by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Blessed as we are with so much fresh produce year round, making healthy food at home is as easy as a trip to your local farmers market. If you really want to go to the source, some growers, like Underwood Family Farms (with locations in Moorpark and Somis), will even allow you to go out to the fields to pick your own. These nutritious and delicious recipes courtesy of Underwood are made with ingredients grown right here in Ventura County and in season now. Bon appetit!

Blood Orange and Red Onion Salad

The blood orange is a hybrid of the tangerine and a pomelo and is known for its reddish flesh acquired from the presence of the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin. The rind is tougher and harder to peel, but the taste is sweeter. Blood oranges are at their peak right now and have been showing up at Underwood stands at local farmers markets, at the farm store and in the Healthy Harvest CSA box.

1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

4 blood oranges

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons torn basil leaves

  1. 1.Toss the red onion with the vinegar and season with salt and white pepper. Let stand at room temperature until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, peel the oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Thinly slice the oranges crosswise, removing any pits. 
  3. Arrange the oranges on a platter and scatter the red onion on top. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and white pepper. Garnish with the basil and serve.

Roasted Romanesco and Shrimp

This flavorful dish features Romanesco, a beautiful, spring-green cauliflower varietal with intricately spiraling “buds.” Its texture is similar to cauliflower but the flavor is milder and a bit nutty. Romanesco is readily available this time of year, although traditional cauliflower or broccoli make decent substitutes.

 1-2 pounds of Romanesco, cut into bite-size florets

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

½ teaspoon chili powder

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 pound of shrimp, shelled and deveined

Dash of sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

Juice of one lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. In a large bowl, toss Romanesco with 2 tablespoons olive oil, coriander, cumin, chili powder and 2 cloves of minced garlic. 
  3. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp, 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce, sea salt and pepper.
  4. Spread Romanesco on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Add shrimp, toss with Romanesco and roast some more — until shrimp are just opaque and vegetables are tender and golden around edges, about 10 minutes more. Toss once halfway through.
  5. Serve with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over shrimp and vegetables just before serving.

Arugula and Roasted Beet Salad 

Sweet beets, peppery arugula, creamy avocado and crunchy nuts come together to make a salad that hits several different texture and flavor profiles all at once. While any fresh beet will work, golden beets are particularly good.

One bunch of golden beets

One bunch of arugula

½ cup toasted walnuts or pecans

1 sliced avocado

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon local honey

¼ cup olive oil

Fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, mint or parsley — or a combination)

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F and roast beets with skins on for one hour. Let cool, slip skins off and slice into rounds or quarters.
  2. Place sliced beets into a dish or bowl and top with avocado, arugula and nuts.
  3. In small food processor, pulse herbs (1-2 tablespoons or to your liking) to chop, and then add vinegar, honey and olive oil and pulse until the dressing starts to emulsify.
  4. Drizzle salad with dressing and season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy immediately.

Underwood Family Farms, 3370 Sunset Valley Road, Moorpark, 805-529-3690; 5696 E. Los Angeles Ave., Somis, 805-386-4660;