at the fish market, where dozens of people were happily digging in to lunches of fried fish:

The stalls sells lots of varieties of super-fresh fish:

My dad was really excited because they sold jars of maatjesharing ("soused" or brined herring), which apparently is really hard to find in the States. Since they were flying back in just a few days, it wasn't really practical to buy whole a jar, but luckily for him the stalls sold it in sandwich form. The fish is served raw in a hot dog-style bread roll with chopped raw onion on top, and the smell is rather, um, pungent. My mom can't stand the stuff, but I tried a bite and thought it was pretty good (very, very fishy though, so be forewarned if you are ever able to try some - your breath will stink!).

After the market, we grabbed some extra supplies at the grocery store and then stopped by the Bischopsmolen for bread and dessert. They had a selection of gorgeous-looking vlaai:

We got a slice of four different kinds so we could have a nice sampling: cherry, apricot, plum, and vanilla custard.

We prepped some of the veggies right away when we got home, then later that night my mom and I cooked up a feast (and I completely forgot to take pictures, sorry). To start there was that salad with the asparagus (which we boiled just until cooked) with balsamic vinaigrette and hard-boiled egg on top, then vegetable stew and the excellent Bishop's Mill spelt bread, followed by the tarts. Delicious!

That was Friday; Saturday was fairly uneventful, mostly spent wandering around town, with a short trip to Vise, Belgium in the afternoon. The reason for this side trip will be made clear in the next post, but for that you'll have to tune in tomorrow!

*While we're on the subject of orange juice, at breakfast in a cafe Saturday morning, my dad ordered a glass. It was freshly squeezed, which we could tell because it had a good inch of pulp floating like pond scum on the surface. There were even a bunch of pits in there! I took a sip and actually had to chew a little and spit out a pit. I'm all for freshly squeezed juice and all, but come on, can't they strain it a little? (I think I fall into the pulp-free OJ camp) That's a bad shot below, but you can see the stuff floating in there, right? Ick.