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Little Italy Mercato Blog

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!

Lighten Up!

November 25, 2011 - 10:29am
Catt W

We all know that Thanksgiving is about taking time to acknowledge gratitude for family and friends, the relative comfort and safety we live in, and our many other blessings. Just looking around the Little Italy Mercato makes us thankful for harvest abundance.

So why does the holiday so often seem tied to gluttony? If you've overeaten this week, you're not alone. But it's simple to tip the scales back by lightening up for the next few days. Visiting relatives are probably tired of hanging around your house by now, not that that's bothering you. So a trip to the farmers' market on Saturday will be a great way to get some fresh air, enjoy the live music and the charms of Little Italy, and shop for the ingredients to get your eating back on track.

Pick up a jug of Green Fix and sip a fresh green smoothie for breakfast. Use those turkey leftovers to make a Cobb Salad for lunch, with hard-boiled farm fresh eggs and avocado from Paradise Valley Ranch on a bed of leafy greens and tomatoes from JR Organics and a light and creamy dressing made with Springhill farms quark. Grill a piece of Poppa's Fresh Fish for dinner, with some steamed baby potatoes from Sage Mountain Farm and new cauliflower from Suzie's Farm or broccoli from Suncoast Farms. See? All back in balance.


Thanksgiving and a Sweet Ending

November 14, 2011 - 12:45pm
Britta T

It's a tough call deciding which part of the thanksgiving meal is the best- but shopping at the Little Italy Mercato might turn you into a full fall dessert worshipper. Why make traditional desserts when you can peruse all the offerings at the market and create your own dish full of splendor, spice, and everything nice?

Persimmon Cookies: Plain and simple and easy to bake. Use fresh persimmons from Terra Bella Ranch and bake with spices like ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Or you can buy a bag of cookie or sweet bread mix from Sustainable Pantry and just add the wet ingredients at home for a simple, satisfying dessert. 

Ginger roasted Pears: There are amazingly sweet and juicy Asian pears at the market from Lone Oak Ranch that are begging to be smothered in a sweet ginger syrup using fresh ginger from Vang Farms and roasted until they're tender and warm. Serve hot out of the oven with a cup of spicy chai tea from Cafe Virtuoso.

Thanksgiving Notables Part Two

November 14, 2011 - 12:34pm
Britta T

Look for fresh eats this weekend at the LIttle Italy Mercato to create savory dishes to fill in the spaces at your Thanksgiving celebration. We love this recipe from Heidi Swanson for Kale and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes. You can pick up beautiful, chunky potatoes from Polito Family Farms or Sage Mountain Farm, cook them down and mash them up with plenty of olive oil from Falcone's, a handful of well chopped leafy kale from Suzie's Farm cooked with garlic from Sage Mountain Farm. Add warm milk or cream to give the potatoes moisture, and add some salt from Salt Farm's Thanksgiving collection to jazz things up. Their new flavors like Bonfire Smoked, Ethiopian Curry, Tomato Spice and Pumpkin Sage will skyrocket your potatoes to a seriously delicious dimension. If you want to get really cheesy, sprinkle grated sage cheddar cheese from Spring Hill Cheese and smile as your guests dive into one of the season's favorite dishes.

For many families, the main course should be meat, of course! Da Le Ranch still has a few locally raised turkeys, or take home a good cut of lamb and braise it with rosemary and garlic from Schaner Farms and beautiful, gnarly carrots from Maciel Family Farm. You could pick up quail from Spur Valley Ranch and roast it with homemade stuffing using an impressive array of fall flavors. Gather fresh celery from Suncoast Farms, fig balsamic vinegar from Gianni's Fine Foods, bread crumbs, butter, and salt and pepper and mix together to stuff the quail before you roast it to perfection. 
Let's not forget to prepare and to share these wonderful meals with much thanks and gratitude towards everything and everyone that makes it possible to eat so well!!


Begin with Thanks and Continue with Giving

November 14, 2011 - 10:20am
Britta T

However you and your clan choose to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, we at the Little Italy Mercato want to make sure you to have the most fresh, beautiful, and nourishing food available to make your day perfect. Whether you're planning to enjoy a very traditional meal, an eclectic potluck smorgasbord to meet all the needs of your community of friends, or whether you don't have a big meal planned at all but choose to revel in the day off from work and enjoy the outdoors with simple snacks and time for reflection- we've got you covered.

Delicious meals are made from delicious parts- so part one of your dinner could be a variety of chutneys, salads, or stuffings. Try this recipe for a savory apple pumpkin chutney, from San Diego food blogger Caron Golden. She uses pumpkin butter from Jackie's Jams, fresh sage leaves and red onions that you can find at Schaner Farms, and sweet pink lady apples from Smit Orchards or Fujis from Lone Oak Ranch. For a seriously satisfying salad- try using cooked wheat berries from Suzie's Farm and combining them with all sorts of fall veggies to complement your dinner. Roasted butternut squash and toasted red walnuts from Terra Bella Ranch with heaps of braised Swiss chard from Maciel Family Farms come together to create a little zip for a savory salad served warm or chilled. Add fresh grated ginger from Vang Farms for a twist or a handful of crumbled goat cheese from Nicolau Farms to blend it all together. And as you devise, shop, and put together your stunning meals, remember to utter thanks and gratitude for all that you will enjoy, have been given, and have to offer…


Comfort Food, Fresh!

November 7, 2011 - 12:24pm
Britta T

This past weekend was divine- with intermittent rain and blustery, grey days. It was time to hunker down, stay inside, and enjoy warm food and good company. Comfort food has a different tone though, when you live and work at the farmers' market. Comfort food means homemade pasta and braised greens, or upscaled, locavore friendly grilled cheese sandwiches, or fresh spiced apple butter and biscuits...

Here's a couple ideas for you for the next time you get caught in the rain, or the sunshine, and want a healthy(er) twist on cozy good cookin'. 

Spaghetti with Braised Kale
Braise either curly or lacinato (Tuscan black kale), with chopped onions from Sage Mountain Farm and fresh garlic from Schaner Farms. Add the greens to a bowl of steamy, hot angelhair pasta from Likso Imports and squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice with a bit of grated Parmesan Romano cheese from Mary at Taste Cheese. 

Escarole and Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese

You know this. You know how you like it. Be creative with what you can find at the market and make a sandwich that you'll be remembered by. Start with a decent portion of sourdough from Bread & Cie. Take home a hefty slab of Spring Hill Goat Cheddar or maybe their dry Jack cheese, and shred it carefully. Pick out a beautiful specimen of frisee or escarole from Suzie's Farm or JR Organics. Sautee slices of white onion with a bit of Truffle salt from She Sells Sea Salts until the onion begins to carmelize. Meanwhile, brush the bread with some olive oil and layer on the onions, escarole, and cheese. Then grill it until its crispy and melty in the pan, add pepper or salt if needed, and serve immediately...

Spiced Apple Butter

Spiced apple butter on warm toast is a treat from heaven. Luckily, Smit Orchards and Lone Oak Ranch have you covered for tart Fuji's and sweet Pink Ladies. Or try combining apples and asian pears for more complexity. Cook the apples down with spices from Just Spice likeginger, star anise, cinammon and cardamon. Add lemon and a bit of sugar, mash it all together once its cooked, and you have yourself an excellent addition to any brunch. 


Bitter Herbs Make Great Dinner Partners

November 7, 2011 - 11:48am
Britta T

You can find dozens of varieties of bitter herbs from our vendors at the Little Italy Mercato- Imagine the fragrance of fresh arugula or mustard greens, mizuna, sweet peppermint, dandelion, citrusy sorrel, soothing chamomile, endive and bright coriander.  These are all what we call "super-good-for-you-in-every-way" greens. Historically, "bitters"  are used for ceremony, healing, and cooking. These herbs naturally improve digestion and relieve inflammation throughout the body. So, when you cook and create salads with bitters, it's like a two-for-one deal: Outstanding flavor and superb health benefits. 

Try putting together this, or your own version of a bitter herb salad. You can find mizuna, sorrel, and romaine at JR Organics. Pick out a few bunches of cilantro, mint, and dandelion from Vang Farm. Then head over to Suzie's for a pinch of arugula and some dill. Toss everything together with olive oil or drizzle a bit of walnut & basil pesto from Likso Imports over all the greens. Or do as they did in biblical times and dip (or sprinkle) your leaves with salt. The cyprus blend from Salt Farm is fabulous...To balance out the bitters, add red walnuts from Terra Bella Ranch and a few halved sweet Royal Flame grapes from Smit Orchards. Sprinkle with a few sprigs of dill, and then enjoy with slices of toasted sourdough bread from Belen Bakery or maybe a glass of wine from Triple B Ranch. 


Fennel is for Lovers

November 7, 2011 - 11:11am
Britta T

Did you know that fennel actually grows wild in San Diego? A weed, but a treasure none the less, this rootvegetable will capture your heart over and over again as you fall in love with new recipes. Find bulbs and fronds of friendly fennel and more this week as you shop at the Little Italy Mercato.

Raw fennel tastes like the love child of celery and licorice. Roasting, however, brings out complex flavors and satiates our cravings for warm, tender food now with winter's return. Select a few stalks from Suzie's or Vang Farm this week and simply chop the bulb into quarters, then coat the pieces with a healthy dose of oil. We recommend trying avocado oil from Marion's or even a fine balsamic vinegar and oil from Gianni's Fine Foods. Toss with salt and pepper and roast in the oven until the outsides begin to crisp, leaving the insides warm and tender. Also, try roasting fingerling potatoes from Polito Farms with a bit of fennel seeds sprinkled on top for a sweet infusion.

For a flashier meal- experiment with this Yellowtail & Fennel Crudo recipe from Chef Brian Sinnot- An elegant, yet simple dish with fresh fennel, pomegranate seeds, and mint. Sift through the ruby round pomegranates at Lone Oak Ranch or Heritage Family Farms. Grab a bunch of mint from Schaner's, toss everything together and serve fresh.