Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Diva Visits The Hollywood Farmer's Market! Domestic Diva's Clams with Purple Spring Onions & Baby Heirloom Tomatoes

For the food lover, the farmer's market is mecca! Filled with booth after booth of farmer's hocking their bounty, it's the best place to score the freshest, best tasting, healthiest foods available. It's also a great way to support your local farmers. Chefs from top restaurants regularly scour these markets, searching for ingredients for their daily specials. And if you think it's only fruits and vegetables, think again! Often, you'll find fish and poultry vendors, cheese makers, honey producers, and much more. Oh, and did I mention the prices? This is also a great way to get a deal on the best product available.

In Los Angeles, we're fortunate to have many farmer's markets, but if you ask me, there is none better than The Hollywood Farmer's market. This blessed event occurs on Sunday mornings between 8am and 1pm.

The Hollywood Farmers' Market is a "certified" open-air street market with approximately 90 farmers, 30 local artisans, and 30 baked goods and prepared food vendors who sell their own products every Sunday. It is a direct-to-consumer marketplace with all produce and products from local, California vendors and growers.

Besides offering a fantastic variety of the freshest California-grown fruits and vegetables, the Hollywood Farmers' Market has increasingly become a destination shopping venue. Other products include honey, fish, free-range poultry and eggs, bison meat, gouda cheese, olives, mushrooms, sprouts, jams, jellies, fruit juices, specialty sauces and dips, dried fruit and nuts, an espresso cart, Mexican, Caribbean, Middle-Eastern and many other ethnic foods prepared at the market, hot crepes, breads, cookies, clothing, jewelry, gifts and so much more.

Are you hungry yet? I certainly was when I ventured to the market on Sunday morning, armed with a canvas tote bag and my wallet, ready to procure the best product for my next meals. I parked at Arclight ($2 parking with validation) and walked up Ivar, joining the throng of shoppers crowded around booths full of fruits & vegetables. Ahh, the bounty of summer! I first made a lap all the way down, surveying the items that looked most appealing to me, before I committed to buy anything. I was searching for unusual items that aren't always available at the grocery store, things that would inspire me to cook great food! No small task. Also, luckily, there are many organic vendors at the Hollywood Farmer's Market, and I'm very committed to eating mostly organic product.

My first acquisition was not a fruit or vegetable. It was cheese. Incredible, fresh, melt in your Bufala mozzarella to be exact from a specialty vendor ($8). I also picked up some free range eggs ($4). Then, I approached what I'll call the oyster booth - a vendor specializing in oysters, clams and mussels - offering to shuck them right there for you to guzzle on the spot! Next time, I'll bring Kuzak with me, an avowed oyster lover, and we'll chow down. But it wasn't the oysters that caught my eye - it was the lovely clams, fresh as could be, sectioned off into 2 pound mesh bags. I requested a bag, which they kindly packed in in ice ($10 for 2 pounds).

Alright, it was time to get down to the nitty gritty of choosing my produce. My house was already stocked with peaches and heirloom tomatoes, by far the most popular items at the market, so I bypassed those vendors, looking for more unusual items. After some thought, I settled on a few great vegetables from a vendor mostly selling organic, heirloom varietals. Into my canvas bag went purple spring onions, a glorious deep purple shade of these baby onions, yellow haricots verts, slim, fashionable French green beans, a bunch of baby carrots with the tops still attached, and purple and white spotted shell beans, the main ingredient in traditional pasta e fagioli, an Italian pasta & bean soup that I adore. These four vegetables cost me a total of $6. Finally, I stopped at the Kenter Canyon Farms booth for some organic rosemary and thyme ($2 per bunch).

Positively giddy from my acquisitions, I hurried home, my menu for the night's dinner already taking shape in my mind. I wanted to cook the clams in a sauce that felt like the essence of summer itself, chocked full of spring onions and baby tomatoes, and finished off with basil. Now, I know many of you might be intimidated by the prospect of cooking bivalves like mussels and clams, but I assure you it is hands down one of the simplest things to add to your culinary arsenal. I served the clams family style as a starter course, but they easily could have been a main dish, especially when tossed with pasta (maybe next time)! The clams were so sweet, delicate, luxurious, so good in fact, that after the last clam had been polished off, Kuzak and I ate the sauce with our spoons as if it was soup.

For our main course, we feasted on pan roasted yellowtail served over the yellow haricots verts which I'd delicately blanched, and topped off with a citrus reduction studded with the last of the purple spring onions. As a side dish, I added my slow-cooked white beans, which had been simmering in my crock pot all day with garlic and the herbs I'd picked up that morning. Wow, what a great meal! I'll be back at the market this Sunday without fail.

In the coming weeks, I promise to share all of these recipes, but in the meantime, here's my recipe for the clams. This dish was a true winner! Looking to make it into a complete meal? Toss it with pasta or serve it with bread (to sop up the sauce) and a salad!

Domestic Diva's Clams with Purple Spring Onions & Baby Heirloom Tomatoes

2 lbs clams
1 bunch purple spring onions, roots removed and bulbs thinly sliced (regular spring onions can be used)
1 cup baby heirloom or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup basil, chopped
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper


In a heavy bottomed stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and tomatoes, sauteing for a few minutes until beginning to soften. Add the wine and half the basil and bring to a simmer, reducing the sauce in half. Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper and add the clams.

Cover and steam the clams for about 5-10 minutes, until all the clams have opened. Remove from the heat. Squeeze lemon juice on top and sprinkle with the remaining basil. Serve family style in a big bowl. Enjoy!

Businesses Mentioned:

Hollywood Farmer's Market
Sunday 8am - 1pm

Ivar & Selma Ave. between Hollywood & Sunset Blvd.
Parking at Arclight $2 with market validation

Kenter Canyon Farms
11069 Penrose St.
Sun Valley, CA 91352

Local producer that grows & sells great lettuces & herbs, including organic rocket arugula. Their products can be found at Whole Foods and farmer's markets.

Source for Ingredients:

organic purple spring onions & manila clams from Hollywood Farmer's Market

organic baby heirloom tomatoes, organic basil & organic lemons from Whole Foods

Music on Tap:

Buffalo Springfield Box Set - Disc 3
U2 - Achtung Baby
Ben Harper - Live From Mars Disc 2
Death Cab for Cutie - Plans
The Ethan Iverson Trio - The Minor Passions

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