Category: Picks of the Week
Posted by: Sam Edelman
Cheddar cheese

Spring Hill Cheese of Petaluma continues to impress me with its selection of cheeses. I typically pick up something from the line of aged (one to three years) cheddars, which include sage, garlic, white and yellow, smoked and spicy firehouse. They're perfect for adding to fondue this time of year, when it tends to be chilly at night. Try a Cheddar, Asparagus, Spinach and Bacon Fondue, the Fix of the Week on page D8. Available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Thursday Goleta, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real farmers markets. About $10 per pound.

Asparagus

Delicious, fresh asparagus is available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets from Life's A Choke Family Farm in Lompoc. These tight tender bunches are perfect for steaming, grilling or sautčing. Asparagus contains a good supply of folate (folic acid), as well as some vitamin C and beta-carotene. It also contains the phytochemical glutathione, which has antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties. About $3 per bunch, with deals available on three bunches.

Baguette

From the wheat field to the mill, then from the oven to the farmers market, this locally produced bread is absolutely delicious. Perfect for sandwiches or serving alongside hot soup or chowder. Or top with thinly sliced prosciutto, sliced tomato, red onion and arugula, then drizzle with balsamic dressing. Baked by Creekside Apple Ranch in Santa Ynez the morning of the market. Available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang and Saturday Santa Barbara markets. Free of preservatives, the bread is $3 per loaf.

Category: Recipes
Posted by: Sam Edelman
By now, if you're a farmers market regular, you've probably tried the delicious fresh cheese available from Spring Hill Cheese. But if you haven't tried the farm's amazing cheddars, jacks, curds, quarks or award-winning Old World Portuguese, you don't know what you're missing. What a difference it makes to have fresh estate cheese (cheese that is manufactured from a single location) available at your fingertips. The cows eat lush green grass and their milk is used to make cheese right there in the cheese-making room. It is then aged, cut and packaged for distribution, all on the same Sonoma County dairy, then brought as fresh as possible to the local farmers markets. A herd of 400 Jersey cows provides the milk for Spring Hill Cheese's growing line of farmstead cheeses. Smaller than Holsteins (the typical black-and-white cow), which produce a greater yield of milk, Jersey cows' milk contains more butter fat, resulting in a rich, creamy flavor. Because of its low-quantity yield, the Jersey cow is no longer common in most commercial dairy operations.

Spring Hill Cheese owner Larry Peter began his dairy in 1987 and started producing his product in 1998. The cheese is made entirely from the milk of pasture-grazed Jersey cows. The difference in taste is unbelievable!

The number of Spring Hill cheeses available at the farmers markets is impressive, with something for every culinary use -- from rich, creamy quarks, ideal for bagels, to award-winning sage and sharp white cheddars, perfect for roast beef sandwiches, to soft teleme jack, just right for quesadillas. You can find other cheeses -- and butters -- at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Thursday Goleta, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real farmers markets.

All Spring Hill cheeses are produced with all-natural, 100 percent cultured Grade A jersey milk; salt; and enzymes. That's it! No artificial hormones! The fresh cheeses are aged from three to five weeks; the jacks, three to six months; and the cheddars, six to nine months.

If you're planning on hosting a party anytime soon, Spring Hill Cheese is a must. Your guests will be blown away by the flavor and selection if you put out a spread of the cheeses. Another great idea for a party is fondue, particularly in these cooler months. There are endless recipes for fondue, but one of my favorites incorporates aged cheddar, fresh asparagus, spinach and, of course, a little bacon. Served with fresh bread and sliced apples from the Creekside Apple Ranch in Santa Ynez, also at the market, you can't go wrong.

For a full list of cheeses available from Spring Hill Cheese, as well as more information on the farm, go to www.springhillcheese.com.


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Category: Picks of the Week
Posted by: Sam Edelman
Ground beef

Locally raised meat is perfect for one of my favorite Super Bowl foods: beef sliders, the Fix of the Week on page D8. Full of flavor, it's also great in tacos, Bolognese sauce and meatballs. Free of hormones and antibiotics. Available from Rancho San Julian and Rocky Canyon Ranch at the Tuesday Santa Barbara and Saturday Santa Barbara farmers markets, just in time for the big game on Feb. 1. About $4 to $5 per pound.

Alfalfa and clover sprouts

It's amazing the difference a pinch of sprouts can make when added to your favorite sandwiches, salads, wraps and burgers. This live food from Ojai Valley Sprouts provides crunch and a refreshing flavor to meals. Fresh sprouts are extremely nutritious as they are a good source of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, F, and K and are rich in many minerals as well as enzymes needed for digestion. Available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Thursday Carpinteria, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets. About $3 for 6 ounces.

Leeks

Fresh leeks are popping up all over area farms. With onions starting to phase out, leeks are taking their place. They make a great addition to soups and stir-fry dishes. Leeks are surprisingly nutritious -- actually supplying more vitamins and minerals than an equal serving of onions or scallions. It's a good idea to soak chopped leeks in a bowl of water before use, as the sediments from the field tend to get trapped inside. The water will allow the leek to float to the surface, leaving the sediment behind. Certified organic available at most markets. About $1 to $2 per bunch or pound.
Category: Recipes
Posted by: Sam Edelman
Ground beef

Locally raised meat is perfect for one of my favorite Super Bowl foods: beef sliders, the Fix of the Week on page D8. Full of flavor, it's also great in tacos, Bolognese sauce and meatballs. Free of hormones and antibiotics. Available from Rancho San Julian and Rocky Canyon Ranch at the Tuesday Santa Barbara and Saturday Santa Barbara farmers markets, just in time for the big game on Feb. 1. About $4 to $5 per pound.

Alfalfa and clover sprouts

It's amazing the difference a pinch of sprouts can make when added to your favorite sandwiches, salads, wraps and burgers. This live food from Ojai Valley Sprouts provides crunch and a refreshing flavor to meals. Fresh sprouts are extremely nutritious as they are a good source of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, F, and K and are rich in many minerals as well as enzymes needed for digestion. Available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Thursday Carpinteria, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets. About $3 for 6 ounces.

Leeks

Fresh leeks are popping up all over area farms. With onions starting to phase out, leeks are taking their place. They make a great addition to soups and stir-fry dishes. Leeks are surprisingly nutritious -- actually supplying more vitamins and minerals than an equal serving of onions or scallions. It's a good idea to soak chopped leeks in a bowl of water before use, as the sediments from the field tend to get trapped inside. The water will allow the leek to float to the surface, leaving the sediment behind. Certified organic available at most markets. About $1 to $2 per bunch or pound.

Category: Recipes
Posted by: Sam Edelman
If you have ever planted mint in your garden, you are aware of just how hearty the herb can be. It can quickly dominate your grounds if a close eye isn't kept on the new shoots that seem to sprout up almost daily. For this reason, home gardeners often choose to plant it in large pots rather than directly in the ground to keep it contained. Thriving in the moist soil and ideal temperatures seen in Southern California, fresh mint does extremely well year-round locally, and has especially flourished in the recent warm weather. Whether harvested from your garden or purchased at the farmers market, it offers a refreshing finish to meals. There are several varieties you can plant in your garden (usually during early spring, when the threat of frost is gone and ground temperatures have warmed), offering distinct flavors of apple, pineapple, orange, lemon, ginger, and one of my favorite ice cream toppers -- chocolate mint. While these varieties are commonly found potted at nurseries and oftentimes at local farmers markets, there are two main ones: spearmint and peppermint.

They are the best for cooking purposes. The large, bright green leaves are loaded with flavor. Bite into one and you'll see how refreshing it is. The flavor translates well in salads, sliced fruits, desserts, jellies, as well as grilled meats and veggies. I prefer using spearmint, which is a bit sweeter, especially in a fruit salad or dessert.

Fresh mint is a healthy addition to meals as it is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. It is a good source of thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus and zinc, and also contains dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese. Not only does it pack in the flavor, it packs in the nutrients.

With such warm weather last weekend, I decided to pull out the barbecue and make some tasty mint-marinated chicken skewers loaded with onion, local mushrooms, bell pepper and canned pineapple, offering up a great balance of fruit, veggies and protein. If a barbecue is not available, this can easily be done in an aluminum baking dish under the boiler, about 5 minutes per side.

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.

Super Bowl Sliders

January 15, 2009

Category: Recipes
Posted by: Sam Edelman
After catching the playoffs last weekend, it was time to start gearing up for the Super Bowl festivities on Feb. 1. A spread of great munchies and finger foods is a necessity. While you could go with fresh veggie sticks and sliced fruit, something about it just doesn't seem right. It's nice to be able to splurge a few times a year on fried, cheesy, salty foods that we work so hard to resist. Still, you can incorporate some healthy ingredients without guests suspecting a thing. Sliders are among my favorite Super Bowl foods. These mini burgers are simple to make, easy to eat and actually not all that bad for you. The patties can be prepared in advance and either cooked to order or pre-grilled and kept in the oven warmer to be enjoyed throughout the game. A condiment station allows guests to pick their own toppings.

We are fortunate to have locally raised beef at the Tuesday Santa Barbara and Saturday Santa Barbara farmers markets. It makes for some of the juiciest sliders or burgers you can imagine. Rancho San Julian and Rocky Canyon Ranch produce some of the cleanest and most delicious ground beef I have ever tasted, raised naturally, free of hormones and antibiotics. Just by looking at the color of the meat in the package (deep red) you can tell the difference between farm-raised beef and what's often found on a large scale at grocery stores.

Because of their size, sliders are a lot of fun to make. They should be about a third the size of a regular patty. I season the beef quite a bit to enhance the flavor, but if you have a basic burger mix that you are fond of, that will work great. For the buns, I prefer using the healthier mini wheat roll, which is available from Creekside Apple Ranch at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang and Saturday Santa Barbara farmers markets. Otherwise, most grocery stores sell slider buns in the fresh bread section.

Game on!

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Category: Picks of the Week
Posted by: Sam Edelman
Organic mint

With the sun shining through our Southern California winter, local herbs are thriving in the frost-free zone. Fresh mint is surprisingly still in abundance this time of year, with a refreshing flavor packed into its large green leaves. Perfect for adding to salads, sliced fruits, and grilled meats and veggies. It also combines nicely with fruit juices, garlic and honey to make a delicious marinade for Tropical Mint Chicken, the Fix of the Week on page D8. Spearmint and peppermint varieties are available. Organically grown by Earthtrine Farm of Ojai. Now at the Tuesday Santa Barbara and Saturday Santa Barbara farmers markets. About $1.25 per bunch.

Pecans

You'll really notice a difference in the quality of these nuts this time of year, when they are at their freshest. Pecans are an excellent source of protein and fiber and contain iron, calcium, vitamins A, B and C, and potassium and phosphorous. They are also cholesterol-free, while the fat is mostly polyunsaturated. Grown by Avila and Sons Farm and available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets. $9 per pound.

Local mushrooms

We have some exceptional mushrooms right now, including shiitake and oyster as well as those highly sought wild chanterelles (Saturday market only). Perfect for sautčing, roasting or grilling, fresh mushrooms add a great texture to dishes. Available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets. About $6 to $15 per pound, depending on the variety.

Category: Picks of the Week
Posted by: Sam Edelman
Pork

Raised naturally without the use of hormones or antibiotics, this pork is as pure as it gets. Most cuts, from chops and sirloin to tenderloin and stew meat, are regularly available at the market, but if you have a certain cut in mind, make sure to get there early. Whether grilled, fried, or seared and slow-roasted to make a thyme- and lemon-rubbed sirloin, the Fix of the Week on page D6, you can't go wrong with pork this fresh. Available from Jimenez Family Farm at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real farmers markets, as well as from Rocky Canyon Ranch at the Saturday Santa Barbara market. Prices start at about $5 per pound (ground) to $11.25 (premium cuts).

Organic thyme

With the fresh basil, chives and dill just about wrapped up for the season, there are still a few exceptional local organic herbs available from Earthtrine Farm of Ojai. Fresh thyme is one herb that continues to flourish this time of year in our ideal Southern California climate. Organic thyme is available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara and Saturday Santa Barbara markets. About $1.25 per bunch, depending on the size.

Clementine tangerines

Another local variety of tangerine is in full swing right now thanks to Friends Ranch. This tasty variety is the product of an orange and mandarin cross, resulting in a deliciously sweet seedless fruit with extremely easy-to-peel skin. The deep orange to almost reddish flesh is loaded with vitamins A and C and is a good source of fiber. Available at the Saturday Santa Barbara market. About $2 per pound with deals on 40-pound cases.
Category: Recipes
Posted by: Sam Edelman
The Jimenez family has some pretty interesting things going on at their Santa Ynez Valley farm these days. When the couple first began selling at local farmers markets, they offered a bounty of fresh beans, lettuce, herbs, carrots and heirloom radishes, along with a few seasonal fruits. As their customer base started to increase, owner Marcie Jimenez decided to go back to her previous specialty -- pie making -- and began to sell her exceptional berry pies filled with farm-raised blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. In the winter, pumpkin pies were added to the mix, produced directly from pumpkins grown on the farm. The past couple of years, Marcie and Gus Jimenez decided to expand their product mix even further by offering farm-raised lamb and goat meat -- again, raised directly on their farm. Feeding on summer and winter squash, greens, corn and fruit from the leftover harvest, the stock eats well. It is also free of hormone and antibiotic injections. The quality is instantly noticed in the meat -- the best I've tried. The farm has taken it one step further with the newest addition, fresh pork.

photoNow available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real farmers markets, this meat is as good as it gets (you can also get exceptional pork from Rocky Canyon Ranch at the Saturday Santa Barbara market). With a vast range of cuts ready for pickup each week, you will surely be able to find what you're looking for, with everything from stew meat to pork tenderloin and ribs. Upon opening the vacuum-sealed packaging, you notice the quality.

When many people think of eating pork, bacon in particular, fat comes to mind. While all forms of meat have their heavy and leaner cuts, pork is one that is actually exceptionally lean, which is why it's often referred to as "the other white meat." A 4-ounce cut of pork tenderloin contains only 5 grams of fat, with 2 grams of carbohydrates and about 20 grams of protein. Combined with seasonal veggies, you have a healthy meal.

Pork is a versatile meat, perfect for grilling, roasting, frying and braising. With so many cuts to choose from, it is difficult to know where to start. I recommend the tenderloin cut if you want the cleanest finish, free of any bone and surrounding fat.

For this week's Fix, I decided to go with sirloin steak cuts (two steaks per package). They have a small bone running through the center, releasing exceptional flavor into the meat. The surrounding layer of fat (which cooks off quite a bit) also enhances the flavor and tenderness of the cut, which is delicious when roasted in the oven and finished under the broiler. With the aromas of fresh garlic, thyme and honey pleasantly filling the kitchen, your taste buds will be jumping.

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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Dried Lima Beans

January 01, 2009

Category: Picks of the Week
Posted by: Sam Edelman
These should never be overlooked at farmers markets as they are an exceptional source of complex carbohydrates as well as protein. Dried lima beans, harvested typically around late fall each season, actually contain a higher proportion of protein than any other plant food. Although the protein is incomplete, it can easily be complemented by serving the beans with rice or other grains, nuts, that supply the missing amino acids. They are also the plant kingdom's second-best source of dietary fiber (wheat bran is number one), and half of that is soluble fiber. Hand harvested and sorted by local Carpinteria Farmer Tom Shepherd, these deliciously creamy beans can be found at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Thursday Goleta and Carpinteria, and Saturday Santa Barbara farmers markets each week. Perfect for making a healthy warm bean salad as seen in this week's Fix. Price is only $2 a pound while supplies last.

Hydroponics Tomatoes

If you're starting to miss those tasty outdoor-grown tomatoes, there is still a great locally grown tomato option available at your local farmers markets. Beylik Family Farms produces some of the best hothouse tomatoes around, sheltered from the rough winter elements. The flavors are impressive to say the least, harvested ripe off the vine. You can find a great array of Big Beef, Cluster, Sungold, Japanese and Premium varieties at most of our weekly farmers markets. Price averages about $3 per pound this time of year, depending on the variety.

Sweet Navel Oranges:

It is that time of year when those exceptional navel oranges start rolling into our local farmers markets. This super-sweet and easy to peel variety is perfect for the kids, and a sure way they get their needed vitamin C. But a small orange (about 5 ounces) also contains generous levels of folate (folic acid), potassium and thiamin, as well as some calcium and magnesium. Oranges have become America's No. 1 source of vitamin C intake, and are great whether sliced, juiced or used as an exceptional marinade or salad dressing. Available at all weekly farmers markets, prices range from 30 cents to $1 per pound depending on the bulk of your purchase.