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Locally Yours: Food tastes even better when it’s close to home

By: Carol Arnold
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I attended several real farmers markets last week. Surrounded by ripe, sweet stone fruit, plump berries fresh off of the vine and beautiful crisp salad greens, I was filled with a sense of well being. Farmers laughing with the customers, kids’ faces smeared with strawberries, I felt like I was on the inside of a Norman Rockwell painting. That is exactly what real farmers markets are about. It starts with the farmers, the ranchers and their place in our community. They are our neighbors and they grow our food. They bring the food to market, a convivial, lively place, and they give us, their neighbors and friends, an opportunity to be on the inside of a truly special experience. If we choose, we can live on food produced by people we know and trust. We know the names of our farmers and ranchers. We can eat produce that is under 24 hours off of the vine or out of the ground or picked from a tree by Jim, Frances, Marilyn, Gino, Alicia, Ignacio, Roberto, Steve, Lisa, Kua, Sean, Bryan, Bob and Teri, and Yarda and Eric. If we choose, we can eat free-range chicken, pork, grass-fed lamb, and beef raised in a humane way right down the road from the market by Dan, Bob, Karin, and Molly and Cooper. If we choose, we can eat salmon Brand caught yesterday out in the Pacific Ocean. We live in a part of the world where our food is produced locally all year long. We have farmers markets open every week of the year. In the United States, there are only 600 communities that have the opportunity to shop at year-round farmers markets. Our community has two of them. Choose to take good care of yourself and your community farms by shopping from real farmers markets. You may just find your farmer is your neighbor and your friend. What is your place in this equation? All you have to do is get up on a Saturday, a Tuesday, or a Wednesday morning and choose to spend some of your grocery budget on real food. You get to take advantage of the wonderful place we live and the productive land. You get to meet friends and neighbors, spend some time with the people who produce your food and then go home and revel in the fact of where you live. You get to make a fruit salad, or a green salad, or steam some fresh bright green beans and feed your family food which truly sustains them. Visit our web site, foothill farmersmarket.com for a list of markets open near you. On to today’s recipe. This is a really nice summer salad and the key ingredients are available at the market. The salted zucchini is crisp and the grilled onion adds a natural sweetness to the couscous. It comes together very quickly; I prepared this recipe in 20 minutes. See you at the market! Carol Arnold is general manager of the Foothill Farmers Market Association. Reach her at foothillfarmersmarket@gmail.com. __________ Couscous and Grilled Zucchini Salad 3 small zucchini (about 1 pound), sliced and salted (see note) 2 teaspoons ground cumin 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste) ¼ teaspoon black pepper 1teaspoon salt 1 large red onion, sliced into1/3 inch rounds and threaded onto two thin skewers ¼ cup olive oil, divided use 1 ½ cups water 1 1/4 cups couscous ¾ teaspoon salt ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped coarsely 1 tablespoon orange zest, finely grated 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice, more to taste ½ tablespoon lemon juice (optional) Slice and salt the zucchini following the instructions in the note. Heat a grill, gas or charcoal, to medium high heat. In a medium bowl, mix the cumin, sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and one teaspoon salt with one tablespoon of olive oil. Toss in the zucchini. Let sit for 10 minutes. Place onions on a cookie sheet, and brush the onions with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Meanwhile, bring 1½ cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in the couscous, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and ¾ teaspoons salt. Cover, remove from heat, and set aside. Set the zucchini cut side down on the grill and cook until browned and softened but not mushy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Return the zucchini to its original bowl and toss to pick up remaining spices. Add onions to the grill and cook quickly, until soft and slightly charred. Coarsely chop the zucchini and onions and stir them into the couscous, along with the cilantro, orange zest, orange juice, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and add a little more orange juice to taste. Note: Wash and dry zucchini. Trim off the ends and quarter lengthwise. Slice the soft seed core by running a sharp knife down the length of each quarter. Some seeds will remain. Arrange the zucchini, cut side up on a baking sheet lined with a towel. Sprinkle with salt (about ½ teaspoon per pound of zucchini) and set aside for 10 minutes. Blot the quarters dry. This process takes some of the water off of the zucchini so remains nice and crisp when cooked.