From the Santa Monica Farmers Market

No matter what you’re planning for your holiday meals, the best place to stock up on the produce you need is the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

With four markets on three days spread across the city, everything you need for a holiday meal is available locally.

Jodi Low, Market Coordinator for the Sunday Main Street Market said her go-to may be a Broccoli Casserole but she said it benefits from the abundance and diversity of goods available at the market.

“It’s a hearty recipe which is what I want when the weather turns cold. It has the texture of the broccoli, it’s creamy, it has bite from some lemon, you can top it with some crispy bacon and everything about it is just wonderful.”

Low said it’s a recipe that has strong memories. She literally can’t remember a time when it wasn’t on every holiday table and it has been passed down from one generation to the next.

“This is a recipe that’s consistent year to year with my family,” she said. “Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s always a favorite even with people that don’t like vegetables.”

Almost every ingredient for the dish can be sourced from the Santa Monica markets and Low said Santa Monica’s year-round markets provide residents with the special opportunity to select fresh produce from local vendors.

“When you buy from a store, it’s not as fresh as it is at the market, hands down,” she said.

“When you’re getting it from the market you’re buying from a farmer, or their employee, and it was picked the day before. The taste, look, nutrition are all better.”

With several meat/poultry vendors, Low said it’s entirely possible to fill the entire table from local vendors.

The market offers staples like chicken, turkey, beef and pork but there are also specialty meats like duck, goat, lamb, rabbit and bison. She said some of the products need to be ordered in advance so potential customers should think ahead for their holiday needs.

Outside the kitchen, Low said the market is a great source for holiday gifts. She said jam, jellies and preserves all travel well and some farmers offer direct shipping on their prepared foods. Other gifts include pickles, soups, lavender, essential oils or blueberry wine.

Low said the decision to shop at the market, whether it’s for food or gifts, is about putting an economic motivation behind big picture issues.

“It’s all about choices,” she said. “Who do you want to support? Family farmers and their employees? They are all from California and shopping at the market helps keep the agricultural land in agricultural production.”

3 pound broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 lemon (juiced)
8 ounces white button mushrooms, finely chopped
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
1 pound bacon (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook bacon on a baking sheet until crispy. Set aside on paper towels to drain the oil.

2. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish; set aside.

3. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the broccoli and boil for 3 to 5 minutes, until still firm, but tender enough that a fork can pierce through. Drain the broccoli in a colander and rinse with cold water.

4. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter, then add the onion and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release liquid and it has all evaporated, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

5. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter, then add the flour and stir until the mixture is lightly browned and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly begin to add the milk, whisking constantly until all of the milk has been added. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken.

Add one-third of the shredded cheese and stir until completely melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved onions and mushrooms, then stir in the salt and pepper. Add the broccoli and another one-third of the shredded cheese and the lemon juice.

Pour the sauce over the broccoli, then sprinkle with the remaining third of the shredded cheese. Mix until combined.

6. In a small bowl, crumble the bacon then sprinkle evenly over the top of the casserole.

7. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling, 15 to 25 minutes.

8. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!