California Citrus
Winter is Citrus Time in California!

Midwinter is peak time for California citrus fruits and when they are at their juiciest and sweetest. You'll find a large selection of lemons, kumquats, grapefruit, clementines and several varieties of oranges at the farmers markets through spring. One of our favorites is the Meyer lemon with its distinctive floral, slightly sweet taste highly aromatic peel.

The Versatile Mushroom
Earthy Hidden Treasures

Raw, grilled, sautéed, stuffed, braised, stir-fried, breaded, or roasted — mushrooms are a surprisingly versatile ingredient! Fresh mushrooms add dimension, texture and flavor to dishes as well as provide important nutrients including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, and Vitamin D. The Monterey Bay is ideal for mushroom production and is the second largest producer of cultivated mushrooms in the US.

Healthy Kale
A Nutritional Powerhouse

Kale, the queen of the greens, is loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, along with vitamin E (antioxidant), calcium, phytonutrients, and helps lower cholesterol — not only is it one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet, it tastes great in salads, braises, soups and even smoothies. Here are some tips for selecting, storing and prepping winter greens from our market chef.

Local Raw Milk and Cream
Schoch Dairy’s motto —“Quality over quantity.”

Raw milk from from grass fed cows contains higher levels of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), vitamins, and a wide range of minerals. Schoch's Family Farmstead raw milk is creamy, full flavored and delicious. Learn how to make homemade kefir, a cultured milk beverage full of healthy probiotics using raw milk.

Edible Paradise :: Seasonal Cooking

MBCFM Recipes

From Our Markets to Your Table

Edible Paradise celebrates the year-round abundance of the highest quality, freshest food grown on the Central Coast by our family farmers at the Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets. If you enjoy preparing and eating locally grown food, this blog is for you!

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Meatless in Santa Cruz

RECIPES:  Alsation Onion Cake, Braised Eggplant with Garlic Sauce, Dandelion Fritatta, Eggplant and Tomato Gratin, Eggplant Curry, Indian Cauliflower and Potato Curry, Mediterranean Tart, Papa O’s Eggplant Parmesan with Fresh Mozzarella, Squash Blossom Quesadillas, Egyptian Edamame Stew, Indian Vegetarian Stew, Chickpea Burgers with Tahini Sauce, Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Portobellos, Spicy Black Bean Filled Pita with Chipotle Sauce, Stir Fried Kabocha with Tofu and Basil, Tomato Mozzarella Tart with Basil Garlic Crust

Resolved to eat less meat this year? Going “meatless” doesn’t have to be a deprivation exercise – not only is it healthier for the environment, meatless meals significantly lower your caloric and fat intake. Replacing meat in dishes with veggies or grains can mean eating one third less fat (and 80% less saturated fat) while beneficially increasing your fiber intake. My husband likes to joke that he’s an “econotarian” when asked about his meat or veggie diet preference, but it’s true: replacing a few meat-based meals each month may have some rewarding financial benefits for the budget, too!

In my bistro days, one of the most important aspects of running a successful food business was learning how to control food costs. 25% was considered the “right” ratio in the overall budget. (And, as most restaurateurs know, meat accounts for the lion’s share of food costs.) Living in Santa Cruz and knowing that many locals preferred a non-meat diet, we also had to make certain that a portion of our menu included vegetarian or vegan offerings.

At first it was challenging for the chef and me (gasp – both carnivores!) to develop an interesting menu that included non-traditional vegetarian fare – but we embraced the task and turned to “world cuisine” for inspiration. Marlena Spieler, a renowned cookbook author, prolific food writer and broadcaster, became our favorite muse. We used several of her early books, Hot and Spicy: Innovative Recipes from the World’s Fiery Cuisine, Sun Drenched Cuisine and The Flavor of California as our go-to sources for delicious, sassy dishes. Our goal was to create non-meat dishes that were not only tasty, but would appeal to our “meat eaters” as well, without “broadcasting” that the dishes were meatless or vegetarian. We also decided not to have any special designation on the menu for the vegetarian entrées. The vegetarian offerings would be listed with our meat based dishes.

To our surprise, the challenge to create satisfying vegetarian dishes using seasonal ingredients from the farmers market became our most enjoyable weekly task. Most of the vegetarian main courses that we struggled to develop initially, became the most well-loved entrées on the menu, by both vegetarians and meat eaters! We learned it didn’t matter whether the dish was meat centric or vegetarian – what mattered most was using the freshest ingredients possible to create our flavorful dishes. Our menu offerings became primarily vegetarian by “popular demand.” Meat, poultry and seafood items were the exception, not the rule.

As a result of the popularity of our vegetarian dishes, our food costs dropped under 20%, an almost unheard of feat in the restaurant business. Using fresh vegetables purchased directly from the farmers at the farmers market instead of a commercial restaurant supplier not only proved to be economical, but we also had less waste and spoilage due to the freshness of the vegetables and fruits.

Today, I no longer think in terms of “vegetarian” or non-vegetarian when it comes to meal planning or entertaining. My goal is simply to serve a nourishing meal with fresh wholesome ingredients that evoke excitement with a little world flavor flair. I am more inclined to serve a whole grain side dish with a vegetarian dish, too. The rich flavors and textures are naturals together – and whole grains just happen to be very nutritious. A wide selection of bulk whole grains are available at many of our local markets, from ancient grains like quinoa and spelt, to millet, whole wheat berries, and barley.

So whether you’re a dyed in the wool vegetarian or a confirmed (or confused!) carnivore, here are some favorite meatless entrées that will liven up a few winter meals and will be easy on the budget, too. And, you won’t miss the meat. Promise.

Meyer Lemon — The Darling of Farmers Markets

California Meyer Lemons

California Meyer Lemons

The Meyer lemon and I have an odd history that began at a party in San Jose in the early 80s. I was offered a choice between lemon or lime with my sparkling water — and I chose lemon. However, one sip later, I was confused — that was not a lemon in my drink! I returned the drink to the bartender and asked for a lemon. The bartender explained to me that the yellow skinned citrus quarters sitting in the condiment bowl were MEYER lemons, like that would explain everything. I was expecting a real lemon, not some impostor posing as a lemon. I settled for a lime instead, hoping it would be a genuine lime with a flavor I would recognize. Continue Reading →

Delectable Edible Gifts From Your Kitchen

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DELECTABLE EDIBLE GIFTS FROM YOUR KITCHEN

If you are pondering holiday gift ideas for friends or coworkers, you might not have to go any further than your own kitchen for inspiration.  Ingredients like dried fruit and nuts are plentiful at the farmers markets, just in time for making some delectable confections or savory snacks.

Late fall and winter fruits make excellent fruit butters and chutneys. When elegantly wrapped or bottled, homemade products from your kitchen make memorable gifts. Here are some of our favorite recipes and gift ideas — Continue Reading →

Pomegranate — The Original Forbidden Fruit

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Pomegranate – The Original Forbidden Fruit

The name “pomegranate” derives from Latin pomum (‘apple’) and granatus (‘seeded’). Jewish scholars believe that the pomegranate was the original “forbidden fruit” of the Garden of Eden. The pomegranate has been a prominent symbol in many religions and cultures since Biblical times, when Moses promised his followers that they would find the fruit in the Promised Land, to the 18th century, when Spanish sailors introduced it to the southern United States. Cultivated since ancient times, the pomegranate is native to the region from Iran to northern India. The pomegranate is now cultivated widely in California and Arizona for juice production.

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Pears – Sweet Pleasures of Autumn

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The Extraordinary Pear

Pears are one of the world’s most alluring fruits with its voluptuous contour and buttery textured flesh. A perfectly ripe, luscious pear is without peer as a sweet pleasure of autumn. This ancient fruit captured the praise of the well-known Greek poet, Homer (8th century B.C.), who referred to pears as a “gift of the gods.” The Romans developed over 50 varieties of pears and introduced the cultivated pear to Europe. The California Bartlett is an ancestor of a pear originating in Berkshire, England from the 17th century. California grown pears include Bartlett, Bosc, Sekel, Comice, Starkrimson (red pears), D’Anjou, Forelle, Packhams, Taylor’s Gold,  and Warrens.

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