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Category: Recipes
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Last weekend, I came across beautiful shrimp, live on ice at the farmers market, just caught in local waters. One of many seafoods available at the market, I couldn't pass these up, especially at only 5 bucks a pound, so I grabbed a couple pounds to enjoy throughout the weekend. One reason some people are hesitant to buy fresh shrimp is the preparation involved. While there is indeed a little work, it is more than worth the effort and often much more simple than many think. I typically start by gently popping off the head; it should come off easily if you hold the shrimp at the tail and simply fold back the head. Next, remove the digestive tract, often referred to as the vein. Simply make a shallow cut lengthwise down the curve of the shell, allowing the dark ribbon-like vein to be removed with a pointed utensil (although I usually pinch it out with my fingers). If the tail has been detached, the vein can be pinched at the tail end and pulled out completely with your fingers. Now remove the shell. The shrimp is then rinsed under cold water before being prepared.

Although the shrimp at the farmers markets are good to go, raw shrimp, in general, should be firm and have a mild odor. The shells should be translucent, free of blackened edges or black spots, a sign of quality loss. Once cooked, the meat should be firm and have no unpleasant odor; the color should be white with red or pink stripes.

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Category: Picks of the Week
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Local shrimp

The first week of October marked the opening of the local shrimp season, bringing with it a bounty of this sweet delicacy from the sea. Local fishermen J.R. and Manny Gorgita are catching the freshest shrimp local waters have to offer, as ocean conditions allow. Loaded with protein, iron and B vitamins, fresh shrimp is perfect for grilling, sauteing in a little garlic and butter, or when used to make a sweet shrimp pasta with freshly shaved fennel, as seen in the Fix of the Week on page D6. Available live on ice from the Gorgita family at the Tuesday Santa Barbara and Saturday Santa Barbara farmers markets. Be sure to get there early, as it often sells out. About $5 per pound.

Pickled Okra

If you like a nice hearty pickle with your sandwich, or maybe a little chopped relish on your burger, I highly recommend you try this new item from Jimenez Family Farm. Marinated in vinegar, water and salt, as well as garlic, chilies and dill from their Santa Ynez farm, pickled okra has great texture and flavor. Available at the Wednesday Solvang, Thursday Goleta, Friday Montecito, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets. About $6 a jar.

Tahitian Squash

Grown by Tom Shepherd, this is one variety of squash that you must try. These monster 5- to 10-pound winter squash pack in the flavor and contain the highest sugar content of any other winter squash. The sweet flesh can be found throughout the long neck, where no seeds are present. Once you reach the giant bulb at the end, scoop out the seeds and enjoy the surrounding flesh. While it may be overwhelming to prepare such a large squash, simply start at the stem end and cut off the amount you need. The cut will heal quickly, allowing you to, for the next meal, cut off the healed portion, discard, and continue slicing off another section (keep in cool, dry place in the meantime). About $4 each.

Kabocha Pumpkin Squares

October 23, 2008

Category: Recipes
Posted by: admin
With the first signs of fall in the air, the shorter days and cooler evenings bring with it an array of winter nullsquash, which are loaded with flavor and nutrients to get you through the season. From the more common butternut to the delicious Buttercup, there are quite a few varieties to try. But there is one in particular that I go back to time and time again: the Sunshine kabocha squash. Also called a Japanese pumpkin, it has a rich flavor and smooth texture when slowly roasted in the oven, making it an extremely versatile squash. Whether used to make soups, pies or simply roasted and seasoned with a little salt and pepper to be enjoyed as a side, you can't go wrong with this one. As this dense, small, round squash begins to roast in the oven, its bright orange skin begins to soften. The skin is so thin, in fact, that it can be eaten; the texture resembles the flesh.

This hearty fall and winter staple is loaded with essential nutrients to keep you healthy through the cooler times of the year. Due to its deep orange flesh, kabocha squash is loaded with the essential antioxidant beta-carotene, enough to supply almost 150 percent of the daily value in just 1 cup of cooked squash. Kabocha squash is also a very good source of dietary fiber and supplies vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, and a good amount of potassium.

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Category: Picks of the Week
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Quince

This apple and pear relative is hitting its prime right now and is only available October through December at local farmers markets. Brought to us fresh each week from Garcia Family Farm, the quince is often used in pies, applesauce and preserves. You can also bake it and serve with your favorite ice cream, as seen in the Fix of the Week on D6. When cooked, it takes on a beautiful pink to deep red color throughout, making for a stunning presentation. Quince is a great source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Thursday Goleta, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets. About $2 per pound.

Rainbow chard

The fall and winter greens have been rapidly arriving at farmers markets over the past couple of weeks. Fresh rainbow chard has been at the forefront. These large leaves are perfect for adding to stir-fry, soup, salad, and can usually be substituted for spinach. Before using, remove the thick stalks that run down the center of the leaves to ensure a smoother texture. A great source of beta-carotene and dietary fiber. Available at most Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Markets. About $1.50 per bunch.

Sibling Revelry wine

This new wine from Buttonwood Farm Winery is a must-try! A blended red table wine, it is produced directly from grapes grown on the Buttonwood estate in Los Olivos. Available at the Saturday Santa Barbara farmers market by the case. $60 per 12-bottle case.

New at the market

Santa Ynez Gardens, one of the newest additions to the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Association, is offering an exceptional selection of indoor and outdoor plants. Perfect gift ideas for the holiday season or as a way to spruce up your house before company arrives. Watch for those poinsettias to come soon. Located near the Santa Barbara Street entrance of the Saturday Santa Barbara market.

Baked Quince

October 16, 2008

Category: Recipes
Posted by: admin
As the local fall crops begin to arrive at weekly farmers markets, it's time to gear up for a new round of fresh produce to enjoy for the season. From persimmons, pomegranates and winter squash to an array of hearty greens, such as kale and bunches of rainbow chard, there are quite a few ingredients to work with this time of year. One of them, available only October through December, is quince, which you're probably less familiar with. At first glance, this member of the apple and pear family may resemble a cross between the two. But if you've ever tried to bite into one, you likely discovered a much different flavor. Cultivated for more than 4,000 years in Asia and the Mediterranean, quince serves its major function when cooked, where it takes on flavors similar to its relatives. Its acidity and astringent properties are too intense to be enjoyed raw, which is why the quince is mostly used in preserves, pies and sauces.

When selecting a quince at the market, ask the farmer to assist you. The quince varies in shape and size, but resembles what you may expect if a pear and apple were spliced together. When purchased fresh, it has a green to yellow skin that turns more yellow when ripe. It will, however, remain firm, so do not expect it to soften (if it does, discard). Any brown spotting on the outside is completely normal, and will not affect the flavor. Once home, the quince should be stored at room temperature on the counter until ripe. It can then be refrigerated, lasting two weeks or more.

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Category: Recipes
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October is always an exciting month for me, as I am a major enthusiast of local seafood. Growing up in the Santa Barbara area, I have, over the years, gained a great appreciation for what our local waters have to offer and the hard work that goes into bringing the sea's fresh offerings to our kitchens. Just like with produce, getting your seafood as fresh as possible makes all the difference when it comes to quality and results. Local fishermen J.R. Gorgita, Sam Shrout and Bernard Friedman regularly supply the Saturday farmers market in Santa Barbara, bringing in their freshly caught goods.

This month marks the opening of lobster and shrimp season. Also in the mix this time of year are freshly harvested local mussels, brought in weekly by Mr. Friedman. I tried these mussels for the first time last weekend and they were, without a doubt, the best I'd ever tried. Unbelievably tender for mussels and loaded with natural flavor, these will regularly be on my shopping list.

Fresh mussels are quite nutritious. While they do contain cholesterol, they are packed with protein and iron and contain hearty amounts of vitamins C and A and calcium.

Mussels, which may be cream to dark orange in color, are amazingly sweet and are usually steamed and served in their deep black shells, baked with a crumb topping or used in salads. But they're also great when served over thin pasta noodles and topped with a garlic, lemon grass and heirloom tomato sauce.

Sam Edelman is general manager of the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Association. His column appears every Thursday. E-mail him at food@newspress.com.

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Category: Picks of the Week
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Mussels

Freshly harvested for the farmers market each week, these mussels are, without a doubt, the best I've ever had. A quick, five-minute steam in your favorite broth or stock is all you need for a great appetizer. Or serve over pasta with lemon grass sauce, fresh garlic and heirloom tomatoes, as seen in the Fix of the Week on page D6. Loaded with protein, mussels are available at the Saturday Santa Barbara market. $4 per pound.

Lemon grass

This native to India, traditionally used in Thai and other Asia-style dishes, really packs flavor. Perfect for stir-fry, soup and most seafood dishes, just a single stalk goes a long way in adding a hint of lemon. Although the entire stalk can be used, be sure to slice it very thin before adding; when it's too thick, the texture is less than ideal. Available from Her Family Farm at the Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets. About $2 per large bunch.

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Category: Recipes
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by Sam Edelman

Before heading on a quick trip up to the Yosemite Valley last weekend, I decided to hit the farmers market to stock up on some healthy ingredients and a couple bottles of local wine to take along. While it is nice to eat out when on a short vacation, staying at a place where you have access to a kitchenette can save money and allow you to continue making nutritious home-cooked meals. I wanted to get items for my trip that would travel well and provide a great mix of flavors. As I passed by the Her Family Farm stand, I saw the first sweet potatoes of the season piled high on their table. Along with some sweet yellow onions, hot and sweet peppers, bok choy and a head of garlic, a great meal was not far off. I decided to hold off on the main protein source until I hit the mountain, just in case I was able to catch a trout or two in the river (no luck, so I decided to get a pack of pork chops from the local market).

Sweet potatoes are a versatile ingredient that go great with fish, chicken, pork or beef. They are regularly harvested this time of year. There are two main types of sweet potatoes you will find at the farmers markets and local grocery stores: yellow and orange. You are probably most familiar with the orange. They are often referred to as yams, although a true yam (botanical family Dioscoreaceae) is a large (up to 100 pounds) root vegetable grown in Africa and Asia and rarely seen in the western world.

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Category: Picks of the Week
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Sweet potatoes

Now is the time to grab fresh sweet potatoes, which are being harvested regularly this time of year. Available in yellow and orange varieties, this nutrient-packed vegetable is one of the most nutritious out there, as it's loaded with beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Perfect for roasting, mashing or when sautčed and served alongside breaded pork chops, as seen in the Fix of the Week on page D6. Grown by Her Family Farm and Garcia Family Farm. Available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Thursday Goleta, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real farmers markets. About $1.50 to $2.50 per pound.

Zesty garlic butter

Produced by Spring Hill Cheese, this organic butter is a must-try. Use it to butter bread, add to the pan before a fry, or top a freshly baked potato or, my favorite, homemade corn bread along with a little local honey. I have also used it to rub under the skin of a fresh whole chicken purchased at the farmers market from Lily's Eggs. Available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Thursday Carpinteria, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets. About $6 each.

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