Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Report: Crunchy Cucumbers and Big Fat Figs

A.O.C.’s Adam Cherney and Bucato’s Evan Funke share their recipes

KCRW Good Food Producer Gillian Ferguson shares highlights from farmers’ markets around Los Angeles, along with tips from chefs and growers on how to best use what’s in your basket.

The U.N. of Cucumbers
“Crunchy Persians” reads the sign at Chris Milliken’s farm stand—a heap of verdant green slightly irregular cucumbers are piled below. To the right is a mound of American Slicers, the thick skinned variety all too often abused by 1990’s salad bars. Behind the stand, a line of chefs wait for specialty varieties like lemon cucumbers—the baseball sized towheads of the family—and mouse melons, a miniscule novelty crop which Milliken describes as “Barbie’s watermelon.”

The Persian variety includes Armenians and English hothouse, and are more often pickled than the pickling variety. (We know, it’s confusing.) Chefs appreciate their thin skin, delicate size and near seedless flesh. A.O.C. sous chef Adam Cherney selects crunchy Persian cucumbers for his housemade pickles which he layers with romesco aioli, grilled red onions, and manchego on the restaurant’s lunchtime burger. Though So Cal farmers can grow cucumbers year-round, ask for field-grown varieties for a true taste of summer.

Where to find fresh cucumbers in LA: Many farmers grow cucumbers year round in Southern California, look for specialty cucumbers from Milliken Family Farms (Wednesday and Saturday Santa Monica), Flora Bella (Wednesday Santa Monica, Sunday Hollywood) and Munak Ranch (Wednesday and Saturday, Downtown Santa Monica, Sunday Main Street Santa Monica).

Figs on a Plate a.k.a. How to Win Your Next Dinner Party
Want to make burrata taste even better? Serve it with ripe, jammy figs. Still not good enough? Ditch the taut mozzarella-purse that holds the stracciatella, dump the wet interior in a mixer and whip it with organic cream.

“When you cut into the burrata in Puglia, it spills out,” explains Bucato chef Evan Funke. So in homage to the Southern Italian version, Funke beats in fresh Clover cream to local Goya burrata before plating it with super sweet black mission and white kadota figs from Murray Family Farms. “When (figs) are perfect,” he says, “it’s burrata, basil, figs, sea salt, olive oil. Just straight up.”

For dessert, don’t ignore Bucato’s “Tutti Frutti,” literally a panoply of fruit including figs, berries and nectarines, paired with pistachio cake and housemade pistachio gelato.

Where to find fresh figs in L.A.Murray Family Farms (Wednesday Santa Monica, SaturdayTorrance and Sunday Hollywood),  Pudwill Family Farms (Wednesday and Saturday Dowtown Santa Monica, Saturday Pico, Sunday Main Street, Sunday Hollywood, Sunday Beverly Hills, Sunday Studio City and Sunday Mar Vista) and Dates by DaVall (Wednesday and Saturday Downtown Santa Monica,Saturday Torrance, Saturday Pasadena and Sunday Hollywood).