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Eat Good Food Book Recipe Preview: Sergio’s Gazpacho

I’ve been waiting until the heirloom tomatoes started popping to release the first recipe from our book, Eat Good Food, which comes out October 18th. This is one of our deli’s best selling items in the summer. You can also use any combination of Roma and heirloom tomatoes.

Makes about 7 cups.

2 cups extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling (see Note below)

1/4 cup Sherry vinegar, more as needed

1 tsp. Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

1/2 a medium red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks

1/2 a medium cucumber, trimmed and cut into large chunks

Leaves from 6 large sprigs flat-leaf parsley

Vanessa's classy sign for the deli case

Leaves from 4 large sprigs fresh basil

1 large clove garlic

Kosher salt

4 medium Roma tomatoes, cored and cut into large chunks

3 medium heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into large chunks

Put the oil, vinegar, and Tabasco in the bowl of a blender and blend briefly. Add the onions, cucumbers, parsley, basil, garlic, and 3 tsp. salt and blend until smooth. With the blender running, add the tomatoes a few at a time. When the blender is about 3/4 full, pour out half of the liquid into a medium bowl. Continue to puree and add the tomatoes a few at a time until all the tomatoes are incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Pour the blender contents into the bowl and stir to blend.

If you want a super-smooth texture, pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer.

Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Whisk to blend, then taste and add more salt or vinegar as needed.  Garnish each serving with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Note: Two cups may seem like a lot of oil, but the soup really doesn’t have the same rich flavor with any less (we tried). You can, of course, reduce the amount if you like. For best results, use an oil that is not too peppery, or else it will overpower the soup. A Spanish Arbequina olive oil would be good. You can also substitute up to half of the extra virgin olive oil with a mild or neutral oil, if you like.

Reprinted with permission from Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food by Sam Mogannam & Dabney Gough, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.


Chili

Raising Lucca and Palermo: The First Two Cows from our Farm in Sonoma

This one is Lucca!

This is as close as we can get: in our quest to get closer to where our food comes from, we embarked on a partnership with Rich Andreotti of Circle JR Ranch. For the past year and a half, we have been renting an acre of farmland from Rich to grow various veggies. You might have tasted the super sweet broccoli di cicco, tender potatoes, little gem lettuces and soon to arrive tomatoes in the deli. The other five acres of pasture have been the home and foraging ground of Lucca and Palermo (also the towns that Rich and his wife Joanne come from in Italy), two 100% black angus steers that we’ve watched roam and lovingly fed broccoli stalks and fennel! They’re 100% grass fed and finished, never treated with any antibiotics or synthetic hormones,  and as local as we can get (raised only 40 miles from SF).

A well marbled New York steak

The cows were processed at Rancho in Petaluma and are now being aged at Golden Gate Meats in Santa Rosa. Jim, Jonni and Jeff of Golden Gate Meats gave Morgan and I a tour of the plant and walked us through our first whole steer cut sheet! We were pretty excited to see that our beef was wonderfully marbled, which is difficult to attain in grass fed beef. The Golden Gate Meats team actually told us they’re a couple of the prettiest carcasses they’ve ever seen.

Morgan looking over the hind quarter with Jim, owner of Golden Gate Meats

Once they have finished dry aging for 24 days, we will have them available in our butcher counter, by the week of August 8th at the latest.

We’ll also be making burgers from the chuck for the 18 Reasons Barn Dance Barbeque and Fundraiser (tickets still available) that will take place on the same land they were raised on! I can’t wait to taste it.…and once the barn dance is over, we’ll bring 3 more cows to raise on the land over the next couple of years!


Our Mogannam Father’s Day Tradition: Mom’s Stuffed Grape Leaves

When I was growing up, my dad’s Father’s Day wish was simple: to be surrounded by his children (me, my sister, and two brothers) at the table on that June Sunday. And, as obedient first generation children, we obliged. We loved our dad, of course, but the promise of a feast made by our mom certainly didn’t hurt the proposition. Her stuffed grape leaves–perfectly timed since the leaves are at their most tender in summer–were always the star of the show and one of our favorite dishes.

If you’ve never made them, you may not realize how labor-intensive stuffed grape leaves are to craft, which is why they’re usually reserved as a special occasion food. Starting early in the morning, my mom would prepare the stuffing—a mixture of ground lamb, rice, onions, and allspice–filling the house with sweet and spicy aromas. She would then spend a chunk of the day rolling the grape leaves, one at a time, each leaf nurtured, filled, and rolled to uniform perfection. The dish took eight hours of work, start to finish, and our hands would be in the pot before it even hit the table. When the grape leaves were finally served, silence and the occasional grunt would be all you would hear. The dish was always obliterated in a matter of minutes. You’d think that would have frustrated my mother, but it actually fulfilled her. She knew we were happy and she savored that moment when my father would finally look up, and, seeing his wife and children around the table, simply sit content with a smile on his face.

Father’s Day is still the same in our household. We still celebrate at my parents’ house, and my mother still makes grape leaves, but now my wife and daughters celebrate the day with us. The meal is still devoured in minutes, although my girls tend to linger a bit on the grape leaves, now their favorite dish as well.

My dad is even happier now as he gets to share the day with his daughter-in-law and granddaughters. And as a father myself, I now completely understand that smile my father exuded at the end of each meal. He was celebrating one of life’s simplest and most important pleasures, one we don’t commit to often enough—family unity. When my family is together around the table, we focus on each other and the meal, share memories and jokes, and catch up on weeks past. They are moments to appreciate each other, and to celebrate. It is a time without distractions–no TV, no cell phones, no video games.  My father taught me to value family and to value the food we have been given. Together, my parents taught us to love and I will be forever grateful and savor every minute I get to share with them.

Thanks to Ali Slagle of The Recipe Club for getting me thinking about how special this tradition has been to me and my family!


Moroccan Lamb Meatloaf
Serves 8 to 10

This is no ordinary meatloaf. A hefty dose of fresh herbs and dried spices means it’s packed with flavor; the yogurt, tahini, and rolled oats help keep it moist. We developed this recipe as a deli sandwich special, but it’s just as delicious eaten on its own. For best results, try to get ground lamb with 15 to 20 percent fat content; ground shoulder usually falls in this range. Meat from the leg is too lean and will result in a dry end product.

1 large onion, minced (2 cups)
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons tahini
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground toasted cumin (see below)
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 1/2 tablespoons harissa (see Note)
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick liner and set aside. Combine the onion, oats, cilantro, mint, yogurt, tahini, garlic, allspice, cumin, paprika, and cayenne in a large bowl, along with 4 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Mix well to blend. With your hands, break the lamb into small chunks and add to the bowl. Mix gently but thoroughly; overmixing will make the meatloaf tough and dry. When all the ingredients are evenly combined, transfer to the baking sheet and shape into a flat loaf about 13 by 6 by 1 1/2 inches.

Bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 150°F at the thickest part of the loaf, 55 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the harissa and tomato paste in a small bowl. When the meatloaf is done, brush the mixture over the loaf and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until the internal temperature reads 165°F. Let the loaf rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing (longer is better, as the pooled juices will be reabsorbed into the meatloaf).

Note: Harissa is a chile-and-spice paste that hails from North Africa. For a slightly different effect, you could substitute Asian chile-garlic sauce.

Toasted, Ground Cumin Seeds
To toast cumin seeds, heat them in a small skillet over medium-high heat until aromatic and slightly darker, about 2 minutes. Let cool and grind in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder or use the bottom of a sauté pan against a cutting board.


Eat Good Food research visit to Firebrand Artisan Breads

One of the best parts of working on our book Eat Good Food was going on “field trips” to meet and photograph some of the producers whose fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, and other products we sell at the Market. Our goal in doing so was not just to put a face to these products, but to explain what exactly makes the products so good. This video was taken on one such visit, when we went to Firebrand Artisan Breads’ facility in Emeryville, CA.

It was amazing to watch owner Matt Kreutz working with naturally leavened dough (i.e. no commercial yeast used) and a wood-fired oven. He works by hand in small batches, and really “babies” each loaf, giving it more or less time in the oven depending on what it needs. In this video, you’ll hear Dabney and I asking him questions in the background, and you’ll also see our photographer France off to the side. (She’s also the one with the accent, if you couldn’t guess.)

The real treat came at the end, when he gave us some of his incredible brioche rolls to take with us – the perfect thing to sustain us on our journey!


Our book has a cover, now on to the final edits!

We’re down to the wire:  Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food book is almost done. We got to see first round galleys this week and it looks awesome. We had to increase the page count by 48 pages to make room for all of the rich information we want to share.  I am most excited about the cover, which took a lot of back and forth (who knew it would be so challenging?) but we ended up with the perfect balance of image and graphics, just enough of a teaser to lure you in. I feel it looks and feels Bi-Rite, but let me know what you think. Email me and let me know.

Last week we filmed a video about the book, which was a lot of fun. I took Melanie, a Bi-Rite neighbor, shopping in the Market and then we cooked up a recipe from the book together. Peter and Sarah from Belle Creative caught the action on film, and we all learned a lot. Stay tuned!

The next few weeks will be busy with final edits and design layouts so we can get the manuscript off to the printer by the end of May.  There is still a lot of work to do in order to have books in hand by October—which I know will be here sooner than I can blink (in the meantime, you can pre-order a copy here). Our 18th Street world will be exposed to the whole world; I’m nervous, and a bit anxious, but mostly excited to get the book out there.  It has been two years in the works, but really a lifetime if you consider that all the info included spans from my childhood to now.  The experience has been wild and has exceeded all of my hopes and expectations.

I am hopeful that Eat Good Food will inspire change, empower more people to question where their food comes from, and give them the confidence to ask more questions wherever they shop.  But more importantly, I hope you have fun reading it and get a clearer understanding of what makes us tick. We’re a nutty bunch. We’re crazy about food and are passionate about feeding people. We love what we do, have a ton of fun doing it and hope you do too.


Put your bacon where your mouth is

This winter, we found out that our best-selling bacon, Vande Rose Farms Applewood Smoked, was made of pork from hogs raised in confinement. We have our friends at Food Democracy Now to thank for tipping us off to Vande Rose’s use of confined housing for their sows, which led to our decision to stop selling the product. Because of the stand we’ve taken to avoiding selling meat from animals raised in confinement, we had no choice but to take Vande Rose bacon off our shelves .

We replaced it with Benton’s, which was easy to do given how delicious Benton’s is (when we had a blind bacon taste test at 18 Reasons last year, it was a top pick). Allen Benton (who our friend Ari Weinzweig in his book Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon refers to as “seriously one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, in the food world or out”) makes this super smoky bacon in Eastern Tennessee. Smoke, salt and sweet all come through, and the pork bellies come from sustainably raised Berkshire hogs.

Nothing is black and white in the meat world. The more we learn, the harder it gets to do business.. The nuances of where animals are housed, what they’re allowed to eat, and how they are processed aren’t easy to put into buckets, so we do our best to evaluate each on a case by case basis to make the best decision possible. Even though these decisions might not be the best for business, we still take a stance, voting with our dollars, with the hopes of improving food production in our country.


Simon

Let it Grow

Our theme this week is “Be Your Own Farmer.” For the first time ever, we’re selling organic vegetable and herb starts in front of the Market, ready for planting in your backyard, window box or even (for some of them!) flower pot.

Vegetable 6-packs

We have a nice selection of Brasiccas (Toscano Kale, Red Russian, Broccoli di Cicco and Cabbages). These crops like cooler weather, but are also good in full sun, especially if you want to grow a large head of cabbage. Kales will grow in partial shade, and if the leaves are continuously picked the plant could produce for over a year. Brassica plants are large and like to have at least 18 inches  between each plant.

The Onion and Chard 6-packs have multiple plants and can be carefully taken apart to create more plants. Bonus!  Giving each individual plant the proper space helps with the productivity of the plant. Chard plants can also produce for over a year if the leaves are continuously picked. Both of these crops love full-sun but can do alright in partial shade.

The Lettuce and Escarole look amazing and are probably the easiest crops to grow in the city. Lettuces are cold weather crops that should be harvested between 30-50 days before they get too bitter; escarole will take at least 50 days to grow a mature head.

Peas are a true sign of spring and are a great plant to grow in a 2-3 gallon pot  up a trellis or fence.

The Chives and Cilantro also grow well in pots, as long as the pot is big enough to let the roots grow.  Herbs work well on sunny windowsills.

Transplanting Tips

  • All of these starts are ready to transplanted and will thrive with a hit of organic fertilizer.
  • Remember to massage the roots and break them up a bit.  This prevents them from growing in a ball and never really living up to their expectations.
  • Plants love their space so they don’t have to compete for sunlight and water.
  • All of these plants can be grown in pots, but will do better in a nicely prepared garden space.
  • These starts are in small containers and can dry up quickly.  They usually need a little water every day if they are in full-sun.

If you’re someone who really likes to start at the beginning, we sell an assortment of seed packets from Baker Creek, a great heirloom seed company out of Missouri. They opened a seed bank up in Petaluma and from their collection I selected a handful of varietals that grow well in our SF climate. Just $2.50 a pack, give it a try!


Mayors Youth and Education Program Visits Bi-Rite for Career Day

Recently, Liz, Rosie, Simon and I got to host a group of high schoolers at 18 Reasons after a tour of the Market and Creamery. The kids were part of the Mayor’s Youth Employment and Education Program. On this day, hundreds of youth got to spend a day off from school supplementing their education gaining insight about careers that interest them. Over fifty local businesses generously opened their doors to provide a glimpse of what they do and to sit down and engage in a conversation that could hopefully inspire future career paths.

We had eight kids in our group who were interested in learning more about the food business. Some wanted to be chefs, others just loved food, all were really excited and thankful to be sitting with us. Our first stop was the Creamery where the kids got see how our ice cream was made. They were blown away, especially after they got to taste the goods right out of the machine.

We then went down to 18 Reasons so we could talk in a less chaotic setting and to taste some more goodies. We brought raw milk, avocados and cara cara oranges with us. They couldn’t believe how great raw milk tasted and got a mini lecture on pasteurization and the nutritional benefits of raw milk. The Haas avocados we brought were from California and Chile so we could do a comparative tasting. The California grown Haas was from a small family farm in San Diego and only available to us for about a month. A few of the kids said they didn’t like avos, but after seeing their peers ask for seconds, they dug in and thought the California Haas was “way better”. They couldn’t believe how creamy and luscious it was compared to the seemingly watered-down Chilean fruit. The highlight of the tasting was the cara cara oranges, a navel orange cross that is pinkish-red in color. The students marveled at how beautiful they were but were even more enamored once they tasted them.

Kaythari (one of our young visitors) drew her impressions of Bi-Rite

The four of us talked about the various paths we took before getting to Bi-Rite. It was great to hear the personal stories from Liz, Rosie and Simon. I am constantly inspired by how dedicated and passionate our staff is. I also got to share my history and the story of Bi-Rite with them–they couldn’t believe I started working when I was six years old and laughed when I told them that I wanted nothing to do the with the grocery business by the time I graduated from high school.

It was a great day and reminded me of the day that inspired me to get into the hospitality industry. My high school held a Career Day senior year where we got to spend an entire day with someone in an industry that we were interested in. My first choice was law, second choice was accounting and third choice was hotel management. I was a bit disappointed when I learned I got my third choice (Could you imagine me in a suit every day? )—but it ended up being the catalyst to get me to where I am today. I got to spend the day at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in downtown SF, getting the opportunity to see the inner workings of the hotel. I was blown away. I loved how autonomous and complicated the hotel was, how many people with different skill sets it took to make it work. It was like a city. Long story short, I pursued an education in Hotel Management and when no hotel would hire me without any experience, I got a job as a prep cook. I fell in love with food and decided to become a cook. I got to travel to Switzerland to work and returned to open my own restaurant at the age of 23. The rest is history.

I feel really lucky that I found my calling early in life and hope that sharing my passion will inspire and lead to more kids pursuing something they love.


Morgan

Small Fish in a Big Sea

About 6 months ago we made pledge to go “farmed-salmon free” at the market.  Although the Loch Duart Company, the salmon farm we have been using for the past 10 years, utilizes the best practices for open water aquaculture, the risk of fish escaping, competing with and potentially contaminating wild salmon populations is too important to be overlooked. We successfully discontinued farmed salmon in our fresh seafood case when we found a direct source of wild Alaskan salmon, but had trouble adapting our smoked salmon recipe utilizing the wild fish and did not want to compromise the quality of the final product. This was a hard decision for us as our house-smoked salmon is one of the most revered items we make.  After several months of experimentation, we have finally developed a recipe using wild caught Alaskan King salmon that we are proud of.

The king salmon is a bit leaner and not as uniform as the farmed fish, but the final product is absolutely delicious and just as luscious.   The variation in each fish is a result of mother nature– different genetics, location of catch, and the natural feeding patterns of wild fish.

The one down side of the switch is that there will be a slight increase in the price.  The reason for the increase starts with the cost of the raw whole product.  Farming fish allows for streamlined production, less variable expenses in growing and harvesting, and more controlled yield and loss.  Wild fishing has many more variables (weather, fuel spent fishing, quota permits, etc… ) that affect the quantity caught as well as money spent in catching, storing and transporting the product.  The high demand for a wild caught salmon also has a big impact on the market price, especially when the season’s yield is unknown from year to year.

We hope that even though the price increased, that you would agree with us that ultimately it is more important to promote and support the most sustainable seafood possible.


Chili

How to Cook Meat, Bi-Rite Style

While nothing is as good as talking about a recipe for how to cook meat in person, we’ve created brochures for how to cook beef, chicken, pork and fish so you’re armed with basic how-to’s once you get home with that delicious pasture-raised cut. These brochures, download-able here as pdfs, include guidelines for cooking temperature as well as what to look for no matter what meat counter you find yourself standing in front of.

How to Cook Chicken (printable pdf) Breasts, thighs and our Meyer Lemon Roast Chicken

How to Cook Beef (printable pdf) Tips for steaks, roasts, stews, braises…including your holiday prime rib!

How to Cook Pork (printable pdf) Ribs, chops and tenderloins

How to Cook Seafood (printable pdf) Filets, steaks, small whole fish, scallops and shellfish