I was expecting that this trip to Paris would involve hiding away in cosy bistros, tucking into a hearty bowl of pasta with a glass of full-bodied red. Instead we’re cracking open the rosé. It’s the 13th of October, it’s eight o’clock in the evening and I’m out on the terrace wearing a t-shirt. The barbeque is warming up; Mr A Little Piece of Paris is in the kitchen, slicing tomatoes. The thermometer reads 22 degrees.
We picked up the ingredients for this evening’s simple supper at the Marche d’Aligre. I love how the selection of produce on offer changes from month to month according to whatever is in season. This October, the stalls were spilling over with clementines and figs. There were mushrooms galore: mountains of chanterelles – the colour of golden sunshine – and heaps of porcini, still dotted with earth from the ground. We couldn’t resist the figs and the seller cheekily convinced us to take a whole bag full. We broke them open and ate the honey-like fruit as we walked.
Inside the covered market, at the fishmonger’s stall we spotted some plump-looking fish, around the same size as mackerel but with the metallic skin and spiky spine of a tuna. It was called Bonite Sarda Sarda, which google translated into Atlantic Bonito. We decided we’d try it out on the barbeque that evening. As with the figs, we ended up with way too much. It’s difficult with fish to know how much meat you’ll be left with after it has been gutted, and you remove the head, tail and bones. Scallops were cheap and on offer – €8 for a kilo – and we picked up a handful to nibble on as a starter.
The scallops went on to a searing hot barbeque for just over a minute on each side. With a pinch of salt, a grind of pepper and a slight squeeze of lemon, they were sweet and soft. They tasted of the sea and smoke from the barbeque. The bonita was up next. We had prepared it by making incisions in the flesh and stuffing them with garlic and lemon. We brushed the fish in oil and salt and pepper and put them straight onto the hot barbeque for around 5 minutes per side. To go with the bonito, we had a simple tomato salad made with good virgin olive oil and basil from our own miraculous* basil bush. There was no saying no to the multi-coloured tomatoes at the market. I think the yellow ones were the sweetest.
The backbone peeled easily from the flesh, which was firm and tender. The flavour was like that of its cousins, sardines and mackerel, only a little milder. It wasn’t as oily as mackerel, or as strong as a sardine. The fish went perfectly with the sweet tomatoes and we mopped up the juices with the softest baguette.
There was no room for dessert so after our simple supper we sat out and had another glass of wine, marveling at the temperatures that allowed us to eat on our terrace late in the evening in the middle of October. I didn’t even need to fetch a jumper.
*Before leaving after one visit to Paris, we planted what was left over of a basil plant we had picked up at the market. Most of our plants are in self-watering pots but the basil is in an old, leaky watering can. It has survived – on very little water – a summer that killed off a jasmine in a self watering pot and left our other plants fighting for their lives. It has grown to maybe 20 times its original size over the past six months.