Back to the Kitchen: Fun Food Trivia Facts, Plus a Local Spin on Recipes

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Did you know that a tomato is a member of the nightshade family whose siblings include peppers, potatoes and eggplant? Originally from South America, tomati is the Aztec word for plumb vegetable, but the conquistador’s misunderstood and turned the word into tomato.

What about the fact that rabbits and squirrels won’t go near a garden with crops of onions and garlic?

Did you know that Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish and Caribbean traditions? Black beans, rice and plantains, plus plenty of tropical fruits like mango, papaya, coconuts and pineapple are a staple of this culture

Did you know how lucky we are to live in Southern California with all of its diversity and amazing local farm producers so we can eat locally? When we buy foods locally it supports local families, reduces fossil fuel consumption and keeps our rural areas green. It encourages biodiversity and keeps our connection to food alive.

Following are just a few of the local producers that are in our community (and some recipes inspired by their products). Most of these amazing products are available by web order, at our local farmers market and at Whole Foods.  I encourage you to find out more and support our local producers that are following their hearts and passions that also help make a better planet!

Be Wise Ranch in Escondido is a certified organic farm that has been growing organic produce since 1977, including vine-ripe heirloom tomatoes, strawberries, squash, and melons. Bill Brammer, owner of Be Wise Ranch, has been committed to sustainable agriculture since the early days of the organic movement, and during his five-year term as the state president of California Certified Farmers (CCOF), helped draft the state and federal legislation that defined organic standards for the industry. Bill is committed to improving the quality of the soil, and to growing varieties that have the outstanding flavor the increasingly sophisticated organic consumer has come to expect.

Heirloom Bruschetta

6 seeded ripe heirloom tomatoes, diced

1 red onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2-cup olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Gently combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Let stand at room temp for 1 hour before serving. Serve with a baguette sliced thinly on the diagonal, rub with garlic, brush with olive oil and bake or grill.

Red and Ann Bennett of  Bennett’s Honey Farm of Piru not only produce their organic honey, but also package and distribute it. Red’s former career as an electrical engineer gave him the edge as far as designing all solar powered machinery to follow their passion of bee keeping and honey filtering. The Bennetts feel that they are a little fussier in their process, but the taste is worth the extra effort. They are also on a mission to save the honeybees!


1 pound frozen phyllo sheets

1 cup melted butter

2 cups finely chopped walnuts or blanched almonds

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup honey

1 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Thaw phyllo pastry and separate sheets according to package directions. Keep pastry not being used covered with clean damp dish towel to keep it from drying out. Place half of pastry sheets in a greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan, one by one, brushing each sheet quickly and all over with melted butter. Combine nuts, 1/2 cup sugar, and cinnamon; sprinkle over buttered pastry. Place remaining sheets on top, brushing each with melted butter. Cut baklava pastry into 2-inch diamonds. Bake at 400° until brown and crisp, about 30 to 35 minutes. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine remaining 3/4 cup sugar, honey, 1 cup water, and lemon juice; bring to a boil. Boil baklava syrup for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until syrupy. Cool and pour over baklava.

Cahuillia Farms is a  500-acre farm in Temecula owned and operated Argentinean native by Sergio Glushankoff. He grows heirloom squash, garlic, onions and pumpkins using irrigation systems that filter water directly to the roots, which helps limit weeds naturally.

Sauté Heirloom Squash

2 lbs squash and/or zucchini, sliced

1 green bell pepper, seeds removed, sliced

2 smallish tomatoes or one large tomato, peeled and cut into wedges

1/2 yellow onion, peeled and sliced

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

Olive oil

6 slices of cheese – jack or cheddar

Basil, either dry or chopped fresh

Salt and pepper

Place onion, garlic, squash, and bell pepper into a large saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Put on high heat and brown the vegetables slightly to develop flavor. As you are browning, sprinkle either dried basil or chopped fresh basil on the vegetables. When vegetables are slightly browned, remove from heat, add the slices of cheese, and cover the pan. In a separate stick-free fry pan, put the tomatoes and cook at medium hi heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want to let the juice from the tomatoes evaporate some. After 5 minutes, add the tomatoes to the rest of the vegetables and stir. Salt and pepper to taste.

Jessica Iclisoy,  mother of two, searched for skin care that did not contain harmful ingredients. When she could not find any California Baby was born. She features 52 products including lotions, sun care, bubble bath, shampoo and essential oils and her sons and their friends test all of the products.

Mary Aqleh learned to love baking from her grandmother and with her 26 employees are baking 24 hours a day. A supporter of local vendors, she shops three days a week picking up ingredients from farmers that she has been buying from for years. You can watch Mary bake whiles enjoying a sweet treat at her Main Street establishment in Alhambra called  Perfectly Sweet.

John and Andy Davis are very busy at Carlsbad Aquafarm improving the marine ecology around them. This local aquaculture lagoon houses not only Black Mussels and Manila Clams, but a living reef which is helping to replenish some species of fish.

Mussels in Curry Broth

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 cup minced shallots

4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

1 small chili pepper, seeded and minced

1-tablespoon curry powder

4 cups bottled clam juice

1 (2-inch) strip of lime zest

1/2 pounds mussels

3/4-cup coconut milk

Salt to taste. 
Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped

Lime wedges, for garnish

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, ginger, and chili pepper. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft (about 7 minutes). Add the curry powder and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Increase the heat to high, add the clam juice and lime zest, and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes. Add the mussels, cover, and cook, shaking the pan frequently, until all the shells have opened, 5 to 7 minutes. Scoop the mussels into large bowls.

Stir the coconut milk and sugar into the broth and adjust the seasoning. Add cilantro. Spoon the broth over the shellfish and garnish with fresh lime wedges. Serve immediately.

Steamed Clams In Beer

24 Clams

4 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped

12 oz good dark beer

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 stick butter

In a small saucepan sauté chopped garlic and fresh parsley with melted butter. Keep warm on low. Place clams in the bottom of a clam steamer or deep boiling pot. Add beer. Beer level should be only 1-2 inches from bottom. Cover and bring beer to a boil and steam until top clams barely open (about 3-5 minutes). Do not over cook, as clams will become tough and rubbery.

After emigrating from Cuba, Maria Fernandez’s parents opened La Cubana in Glendale where customers still flock to for there traditional Cuban flavor including their famous Mojo de Ajo.This oil based marinade can be used to flavor meats, vegetables and sauces and is an amazing dipping sauce for breads.

Ed Begley’s cleaning products, Begley’s Best, were birthed by his lifelong passion and commitment to the earth. And it is not just talk either. He lives a completely green lifestyle. His Studio City home runs on solar power and his back yard features an organic garden, and both he and his wife drive “green” vehicles. Products like Begley’s Best All Purpose Cleaner, Glass and Surface Cleaner and Spot remover are all safe to use throughout the house. As passionate about his products as his busy acting career you often see him delivering cases of product to Whole Foods Market in his electric car and educating people as a vendor at the Studio City Open air Market. Ed gives all profits back to environmental charities.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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