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Archive for the ‘Produce’ Category


California King Salmon Season Is Here!


Long live the king!  Wild California King Salmon season is back, beginning in spring before the action really gets going during the summer months.   King Salmon season has always been a special time for me – as summers meant no school and ample free time, my grandfather had the task of keeping my sister and me occupied.  Luckily, he was never at a loss for things to do – some of my favorite memories were our adventures down the coast to find fishermen selling their salmon catch right off the boats.

During king salmon season, we work closely with our fishmongers (All Seas, TwoXSea and Monterey Fish Company) to secure incredible quality California King Salmon at a very competitive price.  As we enter the height of salmon season in the summer, we usually see the price dropping several dollars.  This year the season will run through September 31, with monitored quotas for California’s fishery to ensure sustainability.

The Smithsonian has called King Salmon the “soul food of the North Pacific,” and we’re thrilled to celebrate it in all its delicious forms.  Kick off king salmon season for yourself with our Slow Baked, Herb-Crusted King Salmon with Full Belly Farm’s New Potatoes recipe.  Baking the salmon slowly allows the butter, herbs and mustard to gently flavor the fish, while the breadcrumbs brown to give it a nice crunch.  Pair it with Idlewild’s 2014 The Flower, Flora, & Fauna Rosé ($22.99), whose blend of Piedmontese varietals (Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto) are bursting with citrus and minerals, with aromas of pine needles and wildflowers – a perfect complement for your salmon dinner for two!

Herb-Crusted Salmon Recipe


Cherish California Cherries!

In the world of fresh fruits and veggies, there are only a handful of crops that get everyone super-excited, and California Sweet Cherries is one of them! When the end of April rolls around in the Bay Area, it’s time for our local Northern California cherries. Just 5 years ago, Bi-Rite had relationships with several farmers that would harvest their cherries and deliver them to our door within 24 hours. From the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to the flatlands of Brentwood, each variety of cherry is unique, depending on how and where it was grown. Unfortunately, due to warm winters and drought conditions over the past few years, cherry growers throughout the state are struggling to produce healthy crops. One of the main reasons for the decrease in the California cherry crop is the insufficient chill hours from October through February that are necessary to regulate their growth. With the uncertain future of the Northern California cherry crop, we at Bi-Rite have decided to celebrate the farmers that are still providing wonderful cherries in spite of these difficulties, and to cherish this year’s cherries to the fullest.


Warmer weather in the spring months also leads to cherry crops being harvested a week or two earlier than in typical years. Bi-Rite’s cherry selection always starts with the sweet Red Garnet Cherry from Ed George’s Peach Farm in Winters, California. Last year Ed had a complete crop failure on this variety and this year he only has 50 % of his crop. The one benefit of the smaller crops is that the cherries have more room on the tree to grow nice and big. There aren’t many crop varieties that produce the best fruit early in the season, but the Red Garnet is an exception. They are firm with a rich sweet flavor but are only around for 7-10 days.  The two other local farmers that bring their cherries to Bi-Rite are Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood and Hidden Star Orchards in Linden.  Frog Hollow has almost had a complete crop failure the past couple years and only has enough fruit to bring to the Farmer’s Markets.  This leaves it up to Johann Smit at Hidden Star to be our main local cherry grower this season.  He usually starts us out with the Burlat Cherry, which is a softer variety with a very delicate sweet/tart flavor perfect to get the taste buds excited for cherry season.  The Burlat will be followed by some other sweet red varieties like the Bing, Brooks, Larian, and Red Lac Cherries. Johann also grows some beautiful yellow Rainier Cherries.


As the local cherry crop winds down in the beginning of June, we will continue to source cherries from other parts of California and finish the cherry season off with the amazing fruit from the Northwest. If you love to eat local produce and support Northern California cherry growers, May is your month to cherish the local cherries at Bi-Rite!


Citrus For All!

California grows more varieties of citrus than any other state— from the large Valencia Orange orchards near the border of Mexico, to the small Satsuma Mandarin orchards in the foothills of the Sierra. There’s a flavor for everyone! At Bi-Rite we strive to have a wide selection of great tasting and sustainably grown citrus that can be eaten in a number of different ways.

Mandarin Mania
Mandarin season usually starts in California in the beginning of November with the easy-peeling, refreshing Satsuma Mandarin and ends with the seedless, candy-like Pixie Tangerine in April. There are a handful of other varieties that hit the Bi-Rite shelves in the interim. The little seedless Kishu Mandarin from the mountains of Ojai, California has everyone excited from neighborhood kindergarteners to world-class San Francisco Chefs. Toss it in a green salad or a fried rice dish to add a sweet and juicy flare. Some of the other mandarin varieties that are just making their way to the market: Gold Nuggets, Murcotts, Pages and Clementine. All of these exciting mandarin varieties also make for a fun time with the juicing machine.
Orange Crush
There are three varieties of oranges right now that are so delicious it’s hard not to eat all three on a regular basis and spread the love. Cara Cara Oranges, aka the Pink Navels — from Tenalu Farm in Porterville, California — have been out of this world and their middle acid and sweet juicy flavor make them a perfect addition to a chicory salad. Tenalu also grows wonderful Heirloom Navel Oranges that have a little more acid than the Cara Cara but are also a bit sweeter. The Moro Blood Oranges are just getting started and with their nicely balanced sweet/tart flavor and berry-like tones they may be the most versatile piece of citrus in the kitchen. The Fennel, Blood Orange, Avocado Salad from our cook book Eat Good Food is great recipe if you’re looking for a quick and easy seasonal salad.

Grapefruit Goodness
The days of cutting a Florida grapefruit in half and sprinkling sugar on it to cut the bitterness before gobbling it up with a spoon are over. The grapefruit scene has come a long way since the mid-80’s and the Bi-Rite produce crew is super excited about a few varieties that have become a big part of our citrus selection. For folks who just want an everyday grapefruit we always have a Star Ruby Grapefruit from Bernard Ranch in Riverside, California with its beautiful dark pink flesh and sweet/tart flavor. Bi-Rite staff have been rallying around the Pomelo from Tenalu Farm this year. This large piece of citrus is perfect for folks who want a mild sweetness and not an overwhelming amount of juice. The Cocktail Grapefruit from Cunningham Orchard in Fallbrook, California is a very unique piece of fruit. This cross between a Siamese Sweet Pomelo and Frua Mandarin produces the most amazing sub-acid sweet juice perfect for cocktails, syrups, sauces, and more.

It’s OK to be Sour
Sour oranges are the most unique California citrus crop and call for some creativity in the kitchen. The Seville Orange with its thick bumpy skin smells like a regular orange but the flavor is tart and sour. Sevilles have very oily skin that is used for essential oils. The most common use for Seville Oranges is marmalade, but it also works well in syrups, vinaigrettes and cocktails. The Bergamot Orange is a cross between a sour orange and lemon, most commonly known for the oil from the skin that is used in Earl Grey tea. The zest is used to flavor cakes and cookies and the juice is used for syrups, cocktails, and jams.

California citrus season is a 5 to 6 month long tasting journey that offers so many marvelous flavors. At Bi-Rite we love to celebrate this time of year with the “Citrus Explosion” by offering over 20 varieties in our produce department at one time. If you would like to learn more about this incredible crop please make your way to one of our produce departments and ask for a sample of all the varieties we have in-house!

Christine Mathias

Winter Brings Exciting New Catering Options!

butternutWhew! The holidays are finally over and we can all settle into our warm and cozies for a long nap, right? No way! What with the Super Bowl coming up and the Oscars right after that, there are tons of opportunities to throw a great party. Even if you’re looking to put on a smaller gathering of like-minded football or film lovers (or both!), Bi-Rite Catering’s new Peak-of-Season Menu is an easy choice to please every palate. And each platter and side dish serves around 12 to 15 people, so it’s easy to tailor quantities to your party size. It’s all local, delicious, and made to order!

goldenbeetWe are so excited to bring you handmade Mini Butternut Squash Risotto Cakes with Grilled Chicories — an item you can reheat in your home to serve piping hot to your guests. Our seasonal Focaccia Flatbread with Braised Kale, Ricotta, Calabrian Chili, and Pecorino Cheese arrives at your door crisp and ready to serve. We thought outside the box with our vegetarian Mini Baguette Sandwiches with Roasted Yams, Goat Cheese and Cilantro kalePesto for something truly unique. And pulling together several distinct flavors of the season in one dish, try the new Toasted Red Quinoa and Golden Beet Salad with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Caramelized Onion Vinaigrette. It’s just perfect! You can take a look at all the delicious options here. Now if you can only win your office Oscar pool…

Christine Mathias

Resolve to Eat Good Food This Year!

eat-good-food-coverAs the new year begins and we all decide how we want to improve ourselves or our lives, let’s consider the ritual of cooking. Food forms deep bonds, and making food for our family and friends with our own hands is a special kind of sharing; it’s a sharing of love, nourishment, and inspiration. Let’s all re-dedicate ourselves to the creation of simple, tasty, homemade food made with ingredients that are specialdelicious, local, and responsibly grown or made. Bi-Rite is here to help you make it happen! Following are six outstanding seasonal dishes from Eat Good Food, our go-to book written by Bi-Rite Family of Businesses Founder Sam Mogannam, that will motivate you to cook from the heart. Our Buyers each selected their favorite seasonal recipes, and to round out your meal, our Wine Buyer hand-picked a perfect wine to pair with each dish. Pick up copies of the recipes along with everything you need to create them at home. Happy New Year, happy cooking, and happy eating!

Our Meat Buyer, Chili, recommends:

  • Beef Stew with Peppers & Ale
    Wine pairing: Chateau Les Roches de Ferrand Fronsac Bordeaux, France 2007
  • Sumac-Roasted Chicken Du Monde
    Wine Pairing: Martincic Cvicek, Slovenia 2013    *give this wine a chill

Our Produce Buyer, Simon, recommends:

  • Fennel, Blood Orange & Avocado Salad
    Wine Pairing: Tatomer Gruner Veltliner Paragon, Santa Barbara 2013
  • Pan-Seared Broccolini 
    Wine Pairing: Farella Sauvignon Blanc Coombsville, Napa 2013

Our Grocery Buyer, Raph, recommends:

  • Bi-Rite Vinaigrette
  • Spaghetti with Tuna, Capers & Chile Flakes
    (Cheese Buyer Jon suggests topping it off with Fulvi Pecorino Romano!)
    Wine pairing: La Staffa Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, Italy 2013

Our Cheese Buyer, Jon, recommends:

  • Grilled Manchego & Serrano Ham Sandwich with Membrillo
    Wine pairing: Luberri Orlegi Rioja, Spain 2013









A Winter Sir Prize

SirPrizeCutCalifornia is the land of the Hass avocado. For roughly 10 months of the year, we are bombarded with beautiful organically-grown Hass avocados at Bi-Rite Market. However, the quality of the Hass can drop off dramatically during the winter months, and a lot of Hass are imported from Chile and Mexico to fill the gap of California production. The past few years at Bi-Rite, we’ve been focusing our attention on other seasonal avocados that are harvested in the winter months before the Hass Avocado season kicks resumes. Many of these seasonal varieties might not have the same high-oil content and rich buttery texture, but are unique in their own ways and a pleasure to eat. But one winter variety that absolutely has the produce lovers at Bi-Rite super excited this time of year is the Sir Prize Avocado.

Our Sir Prize Avocados are grown by Tenalu, a 5th-generation family farm located in Porterville, CA, in the Sierra foothills. The Sir Prize avocado was created during the University of California open-pollinated breeding trial, and is considered the “Grandchild of the Hass.” Able to grow in colder and more northern climates than the Hass, they ripen up to 2 months before the Hass crops in California.

SirPrizeBunchThe Sir Prize is a thin skinned, pear-shaped avocado that turns black and gets very soft when it’s perfect to eat.  They also have the most flesh to seed/skin ratio of any commercial avocado. The Sir Prize avocado has a nutty taste and high-oil texture that is great in guacamole or just sprinkled with a bit of salt and lemon. If you love to eat with the seasons, this is one you can’t miss, so come by one of the Markets and ask for a taste!


Eggplant: A Versatile Fruit

The nightshade family includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers – and thousands of eggplant varietals that have been cultivated all over the world for centuries. Originally hailing from India, eggplant is widely used all over Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. Botanically it’s considered a berry, and like berries eggplants come in many shapes and sizes. In the United States the most commonly grown variety is the Globe Eggplant, which is large, deep purple-black, and glossy, so this image is a natural eggplant association for most Americans. But many early 18th-century eggplant cultivars are creamy white or pale yellow and are smaller and rounder compared to the commonly-known modern globe, giving rise to the name of “eggplant.”

eggplant1But the world of eggplant is populated by a variety of shapes, colors and tastes. Thai eggplant are tiny, no bigger than a crabapple, and their bright streaks of green make them look almost like a Green Zebra tomato! Japanese eggplant are long, skinny and dark purple; Chinese eggplant are a similar long shape but possess a bright lavender color. Both varieties cook quickly and are great on the grill or in a stir-fry.

Calliope eggplant are small, teardrop-shaped and striped white and bright purple. They’re very sweet and great for grilling, roasting or stuffing.

Listada is an Italian varietal that is striped like the Calliope, but larger and more oblong.

Rosa Bianca is an heirloom Sicilian varietal, large and bulbous, fading from deep purple to lavender to white, and super meaty, sweet, creamy – my personal favorite for Eggplant Parmesan!

Ratatouille, moussaka, caponata, eggplant parmesan, baba ghanoush…eggplant takes well to a myriad of cooking techniques and is at home in an almost endless variety of dishes. It isn’t great raw – it can be somewhat bitter and spongy-textured (the eggplant is a relative of tobacco as well; its bitterness comes from nicotinoid alkaloids) – but cooking coaxes out those meaty and creamy attributes. Like a sponge, eggplant will absorb any flavors (or oils) to which it is exposed, making it a great candidate for stews. Eggplant is often used in Southeast Asian curries or spicy Indian chutneys and pickles. It can be roasted whole in its skin and then scooped out and mixed with other vegetables (think onion, tomato, chiles), or mixed with tahini, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice to make baba ghanoush. Pickled, stuffed, fried, roasted…the possibilities are constrained only by the limits of imagination.

As I mentioned above, Rosa Bianca eggplant is great for Eggplant Parmesan. Here’s a great recipe you can try using ingredients you can get at Bi-Rite Market.

Eggplant Parmesaneggplant2

Eggplant Parm is a staple of Italian-American cuisine, served at almost every red sauce joint in the USA. I first became enamored of this dish while living in New York City during college, where I had it between sesame rolls as a hero or over spaghetti with marinara. It’s a hearty, filling dish, and a beautiful way to showcase the meatiness of eggplant. Though it’s served year-round at many restaurants, I like to wait for local heirloom eggplant; Full Belly Farm’s Rosa Bianca eggplant, a Sicilian heirloom varietal, is my absolute favorite in this dish. It’s a large, bulbous type, with skin blushing from deep to lavender purple to white. It looks like a watercolor, and has no bitterness and a thin skin. Any larger eggplant varietal will work, such as Globe or Barbarella, another Italian heirloom variety that we are growing at Bi-Rite Farm in Sonoma!

Traditionally, Eggplant Parmesan is made with thick slices of eggplant that are fried (sometimes battered, floured or breaded and sometimes not), and then layered with tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, basil, and (sometimes) hard-boiled egg slices. The eggplant can also be grilled, broiled or baked for a lighter version.

Here are two variations that I like to make. The first is a Spiced Eggplant Parmesan, made with a little garam masala in the breading and ginger and chiles in the tomato sauce. The second is a lighter version I came up with during last week’s heat wave, a bit more fit for a hot summer day than the traditional version.

Spiced Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 4


  • Basic Fried Eggplant
  • 2-3 large eggplant, such as Rosa Bianca, Barbarella or Globe
  • Kosher salt, pepper, dried herbs such as oregano, thyme; garam masala for the spiced version
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk, water, or buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • Canola, peanut or other neutral oil for frying


Wash the eggplant, peel if desired (I don’t, usually, unless the skin is very thick), and cut into thick 1-inch rounds. Place in a strainer over a bowl or sink. Salt liberally on both sides, rubbing the salt on a little to make sure it’s coated. Set aside to drain for 1 hour while you prep the rest. The salt helps draw out excess water, to prevent your parm from getting soggy when fried. It also seasons and tenderizes the eggplant, and draws out any bitterness that might be present.

Set up three shallow bowls or pie plates, with a clean plate or tray at the end. Put the flour in one, add a big pinch of salt, some pepper, and a big pinch of garam masala or any other spices you want. Whisk it. Crack the eggs into the second bowl, whisk with enough milk or water to loosen slightly, and a pinch of salt. Put the breadcrumbs into the third, add salt and any other seasonings you’re using (about 1 tsp garam masala and 1 tsp dried herbs for the spiced version).

Press on the eggplant lightly and brush off any excess salt (most of it drains away with the water). Dip into flour, flip and roll around to coat it on all sides. Shake off and pat lightly to remove excess. Next, dip it in the egg mixture, flip and shake off excess (tip: use one hand only to dip into the wet ingredients and keep one dry; monster-fingers form very quickly!). Last, dip the eggplant into the breadcrumbs, patting them lightly on both sides to make sure it gets an even coat. Roll it around on its side, then shake lightly and place on a tray or platter. This can be done ahead of time – bread it all and store covered in the fridge until ready to fry.

To fry: heat up a cast-iron skillet or another pan with an inch or so of canola oil. You want it to be fairly hot but not smoking; the eggplant will cool down the oil a lot when it goes in, and if it gets too cold your eggplant will absorb tons of oil and become greasy and heavy. If it’s too hot, the breading will burn before the eggplant cooks fully. To test it, drop a little piece of the breading in. It should bubble and float right to the top. Drop the eggplant slices in gently, 4-5 at a time, so that they still have room to float around. Fry for 3-5 minutes on the first side, until golden brown, then flip and fry the other side for a few minutes. Keep moving them around and checking them to get an even brown; you might have to flip back and forth a few times. Remove to a tray lined with paper towels. Season with a little salt and pepper while still hot and cut one open to see how it’s cooked – it should be creamy, not spongy. If it’s not fully cooked, turn your oil down a bit and let them go a few more minutes, or finish in the oven.

For Spiced Eggplant Parm:

Layer fried eggplant with spiced tomato sauce (your favorite recipe, just add a teaspoon of garam masala, a knob of minced ginger and a little fresh chile with the onions and garlic), fresh mozzarella (I’m obsessed with Point Reyes Mozz right now; it’s cultured so it has a little twang and a little salt from the brine), grated parmesan cheese, and torn basil. Bake or broil until the cheese is melty. Finish with more grated parm and fresh basil.

For Summertime Eggplant Parm:

Arrange the fried eggplant on a platter, alternating with sliced fresh mozzarella and grated parm, or put a ball of burrata in the middle for an extra-special treat. Chop up a mix of heirloom and cherry tomatoes, toss with olive oil, basil, salt & balsamic and spoon over the fried eggplant and cheese. Finish with lots of fresh basil and olive oil. Totally untraditional but a really refreshing take on it, which makes sense since eggplant comes around mid-summer.



Cool as a Cucurbit: Cucumbers & Melons

The cucurbits (or cucurbiticae) are a plant family that includes cucumbers, melons and gourds of many kinds. They peak in sweetness and flavor during the summertime. At Bi-Rite we’re lucky to work with a number of local farms that grow unusual heirloom varietals in this family.

A few of my favorites:

Armenian cucumbers, which are botanically considered a melon. We have been getting the ‘Painted Serpent’ varietal, which is long and snakelike, with dark and light green stripes, from Full Belly Farm, Oak Hill Farm and County Line Harvest. You can use these like the more common English cucumber. The skin is very thin and not at all bitter, and the seeds are not yet formed, so no need to peel or seed–just slice them right up. They don’t need to be rock hard; the ones that are a bit bendy will still be crisp. Armenian cucumbers will make the prettiest garnish for your summer gin and tonic.

Lemon cucumbers are small, round and yellow with large but tender seeds. They’re great for slicing into salads, and make beautiful sandwich-sized pickles. They’re lovely sliced up and dressed with a little soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar or lime juice and a pinch of sugar or honey, perhaps over some arugula or baby lettuces.

Watermelons, in mini and huge, seeded, seedless, yellow and red varietals. Orchid and Yellow Doll are two of the yellow-flesh varietals we get from Full Belly Farm. These should be picked when they are ripe and do not really keep ripening like muskmelons do. They should be firm and feel heavy for their size, although there is no surefire way to tell if they are ripe.

Muskmelons have netted skins and get very fragrant when ripe. These include cantaloupes, galia and goddess melons. These will smell very sweet and floral as they ripen, and can get a bit soft (though they shouldn’t be squishy). The more fragrant the stem end is, the sweeter the melon will be.


SaladGoodCucumber Melon Salad with Feta & Olives

This isn’t so much a recipe as a useful guide. Try using what you have and taste as you go. It’s a bit of a riff on a Greek salad and a wonderfully refreshing addition to a barbecue or summertime supper.

  • A mix of your favorite melons, cut into large dice. I like watermelon, galia, cantaloupe & piel de sapo or snow leopard.
  • A mix of your favorite cucumbers, diced or sliced as you like. I like Painted Serpent Armenian cukes and lemon cukes.
  • Red onion or scallions, thinly sliced. I soak the red onion after slicing in cold water for a few minutes to take the edge off, which also sets the color and prevents it from bleeding into the salad.
  • A nice feta, not too salty. Our French feta is the perfect balance of tangy and salty.
  • Kalamata or another fruity olive, pitted. I usually cut them in half, but they can be whole or cut into rings.
  • Fresh herbs. Cilantro and mint are great, but parsley, basil and chives all work. I would recommend to staying away from herbs that are too woody or heavy like thyme and rosemary. Fresh, bright herbs work better to highlight the delicate flavors in the melons. I like to chiffonade them (stack up the leaves, roll into a tight “cigar”, and slice into thin ribbons), but you could chop them or pick the leaves and toss them in whole.
  • Fresh or dried coriander seeds, toasted until fragrant and lightly crushed.
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar or lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Toss everything together in a large bowl or arrange on a platter. Dress to taste with olive oil, red wine vinegar or lime juice and salt. A sprinkle of toasted, crushed coriander seeds wakes up all of the flavors. This salad is best dressed right before serving, though you could certainly do it ahead of time.

Cucumber Raita

Really popular all over India, this is somewhere between a salad and a condiment, and I often use it as both. Awesome in the summer next to grilled meats such as lamb or chicken, or dolloped on top of a sandwich or rice bowl. Also delicious with pita or Dosa chips as a dip!

  • 1-2 cucumbers, unpeeled, shredded on a coarse grater.
  • 1 cup greek yogurt (you could use regular plain yogurt, but it will be less thick).
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds.
  • Salt, sugar, lime juice to taste.

Place the shredded cucumbers in a bowl, salt them and set aside for a few minutes. The salt will draw out the water. Squeeze as much of the water out as you can – a lot will release! Mix it up with some gin and tonic water and have yourself a cocktail, or discard. Place the drained cucumber in a bowl.

Add yogurt to drained cukes and stir. Heat up a small pan over medium to high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of neutral-flavored oil such as canola. When the oil is hot, drop in the cumin seeds. The seeds will darken in color and get really fragrant. Dump the spice oil into the yogurt mixture (this is a technique used commonly in India to quickly add lots of flavor to any dish by making a spice oil, called a tarka). Stir it around, season to taste with salt, lime juice and a pinch of sugar for balance.

Melon Agua Fresca

Again this is less of a recipe and more of guide. The proportions will vary depending on the fruit being used.

Cube up your melon and place it in a blender. Add a handful of sugar (or a squeeze of honey or agave) and cover with water. Blend until smooth. Add more sweetener to taste if necessary, or a squeeze of lime to perk it up. Super refreshing with basil or mint added!


Apricots Are My Jam

ApricotsPrettyApricot season is here! The season is short, but these beautiful and versatile stone fruits are at their peak right now. At Bi-Rite we’re lucky to have access to lots of different varieties, including Blenheim Apricots, which are one of the best for making jam. We’ve got Blenheims in the Markets right now, so it seems like a good time to share my recipe for Apricot Jam, along with our Cheese Buyer Anthea’s recommendation for some perfect cheeses to pair with it.

The beauty of jam is that the fruit doesn’t have to be perfect. Bruised, soft, unsightly or a day overripe–jam welcomes all fruits and makes them beautiful again. A mix of less-ripe and more-ripe fruits is good; less-ripe contains more natural pectin, and more-ripe contains more sugar, so the two balance each other out nicely. You can make a big batch of jam at the height of summer ripeness and put it away until the winter, then crack it open and take yourself right back to summertime. And jams are beautiful with lots of other foods, including yogurt, toast, pork, chicken, and cheese!

I asked our Cheese Buyer, Anthea, to try my Apricot Jam and recommend cheeses to go with it. She suggested fresh chèvre such as Andante’s, but also feels that any number of fresh, creamy cheeses would do well. She also recommends sweeter jams like this one with bleu cheeses (“Mold loves sugar,” she told me), such as Bay Bleu from Point Reyes. For a harder cheese pairing, try goat cheddar. Personally, I love sneaking a schmear of jam inside of a goat cheddar grilled cheese sandwich!

Simple Apricot Jam

This recipe is easy to scale up or down and adjust according to your tastes. This recipe uses the “noyau,” or almond-like inner kernel of the apricot, to flavor the jam. Amaretto and almond extracts are traditionally made using apricot kernels rather than actual almonds because the fragrance is much stronger. Other stone fruits share this quality, such as cherries and peaches, though apricots tend to be the most potent aroma. Just crack the pits open, and remove the little “almond.”

ApricotsRosesI recently made an apricot rose jam using this recipe, just added a few handfuls of organic rose petals at the beginning of the cooking process- they candy themselves and lend a gorgeous rosy color to the jam. Rosemary, saffron or lavender are also some of my favorite variations. You can adjust the sugar and lemon juice to make it either sweeter or brighter, depending on the sweetness of the apricots. You can process this in a traditional water bath to preserve it for the coming months, or it will keep for several weeks refrigerated.


  • 1 lb apricots
  • 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar, divided in half
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon


ApricotJamCloseupWash the apricots, and chop into roughly even pieces. Save the pits. Toss the chopped apricots in a bowl with half of the sugar. Set aside to macerate for at least 10 minutes, although up to 1 hour is ideal. This will start drawing out the juices and dissolving the sugar.

Place the pits in a clean kitchen towel, and fold it over. Use a hammer, mallet or other heavy object to crack the pits open. Remove the inner almond-like kernel and place one in each of your clean jars.

Place the apricots and their juices in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and add the rest of the sugar, salt and lemon juice. Using a wider pot will make the cooking process faster, since a wider surface area will allow for the fastest evaporation of excess liquid. Place a few saucers in the freezer- you will use these to test the viscosity as the jam cooks.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a hearty simmer (you want it going pretty strong, but not so much so it is splashing hot sugar/apricot juice). Stir occasionally using a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, scraping down the sides periodically. It should take about 15 minutes after it comes to a boil to reduce down enough. Once the foam subsides, stir the bottom more often and keep a close eye on it. Be careful, it will start spattering once it thickens up, just turn the heat down a touch. Then, start testing it. Dribble a little bit of jam onto the frozen saucer and wait for it to cool down (you can put it back in the freezer for a minute or two)- this will give you an idea of how thick it will be once cool. Once it has thickened to your liking, turn it off, and ladle into clean jars over the noyaux. Seal and process or let it cool down and then refrigerate. Enjoy!


The Joy of Masumoto Stone Fruit

It typically takes three to four weeks into California stone fruit season before the flavor of our local peaches and nectarines really starts popping with that celebrated balance of sweetness and acidity, but this year we’ve already got some great ones rolling in. Almost all of the peaches and nectarines that hit the shelves at the Bi-Rite Markets are from farms with which we’ve spent years building relationships, but last season we were able to take our peach and nectarine selection to the next level with a new farm-direct relationship.

masumoto red diamond

Mas Masumoto with his Rose Diamond Nectarines

Masumoto Family Farm in Del Rey, California is a beautiful eighty-acre orchard located fifteen minutes south of Fresno. It was purchased by the Masumoto family in 1948 and its current owner is third-generation farmer and author Mas Masumoto, who has mastered the art of building soil to support the growth of the beautiful fruit-bearing trees. At Masumoto Family Farm, fruit is always harvested at the perfect level of ripeness, and you’ll notice one thing all varieties of Masumoto stone fruit have in common: beautiful yellow flesh. The Masumoto family loves the tang of the yellow flesh of the fruit, and their fruit boasts a sugar/acid balance that is a dream-come-true for summer refreshment.

Due to the warm winter, Masumoto harvested this year’s first yellow peach variety earlier in the year than they can remember ever having done before, and this past week we received our first shipment of Spring Lady Peaches. This is a very juicy peach with medium acidity that falls into the clingstone category of stone fruit (meaning that the flesh of the fruit is attached to the pit, the best to eat but hard to work with in the kitchen, as opposed to freestone fruits where the flesh is detached from the pit, making them easier for canning, freezing or cooking). We’ve been enjoying these beautiful, delicious peaches and they’ve definitely primed our tastebuds for what’s still to come.

Soon after the Spring Ladies, we received the first of Masumoto’s Rose Diamond yellow nectarines. Mas’s daughter Nikiko, who is keeping the family farming tradition alive into its fourth generation, refers to this clingstone nectarine as a “mini firecracker.” The Rose Diamond is usually a large, richly-flavored nectarine with a dazzling red skin. This year, due to the lack of water caused by the drought, this nectarine is smaller than usual but is packing an extra-sweet punch.

masumoto peaches

Beautiful Masumoto Peaches

Early June should see the arrival of the semi-freestone Gold Dust yellow peach, considered by some to be the best early variety for eating. With its firm texture and rich, sweet flavor, it’s the textbook grilling peach. The Gold Dust will be followed shortly by one of the most popular varieties in California, the freestone Flavor Crest yellow peach, and shortly thereafter by everyone’s favorite, the freestone Sun Crest yellow peach (large with red-blushed skin and very juicy, it’s the peach that put the Masumoto family on the map). The last variety of stone fruit we’ll see from Masumoto is the clingstone Le Grand yellow nectarine, a large piece of fruit with rich, sweet flavor and firm flesh, making it great for producing nectarine ice cream!


The Perfect Peach by the Masumoto Family

Tree-ripened peaches and nectarines truly are some of the most exciting treats of the summer. If you haven’t had the chance to sink your teeth into Masumoto fruit, you have the next couple months to swing by our Markets, so make it happen!

Stephany from the Produce Team at 18th Street is a huge fan of the Masumoto family’s fruit, as well as an accomplished cook, and she has pulled together a few recipes here to help you celebrate the season!

“Rose Diamond” Nectarine & Habanero Salsa

  • 6 ripe yellow nectarines, not too soft but with a little give (any bright flavored yellow peach or nectarine with medium to high acidity will work, but Masumoto’s “Rose Diamond” is particularly amazing & flavorful)
  • 1 habanero pepper, with slits cut all around sides but left whole
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • 1 spring onion or ½ red onion, sliced finely
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Dice the nectarine into ¼ inch cubes. Add to a bowl with the slit habanero and stir around. Chop cilantro and onion finely, add to salsa. Season with salt and pepper.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes, then taste and add salt, and a squeeze of lime or honey to adjust the acidity or sweetness as needed. If it is spicy enough, you can remove the habanero, although cutting the slits as opposed to chopping lets the flavor get out without adding too much heat, and the floral notes of the habanero go particularly well with yellow nectarines & peaches. This can be done 1-2 days ahead. Store refrigerated.

Wonderful on grilled or roasted meats: chicken, pork, salmon. Try it on toast with ricotta or burrata for a quick appetizer, on fish tacos…the possibilities are endless!

Stone Fruit & Pt. Reyes Mozzarella “Caprese” Salad

  • 1 lb mixed stone fruit, ripe but not mushy: nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots, cherries…whatever you like. Or try a mix for color and flavor
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, such as the lovely Pt. Reyes mozz we have right now. Burrata is also delicious in this.
  • ½ bunch basil
  • A few handfuls arugula
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, such as Bi-Rite’s own PUBLIC label oils, something grassy with a peppery note is good to offset the sweetness
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Good sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel…something with a crunch

Slice up your stone fruit and mozzarella. Layer the cheese and fruit on a large platter over the arugula. Tear some basil and sprinkle it around. Dress with olive oil, balsamic, and coarse salt. Eat right away!

This is a great alternative to the classic caprese while we let the tomatoes do their thing and get delicious! In the fall and winter I do the same salad with persimmons & citrus!

“Gold Dust” Peach-Ginger Shortcakes with Bourbon Whipped Cream

  • 4 yellow peaches, such as the “Gold Dust” we just got in from Masumoto (which is hands down one of the best peaches I have ever had)
  • A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated or minced finely (I use a microplane, one of my favorite kitchen tools)
  • A handful of brown sugar or turbinado sugar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I love Straus for the rich, grassy, buttery flavor)
  • 1 shot of your favorite bourbon whiskey- anything with nice caramel or brown sugar notes is delicious, like Bulleit or Elijah Craig
  • 4 shortcakes, from Bi-Rite Creamery or homemade (chopped crystallized ginger is a nice addition if you’re making your own!)

Dice or slice the peaches as you wish. Place in a bowl, and add a sprinkle of sugar and a pinch of kosher salt. If the fruit is very sweet it will need no more than 1-2 tablespoons. Add the ginger, stir, and set aside to macerate for a few minutes. This can be done up to 1 day ahead.

Whip the cream to soft peaks with the bourbon, a sprinkle of brown sugar (to taste), and a pinch of kosher salt. This is best done right before serving. Though it can be whipped a few hours ahead, the cream tends to break down after a day or so. To fix this, re-whip to desired texture.

To assemble: Warm shortcakes briefly in the oven to re-crisp (5 minutes at 375 should do it). Cut the shortcakes in half crosswise, and layer peach compote and bourbon cream over bottom half. Top with second half of shortcake and serve.  A little fresh basil or thyme adds a nice herbal note. A drizzle of salted caramel sauce is also a great addition.

Pickled “Gold Dust” Peaches

  • 6 peaches, ripe but quite firm. Masumoto says the “Gold Dust” yellow peach is particularly delicious pickled.
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 1 tsp each coriander seeds, black peppercorns & fennel seeds- or whatever spices you like!
  • 3 dried arbol chiles (or use your slit habanero left over from the nectarine salsa!)

Bring everything but the peaches to a boil to dissolve the sugar and salt. Slice or dice peaches as desired and place in a clean jar. Let the liquid cool slightly. Pour over the peaches, let cool to room temp, then refrigerate overnight. Enjoy them the next day! They are a delicious addition to a charcuterie platter, grilled pork chop, or a grilled cheese sandwich. Their brightness cuts nicely through anything rich and fatty.