Whirlwind Week at the Farmers Markets – A Summary

squash blossoms from the farmers market
Way back at the end of April, I set myself out on a mad mission. At the risk of losing my job, losing my friends, losing my sanity, I decided to visit a different farmers market every day of the week. And because I really love/hate myself, I challenged myself to cook with a vegetable that is fairly new to me from each market.

Well, I didn’t lose my job (yet) and I still have some friends (at least the ones that I didn’t drag to the market on a Saturday morning with me). And my sanity? I’ve been crazy all along. :) But I’d have to say that it was an exciting, exhilarating, inspiring experience. I have a very conservative, chained-to-my-desk-from-8-to-6-at-the-earliest day job, so it was ridiculously fun to pick out a market from the list and plot out a strategy to get away for an hour or two each week day. Weekday markets usually open at 9 and end by early afternoon, so either I galloped in at full speed pink-cheeked and wind-blown two hours late, mumbling about the 405 freeway (the only time I am ever thankful for LA traffic is when I can use it as an excuse), or would “take lunch” at some absurd hour like 9:30. You know, because, ummm, well, I got up early and had breakfast at 4 am. Right.

I never got a chance to put together a thoughtful summary after that week of “stalking the markets.” Each individual entry is fairly long, with cursing of traffic trying to get there, lamenting the lack of parking, and of course, describing the markets, each one with its own peculiar personality. There are lots of vibrant pictures of spring produce, which at the time, were lots of citrus, early cherries, and tender baby vegetables.

Admittedly, I didn’t quite succeed as well on the second part of my challenge – cooking with a new vegetable each day. I couldn’t bring myself to pass up things like avocadoes and asparagus, which I use all the time, but will never tire of. Perhaps the most exotic thing was the artichoke, which, again, I eat a lot, but have never actually cooked fresh. *gasp!* Yes, yes, up until then, I was using canned artichoke hearts. The horror!

This was never meant to be a competitive assessment to find the best farmers market. There really is no “best” farmers market, as each one truly has a character of its own, and appeals to different people accordingly. But in the end, I still have to say that my favorite market is the one that I’ve been going to all along – Saturday mornings on Arizona Street in Santa Monica. It’s wonderful to wake up slightly hungover with the promise of the sobering breeze of the Pacific Ocean and a few refreshing oranges. I am not bothered by the lively chaos so early in the morning – it wakes me up so that I can pay respectful attention to the beekeeper as he talks about his wildflower honey or pick carefully through a basket of shiitake mushrooms. I could stay there until the vendors pull down their tents.

Sunday – Beverly Hills Farmers’ Market

hot tomato
hot tomato from beverly hills

bacon wrapped tomatoes
bacon wrapped tomatoes and egg on greens

Sunday – Brentwood Farmers’ Market

(there are only three markets on Monday, so I did Sunday twice)
bok choy
smooth as baby bok choy’s bottom

braised baby bok choy
spicy braised baby bok choy with sesame crusted tofu

Tuesday – Culver City Farmers’ Market

brussels sprouts
of mini cabbages and kings

pasta
4 Ps: pappardelle, pancetta, pine nuts, parmesan

Wednesday – Westchester Farmers’ Market

zucchini
standing up like soldiers

zucchini cakes
roasted salmon wrapped asparagus

Thursday – Westwood Farmers’ Market

avocado
avocado, aka alligator pear

avomango shrimp salsa
avo mango shrimp salsa

Friday – Venice Farmers’ Market

artichoke
the flower of a thistle

roasted artichokes
roasted artichokes with shaved parmesan

Saturday – Santa Monica Farmers’ Market

zucchini
off to zu-topia

zucchini cakes
zucchini cakes with lemon yogurt sauce

So that’s the brief summary of each market and what I made – not very thoughtful, but pretty in pictures! It’s summer now, and I think I have another honey bee in my bonnet to do the same thing again – with fruit! Hopefully my Boss will never catch on…

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