I have this strange habit, or perhaps it's a disorder. Call it some sort of mutant strain of OCD, where I just do weird extremist-like things related to food. It is, I guess, like Obsessive Culinary Disorder. I’ll decide that for one week, I’m going to eat eggplant in a different form every night. Why? I don’t know why – perhaps to prove to no one except myself that eggplant is quite possibly the best vegetable known to humankind? Or I’m going to try every restaurant on the east side of Sawtelle Blvd this month, and on the west side of the street the following month (which, strangely, I did). Or I want to eat at the same restaurant for lunch and dinner in the same day. I don’t know what comes over me. Or, in an executive decision that threatens my job security, I challenge myself to visit a different farmers market every day of the week. This is what happened last week.
All over the city, and every day of the week. I was certain I would get fired, or at least have to pay a visit to the Principal’s, er, I mean CFO’s, office. How would I explain tearing into the office almost two hours late every morning – even though I had woken up an hour earlier to be the first to stroll through the market at 7 a.m.? What excuse do I have for taking a well-over-extended “lunch” for several afternoons in a row – to visit some of the late-day markets? So far, though, so good. I still have my job, and a basket of very fresh vegetables in my kitchen.
So now begins my report of the challenge I presented to myself last week. Each day, visit a different market, pick a different vegetable, try a different recipe.
Big Lu pointed me to a different resource than the L.A. Times list for southern California farmers markets. Very helpful, as it also lists what fruits and vegetables are typically in season. Tuesday seems to be the start of the week for Farmer’s Markets. Monday only has 3 markets, and they are only in L.A. County; but Tuesday has nine markets in L.A., O.C., and San Bernardino counties. Because the Culver City Market is within walking distance of my office, I took a slightly long lunch and klack-klack-klacked in my stupid high heels down Washington Blvd. to Main Street. I could smell the smoke from gourmet sausages a block away.
It definitely didn’t matter that I was taking my lunch hour to visit the market because booth after booth, I was sampling everything from from strawberries to oro blanco grapefruits to bacon avocadoes. Bacon avocadoes – halfway to a Cobb salad – amazing. Table after crate after box after table of the most brilliant fruits and vegetables, every vivid color in the Roy G. Biv. And what amazed me the most as I sauntered along in my corporate business casuals, was that it was all au naturel, not like the big corporate grocery stores. No makeup. No plastic chemical surgical enhancement. Just purely Mother Nature, and Farmer's nurture.
I walked down one side of Main Street toward Venice admiring all the familiar mid-Spring produce, and half way back up the other side, I saw them. The ones I wanted – verdant little layered orbs, huddled together, geeky green late bloomers that have finally made it, albeit quite tardy, to the game...Brussels sprouts. Yes, it’s somewhat past their prime season, as Brussels sprouts are typically available October through March. Would they be tasteless? Bland? Too bitter? I took a gamble.
I don’t know why Brussels sprouts get such a bad rap, because I have loved them since thinking they were perfectly packaged little cabbage for perfect little me. But they taste nothing like cabbages, and are in fact, somewhat bitter, which is what most people say turns them off. It’s that beautful bitterness, though, that makes Brussels sprouts.
As much as I love them, I don’t think I’ve ever had Brussels sprouts in any other format than steamed whole and sprinkled with salt. Unlike potatoes or tomatoes or other vegetables that can take a number of forms, you never see smashed Brussels sprouts, Brussels sprouts croquettes, Brussels sprouts in a vegetarian lasagne, or tossed in with a salad. They are always roasted or steamed, butter or maybe olive oil, sometimes with nuts, and sometimes with bacon, and always a side dish.
Not today. Brussels sprouts are the main attraction in 4P Pasta. In my business life, we learned about the 4Ps – Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. In my Delicious Life, the 4Ps are Pancetta, Pine Nuts, Parmesan, and Papardelle.
Brussels sprouts are steamed first, then sliced. I have, actually, seen a recipe for Brussels sprouts that are shredded, but that would have made them not substantially Brusselly enough for my taste. I suppose I could have used bacon, but then that wouldn’t have worked with the 4Ps, plus pancetta is so much more sophisticated. ;) Those are sauteed together, and as if the fat from the pancetta wasn’t enough, additional butter, fresh garlic and toasted pine nuts. After a tussle in the pan with cooked pappardelle and a shimmy out into a bowl, I had to add a little salt (there’s just never enough salt), a go round with the pepper mill, and many a shaving of parmesan cheese. Strangely, I’ll gobble up Brussels sprouts, but I pick *sigh* pick *grumble* at pasta. This one though, I ate the whole thing.
Farmers Markets on Tuesday in L.A. County:
Baldwin Park – Cesar Chavez Drive and Ramona, 4:00 PM 9:00 PM, 626.96
La Verne – D Street and Bonita Ave. 5:30 PM 9:00 PM, 909.592.3002
Culver City - Main Street between Venice and Culver boulevards, 2 to 7 p.m. 310.253.5775
Lynwood - 3798 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., noon to 5 p.m. 310.885.3751
Norwalk - South side of Alondra Boulevard west of Pioneer Boulevard, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 562.921.2321.
Pasadena (Villa Park) - East Villa Street at Garfield Avenue, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 626.449.0179
Torrance - Wilson Park (Crenshaw Blvd), between Carson St and Sepulveda Blvd, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 310.328.2809
Tuesday in Orange County:
Brea - Birch Street and Walnut Avenue, 4 to 8 p.m. 714.329.6755
Mission Viejo - Plaza del Lago at Marguerite Parkway and Vista del Lago, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 714.573.0374
Tuesday in San Bernardino County:
Big Bear Lake - Big Bear Blvd and Division Rd, April through October, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. 760.247.3769