Little Eater's Cara Mangini has a big appetite.

Little Eater's Cara Mangini has a big appetite.

Since starting her pop-up shop on the Hills Market's Worthington veranda last summer, Little Eater's seasonal salads have grown to become a regular takeout presence in coolers there and at the Clintonville Community Market.

Her salads coax bright, fresh flavors from all manner of vegetables thanks to imaginative spicing and smart combinations-who knew curry, apple and fennel would make such a great pairing before tasting the three together in her curried apple fennel slaw, dotted with crunchy pecans?

And customers are flocking-she's been delivering tubs to the Hills Market Downtown four times a week since it opened and selling out of them each time.

While her creations are decidedly local (she uses produce from places like Wayward Seed Farm whenever she can), the inspiration for them is far-flung. Mangini got the idea to start Little Eater while working for a cosmetics company and living in Brooklyn. When she decided to make food her full-time focus, she honed her technique at a natural-foods cooking school in New York. She drew inspiration for her adoration of vegetables from time she spent living in Paris.

"Vegetables just came so naturally to people there-preparing them was intuitive," Mangini says. "Here, most people haven't been given the tools to enjoy them."

She's called so many places home that she never even considered Columbus as a place to start her business, but after being convinced of the city's agricultural charms by her boyfriend, she decided to settle here.

"When I came here, I was blown away by the quality of the food producers," Mangini says. "And I was coming from Napa Valley."

This summer, look for signs of expansion-Mangini will be bringing her salad pop-up to the Hills Market Downtown for lunchtime, and she's working to distribute to a few new markets as well.

And she's writing a cookbook, further exploring her interest in the connection between food and health.

"With vegetables, you get to be more creative with the flavors," she says. "And you get to better experience life through the seasons."