Inspired by Eating LA’s report on the Alhambra Farmers’ Market, I made my way over to my old stomping grounds last Sunday to check it out. My first boyfriend in college used to live a couple blocks away from the market, but as the kitchen of the house he lived in was a dismal, grease-yellowed room used only by the creepy guy down the hall who seemed to always be hanging around in a dirty bathrobe, we didn’t cook much and never stopped by for produce.
We should have. It’s a small but vibrant farmers’ market with two rows of produce sellers connected by a few tables selling prepared foods. The selection is surprisingly varied, thanks to the large Asian population in the area. I was tempted by a long table covered by stacks and stacks of bundled pea shoots and spent a long time looking at the unfamiliar greens labeled only in Chinese. (At the same table, the woman next to me was shown a box of large, straw-speckled eggs — goose eggs maybe? — which she touched gently and with approval. She bought two.)
The highlight of the market for me was Ana’s Farm, which sells whole free range, sustainably-raised chickens for less than $4/lb. The catch? They still have their heads and feet attached, so unless you are serving the chicken Asian-style, some butchery is required. I bought a 3 1/2-pound chicken and a carton of eggs, a steal at $3/dozen. I ended up roasting the chicken (more on that in a later post) and have been eating the eggs all week, marveling at how golden and flavorful the yolks are.
Prices in general are much lower than at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, my usual Sunday stop, and that includes more than just the produce. Flowers are especially affordable, between $2 to $3 for a big bunch, and there is a table selling beautiful bonsai for as little as $12 each.
When I left, my bag included dandelion greens, turnip greens (with immature turnips attached), a couple oro blanco grapefruits and a bunch of French radishes. Except for a few of the radishes, I’ve eaten everything over the course of the week (even the dozen eggs!). I blanched the dandelion greens, mashed them up with some boiled russet potatoes and olive oil, covered them with panko crumbs and baked the whole thing, following a recipe by Mark Bittman. The turnip greens were added to a pot of oven-baked pinto beans, which I ate over turmeric-spiced rice. The grapefruits I’ve been eating for breakfast every morning and the radishes are good raw alongside lunchtime sandwiches.
But it’s the eggs I keep thinking about, the eggs and the chicken. I used to eat a hard-cooked egg every day for breakfast in Japan and was saddened, upon my return, by the colorless, flavorless eggs in the U.S., even the fancy organic ones. But these eggs — these eggs were good. Perfectly hard-cooked and dipped in a little salt and pepper, they transported me back to my little table on the tatami floor in my little living room. Now I just need to find a good source for super-thick Japanese toast.
One Perfect Hard-Cooked Egg
Place egg in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Put a lid on the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. As soon as water starts boiling, turn off the heat and set a timer for 7 minutes (5 minutes for a medium egg). When the timer goes off, pour out the water and cover the egg with cold water. Let sit until cool enough to handle. Crack, peel and enjoy.
Alhambra Farmers’ Market
Monterey Street between Main & Bay State
Sundays, 8:30am to 1pm