Could I get up early enough, go when the market opens, and make it to the office by a reasonable morning hour? Going for “lunch” at 9:45 am might raise some eyebrows in the corner offices. *eh* I decided to “run a quick errand” at 9:45. Just a straight shot up Venice Blvd.
The Venice Farmers Market has a permanent sign up at the little park where it’s held every Friday morning on Venice Blvd at Venice Way, and thankfully, there’s free public parking in the lot west of the market.
Every market has a unique personality. Tuesdays in Culver City have many an “industry” type (that’s entertainment, not food) from Sony Pictures. Firemen on lunch and a largely Latino clientele in Westchester on Wednesdays. Students, meds and asian tourists make up quite a social scene on Thursdays in Westwood Village. These markets have many stands with vendors selling foods ready to eat – barbecue, sausages, tamales, shish kebabs.
Fridays in Venice, though, there are only fresh produce farmers, an herb farmer, a cheese maker, and smoked salmon. The food vendors probably wouldn’t do well in a market that closes an hour before the regularly appointed lunch hour. Accordingly, I see are pairs and triples of youngish, bohemian hip moms pushing strollers buying ingredients for the weekend’s meals, and an occasional Friday business casual picking up some fruit for breakfast on the way to work.
A few weeks ago, I read a fellow southern California food blogger’s post on green almonds and was intrigued. In the Venice farmer’s market, I saw the small, fuzzy green things that look like the hybrid runt of a furry little apricot and a green plum (which I saw for the first time at the Westchester market). When I asked the farmer what they taste like and how they were used, he said quite sincerely, “I don’t really like them, but lots of cooks use them to make pesto.” I wasn’t brave enough to buy an entire bag to cook something at home, but he gave me one to taste. I dropped it in my pocket for later, and was as happy as a five year old who had been gifted a special toy prize.
When I got back to the office, I pulled the furry green creature apart at an obvious seam, and inside, there's a beautiful, ivory almond. I don't think I eat the furry green skin - tossed in the trash. When I pulled the almond out, it was soft and squishy - there was something liquid inside. Remember back when you used to collect stickers in your sticker album? And there were the puffy ones? And then, even better, there were the oilies, that were puffy and had iridescent blue and green oil inside that swirled when you squooshed them? That's what the green almond felt like. I ate it. The farmer was rig
ht. I didn't really like it either.
Though I didn’t live up to the challenge of green almonds, I did finally give in and buy fresh artichokes. I love artichokes. I mean, I looove artichokes. But whenever I’ve read recipes using fresh artichokes, or watched chefs prepare them on TV, they look like they have to go to a lot of trouble. So, unless they are already roasted or in a salad/pasta for me in a restaurant, I always buy the canned artichoke hearts, or snag them from the salad bar to cook at home. Fresh artichokes are pretty. They should be, since they are sort of the flower of a plant in the thistle family. So yes, it’s a flower, so it’s pretty. But, whoa, "thistle” makes them pretty scary. “Nightshade” sounds creepy, too, but I’ve never been intimidated by an eggplant.
It was open-artichoke-heart surgery. Kitchen shears. Snip the tips of the leaves because they have spikes! Scalpel (aka long, serrated knife). Slice of the top. Cut the artichoke open, and it gets a little hairy, literally. Pull out the furry little choke. Tiny inner leaves that are an innocuous-looking pink, well they have some serious thorns, too. And in the recovery unit, you have to baby the things with either an olive oil rubdown every place you made a cut, or let the entire thing soak in a lemon juice bath to prevent discoloration. Picky, prickly little things, aren’t they?
But the trouble is all worth it in the end. After a quick dip in boiling water to tenderize, they go for a slow 325 degree roast with olive oil, garlic, and salt. Artichoke stems are an extension of the heart, so they taste delicious with shavings of parmesan cheese. For the tougher outer leaves, we dip, not in an aioli, but simply in olive oil, salt and pepper and do the customary wide-smile-pull between the teeth. Funny little side note: "I’m not getting anything – I think it’s because of my over-bite." "Um, you’re holding the leaf backwards. The good stuff is on the other side." "Oh."
It was all delicious.
Fridays in LA County:
Covina - Civic Center Park, Citrus Ave and School St, April to first week of December, 5 to 9 p.m. 310.621.0336
Hermosa Beach - Valley Dr between 10th and 8th streets, noon to 4 p.m. 310.379.1488
Long Beach, downtown - CityPlace, 5th St and the Promenade, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 866.400.3834
Los Angeles in Eagle Rock - Merton and Caspar Ave, 5 to 9 p.m. 323.225.5466
Los Angeles at Wilshire Center - Mariposa Ave and Wilshire Blvd, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. 818.591.8161
Monrovia - East Olive and South Myrtle avenues, 5 to 9 p.m. 626.357.7442
San Pedro - Old Town, Mesa and 7th streets, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 310.832.7272
Venice - Venice Way and Venice Blvd, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. 310.399.6690
Whittier - Bailey St between Greenleaf and Comstock avenues, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 714.526.5814
Fridays in Orange County:
Huntington Beach - Pier Plaza, Main St and PCH, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. 714.573.0374
Laguna Hills - Laguna Hills Mall, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 714.573.0374
Fridays in Riverside County:
Riverside, Sears - 5261 Arlington Ave., Sears parking lot, 8:30 a.m. to noon. 760.244.2772
Fridays in San Bernardino County:
Yucaipa - California St and Yucaipa Blvd, 5:30 to 9 p.m. 909.790.9092