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Local Bounty

At the market: what to watch for this month


Green Giant

Sencha is to Japan what Coke is to the U.S. It’s in every pantry, accounting for 80 percent of the country’s tea sales. Greener and grassier than Chinese greens, it looks like tiny needles before steeping. But high-quality sencha was hard to come by in San Diego—until now. Locals Steve Kelley and Michiko Araki have launched Taste of Kyoto, offering canisters of organic loose and sachet sencha straight from Japan. They’re a one-stop shop for your green tea fix, with instant sencha for cold or hot drinks, a sweet and creamy matcha latte in powder form, culinary and premium matcha (for coloring and flavoring desserts, etc.), and matcha chocolate bars. You can find the products at Nijiya Market, Jimbo’s, and in some creations by La Jolla’s dessert master, Michele Coulon.

On a Bender

Lisa and Gretchen Bender just launched Sea Salt Candy Company last spring, but the secrets to their toffees span
generations of
Benders—with a few modern tweaks, like Sonoma sea salt. Their “Claim to Fame” almond toffees? Lisa’s aunt taught her a recipe that should thrill fans of bacon and bourbon: warmed Chico almonds add a hint of smoke to go with chocolate chips, ground walnuts, and sea salt. They also keep the salted caramel trend alive with a trio made from California honey, vanilla, and brown sugar (no molar-spackling high-fructose corn syrup). At farmers markets (Encinitas,
Hillcrest, Little Italy), Market Basket, and

Kale: So Now
San Diego may be temperate, but it still takes a hardy green to survive our winters. And kale can. This month you can find all sorts: frilly, vaguely curled, some pinkish, some white. For a less bitter version, try the tall Tuscan—a staple in Northern Italian cuisine nicknamed “dinosaur kale” because of its Jurassic foliage. Whichever variety, they’re a big flavor payoff when sautéed, braised, added to soups, or chopped into a salad. My favorite? Kale chips. Use the whole leaf or cut into bite-sized pieces, toss with olive oil and minced garlic, then roast at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes. Top with grated Parmesan or pecorino. Crunchy, but less rump-expanding than Fritos.

An Itch to Scratch
Make the Bread, Buy the Butter (Free Press; $24) is not a gimmicky book geared to the food-TV set. Jennifer Reese, author of The Tipsy Baker blog, is one heck of an entertaining read. She’s also worked hard to enlighten home cooks about the pros and cons of making it from scratch versus faking it from Aisle 5. Each entry starts with an often hilarious war story of making a food—hot dog buns, horseradish, burrata, you name it. Using price and a basic pain-in-the-butt criteria, she decides whether you should “make it or buy it.” If deemed better from scratch, she explains how to give it a go.

» BY CARON GOLDEN, an expert on local markets and farms. To see more of her Local Bounty finds every week «click here»

Eat Your Heart Out

We love these organ-serving restos

Beef heart kabob at Q'ero

Americans fear the love muscle. Not so in Peru, where grilled beef heart is the unofficial state scent. Animal hearts are packed with super-nutrient CoQ10—a cellular fuel claimed to boost one’s energy and stamina. That’s always nice this time of year. Plus, short of slow-roasting a coworker, few meals deliver such a taboo thrill. Two SD restaurants serve the Peruvian specialty anticuchos. At Latin Chef in Pacific Beach, $7.50 gets two skewers slathered in aji panca (a marinade made from the smoky, fruity Peruvian pepper) with the famed aji verde dipping sauce (cilantro, jalapenos, garlic, oil, etc.) The itsy bistro benefits from a nearby medicinal reefer establishment. At Encinitas’ Q’ero, chef-owner Monica Szepesy marinates hers in garlic, oregano, cumin, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and aji panca for 24 hours, and serves it with either huacatay ocopa (a wonderful basil-esque sauce) or chicha morada (purple corn) glaze. It was Szepesy’s anticuchos that floored a largely Anglo, aorta-leery crowd at Celebrate the Craft a few years ago. Now a special-event item, she’s agreed to reprise the dish this month for San Diego Magazine readers. It is Valentine’s, after all. Eat… love… praying optional. // TJ

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