A year and a half ago I found myself worried about the direction Jean-Talon Market was taking with its renovations. Quebec is riddled with places where modern improvements (even when they're intended to maintain a link with the past) spell the end of character, the end of charm, and I could easily see the market going that direction. When the new pavilion actually introduced some true vision into the fold (Olives et Épices, for instance) I was pleasantly surprised and all of a sudden things began to look sunnier. The new face of Jean-Talon has not been without controversy (the Société des Alcools du Québec's purge of Le Marché des Saveurs du Québec's selection of local ciders and other alcoholic beverages stands out among them), but by and large I think it's safe to say that the market has become stronger, both in terms of quality and selection. One of the best developments has been the growth in the selection of organics on offer, and especially local organics. I've absolutely loved the Jean-Talon Market for years now, ever since I returned to Montreal seven years ago, but I never really understood why organics and what one might call artisanal agricultural production weren't better represented. This year, tout à coup, this situation has changed. There's still plenty of room for improvement, but the market is starting to reflect just how vibrant the small-scale and artisanal organic agricultural scene in Quebec actually is. Among these new additions is M. Plante, an organic grower who started out cultivating a whole range of organic vegetables and fruits before deciding to concentrate on tomatoes exclusively. M. Plante has quite the reputation, supplying many of Montreal's top restaurants with tomatoes as he does, but his prices are surprisingly affordable. In fact, the last time we visited (this past weekend), he cut us a deal that was significantly better than any of the other organic producers and probably most of the ubiquitous Savoura™ tomato dealers. Bottom line: this new organics scene, tiny as it may be, is just one of the things that's had us saying to one another, "This is the market's best year ever!" Just wait till harvest season really switches into high gear.
Anyway, by the time we got home from the market, and taking into account our trip to Windmill Point the day before, we were inundated in good, fresh tomatoes. We've had them straight-up, we've had them in salads, we've had them on bagels with cream cheese, and we've made pasta dishes with them... Here's one we made the other night. The anchovies are the dish's secret ingredient, adding unexpected depth.
Simple Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes
1 lb. spaghetti or spaghettoni pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small sweet onion, minced
1-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 zucchini, minced
1 healthy pinch herbes de Provence
1 pint tasty cherry tomatoes, like organic heirlooms or Sweet 100, halved or quartered
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-2 anchovies, minced finely
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring enough salted water to cook 1 lb of pasta to a rolling boil. Cook your pasta according to the instructions listed on the package until al dente. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When the oil has reached temperature add the onion. Sauté the onion, stirring frequently, for a few minutes (5-10) until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two. Add the zucchini and the herbes de Provence and sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sauté them gently for another 5 minutes or so, until they give up their juices. Add the anchovy, and salt and ground pepper to taste, and sauté for another minute or two.
Toss the pasta with the cherry tomato mixture, add freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste and toss again. Serve with extra grated Parmesan cheese on the table.
For more on the constantly evolving face of Jean-Talon, check out Mr. Carswell's on again/off again market thread on egullet, which, when it's not getting bogged down in a morass of posturing and petty in-fighting (it's been dead again since July 28th now, sadly), is a lot of fun to read, if a bit bewildering (it's already hard enough to keep up with the abundance). Here's hoping those egulleters get things revved up again as we head into peak harvest.