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Little Italy Mercato Blog

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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.

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?