July 14, 2010
To Market We Go
The Jean-Talon market is in the middle of Montreal’s large Italian community, near the top of Boulevard Saint Laurent. After the war, there was a large wave of Italians that immigrated to Canada, and they made the area their own.
The big church is famous for its fresco of Mussolini on horseback. (The artist took some flack for that one.) The park across the street from the grand church is called Dante, and is almost as divine as the poet’s famous work. There are wrought iron trellises covered in vines, and benches upon which old men sip cappuccinos and discuss soccer scores.
Meanwhile, the Dante kitchen shop on the corner is famous not only for its impeccable range of pots and small appliances, but also for selling hunting rifles and fishing knives. Milano is an Italian superstore (since 1954) still imbued with old world grace. If it’s Italian, they’ve got it.
The area where the Jean-Talon market now sits used to be a lacrosse field, but in the 1930s the city of Montreal bought the land and turned it into a market. (Until then, locals would buy their fresh fish, tomatoes and meat off the back of a jam of trucks on rue Jean-Talon itself.) The market now spreads out over three blocks.
The producers here today are mostly from the northern part of the Island of Montreal. There’s a guy selling organic herbs, and a woman with the white radishes and micro arugula. Someone sells only asparagus. Another, simply syrup. The timing of my visit is especially fortuitous, as the market is perfumed with fresh basil and ripe strawberries. Chez Nino and Chez Louis sell mostly to restaurants; their vegetable and fruit selection are more varied and refined, their pears and pomegranates wrapped in tissue paper.
And these rainbow-like carrots reminded me of how much I love simple glazed carrots. They’re also great tossed with fresh market herbs, especially chives or dill. Here is one of my favourite carrot recipes:
2 cups carrots, sliced (not those peeled and bagged mini ones, but real, sweet carrots, sold in bunches)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp sugar
Salt and pepper
Step 1: Put carrots in a pot with enough water to just cover them, and then spoon in the butter and sugar. Cook on high heat, uncovered, stirring every so often. They should take about 10 minutes to be tender.
Step 2: If they are cooked but there’s still some water left in the pot, drain water and put the carrots back on high heat so that the sugar and butter form a light glaze. Season will salt and pepper to taste.