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Little Italy Mercato Blog

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. 


Beer Week Partners Perfectly with Farmers' Market Bounty

November 2, 2011 - 11:09am
Britta T

It's San Diego Beer Week and there's no better way to celebrate than strolling through the Little Italy Mercato farmers' market and taking home all the ingredients you need to cook up some delicious bites to pair with our city's impressive brew lineup.

Hefeweizens are a dry, German style of wheat beer, usually made with a specific yeast that gives off flavors like banana and cloves. If you're entertaining, try pairing this beer with a light, citrusy Kale salad from Peace Pies or a fresh goat cheese from Nicolau Farms and slices of sweet Asian pear from Lone Oak Ranch.

Stouts are darker beers varying in flavor range- but invariably have some roasted characters that comes from the use of roasted barley. Try pairing them with rich, smoked foods or bitter chocolate desserts. Pick up a bottle of Gianni's Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar and drizzle it over grilled asparagus from Suncoast Farm or lamb from Da Le Ranch. Or pair with Olive Oil Cafe's indulgent salted chocolate Dark Bear bar, or Caxao Chocolate's dark chocolate truffles: perfect with roasty, sweet stout flavors.

Ale varieties offer a wide range of characteristics, but if you like beer that has big herbal hops and balancing malty sweetness, this brew's for you. Strong Ale goes great with the deep dish pizzas from Berkeley Pizza because the carbonation and strength of the beer cuts through the acidity of tomato sauce and the gooey, delicious mozzarella. Or, grill up some local burgers to enjoy with a cold sip of ale-take home a pound of ground beef from Son Rise Ranch, a bag of spinach or arugula from Suzie's, and a sharp goat cheddar cheese from Spring Hill. Some fresh basil and onions from Schaner's Farm wouldn't be too bad either….


For better, for Broccoli

October 31, 2011 - 11:26am
Britta T

Broccoli is beginning to blossom again in San Diego and you'll find beautiful florets, stalks, and leaves at many of our farmers' stalls at the Little Italy Mercato. One of the most nourishing and delicous of cruciferous vegetables, broccoli can make everyone happy and you can use it in many types of dishes. 

Toss pasta with olive oil from Falcone's, roasted pine nuts or almonds and steamed "hapy rich" broccoli florets from Suzie's Farm. This is one of the most sweet and tender varieites you'll find at the market. Add a bit of black truffle salt from Salt Farm. Or purée cooked Japanese broccolli from Vang Farm, then combine with a few fingerling potatoes from Weiser Farms and perhaps a few herbs of your choice to make a simple, yet delicious, soup.

Broccoli is super fun. Steam the stems and rub with butter from Spring Hill Chese, fresh lemon juice and garlic from Schaner's Farm. Add a few black olives from Lisko for an awesome appetizer. Broccoli fills you with vitamins, fiber, and anti-inflammatory flavanoids, so you're covered, for better or for worse, when it comes to staying healthy...


Post Pumpkin Paloozas

October 31, 2011 - 10:36am
Britta T

Though its still definitely appropriate to don your homes, hearths, and patios with colorful squash and scattered fall decorations, Halloween has come and gone and it might be time to pitch your pumpkins and use up all the guts for some home baked goodies. If you're running behind and still need to pick up an orange beauty, come out to the Mercato next saturday morning and gather your goods from some of our lovely vendors.

Autumn calls us to flavors like allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. You can make some pretty fantastic pumpkin oatmeal cookies using all farmers market ingredients. Use organic, cooked pumpkin from Schaner's Farm or Suzie's Farm, raisins or dried apricots from Smit Orchards, walnuts from Terra Bella Ranch and a bit of sweet granola from Granola Girl to give them some texture. 

Or perhaps you want to go a little more gourmet and serve something savory AND sweet? How about a pumpkin-inspired bruschetta? Trust us, it's worth it. Combine fresh arugula from Sage Mountain Farm and crumbled goat cheese from Nicolau Farms with fresh squeezed lemon juice and a dash of Phil's honey from the folks at Marion's Olive Oil. Toss together with cooked pumpkin pulp, chopped red onions, a bit of your favorite vinaigrette and spread generously over sliced and toasted french bread from Bread & Cie. Top with roasted pumpkin seeds and a hint of curry and cinnamon. 


It's not that Chard...

October 31, 2011 - 10:05am
Britta T

Are youwanting to make fresh, healthy dinners but feel overwhelmed by picking out ingredients and putting it all together?? Really, its not that hard if you visit the farmers' market to take advantage of Chard! JR Organics and Vang Farms have beautiful, leavy bunches of red, yellow, and white chard that is bursting with vitamins, carotenes, chlorophyll, and iron. Not to mention it yields delicous brackish flavors and when cooked the leaves release a sweet aftertaste. 

A simple recipe for dinner is to toss some freshmade pasta (Lisko Imports has some delectable handmade fettucines of all flavors) with olive oil, lemon juice, a bit of minced garlic and steamed or sauteed swiss chard. Or try adding a little zest to your breakfast omelets by adding a few stalks of boiled chard. With Autumn really setting in, it's always a welcome idea to cook ahead and make a creamy "beans& greens" soup for ake away lunches. Try this recipe, and make sure to pick up some dried beans from the folks at Sustainable Pantry or Suncoast Farms, a bit of your favorite pesto from Basiltops, and some fresh goat feta cheese from Nicolau Farms. 


Fair Trade Month

October 24, 2011 - 10:21am
Britta T

From jewelry, crafts, and housewares, to coffee, tea, and chocolate, the Little Italy Mercato carrries quite an array of fair trade goods. But what is fair trade, and how can you support the people who grow, create, and sells these products?

Fair trade means more than giving a decent wage to the farmers and workers who produce products throughout the world. It's more about creating partnerships that reciprocate benefits and respect between producers and consumers. It represents an ethical system of exchange, empowering producers to create sustainable and positive change for their families, their communities, and their economy. 

So, while you're shopping at the market this weekend, take a moment to visit vendors like Seven Hopes United, who sell fair trade gifts and housewares. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea rom Cafe Virtuoso or Joe's On the Nose, knowing that the flavor you taste and the purchase you make goes far beyond the community of San Diego. 

Or maybe you're in the mood for some chocolate? Head on down towards Kettner to visit Eclispe Chocolate and take home some of their fine, artisan fair trade chocolate. Make dessert, or serve it to your friends at your next gathering, knowing that you're supporting a sustainable product. 

And keep shopping with all of our vendors, from locally grown vegetables and fruit  to naturally raised meats, homemade sauces and pastries. Your support sustains not only the growth and success of our market, but directly impacts the lives of our farmers and vendors. Thank you!


Teeny Weeny Cipollini

October 24, 2011 - 9:49am
Britta T

Why is it a natural reaction so say "oh that's so cute"  whenever you see something that is smaller than it normally should be (like baby chickens, Smart cars, or those itsy bitsy Mexican gherkin cucumbers)? If the cucumbers got you, you'll be sure to fall hard for this season's tiny Cipollini onions at the Little Italy Mercato. Sweet and elegant, Cipollinis add amazing balance and richness to any dish. You can find some of the cutest little ones at Schaner Farms this weekend, and head home with them to make a tasty, full bodied Fall salad. 

Buy a few heirloom potatoes from Sage Mountain Farm and one or two stalks of sweet, fragrant fennel from Suzie's. Dice the onions and halve the potatoes, sauteeing them both in a Tuscan Herb Roasted Olive oil from Gianni Fine Foods. Add a bit of vegetable stock, and flat leaf parsley from JR Organics, let it simmer until the potatoes are soft. Then drain most of the liquid (saving it for your next soup, of course!), dust with a grating of Spring Hill Goat Cheddar, and serve warm, with salt and pepper to taste. 

If you want the pure flavor of the onions, roasting them with a bit of balsamic vinegar and thyme is an excellent option as well. This way, you can pair the onions with meat, chicken, or fish, or simply have an incredibly flavorful side dish to accompany soups or salads during these cooler nights. 


What's Tatsoi you say?

October 24, 2011 - 8:58am
Britta T

Cooler days call for cooler veggies, and you can bet that you'll be seeing a huge variety of Winter greens beginning to peek their heads from all corners of the Little Italy Mercato. Tatsoi is an amazing Asian cabbage that has small, heart-shaped, green leaves. It is beautiful in all salads, and tastes strong and spicy, similiar to mustard greens. Mizuna, another Japanese green has graceful feathery leaves and a similar peppery flavor. Both are worth seeking out, and you can find bunches for sale at JR Organics, Vang Farms, and Suzie's Farm. 

To coax your kids (or your friends) into using diferent, seasonal veggies, try making Pancetta, Mizuna, and Tomato sandwiches. Grab some pancetta (or regular bacon) from Da Le Ranch, a few slicing tomatoes from Kawano Farm, and a fresh baked loaf of brioche from Patisserie Du Soleil. Layer the ingredients together, drizzle a bit of aioli or garlic infused olive oil, and enjoy the refreshing sensations of fresh flavor. Your tongue and your tummy will thank you!

Kick it up a notch this week with a quick dinner packed with nutrients and fall flavor. Using 1-2 cups each of chopped tatsoi and mizuna leaves, fresh sliced cucumbers and green onions from Sage Mountain Farm, create a green-sesame stir fry, topped with baked teriyaki chicken from Spur Valley Ranch or roasted eggplant from Schaner Farms with a sweet tahini- dressing.