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Little Italy Mercato Blog

Blood Lust

March 23, 2012 - 9:58pm
Chris S

The most popular orange in Italy, the blood orange or arancia rossa is also a favorite at the Little Italy Mercato and you’ll find them at Lone Oak, Gilbert Quintos, Schaner farms, Rancho Mexico Lindo and Polito Family Farms this time of year.

Blood oranges have a reddish tint on their peel, but it is the bright crimson flesh inside that gives the fruit its frightening moniker.  The flavor is a sweet-tart sensation with a hint of raspberry, and it adds an attractive splash of color to many sweet and savory dishes. Toss blood orange sections with your favorite greens (we like dandelion leaves from JR Organics), fresh chevre from Nicolau Farms and a little basil; dress with blood orange vinaigrette, of course, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Italianissimo.

Mix blood oranges with fresh fish from Poppa’s Seafood and cilantro and onion from your favorite farmers for a spectacular ceviche.  Use them to pep up any fruit punch or sangria, or substitute them for other citrus in your favorite pie or  tart recipe to make a striking desert presentation. We like this amazing almond tarte with blood orange compote. If you have an ice cream maker, blood orange sorbet is an exquisite treat not to be missed.  Blood oranges ripen only in the spring, so don’t miss out on your chance to enjoy them; pick some up at the Little Italy Mercato this Saturday!

Brrrrrussels Sprouts

February 24, 2012 - 4:54pm
Chris C


San Diego doesn’t have much of a winter compared to some cities, but the nights are still cool this time of year and it’s a great time for roasting winter vegetables in the oven. FInd my favorite, Brussels sprouts, at Suncoast Farm at the Little Italy Mercato. Grab some sweet yellow onions from Schaner Farms. The sprouts are rumored to be loaded with healthy glucosinolates and other things I can’t pronounce, but I eat them because they taste good, and they taste even better with bacon from DaLe Ranch.  
Fry up a couple slices of bacon, barely trim the ends and then cut the sprouts in half, slice the onions, and toss sprouts and onions in a little  bacon fat before roasting them in the oven at about 300 degrees until they turn soft and begin to brown. Sliced shitake mushrooms from Kawano Farms' booth or candy stripe beets from Maciel Farms make great additions, just roast them together with the other vegetables.  Leave the oven door open to warm up the house while you enjoy the sprouts as a side dish, or maybe over some fresh pasta from Lisko Imports as an entree. If you don’t dine on swine, skip the bacon and use a little California olive oil from Marion’s Olive Oil.

Another way to warm up with sprouts is to add them to soups or stews; they add a great flavor and a little crunch to any potato soup.  Roasted sprouts are also a fantastic item for dipping in fondue, and Taste Cheese just got in some great Alpine cheeses if you’re considering that route. When the evening chill creeps into your house, don’t say brrr, say brrrussels sprouts!

One Stop Valentine Shopping

February 11, 2012 - 8:12am
Brijet M

Rev up the romance at the Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market with everything you need to start your Valentines’ Day celebration this weekend! Treat your love to a delicious Sunday brunch, and don't forget to stash some goodies for Tuesday.

Get in the mood on Sunday morning with gorgeous berries from J.R.Organics, Kawano Farms or Pudwill Farms. Scramble farm-fresh eggs from Schaner Farms or Paradise Valley Ranch, and warm croissants from Belen Bakery or Bread & Cie. Squeeze the dozen plump oranges you grabbed from Lone Oak Ranch or Polito Farms and brew your favorite coffee beans from Café Virtuoso. (If it was us, we’d grab a bottle of Prosecco from Filippis and use some juice and raspberries to make pretty mimosas.) Put out the gorgeous Coeur Fleuri you got from Taste Cheese. Finish your beautiful brunch setting with an orchid in your sweetheart’s favorite color from Encinitas Orchids or Orchidanica, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a romantic Valentines’ Day this year. Stained glass heart cookies from Patisserie Soleil and gooey gluten-free bars from Olive Oil Café for dessert will melt your darling's heart.

Post-brunch or saved for Tuesday, jewelry is always a welcome gift! Select a hammered heart pendant from Lizzy B’s Vintage Jewelry or copper heart earrings from Angel Me. Choose a handmade paper card from Irrobat, and a carved ceramic heart from Fair Trade Décor at the top of the market to build just the right gift for your beloved.We have a great gallery of other ideas here.

Of course you can’t have Valentines’ Day without savoring something sweet!  While you’re at the Mercato don’t resist picking up Caxao Chocolate’s new ‘French Kisses’… dark chocolate liquid caramel mixed with chili and covered with a layer of rich dark chocolate. You know the way to your partner’s heart is gift boxes from Sea Salt Candy Company or Eclipse Chocolat. To satisfy your gluten free honey’s sweet tooth pick up a bag of gluten free Red Velvet cake mix from Sustainable Pantry, bake, decorate and serve before dinner.

Don’t forget a bouquet of fresh cut local flowers from Hidalgo Flowers, Maldonado Growers or Dramm and Echter, and firewood from Gilbert Quintos to set the mood. When it comes to romance, the Little Italy Mercato offers one-stop shopping!


Have a Heart

February 11, 2012 - 8:02am
Chris S


We spotted the first big-heart artichokes of the season at Suncoast Farm's stand at the Little Italy Mercato last Saturday. They could be just the thing if you’re aiming to win someone’s heart this week; like asparagus and oysters (also at the market now) they're considered aphrodisiacs.

Don’t be intimidated by these gorgeous green globes, we’ve found some friendly advice on how to prepare them so your special dinner will impress that special someone.  You may want to dip the lovely leaves in a homemade aioli made with eggs from Swiss Mountain, imported olive oil from Italianissimo, and fresh garlic from Sage Mountain; or for a delicious vegan option, use almond based Bitchin’ Sauce.  We also like this pretty recipe for roasted artichoke hearts.

When the last leaf is eaten, you’ll be down to one last tender bite, the heart of the artichoke.  And herein lies the true test of love: will you share?

Shop Little Italy for the Win!

February 4, 2012 - 6:47am
Brijet M





Score a big win with your Super Bowl party guests by shopping the Little Italy Mercato today. “Lucky” ticket-holders will be bundled up in big coats, hats and mittens in Indianapolis with a predicted high in the low 40’s. Really lucky fans here in sunny San Diego can enjoy the big game in tees and sandals, so think about picking up some organic Viva Pops for dessert, along with gooey bars from Olive Oil Cafe (you'll never guess they're gluten-free.)

Start with your appetizers - grab a few baguettes from Bread & Cie and infused oils for dipping from Gianni’s or California Olive. Choose manly cheeses like Fiscalini aged cheddar, Mimolette or Ewephoria (great with beer!) from Taste Cheese and fill your shopping bag with scarlet grapes from Smit Orchards. Forget the fried potato chips and salty dips! Pick up fresh crunchy carrots, celery and sugar snap peas from J.R. Organics, Maciel Farms or Gilbert Quintos to dip in some chipotle Bitchin’ Sauce and hummus from Baba Foods or Lisko Artisan Deli. While you’re at the Bitchin’ booth- grab some extra tubs to spread on your pre-game sandwiches, grilled chicken or fish! Poppa’s Fresh Fish will supply the oysters.

Speaking of the grill, get in on the biggest grilling day of the year with some kickin’ sausages from SonRise Ranch or tri tip and ribs from Da-Le Ranch. Make it a great ‘Half-Thyme’ meal with spices from Thyme of Essence for your grilled meat or veggies.

Not hosting the game this year? Bring a tin of honey cinnamon or spicy roasted almonds from Hopkins AG and a bottle of San Diego merlot from Triple B Ranches for the host. You’ll be Most Valuable Guest, for sure.


Oh My Squash!

January 20, 2012 - 6:14pm
Julie S. R.


So many types of winter squash are in abundance at the Little Italy Mercato Farmers Market now, pick up three or four varieties and make squash part of your weekly meal rotation. Get around the traditional methods by embracing the flavor of the skin, cutting down your prep time. Squash is versatile enough to be a side dish, a fulfilling main dish or even dessert, so the possibilities are endless.

JR Organics offers acorn squash, with a shape resembling - guess what? - acorns! Slice off the top, scoop out the seeds, and stuff with sundried tomatoes from Baba Foods or Terra Bella Ranch and some fresh herbs from Maciel farms. Throw the top back on and bake in a lightly oiled pan until the sides collapse. Drizzle with a little Mikolich honey and top with a nice crumbly feta from Taste Cheese. While most squash softens as it cooks, spaghetti squash fro Suzie's Farm separates to resemble, well, spaghetti. Cut in quarters and season with salt, pepper and garlic infused olive oil from Gianni's and roast until it caramelizes. Use a fork to scrape the insides, freeing the strands. Eat as is, or toss with your favorite Basiltops pesto and browned Apricot Chipotle  sausage from SonRise farms. We also like this amazing Butternut Squash soup recipe from local blogger Susan Russo. Squash, it's what's for dinner!

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.