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Little Italy Mercato Blog

Lime 'Em Up!

January 20, 2012 - 5:30pm
Julie SR

Buying citrus at the Little Italy Mercato means oranges at Lone Oak Ranch and Meyer lemons from Polito Farms, but are limes also in your picture? This versatile fruit is more than a garnish for gin and tonics or fish tacos. Add it to your food and drink arsenal for a nice one-two punch of savory flavor and bright citrus tones. Gilbert Quintos has them, and Paradise Valley Ranch offers limes along with their stunning avocado selection for a head start on guacamole.

Using a little pressure, roll limes around in your hands or on your cutting board before you cut into them, and the juice will be released with ease.

Lime and poultry makes a winning combination. Marinate your Spur Valley Ranch chicken in lime juice, a glug of Marion’s Olive Oil, some onions and heirloom garlic from Sage Mountain Farms, and salt and pepper to taste. While it's roasting, whip up a batch of Brazil’s national drink, the Caipirinha. Cut a lime into eighths and mash it up with a tablespoon of sugar in a tall glass. Top with white rum, add ice and be whisked away to a beach in Rio. Once you get the hang of how varied this little green fruit can be, you’ll be lime-ing up to buy more.

Do You Feel Lucky?

December 30, 2011 - 6:13pm
Catt W


Every culture has traditional foods for inviting luck in the New Year and whichever you choose the Little Italy Mercato offers all the ingredients you need for January 1st eating.

In Italy, as in many cultures, pork is usually on the menu since pigs move forward and represent the fat of the land. Conversely, finish that lobster on New Year's Eve. They move backwards and are considered bad luck on New Year's Day. Ditto chickens and turkeys that scratch backwards, but we're thinking rabbit would be auspicious. Along with the pork, Italians eat lentils symbolizing money, like the beans and peas that many cultures consume.

We're going for the version that started in the Southern United States. Buy Susie's Farm's fresh black eyed peas; they cook up much faster than the dried ones. Suncoast Farms offers a variety of dried beans, so pick your favorites. Add sausage from SonRise Ranch or pork chops from Da Le Ranch. For traditional Hoppin' John, add rice.

We'll be cooking it all up with a mess of greens, representing paper money. Germans typically eat cabbage or sauerkraut and Happy Pantry has you covered there. Boiled or sauteed collards, kale, chard or even spinach will work, and JR Organics, Suzie's, and Sage Mountain Farms offer a wide variety. Add a chopped onion and some crushed garlic. We like the kick of a sliced jalapeno or other chiles. Cornbread from Belen Bakery will round out your meal. Then just sit back and welcome good fortune in 2012!


New Year, New Foods

December 30, 2011 - 3:57pm
Catt F


Whether you've had a 2011 to celebrate, or you're one of the many who feel they barely survived, there's something hopeful about washing away the past and welcoming a new year. Shop the Little Italy Mercato tomorrow to make your celebration delicious.

In the spirit of transition, pair old favorites and new foods tomorrow night. Stuff Morocco Gold Dates with Cinnamon PB Peanut Butter. Devil a dozen eggs from Swiss Mountain. Try a fresh sea urchin from Poppa's Fresh Fish or order a live lobster, and shuck Carlsbad AquaFarm oysters at your party. Mary at Taste Cheese will introduce you to varieties of fromaggio that you've never tried before; pick up Sweet Potato or Whole Grain crackers from Fresh Start Foods and complete your tray with honeyed almonds from Hopkins AG and dried pluots from Smit Orchards. Stop by Mello Mushroom and try this clever Chanterelle Ceviche recipe to serve with Baba Foods' pita chips. Slice and grill zucchini from Poiros Family Farm and stuff with Terra Bella Ranch's sun dried tomatoes and Springhill Farms goat cheese for these rollups.

What's left? Just grab a few bottles of Merlot or Viognier from Triple B Ranch at the Mercato, and some cold Prosecco from Mona Lisa for that midnight toast, then it's on to 2012!


Eat With the Fishes

December 23, 2011 - 8:00pm
Catt W


For Italians, like many Europeans, Christmas dinner's got nothing on the Christmas Eve feast, and in Southern Italy it's all about fish. The Little Italy Mercato on Christmas Eve morning will have all the ingredients you need for that celebration. Oysters, scallops, linguine with clam sauce, sardines, urchins, lobster and more: the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a tradition to warm the hearts of seafood lovers. Whether the seven varieties symbolize the Catholic sacraments or the seven virtues (or perhaps surrender to gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins) it's a delightful tradition. 

Choose your favorite fish from Poppas' Fresh Fish and the peppers from our newest farmer Proios Family Farm and try this Roasted Pepper Crab Soup, or use fresh pasta and olives from Lisko Imports, lemons from Polito Farms, and beans from Suncoast Farm and try Foodblogga Susan Russo's linguine with mixed seafood or tuna and olive pasta. For baccala (salt cod), stop by Mona Lisa on India Street. On Christmas Eve we all eat with the fishes.

Cauliflower's Power Hour

December 19, 2011 - 12:04pm
Britta T

Easy. Pleasing. AND good looking, cauliflower draws a lot of attention at the Little Italy Mercato. It's user friendly, and can be adapted for a variety of recipes to feed the masses.  The Romanesco from Suzie's is the dazzling green love child, "brocco-flower". It takes on a deep, nutty flavor when you turn it into a hot skillet with a bit of salt, olive oil, and spices. The gorgeous white blossoms at Suncoast Farms pair exquisitely with a bit of flaked cyprus salt from Salt Farm and a dash of nutmeg or ground cinnamon from Just Spice. Try roasting the pieces with turnips or beets for a more colorful and sweet dish and serve with a grilled filet of halibut from Poppas' Fresh Fish. Drizzle everything in a bit of avocado oil from Marion's Olive Oil and squeezed lemon juice. 


Reds and Greens for Holiday Scenes

December 19, 2011 - 11:19am
Britta T

Eat, drink, and be merry by shopping at the Little Italy Mercato. Holiday parties and lots of family members hungry stomachs mean it might be the perfect time to make a big batch of lasagna or your other favorite pasta. Buy green spinach linguini or gnocchi from Lisko Imports and smother it with any of the gorgeous green pestos from Basiltops for a warm, festive meal. Offer plates of roasted Italian sausage from Sonrise Ranch, small rounds of your favorite creamy, cheese from Mary at Taste Cheese, and plenty of fresh baked bread from Belen or Bread & Cie to sop up the sauce. 

Pick up a pint of dark red pomegranate juice from Lone Oak Ranch or Schaner's Farm or fresh apple cider from Smit Orchards. You can even spruce up your drinks with little sprigs of green mint or rosemary from Rivera Treasure Garden! It's the most wonderful time of the year...


Balancing Navels

December 12, 2011 - 1:52pm
Britta T

Though they grow pretty much year round in San Diego, oranges light up the stalls at the Little Italy Mercato during the winter months. Versatile, sweet, and terribly healthy, organic oranges should be at the top of your shopping (and cooking) list this season.

Lone Oak Ranch sells juicy, easy to peel Satsumas and Mandarines while Polito Farms carry Navel and Valencia as well as other citrus fruit. Saute onions and ginger together and then deglaze the pan with pressed orange juice from Paradise Valley Ranch. Use the liquid as a sauce for grilling salmon or tuna from Poppa's Fresh Fish.

Orange wedges, shaved fennel from Vang Farms and boiled Chiogga beets from Suzie's Farm make a delightfully refreshing salad. Mix with your tender winter lettuce or vibrant leafy greens from Maciel Family Farms.

Gently simmer sweet potatoes, and winter squash from Sage Mountain Farm in orange juice. Before serving, sprinkle with walnuts and perhaps a dash of balsamic vinegar from Gianni's Fine Foods. Cooking with oranges makes everyone feel like a fuzzy navel, doesn't it?

Some Chanterelle Evening

December 2, 2011 - 6:20pm
Catt W


Joshua Mello is back this week with freshly harvested chanterelle mushrooms. Yes, our mushroom farmer is named Mello Mushroom. Shades of the sixties, and there's definitely something magic about these mushrooms. Of course chanterelles aren't farmed, they're gathered, from woodsy locations closely guarded by those who nurture and harvest them. It's easy for you. Gather some of these golden beauties at the Little Italy farmers' market and saute them gently in some fresh Springhill Farms butter to serve with a nice steak from SonRise Ranch or a Da Le Ranch pork chop. Make a meal of Chanterelle Risotto, served with a lovely crisp Viognier from Triple B Ranch.

They have a short season, so use them now, and consider saving some with this lovely Pickled Chanterelle recipe from ChezPim. Pick up all of the ingredients at the Mercato: shallots from Schaner Farms, golden raisins from Smit Orchards, and olive oil from Marion's or Italianissimo.

Tropical Holi-glaze

November 28, 2011 - 9:54am
Britta T

Tropical Holi-glaze

Strolling the stalls of the Little Italy Mercato each week and seeing the ebb and flow of certain fruits and vegetables makes you truly appreciate San Diego's seasons, though subtle they are. We've turned a golden leaf and entered into Winter with new products rolling around all our vendors tables.

Visit Paradise Valley Ranch or Smit Orchards for a taste of bright, sweet Navel oranges- perfect for making fresh juice, reducing an herbed citrus glaze for meats or fish. Try shopping at Poppa's Fresh Fish for delicious filets of fish, fresh clams and oysters.

Since the days are still warm and sunny- try giving your next dinner or treat a tropical twist. Guavas from Polito Farms or Rancho Mexico Lindo are ripe and fragrant right now! Try making a most delicious guava sauce with fresh lime from Schaner's Farm and spreading it over sauteed pasture fed chicken from Spur Valley Ranch and caramelized onions. Or add a little heat to the glaze by sautéing a habanero pepper from Suzies' Farm with garlic and onions from Vang Farms and orange juice with fresh guavas. 

And for dessert (or breakfast) you could indulge in the Mexican dish "Dulce de Calabasa". It's made by boiling down pumpkin, guava, lime, and raw sugar to make a mouthwatering sweet treat.

Look Sharp!

November 25, 2011 - 1:02pm
Catt W


There's nothing like preparing a holiday meal for a crowd to discover whether your kitchen tools and your skills are up to date. If dull knives were a problem on Thanksgiving, bring yours along to the Little Italy Mercato and Knife Savers will sharpen them while you shop. Is it worse than just a dull edge? Maybe it's time to invest in beautiful new Messermeister knives from Artistic Woodcrafters, and see why chefs carry their knives with them wherever they go. 

Seven Hopes United offers sweet aprons and pot holders, The Wheel has beautiful plates and serving dishes, Just Spice has pretty measuring cups and mortar and pestle sets, and RePac offers a green alternative to ZipLocs when it's time to wrap that turkey sandwich.

This Saturday, November 26, take advantage of Artistic Woodcrafter's 25% off sale on other kitchen tools, and check out the free Messermeister knife skills workshop at the next booth, from 9 to 1:30, to learn how to really use those great knives. Look sharp!