Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Report: Summer’s Last Hurrah

CJ Jacobson makes good use of summer’s last batch of sweet corn at Girasol

It feels like summer, but looks a lot like fall. This week at the farmers’ market cherry tomatoes, melons, and late season peaches compete with early apples, Asian pears, and winter squash. Warm weather and drought conditions have pushed every crop in California two weeks early. Farmers are flustered. Chefs are literally flush with produce.

Yet summer is not over. Chefs would no sooner shelve an O’Henry peach from John Tenerelli than Angelenos would pack away their white pants after Labor Day. This holiday weekend, ignore the apples, forget the pears, embrace the flavors of summer. Eat some corn.

You can still find sweet corn ice cream on the menu at Sweet Rose Creamery. At Huckleberry, fresh corn kernels remain suspended between butter and blueberries in Zoe Nathan’s signature blueberry cornmeal cake. At Playa Provisions, Brooke Williamson serves ears of corn on the cob slathered with umami butter and dusted with Parmesan Cheese, and across town at Girasol, CJ Jacobson purees corn kernels with sautéed onions before adding butter, a squeeze of lemon and burying the mixture beneath a hefty pork chop.

For CJ, a Noma alum, cooking is all about a sense of place. The six foot eight chef is easy to spot every Wednesday, towering above the market goers, trying to blend in as he ducks down to order peppers from Peacock Family Farms or squash blossoms from Thao Farms. When he’s not at the market, in the kitchen or dueling on Top Chef he can be found foraging for wild California bay leaf or rabbit tobacco in the Angeles National Forest.

This Saturday, CJ will be at the Paramount Studios for a market inspired cooking demo as part of Field to Fork, a farmers market celebration at The Taste, the yearly food festival hosted by the Los Angeles Times. His dish, featuring cod, kelp, corn, and lacto-fermented chiles exemplifies CJ’s passion for California products. “The California Black Cod that’s caught off Morro Bay is very sustainable,” he says. “They use traps so there’s no random other species getting caught as well.” He marinates the cod in a paste of sweet corn and lacto-fermented chiles for 24 hours before loosely wrapping the fish and marinade in kombu. Inspired by a tamale, the fish steams in the seaweed before CJ finishes it on the grill. “When you grill in seaweed,” he says, “it adds a nice umami, sometimes molasses-y note.” To finish he adds a sauce of squash blossoms and foraged California bay leaves. When served as a special at Girasol, the whole package resembles fish en papillote and tastes of summer in California.

See CJ Jacobson’s demo at The Taste at 12:45 this Saturday, August 30th.

Where to buy fresh summer corn in Los Angeles: Tamai Farms (You can find their stand at every major Los Angeles farmers’ market including Wednesday Santa Monica and Sunday Hollywood) and Valdivia Farms (Wednesday Santa Monica, Thursday South Pasadena and Sunday Hollywood).