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Eating good on a budget at the farmers’ markets

Grinds for Sunday, February 19, 2012

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Posted: Sunday, February 19, 2012 12:15 am

PO‘IPU — Good eats have to be good, but they don’t need to have a high price tag attached.

“We were going to use Sueoka Store steaks, but we ate them,” said Laura Cristobal of the Salty Wahine, who was showing how to prepare Hot Lava Steaks using her Salty Wahine Hot Lava salts, one of 10 she offers at the Gourmet Market Wednesdays at The Shops at Kukui‘ula. “We were going to use the

Okinawa sweet potatoes we got from a local farmer for the sweet potato chips, but we ate them,” she said during a chef’s demonstration.

The marlin for the marlin salad, using the Salty Wahine Passion Fruit Chile Pepper, dedicated to her sister at Aunty Lilikoi Products, came from a fisherman at the Port Allen Small Boat Harbor.

Melissa McFerrin of the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau said eating good does not have to be expensive and also supports local producers. The weekly demonstrations at the Gourmet Market show how to prepare meals using local products.

“All of the dishes are simple to prepare in about 15 minutes,” Cristobal said. “I’m a busy gal.”

The Salty Wahine is one of the vendors who offer spices at the Gourmet Market in Kukui‘ula and at the Kaua‘i Community Market on Saturdays at Kaua‘i Community College.

“You cannot afford not to take this home and pop it in the microwave,” chef Mauro Politi said after pulling out a helping of freshly made lasagna, everything being created by the chef at Hanalei Pasta. “I even brought my harmonica, but there’s no music today.”

Politi, who creates a line of fresh pasta and sauces, and on occasion, almost ready-to-eat lasagna, said he used to chef for Tahiti Nui and also played music at the popular Hanalei eating place.

“But today, I just do pasta and sauces and sometimes I have my harmonica to play music,” he said.

Hanalei Pasta is available only where Politi and his wife vend — Tuesdays at the Waipa farmers market in Hanalei, Wednesdays at the Gourmet Market and Saturdays at the Kaua‘i Community Market.

Helen Lacono, on the other hand, has her soups only at the Gourmet Market or at Hanapepe Cafe.

Lacono said she’s been making soup for the past 17 years and has 30 varieties at Hanapepe Cafe, which is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

In addition to the soups, Lacono said the cafe also offers salads and sandwiches to go along with the tasty soups.

“On Friday nights, we do exotic dinners with music,” she said, inspecting some Chinese pea branches offered up by one of the Kukui‘ula vendors. “Yes, this goes along with the nasturtiums, which I can use for this week’s dinner.”

The Hungarian mushroom is the staple of four soups she brings to the Wednesday market in Kukui‘ula. Joining that aromatic blend, Lacono also offered liberal samples of seafood chowder, chicken tortilla soup and a shrimp and asparagus bisque all in take-out bowls, which complement the neighboring Living Foods’ baked goods.

The Gourmet Market at The Shops at Kukui‘ula features local vendors, currently numbering about 20, on Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 6 p.m., with the chef’s demo starting at 5 p.m.

The Kaua‘i Community Market at Kaua‘i Community College is open from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

As closing time neared, an exiting shopper toting a paper-bag meal asked, “Is that soup, or is that pie?”

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