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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  • chef ‘em out

    This is one of the best looking blogs I have visited. Your photos are outstanding, in addition to great writing, layout, design etc.

  • Anonymous

    Sarah, this is such a an inspiration for all of us to use our farmers markets to their fullest. We don’t realize how lucky we are to have 7 day a week access all over southern California. Thanks for the write-up.

  • Indira

    Iam jealous,you mean farmers market in CA grow their own produce and sell them there?

    Farmers market in our area in Ohio, carries the produce from California. That’s the ‘fresh produce’ we get here in Boardman, Ohio, still we go every Sunday morning. Compare to the produce they sell here in groceries, the stuff in farmers market is 100% better.

  • sarah

    hi indira! i would totally imagine that states like ohio would have tons of fresh produce – aren’t there a lot of farms in ohio? i am betting that instead of going to a market, you could just drive right out to the farm directly!

    i don’t recall ever going to a farmers market (or even hearing about them) when i was living in cincinnati (detroit either, but there sure were lots of cars – lol!) then again, i wasn’t so into cooking and fidning good ingredients back in high school ;)

  • Indira

    We do drive to local farms during peak summer months and in fall season, not much variety though.

  • Mika

    Wow, how good it would be if we had so many markets in Pittsburgh? I have been searching for zucchini/squash flowers high & low here… The photos are so appetizing.

  • becky

    I just discovered your blog and I LOVE this post! The before and after pics are a great idea and a terrific execution.

  • sarah

    awww…thank you, becky and mika! glad you like the pictures…i wish i could say i were a talented photographer, but alas – the produce is just that gorgeous!

    and i am insane. i am going to do the same thing again later this summer. not sure if it will fe fruit – since those are usually desserts that require *ahem* baking – not qute my forte :)

  • Skip

    I’m reading this as I’m missing Los Angeles and writing a grocery list.

    It helps with the list and makes me want to come back!

    Your posts are funny, informative and on the money. The pictures are so vivid and bring out the best in your presentation.

    (That…and you should be up for sexiest blogger of the year. Ahem.)

    Thanks!

  • Acme Instant Food

    Hi Sarah. I just returned from the Burbank FM. I have not been to one in so many years and I just realized what a crime it is. Produce there is priced so much better and the quality CAN’T be beat (well, most of it anyway.) I’m a slave to Pavilions so I need to break the habit and make a farmer’s market stop routine.

  • sarah

    skip: *blush* sexiest? thanks :) lol!

    acme instant food: isn’t it awesome?!?! i can’t wait to hit up the FM near me. i am really lucky that there’s one about two blocks away from me every sunday!

  • CreditFiance

    yum-yum. Very appetizing pictures. Marry me! ;)

  • Samreen Khan

    I am broke and in college but I am also INSPIRED. Austin has a great farmers market every saturday morning by the lake in downtown. I dont care how hungover I am. I WILL make it. …if only because your blog has me drooling at work. om nom nom.

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  • http://twitter.com/BigmistasBBQ Bigmista

    Apparently you don’t leave the westside, huh? Perhaps you could check us out at the El Segundo Farmers Market…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510157676 Sarah J. Gim

      BigMista ~ i DO venture outside the westside! in fact i don’t live there anymore! which means, of course, that i almost never go *back* to the westside ;) (especially after experiencing the HORROR of Wilshire/405 around 7 PM last night trying to get to brentwood…)

      BUT…i will come visit! Pig Candy is JGold’s list of 99 Things to Eat Before You Die… :)

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