mundane food adventures, pt. 1

Sunday I went to the Hollywood Farmers market for the first time, forgetting my camera of course.  I once boasted, without ever coming to this market, that the OC farmers market was bigger and better, because, well, how couldn’t it be?  For all the things I hate about Irvine, the farmers market escapes being one of them, despite it’s location in the…despicable! yes despicable “University Town Center,” and of course the horrendous real housewives of Orange County.  And the possibility of running into a fellow graduate student, which, even if I like them, is not fun at 10am while hung over.

ANYWAY – Hollywood.  I’m in general curious about this whole ‘center’ part of LA where a lot of people live.  I figure there must be some particular and awesome reason that they live there, and I keep hoping to find out what this is.  But then I sometimes had similar thoughts about areas like Russian Hill in San Francisco (answer: doughnuts).  The farmers market might be a good reason to live in Hollywood.  First of all, it’s huge!  I mean, as far as farmers markets go, it’s really big, with two axis, one for produce, and the other for prepared food.  I didn’t try the prepared food, and I don’t really understand the idea of having prepared food next to a farmers market, but it was popular.  Anyway, the market itself seemed to have no lack of quality food.  There was a tomato fest going on that was pretty amazing – 10-15 different types of tomatoes on display, for eating.  I ended up with some herbs, chard, two expensive and crazy delicious tomatoes, pluots (of course), and, because I had recently seen Bobby Flay cook some up, squash blossoms.

Because of the price of the tomatoes (those two were $5), I almost regretted getting them, until I tried this bagel with basil leaves, cream cheese, salt and pepper.  They were (to again use food-network level of critical eloquence), insanely delicious.  They were like truffle oil tomatoes, in the sense I didn’t have to use a lot for things to taste really good. They are called ‘mango’ tomatoes, perhaps because of the color, but they are also really sweet and little tangy, and the flavor is very concentrated and intense.  It would probably be impossible to make anything using these tomatoes taste bad, unless you were intentionally trying.  This is why learning to cook in Italy is so easy – ingredients!

Anyway, after asking around on facebook, I decided to go for what is apparently a standard preparation for the squash blossoms: filled with ricotta (and in this case, mint), battered (in a beer batter with no eggs) and deep fried (in grapeseed oil).  It took a while, but they were really fantastic.  I served them (to myself) with Mark Bittman’s yogurt recipe (basically just yogurt, salt, pepper, garlic, lemon juice).  I also braised the chard using Deborah Madison’s recipe, and it was characteristically excellent.  Sorry, my food blogging photo skills leave something be desired, but you get the point:

Anyway, an excellent meal, and I still have a lot of produce left.  I think I’m actually going to make a tomato sauce with the other tomato!  I know you are supposed to eat really good fresh ingredients raw, but I like pasta more than salad, and I feel a simple sauce made with this tomato and the fresh basil will be…um, insanely delicious?  Very good.  Me like taste.  Something like that.


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