Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Farmers' Market

There was a morning break in the rain, just at the time the Wednesday Farmers' Market opened, on Arizona Street in downtown Santa Monica, on the day before Thanksgiving.

This is a busy day for the market, as home and professional cooks alike shop for their Thanksgiving produce. The skies threatened, but people came out. Thanksgiving dinner is worth risking a little rain for.

At one stand, willow baskets held English peas and fresh lima beans in their shells, and french haricot beans. A large, curly-haired man held a lengthy conversation in French with the vendor, and as I saw the volume of items he bought, I wondered if perhaps he was a famous chef. I asked about cooking instructions for the lima beans, hoping he would chime in, but alas, he moved on to another stall. The vendor, though, gave me a pretty good recipe. I got some English peas, which I love, and also some fresh limas to try.

"And a bunch of those dark red beets," I said, pointing down the stall, as the seller weighed my purchase. "Ring them up, I'll grab a bunch when she's done," I said, watching another customer hand some to the vendor.

I stood contemplating the pretty colors of the romanesco broccoli, the yellow "cheddar" cauliflower and the red cabbage while I waited. "Can you take off the greens?" the other customer asked.

"Sure. Maybe someone else wants them?"

"I'll take them!" I said, and at exactly the same time, so did the woman next to me. We looked at each other.

"The greens are the best part," said my rival.

"I know, " I said. "They're great!"

"Oh, no problem, she's buying two bunches so you can each have one." said the vendor.

"Cool!" I said, and we both smiled at each other.

I bought a bunch of beets - deep garnet, and small as golf balls - so I had two bunches of greens.

I moved on to a stall that sold varieties of potatoes - fingerlings in yellow, red and purple. The vendor was praising one variety - German butter ball - to another customer as a good mashing potato. He said it was very sweet-tasting. "What about steaming, how is it for that?" I asked.

He recommended the Russian banana fingerling potatoes for steaming. So I got some of each, since I hadn't yet decided how I wanted to cook my Thanksgiving potatoes.

At another stall, I loved the bright orange Kabocha squash. They were small, ranging in size from baseball to softball. Perfect little individual squashes. I asked the vendor about cooking squash this size, and she suggested roasting them whole and then cutting them open to scoop out the seeds.

"How much flesh is in them?" I asked. "How much of it is seeds?"

"Hmm," she said. "Let's see. " She picked one up, brought it to a cutting-board behind the stall, and halved it with a knife. A lot of seed, not too much flesh.

"Well, you could scoop them out and make nice little bowls to serve soup," I said, and she nodded. I chose a couple the size of soft balls, and moved on.

I got a bunch of Italian parsley, and some chives from a stall that sold Persian herbs.

The Wednesday market stretches down Second Street for a half block either side of Arizona. On the north side of Second, I found a vendor who was selling fresh Brown Turkey figs. I thought about a dessert recipe I'd seen recently for figs with mascarpone cheese. I could make that. I asked him for a box.

"Hey, we must have the same taste," said a voice. It was the lady who'd vied with me for beet greens. "We're buying the same things," she said. She bought a box of figs, too.

We wished each other a happy Thanksgiving. "I bet dinner's going to be great at your house!" I said.


Liz said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Googie Baba said...

I'm embarrassed because you have a real post about vegetables.

Your blog is beautiful by the way. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

This post made me so hungry ... and I've had the flu since Wednesday, so being hungry is a good sign!

During my 10 years in Los Angeles, I was a frequent visitor to the S.M. Farmer's Market, as well as many others that may no longer exist. We've been in Bakersfield for 22 years now, and it's always seemed weird to me that we don't have fruit & veggie stands or a decent farmers market, since the stuff is GROWN HERE and shipped to L.A.

When we travel -- which is often -- I love visiting farmer's markets and public markets. We usually rent a flat with a kitchen so we can cook (hubby is am amateur chef), and if we can't find a flat or a funky cottage, we'll settle for Residence Inn or something similar. We takes LOTS of photos while shopping, and more while cooking ... Food Porn, for us, is a way of life ;-)

Next Saturday, we're flying to Vancouver, Canada, for 10 days of relaxation, long walks, good food, and cooking classes. I'll have lots of great pics and details to post while we're there.