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Perfect time to cook, eat local

California’s Central Valley is the best place in the country to cook and eat local. The region is the state’s agriculture hub, producing over 360 products. Local farmers markets and fruit stands have much of the area's bounty available for purchase straight from the field.

Here's a look at what fruits, vegetables and nuts will be in season during August and September:

Zucchini: This summer squash grows in abundance in backyard gardens, which probably is the reason that National Sneak Some Zucchini Into Your Neighbor's Porch Day is celebrated on Aug. 8.

When selecting zucchini for cooking, remember that the most flavorful ones are small to medium sized. Store zucchini unwashed in a perforated or loosely closed plastic bag for up to one week. Don't wash or cut up the zucchini until ready to use. To freeze zucchini for later use, wash and cut into 1-inch chunks before freezing in a zipper-topped freezer bag.

Zucchini Pasta with Almond Pesto

Prep time: 5 Minutes
Cook time: 10 Minutes
1/3 cup whole roasted and unsalted almonds
1 garlic clove
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds zucchini
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

In food processor, process almonds until finely ground. Add garlic, parsley and cheese; pulse 4-6 times. Add in 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste) and pulse again a few times. Set aside.

Spiralize zucchini or use grater with zucchini lengthwise for longer strands. Preheat large skillet or wok over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook zucchini 4 minutes using tongs to stir and rotate until cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Toss warm zucchini with pesto, sprinkle with pepper flakes (optional) and divide into pasta bowls. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Note: To roast raw almonds, heat oven to 350°F, toss nuts on sheet pan and roast for 10 minutes. Cool before using.

Tomatoes: California produces over 95% of the tomatoes in the United States enjoyed as prepared sauces, salsas, soups, ketchup and much more. When buying tomatoes at a fruit stand, pick ones that are a deep, bright red in color; firm to the touch; and smell sweet at the stem.

Tomato, Chive and Mango Salsa

Servings: 3
Preparation time: 10 minutes
1 cup fresh mango, diced
1 1/2 cups ripe tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Serve or cover and refrigerate until needed.

Apples: California is the 5th largest producer of apples in the United States and the 2nd largest exporter of apples in the nation. Almost 14,000 acres are dedicated exclusively to apples in the state. California produces four main varieties: Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith and Cripps Pink. Harvest season lasts from July to October.

Garlic Herb Pork Medallions with Apples

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6
1 Herb seasoned pork loin filet, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large cooking apple (like Rome or Granny Smith), cored and thinly sliced
1 small sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon apple pie spice or cinnamon
1 cup apple juice

1. In large skillet, saute pork slices in oil over medium-high heat until browned. Remove from skillet and keep warm.

2. Add apple, onion and apple pie spice to skillet; saute over medium-high heat until onions are tender.

3. Return pork to skillet; add apple juice. Cover and simmer until internal temperature of pork reaches 150°F, about 5 minutes.

\Medallions with Apple:

Table Grapes: Over 99 percent of grapes commercially grown in the United States come from California.  With over 80 varieties grown, California grapes come in three colors – green, red and black – and are available May through January.  During the 2014-15 season, California's table grape growers harvested their second largest crop ever, sending 110 million 19-pound boxes of grapes to more than 65 countries around the world, and setting a new record for crop value at $1.76 billion.

Grape and Smoked Mozzarella Flatbread

Servings: 4
2 large wholegrain flatbreads or naan (about 8 ounces)
1 1/4 cups grated smoked mozzarella
3 cups arugula
1 cup sliced red, green and black California grapes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat broiler to high.

Place flatbreads on baking sheet and broil until crisp and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Turn and cover with mozzarella. Broil until melted, about 2-3 minutes.

While mozzarella is melting, toss together arugula, grapes, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Place on top of flatbreads and cut into wedges.

Peaches: California is the top peach producing state in the U.S., followed by South Carolina, Georgia and New Jersey. In 2012 California accounted for nearly 74 percent of peach production and supplying nearly 51 percent of the fresh peach crop and more than 97 percent of processing peaches. California clingstone peaches are available from mid-July to mid-September, while the California freestone varieties are harvested from April 20 through Oct. 10.

When selecting peaches at a farmers market stand, look for a deep golden color, soft to the touch and shriveled skin around the stem.

Sweet Chili Chicken & Peach Wraps

1 1/24 cups cooked chicken, cut into strips 300mL
3 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce 45m:
1 can California Cling peach halves or slices, in fruit juice concentrate or light syrup, drained and patted really dry 398mL
8 large rice paper rounds
4 very small leaves of Boston or leaf lettuce, torn in half
3-inch (7.5 cm) cucumber piece, cut into julienne strips
½ small red pepper, cut into julienne strips
8 to 12 mint leaves (optional)
Additional Thai sweet chili sauce for dipping


1. Have all ingredients prepared. In a small bowl, stir chicken with sweet chili sauce, Fill a pie plate with warm water. Lay damp smooth kitchen towel on the counter. Thinly cut peach halves into slices or use peach slices

2. Working with 1 wrap at a time, dip in water until it is just pliable, 20 to 40 seconds. Place on kitchen towel. Place ½ a lettuce leaf near bottom of circle. Place 2 peach slices on top of lettuce, followed by 1/8 of chicken, then 1/8 of cucumber and red pepper and 2 to 3 mint leaves depending on size.

3. Fold bottom (edge closet to you) of rice paper wrap over filling towards center. Fold in sides to slightly cover filling. Then roll to totally enclose filling and form a roll. Set seam side down on a cutting board. Repeat with remaining ingredients. If sending for lunch, leave whole. If serving as an appetizer, slice in half diagonally. Serve with additional sweet chili sauce. Best eaten right away but if storing, make sure they aren’t touching each others as they will stick. Cover with barely damp paper towel, then seal tightly with plastic wrap.

Serves 8


Valencia Oranges
Green Beans