The November 2011 issue of Los Angeles Magazine published in-depth profiles on the farmers' markets around Los Angeles. Every Sunday I attend the Hollywood market, so was delighted to see my farmers' stands given the spotlight.
To give you a taste of the deliciousness, here's this month's letter from the Editor-in-Chief, Mary Melton.
It’s the weekend. The alarm clock blares. You think, I can’t possibly do it. Please, just ten minutes more. The week was long, impossibly long, and your body craves rest. As soon as you hit the Snooze button, a nectarine as sweet as a s’more and so juicy you must lean into the bite to save your shoes from a geyser sneaks into your dreams. Hit Snooze again, doze off.... “Good morning,” whispers a peppery arugula into your ear. “I’m ready for my drizzle of champagne pear vinaigrette.” Hit Snooze again, doze off.... “Where are you?” demands the opinionated baker with the wacky sunglasses. “Your weekly loaf of olive bread is waiting for its schmear of fresh dill goat cheese.” Enough already. You fall out of bed, pull on a hat to hide the morning hair, and grab some canvas bags.
Time to head for the farmers’ market—one of the great sensory experiences in Southern California. There’s that aforementioned taste, of course: multiple generations having at it with the samples, stuffing their mouths with bites of pluots and Pink Lady apples, preschoolers dipping speared chunks of sourdough into balsamic vinegar aged 25 years (that always fills me with hope for the culinary future). Smells: windborne bursts of sharp basil and sweet mint, the earthy tang of wet dirt clinging to the tendrils of a newly yanked beet. Touch: farmers rifling through crates with their experienced hands to help you hunt down avocados that are primed to become guacamole by afternoon. Sounds: the buskers banging out beats in their drum circles, the blind man who for years has wailed beautiful, mournful ballads on his guitar. Sights: every shade of green and purple and orange—even berries smushed into the asphalt offer a tragicomic tableau.
“The market is my church; it’s my family,” says pastry chef Sherry Yard in our annual Food Lovers Guide, which for the first time is devoted to farmers’ markets. As the dessert maven for Wolfgang Puck, Yard finds constant inspiration for her recipes among the stalls. That Fuji apple and rhubarb toasted almond crumble at Cut? It started here. I may never create something nearly as delicious, but that I have the same access as Yard to the same ingredients—the finest produce, possibly, in the world—certainly keeps open the possibility, no matter how remote. Endless possibilities—just bag them and take them home.
On 5th and 23rd, Eataly awaits you with a choice of 5 different eateries, lots of fresh produce, and a wide selection of Italian imported products. After a day of traveling, I took the healthy route and dined at Le Verdure, the vegetable-based restaurant. However, as I walked around after eating, I noticed the pastas and had some regrets. Nonetheless, it was a great meal with gelato to finish! Buon appetite!
the selection of aromatic mushrooms; gorgeous, but quite overpriced
sweet and strong
doughy on the inside, crisp as can be on the outside
scarola alla griglia: grilled bitter greens with pine nuts, currants, parmigiano reggiano, and aged balsamic
verdure alla piastra: a selection of warm vegetables and farro salad in a nebbiolo vinaigrette
On the corner of highland and melrose lies MOZZA. There's the osteria and the pizzeria right next door to one another, but for a much more casual and less extreme dining experience, the pizzeria is beyond perfection. Famous for its yeasty pizza crust, yet the ingredients truly make the dishes stand out.
as simple as a plate of prosciutto
meatballs al forno
bruschette: white beans alla Toscana with extra virgin olive oil and saba
rucola, funghi, and piave
pizza: fennel sausage, panna, red onion, and scallions
pizza: bianca with fontina, mozzarella, sottocenere, and sage
For recipes that are deceivingly easy, I turn to Ina Garten. Her recipes are simple, delicious, and major crowd-pleasers. Every time I open The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, I turn straight to a giant picture of a raspberry tart as the pages have grown accustomed to this page constantly being open and worked over. There are remnants of tart crust and raspberry jam sticking to the white page. This tart serves for many occasions; it looks much more impressive than it actually is and tastes like summer no matter what the season.
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 cup good raspberry preserves
1 1/2 pints fresh raspberries (3 packages)
Time to Whisk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Press the dough into a 10-inch-round or 9-inch-square false-bottom tart pan, making sure that the finished edge in flat. *I just shape the dough into the tart pan.* Chill until firm.
Butter one side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice. *Use a pastry weight if you have one.* Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, prick the tart all over with tines of a fork, and bake again for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Spread the tart with raspberry preserves and place the raspberries, stem end down, in concentric circles. If you are making a square tart, place the raspberries in rows. Serve immediately.
The prospect of being a vegetarian is not an idea that sits well with me in any way. I understand that the transportation of meat harms the environment, the way animals are treated in the American food system is for the most part unethical, and the added hormones to meat can in no way be good for my health. For these reasons I've always tried to buy ethically, organically, and locally when it comes to animal products, but economically it doesn't always make sense. For these reasons, I've started to try to make one day of the week meatless. The most recent issue of Bon Appétit actually made this quite easy. With the high protein level of chickpeas, this meal provided the same nutrient levels (and also the same deliciousness) as any of my favorite meat-filled dishes.
Chickpea Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, and Fresh Herbs Bon Appétit April 2011 2 servings
1 15-to 15 1/2-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, pressed
1/3 cup (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Coarse kosher salt
Time to Whisk
Combine rinsed and drained chickpeas, chopped fresh basil, chopped Italian parsley, fresh lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and pressed garlic clove in medium bowl. Add grated Parmesan cheese and toss gently to blend all ingredients thoroughly. Season chickpea salad to taste with coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. DO AHEAD: Chickpea salad can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Serve salad chilled or at room temperature.
Radish, Arugula, and Red Onion Salad with Tangerines Bon Appétit April 2011 6 first-course servings
2 tangerines (such as Pixie or Satsuma)
2 tablespoons finely chopped radishes plus 12 large radishes (such as French Breakfast), trimmed, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped red onion plus 1/2 cup thinly sliced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh Meyer lemon juice or regular lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse kosher salt
1 medium fennel bulb, quartered lengthwise with core intact, very thinly sliced lengthwise
3 cups (packed) arugula
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
Time to Whisk
Finely grate enough peel from tangerines to measure 1 teaspoon; place in small bowl and reserve for dressing. Using sharp knife, cut off top and bottom of each tangerine, then cut off all peel and white pith, following contour of fruit. Cut tangerines vertically in half, then crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices; set aside.
Combine 2 tablespoons finely chopped radishes, 1 tablespoon chopped red onion, lemon juice, and grated tangerine peel in small bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in extra-virgin olive oil. Season salad dressing to taste with coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Combine tangerine slices, radish slices, onion slices, fennel slices, arugula leaves, and chopped fresh mint in large bowl; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat thoroughly. Transfer salad to large shallow bowl and serve.
CHALLENGE: try to take just one day of the week to have a vegetarian dinner... you will learn a lot about cooking.