While I have only been to the Santa Monica Farmers' Market once, the Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook is a place I will return to time and time again.
The San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmers' market has inspired at least two terrific cookbooks that I know of, Fresh from the Farmers' Market and The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Cookbook. But even though it's not local, the Santa Monica book is my current new favorite. After a brief history of the market and "day in the life of a market manager" there is a great section on tips for shopping at the market. These tips apply to every possible farmers' market, not just the one in Santa Monica. My favorite tip? "Carpe Diem. If you find something amazing, buy it on the spot and change your cooking plans."
Instead of organizing the book by seasons or type of produce, it is organized by meals. The explanation is that seasons vary from year to year and from place to place, though the likely season for each recipe is marked in the margins. Sprinkled throughout the book are chefs tips, farmers tips and guidance on how to choose the best produce. The recipes themselves are at the same time exciting and approachable. Many of the recipes have an unexpected twist. A baked applesauce uses a bit of thyme, a tomato and bread salad includes olives and cucumber, a cherry and almond salad sounds like something you'd find in a restaurant and a roasted okra side dish also features fresh peanuts.
Classic Tomato Soup with a Goat Cheese Swirl
What gives old-fashioned tomato soup its comfort-food super-status is its perfect sweet-acid balance. Sample tomatoes at the market and if they are too acid or too sweet, add a few of another variety to your shopping bag to adjust the flavors (especially important when using low-acid Japanese, orange, yellow, or white tomatoes). Chervil adds a delicate celery-like flavor that complements the tomatoes.
Makes 8 servings