Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’

Club Kitty Spain – Part 1 – Farmer’s Market Inspirations

September 11, 2008

If you’re going to go to a farmer’s market in LA…September is a pretty damn good month to go. The weather is pretty much guaranteed to be sunny and mild to hot. You can still hit the beach but fall is just around the corner. The best of summer’s bounty is spilling over the tables like a Cézanne painting come to life.

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It was a gorgeous day Sunday…if a bit sunny and hot. Maggie and I have been hanging out at home a lot lately. When you have a kid, it’s just so much easier to stay at home. If you go out, you have to bring so much STUFF. Sometimes, you just start to think about the bags and the bottles and the diapers, and you just say, screw it, I’m chillin’ here. So, Maggie spends another day cycling from the playpen to the swing, to the exer-saucer, to the blanket on the floor with her toys, to the high chair, to her crib and the monotony is only broken up by bottles and naps and circles around the house practicing ‘walking’. But today, it was a little cooler…in the 80’s instead of the near-100’s. I’ve been wanting to take her to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. It’s one of the best markets in LA, with a funkier crowd than the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, amazing food stands with tamales, pupusas and paella and some of the best vendors in the city. You can run into anybody from
Uma Thurman out with her kids to Nancy Silverton out for a Sunday stroll. Despite a slight hangover from a dinner party/play date the night before, I decided it was time for Maggie and I to get the hell out of the house. I gave her a bath, brushed her hair and dressed her in a cute, preppy little dress because you can never forget the golden rule with a baby: “An adorable, clean, well-dressed baby is a lot more tolerable to the general public than a snotty, drooling, cracker baby wearing only a diaper and carrying a headless doll.” (Thanks CJ, for that lovely image, btw.)

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On this particular day at the market, it was heirloom tomato tasting day. They had a booth set up with maybe 20 different heirloom tomato varieties to taste. There were probably as many people in line waiting, so Maggie and I decided to move on and see what the rest of the market had to offer.

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Naturally, all the vendors had their best tomatoes on display:

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There were still plenty of nectarines available, but they were soon to replaced by apples, onions and gorgeous little fingerling potatoes.

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I was a bit bummed later on when I found out that the wonderful, immature red onions with the stalk still attached, baby eggplant and the bag of baby Russian Banana fingerlings I bought somehow went missing. I fear I left it on the table while trying to gather my stuff together. I did manage to make it home with honey-sweet dates, pimiento and lipstick peppers, a huge bag of jalapeños for pickling, and some haricots verts from Harry’s Berries. I decided to take a little detour around the corner to contemplate my purchases at one of my favorite Sunday brunch spots: The Hungry Cat, which is owned by the husband and wife chef-a-palooza David Lentz and Suzanne Goin.

The Hungry Cat is really convenient to the farmer’s market. In fact, I usually park in their parking garage and walk to the market from there. On a hot day like today, it was nice to just stroll around the corner and down the Hollywood Walk of Fame to brunch.

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First things first…Maggie is hungry and thirsty and well, so am I. The Hungry Cat makes amazing cocktails from fresh-pressed juices….so, I made sure our beverage needs were taken care of right away. A refreshing ‘ba-ba’ for Maggie and a spicy bloody mary for me.

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While I perused the menu, Maggie sat up in a high chair like a big girl and drank her bottle.

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Hmmmm…should I get the dungeness crab cake benedict with cavalo nero, house-smoked bacon and hollandaise…or the pug burger with blue cheese, bacon and avocado and a fried egg on top….or the brioche french toast with berries, lemon cream and toasted almonds? Naahhh…I’m not much of a sweets person…especially in the mornings. I like salty…spicy…crunchy…savory….I know, I’ll get the house-made chorizo and eggs with queso fresco, scallions, tortillas and romesco. But wait…I want some of that house-smoked bacon. Ahhh..I’ll just get it as a side.

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Romesco…romesco…suddenly, I thought about a friend who had just recently mentioned he was watching an Anthony Bourdain/No Reservations marathon on the travel channel. He said Bourdain was in Spain chargrilling leeks and dipping them in
romesco. I thought it sounded interesting and I googled it. Turns out there is a Spanish festival in the spring called a
calçotada where the new leek-like onions are roasted over vines and eaten with romesco. I thought about those onions and peppers that I just bought and how delicious they would be chargrilled. Then, as I broke the yolk of my eggs into the chorizo, I wondered how long it had been since I’d done a Spanish Club Kitty and then I thought about how well-suited the late summer produce is for a Catalan barbecue.

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Maggie said she couldn’t remember the last time I did a Spanish theme…probably because she didn’t exist yet. I chewed thoughtfully as she flirted with a younger man (6 months) across the aisle and playfully threw her pacifier on the ground, causing the enchanted servers to scramble to pick it up for her and wash it off. Finally, even the most adoring server grew tired of the game and just brought over a big bowl of hot water for me to dip it into, which I greatly appreciated.

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As I sat and finished my 2nd Bloody Mary, I started fleshing out a menu inside my head. I ended up crossing half of the stuff off my list because it was way too ambitious. I didn’t want to make paella…been there done that. I was thinking more along the lines of small plates…
Tapas. The problem with a lot of little things is that it takes a lot of time to prep. Time isn’t something I have a lot of these days. I wonder why?

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I remember spending days B.M. (Before Maggie) taking my sweet time prepping multitudes of different appetizers for catering jobs. I didn’t think I could pull that off anymore. So, I turned to Maggie and asked her if she would be patient with me for the next couple of days because I really felt like cooking. She told me that she would think about it and get back to me.

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I noticed her getting a little teary-eyed.

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I assured her that
Auntie Catheryn
would come play with her and she looked at me dubiously.

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After a quick call to my wonderful local fish market Fish King to see if they could order the Santa Barbara Shrimp I wanted, I said: “Well, this meal is certainly not going to make itself. Let’s get on the road, kid.” And off we went, past the Capitol Records building:

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To Cahuenga:

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Then we got on the Hollywood Freeway and headed North. And, for the Tom Waits fans out there: Never could stand that dog.

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INTERMISSION

Stay tuned for the prep and actualization of the following menu:

Club Kitty Spain

Devils on Horseback (Bacon wrapped dates stuffed with Valdeon blue cheese
and Almonds)
Grilled Santa Barbara Shrimp with garlic and red pepper
Grilled Quail with Pimenton
Mussels with fire-roasted tomatoes and Chorizo
Merguez sausage and potato hash
Grilled onions, zucchini, and lipstick peppers with romesco
Grilled homemade bread with olive oil and heirloom tomatoes
A selection of Spanish cheeses, charcuterie and olives