A California Midsummer’s Harvest, in a bowl

Purchases from the Santa Monica Farmers' Market: apricots, white nectarines, a watermeon, flat-leaf parsley, asparagus, assorted summer squash, red onions, a celebrity tomato, and a plum of some sort that was given to me for being awesome/because the market was closing.

A few things readers of Lauren’s Little Kitchen already know very, very well, but hey, let’s review:

  1. Lauren is obsessed with where she lives.  She believes Santa Monica is heaven on earth and is beyond blessed to call this place home.  Click here for a previous post in which I brag about Santa Monica and its farmers’ market, too.
  2. Lauren has a problem with fruit and vegetable consumption.  She isn’t very good at saving anything for tomorrow, or for later, or for Ryan, or for whatever.  Especially when it comes to apples, apricots, strawberries, and grapes.  And broccoli, but nobody seems to really care about that.  Oh, and grilled or roasted yellow peppers!
  3. Lauren’s favorite thing to do is complain.  Her second favorite thing to do is go to the Farmers’ Market and eat free fruit.  Her third favorite thing to do is give her self the permission to spend a little bit of money at said market, and bring home stuff that’s just amazing.  And yesterday, after a crazy three days, that’s exactly what she did.

Squash is delightful, and the selling price really varies, so poke around.

Oh my, I’ll stop talking in the third person.  Could I be more obnoxious!?  Anyway, at around noon, I kicked off my heels and raced home to throw on jeans and a t-shirt, and off to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market I went!  Normally, I would never visit the market this late: the produce has been sitting out in the hot summer sun all morning, and the good stuff has already been picked.  What you’re dealing with could be the remainders, an over-squeezed peach, green-tinted apricots, bruised and battered zebra heirloom tomatoes.  And oh, isn’t that why we all started depending on the good ol’ grocery store anyway?  Because we wanted fruits and vegetables that looked perfect and felt perfect and tasted, well, as uninteresting but dependable as they looked. You know, a granny smith apple whose flesh is a billion pixels of bright-and-glossed-autumn-and-lime in the midst of April?  I’m not saying we should all rely on markets or seasons or this or that, because it’s unreasonable, and I don’t do it, either.  I like fajitas, and I like them in January, when I can’t buy anything even close to a bell pepper at my market.  And we all know I’d give up half my possessions for a good pink lady apple!  I guess what I’m trying to say is that attending your local farmers’ market is a whole different experience, one that allows you, even if just for a day, to be in constant conversation with your community and all that it creates.  It is an exercise in sustainability, and everybody should at least try it.  I think that, if nothing else, try to eat locally once a week.  Or try to have something local featured on your dinner table every night.  Figure out a way to support your health, your conscience, you taste buds!  Click here to find a farmers’ market near you.

I have been known to eat an apricot or six after lunch.

Oh, and if you shop smart and in season, it’s not even expensive!  I bought pesticide-free, ripe-as-could-be apricots for $1.60 a pound yesterday, and they threw in a free plum, too!  And a box of various, super interesting summer squash, for two bucks!  It was about two pounds of squash, picked the previous day.  So don’t say, I can’t afford to shop locally, unless you’ve checked out your local market, looked at the prices, and honestly had to say “hey, I really can’t afford this”.  If you live near a farm, and the weather’s fine, somebody is growing something at least a few months throughout the year.  Miami folks, take a drive down to Homestead one day this winter!  New York City folks, put on your tightest skinny jeans and grab a latte in a recycled cardboard cup and head on over to the Greenmarket, or be even cooler than that, and check out a market in Brooklyn.

You can find good deals on local produce, so don't say you can't afford to shop a farmers' market until you've actually checked out the prices.

My favorite tomato farm sells "softies" for two dollars a pound. That might seem expensive, but these are amazing tomatoes, and they make the greatest salsa frescas, bruschettas, and simple pasta sauces.

I love to cook.  There’s nothing better than turning on music and just making something out of the finest, freshest ingredients in the world.  Ingredients that you chose that very same day, that you chose under the kind advisement of a happy and helpful farmer who confirms your selections with a smile and answers any questions you might have, such as “should I be looking for softness or blush in a nectarine?” or “how long can I leave these tomatoes out on the counter if I don’t have air conditioning?” or “can you please, please, please explain to me how to cut a peach without ruining it?”.  If the farmer or seller isn’t receptive to your questions or seems distracted, thank him or her and buy from someone else!  I know it’s a farmers’ market, but it’s still a customer’s choice.

Enough rambling.  I bought stuff, I had a great time, and it was a cool, cloudy day, so the market wasn’t that swamped with people, and the fruit hadn’t turned to mush.  On to dinner, which was basically

Grilled Market Vegetables with Chicken, Penne, and Heirloom Tomatoes

Everything, in a bowl!

This recipe is about as loose as a recipe gets, friends.  Whatever is in season is exactly what you need.  Then, choose a protein and a grain, and do something marvelous.  Here’s what I used, making dinner for one:

  • asparagus, one small bunch, grilled
  • red onion, very small, cut into thick rings and skewered, grilled
  • 2 interesting squash, cut into crescents and skewered, grilled
  • 2 very soft tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 oz. whole wheat penne, cook until just tender
  • flat-leaf parsley, basil
  • sea salt, lemon juice, crushed red pepper, black pepper
  • just a dash of freshly minced garlic
  • a dash of olive oil
  • 3 oz. cooked chicken breast, cubed
  • good cheese, such as a hard Italian or a goat cheese
  • spinach or some other green, optional

**Note:  (Hi, I’m adding this post-publishing, because I realized I had called for 2 oz. penne, which is absolutely true, but only if you are feeding one!  Honestly, all of the vegetables I cooked will serve at least two people, but I’m a veggie-fiend.  Also, I’d recommend upping the protein to feed two, although you could definitely fill up without it.  So, double up when necessary!)

Essentially, I grilled my veggies with a little bit of sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and a little bit of balsamic and olive oil.  I did not allow them to become overly soft, because I wanted them to retain shape.  Watch your veggies carefully, because it varies.  I think I did about 8 minutes for everything but the asparagus, which were done really quickly, maybe in four minutes.  Oh, your pasta should be cooking/cooked, or prepare cous cous or have some crusty bread around.  Then, in a sauce pan, heat up a little bit of olive oil with some crushed red pepper, sea salt, and a little bit of basil and parsley.  Add a dash of chopped garlic and the tomatoes.  I like to use the juice too, but a lot of people would prefer it without, I’m sure.  Reduce the heat to low and add the chicken and the penne and let simmer for a minute or so.  Add the prepared vegetables.  (I did not add my asparagus, I like it on the side.)  Stir, simmer for a few seconds, add the spinach and a dash of lemon juice.  Allow the spinach to just wilt, and serve, with a good cheese, hard or soft, and a little bit of extra flat-leaf parsley.  Enjoy!

Vegetables on the grill.

Chopped softy tomatoes for the sauce.

Tomatoes, with their good friends, olive oil and low heat.

Add veggies and chicken.

Add a green, if desired. I used spinach. Arugula would have been amazing. And lemon juice!

Sweet summer in a bowl, with some pasta.

Another shot, for the asparagus-lovers out there.

Notes!  I want to make this dish over and over again, a little differently each time.   Next time, I think I want to try it with garbanzo beans and fresh pita bread or some other grilled flatbread and kind of go Mediterranean… which is so doable, because peppers will be here soon!  Also, I think this dish would have worked really well with brown rice and larger, simmered chicken parts, almost like a light summer stew.  This is making me hungry.  By the way, I know this isn’t a peak into Ryan’s lunchbox, but this week has been crazy and I do what I want.  Talk to you soon!

Leave a comment, and tell me about your favorite farmers’ market!  Or just say hi.  Or don’t.  I’m just happy you’re here.

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Comments
21 Responses to “A California Midsummer’s Harvest, in a bowl”
  1. Things I love about this post:
    1. your passion for the farmer’s market
    2. your enthusiasm about cooking
    3. those awesome pictures
    4. that you make “Penne and Whatever is Available” just like I do

  2. So simple and so good….greta pasta for post Market trip. We are in SF and we have good markets here but I do want to check out some of the Southern California markets!

  3. foundbaking says:

    Look at the array of colors! How beautiful. Boy, those summer squash varieties are pretty and crazy looking at the same time. You are very lucky that you can get to Santa Monica Farmer’s Market in a snap. I’ve said this before, I am a sucker for pasta. All those fresh vegetables too! Salivating at 9:06 pm and I had a big plate of pot roast already for dinner and I feel like I could down your pasta right about now.

  4. Pachecopatty says:

    Hi Lauren,Monet mentioned your site so I came over to check it out! Nice post about one of my favorite places to shop. I like the dish you made with all the fresh veggies, softie tomato sauce and pasta, yummy! I agree Santa Monica is a beautiful place to visit, love the beach and your weather:-) I enjoyed your site and will try to get back, take care, Patty

  5. Oh I love Santa Monica’s Farmers market:) This pasta dish is fantastic! And I love the photos too, especially your step by step:)

  6. What a great farmer’s market. I love Santa Monica. So jealous you get to live there!

  7. I love the market photos! Great tips, great post!

  8. bb's mom says:

    looks great! we went to the farmer’s mkt in Torrance last week and enjoyed our take. we even bought a zebra heirloom tomato plant and a garlic chive plant. bb is up north today and has bought me some authentic santa rosa plums for me. i use to buy them when i worked by the santa monica market and missed them terribly!

  9. Marisa says:

    Wow you got so many beautiful things at the market. Excellent way to enjoy all that good stuff!

  10. Michelle says:

    I would also do almost anything for a pink lady apple, they’re amazing! I think this recipe looks delicious, mostly because I’m also a fruit/veggie junkie, and I love to grill/roast veggies. Also, I’m extremely jealous of your living in Santa Monica, the farmer’s markets here (La Crosse, WI) aren’t very good 😦

  11. roxan says:

    Lauren you’re so cute! I love farmers markets too. I work downtown so I usually go to those ones… Sometimes it’s hard to walk back to the office with all my goods, haha!

    • Lauren says:

      you should get a stroller! i am so jealous of those moms who push around their kids, but really, they are just protecting their berries and peaches and herbs.

  12. Jean says:

    Yum, yum and yum! Everything looks so good–I used the same seasonings for my veggies, too. I’ve been eating so much rich food lately that your veggies are really calling my name. Very nice!

  13. Mom says:

    Oh those pictures are so great and colorful! I can not wait to come back to Santa Monica and do the market again. It warms my heart to see all your lovely kitchenware and delicious food.

    • Lauren says:

      Mom, you are welcome to visit us whenever you want! And, if it pleases you so, you can even bring us more cool stuff for the kitchen. And stock our fridge, etc.

  14. That pasta dish lo0ks absolutely AMAZING – yumm!! Please come over to my house and cook for me!

  15. Monet says:

    I agree with Georgia…some great tips. I only wish I lived in your dream world of Santa Monica. It really does sound heavenly. I don’t know if I could handle it! I think if we all had access to such great markets, we would all be healthier, happier, and more beautiful people. I also have a problem with my produce consumption. I always save the best apples for myself and whenever we make steamed broccoli/cauliflower, I give myself a double portion. Thankfully Ryan still loves me. I will send an email your way soon!

  16. Jessie says:

    When I charge into Cali full force I’m finding this farmer’s market and I’m going to be in hog heavenn.. I love your pastas. Please send one with TLC over here so I can have it for dinner. Thanks love!

  17. Libby Mahaffey says:

    Lauren – To stoke your veggie passion, substitute a generous handful of fresh mushrooms for the chicken. I am partial to portobellos, but oyster shrooms make me salivate too! Keep grillin’ – it’s too hot in the kitchen to cook!

  18. Oh my god, Lauren – these are great tips! I try to check out the Santa Monica market about once every two weeks, and I always come away with an armful of stuff. And look at that amazing, colorful dish you made out of all your farmer’s market findings! I’m so inspired by your fresh and healthy recipes. Now go bake us a cake! ;D

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