EDITORS NOTE: The Santa Monica Daily Press has complied seasonal recipes from several local restaurants as part of a series leading up to Thanksgiving. The following features Chef Erin Eastland from Milo & Olive
The Santa Monica Farmers Market is known far and wide as a bastion of great, seasonal food produced and sold by California Farmers. Residents can browse the selections at any of the four weekly markets but for those without the inclination to actually prepare the goods on display, they can go to Milo & Olive where Chef Erin Eastland’s menu is a reflection of the market bounty.
“I really, really focus the menu on the Farmers Market,” she said. “What’s available, and stuff I personally love.”
In fact, the market is a foundation of Eastland’s cooking career. After stints in East Coast restaurants, she moved to Los Angeles when her husband began finance school at USC. The couple was wandering through Santa Monica when they stumbled upon the market.
“I specifically remember picking up the artichokes and them being huge and seeing all the stuff that you couldn’t get back east,” she said.
Eastland decided that Santa Monica should be their new home and that she wanted her work in the kitchen to be based on the market experience.
“For me, it started as just going to the Farmers Market and seeing how great the farmers are, hearing from their perspective the things that aren’t working out on the farm or what they have. I’m always playing with my menu items based on what they’re giving me. If there’s a lot of something that’s really great right now, I’m happy to accommodate that.”
Shopping from the market also enables her to acquire as much organic produce as possible.
“Specifically Milo and this restaurant group, does everything possible to do everything organic,” she said. “We made a big push to get that done throughout the group last year and probably 99 percent of the stuff we have in our restaurants right now is organic.”
She said as an East Coast transplant, she’s a little obsessed with the seasons and has a tendency to make up for the lack of external weather by focusing on seasonal food.
“It’s probably a little bit too much but I get so excited when something comes into season that I tend to focus a lot around it and put it in a lot of my dishes.”
As her ingredient of choice rotates through corn to peaches to English peas, she said each transition is about maximizing the value of each item. For the fall, squash takes center stage at the restaurant showing up in ravioli, flatbreads and her roasted squash with date butter. She said the dish was developed to capitalize on the restaurant’s wood oven but can be replicated by the home chef using a broiler.
“This will crisp up really nicely in a wood oven or a broiler, it will get that great brown crust on it.”
She said customers want seasonal foods but due to Santa Monica’s mild weather, the amount of time spent in each season is not equal. Fall/Winter tend to be shortened as heat persists into October.
“People embrace it as soon as the weather turns,” she said. “I think people want to see that stuff on the menu but it’s harder to get into it when it’s hot outside.”