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Matt R.

Cooking with Curds: Broiled Polenta with Poached Eggs and Piquillo Pepper Sauce

Me 'modeling' the Caciocavallo

To me, polenta is just fancy grits. And who doesn’t love fancy grits with some eggs? This classic breakfast combination is always hearty and fulfilling. Breakfast is also one of my favorite meals, so I’m always looking for ways to mix up its traditional ingredients to serve at all hours of the day.

This dish takes regular polenta and incorporates Caciocavallo cheese, a stretched curd cheese from Italy with flavors somewhere between provolone and mozzarella. I then let the polenta set up, and cut it into chunks to broil. I top those with peppery arugula, poached eggs, briney Castelvetrano olives, and a savory piquillo pepper sauce that is a snap to make. Breakfast for dinner has never tasted so good.

Broiled Polenta with Poached Eggs and Piquillo Pepper Sauce

Serves 4

For the red pepper sauce:
– 1 cup roasted piquillo peppers (1 10-ounce jar in liquid)
– 1 clove garlic
– 1 small shallot
– 2.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 3.5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
– 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the polenta:
– 8 ounces Caciocavallo cheese, grated
– 1 cup polenta
– 2 cups whole milk
– 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
– 1 teaspoon salt
– two handfuls baby arugula, washed and dried
– 8 eggs
– 6 ounces Castelvetrano olives, pitted and sliced
– extra virgin olive oil


To make the piquillo pepper sauce
Drain piquillo peppers of their jar liquid and rinse off. In a food processor, combine the peppers, garlic, shallot, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt. Puree until smooth and set aside. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

To make the polenta
Lightly brush or spray a 9×13 pan with extra virgin olive oil. In a medium pot, combine the milk, broth, and salt. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Once the pot reaches a boil, pour in the polenta in a steady stream, whisking constantly as you pour. Let the pot return to a boil, stirring, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Stir constantly to avoid having a lumpy polenta. The polenta will thicken gradually and eventually start to pull itself away from the edge of the pot. This could take 30 – 40 minutes, but once this starts to happen, the polenta is done.

Transfer the polenta to your prepared 9×13 pan, gently pat it down into an even layer, and set aside. The polenta can be prepared up to a day in advance and kept covered and refrigerated. If you need to use it immediately, place the pan in the fridge uncovered for about an hour until it is set up to a solid consistency.

Preheat the broiler. Once the polenta is set up, remove it from the fridge and cut it into triangles. Place these on a well oiled baking sheet. Broil for a few minutes (2-3) on one side until brown and crisp and remove from the oven. Flip each over and broil the other side until brown and crisp. You may have to broil these in batches depending on the size and type of your broiler. Set finished polenta triangles aside, covered in foil, until all are ready to serve. Poach the eggs, and lightly toss the arugula in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. To plate, place two or three polenta triangles on the plate, spoon over some of the piquillo pepper sauce, add a handful of arugula, top with two poached eggs, and sprinkle with olives. Enjoy!

P.S. Sharing recipes and photos of cooking victories is something I do often on my own blog–check it out: www.missionkitchensf.com


Register Recipe: Benton’s Old Fashioned

Despite the recent string of San Francisco Indian Summer days, fall is definitely here. The nights are cool and clear and the light is changing. In the Market stone fruit has been replaced by an array of apples and pears in every color, texture and flavor. Brussels sprouts, chicories and winter squash are coming in as well, and in every department we’re helping our guests with fall recipes. With all this in mind I thought I’d offer a seasonally appropriate cocktail, something a little stronger and with all the right flavors of harvest to compliment an early fall night…

This recipe is borrowed and modified from Jim Meehan’s PDT Cocktail Book, one of the year’s best reference books from Meehan’s New York bar. Mixologist Don Lee created the beverage to bring together one of his favorite pork products with one of his favorite spirits.

Allan Benton is a famous producer of traditional hickory-smoked hams from Monroe County, Tennessee. His bacon is prized for its rich, smoky character and has earned such accolades as “World’s Best Bacon” from Esquire Magazine. In the cocktail, the hickory smoke complements the spice of the bourbon and the rich sweetness of maple syrup; it’s a terrific play on the original elements of an Old-Fashioned.

Lee uses Four Roses Bourbon, but I’ve substituted the more economical Bulleit Bourbon which I’ve found to be a fine stand-in. Preparing the bourbon is simple and well worth the modest effort, and once prepared it’s shelf-stable!

The next time you wake up to a chill in the air and the desire to cook I hope you’ll enjoy this world-class bacon for breakfast and this perfect fall cocktail by the time the sun goes down (which is earlier, after all…)


Benton’s Old Fashioned

2 oz. Benton’s Bacon Fat-Infused Bulleit Bourbon (recipe below)

.25 oz. Mead & Meads Grade B Maple Syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass with one large cube. Garnish with an orange twist


Benton’s Bacon Fat-Infused Bulleit Bourbon

1.5 oz. Benton’s Bacon Fat

1 750-ml bottle Bulleit Bourbon

On low heat, warm the bacon fat in a small saucepan until it melts, about 5 min. Combine liquid fat and bourbon in a large, non-reactive container and stir. Infuse for 4 hours, then place container in freezer for 2 hours. Remove solid fat, fine-strain bourbon through a cheesecloth, and bottle.




Register Recipe: Sautéed Figs with Prosciutto and Parmigiano

These figs can be served as an hors d’oeuvre, as the anchor for a green salad, or even as a garnish for roast pork. Because you’re wrapping the prosciutto around the figs, it’s best if you use slices that come from the widest part of the ham. If the prosciutto is smaller, buy two slices per fig and use toothpicks to secure the prosciutto onto the figs. This recipe is found on page 160 of Eat Good Food; it makes 16 wrapped figs to serve 4-6.


A small chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

8 large fresh figs

8 thin slices prosciutto

Extra virgin olive oil for brushing

1 1/2 Tbs. aged sherry or balsamic vinegar


Use a vegetable peeler to shave the Parmigiano into shards. Set aside.

Cut the figs in half lengthwise, and cut the prosciutto slices in half lengthwise as well. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each fig, and then brush lightly with the olive oil.

Heat a large skillet (ideally cast iron) or a grill pan over medium-high heat.  When hot, arrange half the figs in a roomy single layer, cut side down, in the pan. Cook until the prosciutto is browned and crispy, 1 1/2-2 minutes. Then flip the figs and repeat on the other side. Transfer to a serving platter and cook the remaining figs in the same way.

Drizzle the vinegar over the figs and top with shards of Parmigiano. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Register Recipe: The Mexican Shandy

Last October, I made a pact with two of my friends that we would take a trip to Mexico to explore the world of mezcal. (Of course this was made after a few flights of the very traditional, very Mexican spirit.) I’m proud to say we realized our drunken plans last month: I spent two very exciting weeks in Mexico City and Oaxaca. Needless to say, we drank a lot of mezcal.

This is me petting one of the horses that push the big stone

To many, mezcal is some weird, smoky, worm-containing cousin of tequila. But in fact, tequila is a specific type of mezcal. There are many different types of maguey (or agave) that grow all over Mexico. A specific one is grown in Jalisco and turned into tequila. The other 25 or so varieties of maguey are also fermented and distilled, but called ‘mezcal’. Because Mexico contains many different climates, regions, and varieties of maguey, mezcals greatly vary in nose, body, and taste. From dive bars to high-end restaurants, mezcal is always sipped at room temperature and accompanied by slices of orange, dusted with a powder of chile and roasted larva (it’s delicious).

However, the best part of our trip was visiting mescal distilleries (palenques) an hour outside Oaxaca City. It felt like Sonoma or Napa—off-the-road palenques freckle the major roads. You drive up, explore the fabrica, and sample at the tasting room. We saw horses pulling huge stones to crush the magueys, the earthen ovens where the hearts (piñas) are roasted, the huge barrels where the maguey ferments (naturally—they don’t add any yeast), and the copper pots where the wine of maguey (pulque) is distilled into mezcal.

The best part was going to a remote pueblo where the citizens don’t speak Spanish, but instead still speak the indigenous language. We met a woman who is called “the mother of mezcal”. Common in Oaxaca City, restaurants buy mezcal from distilleries and bottle it as their own brand. Quite a few high-end restaurants source mezcal from this particular woman. She and her four lovely daughters toured us around her facility and fed us tortillas made with agave syrup. After tasting a few of “the mother’s” mezcals, we quickly realized why she earned such a title. Each was incredible—some rich and smokey, some smooth and light. I admit we bought quite a lot from her to bring back, but most was gone by the time we returned to the US.

Mezcal is quickly gaining popularity here in the United States. Quite a few new palenques are appearing in Mexico, and these fabricas are much like those of tequila. They’re ignoring their domestic audience and have plans to solely sell to the US. (It’s amazing how many very familiar brands of tequila we didn’t see in Mexic; mezcal may have the same fate.) However, mezcal is still a Mexican spirit. We enjoyed mezcal is all forms—sipping it on its own, enjoying delicious and well-balanced mezcal cocktails, and even pounding some mezcal frappes on a very hot afternoon (alright, maybe a few hot afternoons).

Here at Bi-Rite, we carry two types of mezcal. Del Maguey is a company that imports mostly single-origin mezcals from pueblos in Mexico. We stock their Chichicapa ($72.99/750ml), from a pueblo two hours south of Oaxaca City. It’s light and has a nice minty smokiness on the nose with a long finish. We also carry the “Vida” ($39.99/750ml). This blend is a little heavier, with notes of sandalwood, citrus, and smoke.  Matthew Fleeger, husband of our very own Marika from the deli, is an incredible bartender. He has concocted a perfect summer cocktail with mezcal. The drink also serves as a great introduction for those who have yet to try Mexico’s finest spirit.

The Mexican Shandy

1 ½ oz. Del Maguey Vida
1oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ oz. agave nectar
Blue Star beer
Pinch of salt
Rosemary (for garnish)

Combine ingredients over ice, shake, and strain into a 12 oz. Collins glass. Top the glass with Blue Star and stir. Garnish with rosemary.


Sarah F.

Cooking with Curds: Wilde Weide Summer Pasta

San Francisco’s summer is so unpredictable–in the shift from warm sunny park-going days to foggy and windy hoodie days, I can never decide what I want to eat this time of year! I came up with a pasta recipe for either kind of day; it combines rich, “stick to your bones” flavors in a light and healthy way. The recipe features our Wilde Weide (which means “wild meadow” in Dutch), an organic farmstead Gouda made by Jan and Roon van Schie on an island in the south of Holland.


1 box Baia Pasta (I love the whole durum pac-macs!)
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 basket cherry tomatoes
3-4 slices bacon
2 garlic cloves
½ cup white wine for cooking
½ lb Wilde Weide Gouda
1 bunch fresh basil
1 bag spinach
2 lemons, zest & juice
olive oil



Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toss cherry tomatoes in olive oil, salt & pepper and spread out on sheet tray.  Put in preheated oven to slow roast, approximately 20 minutes (once tomatoes get a little color, turn oven down to 250°F).

Heat skillet over low heat, add olive oil.  Add onions and caramelize to bring out sweetness.

Heat a large pot of salted water.  Bring water to a boil, add pasta, and cook until al dente.  Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, dice bacon and sauté in separate pan, then add to caramelized onions.

Add garlic and sauté until aromatic (about one minute); deglaze pan with white wine.

Add grated Wilde Weide Gouda to pan and let melt into the mixture, then add that to vegetable mixture.

Chiffonade ½ cup (or 10 large leaves) fresh basil and add to the vegetable mixture along with the zest of both lemons.

Add fresh spinach and let lightly wilt, then season heavily with salt and pepper.

Add cooked pasta to mixture, and season with lemon juice, plus more salt and pepper if necessary.

For the garnish, slice small raw squash, dice larger squash, and chiffonade additional basil. Garnish pasta with the sliced squash and additional basil.

Gleaning Project Recipe: Frittata From the Garden

The starring role in this recipe is played by Mariquita Farm Pickled Green Garlic, one of the items we’re currently offering as part of our Gleaning Project. This frittata serves 4.



12 eggs from someone you know

½ cup Bellwether Farm Jersey Milk Ricotta

3 tbls Bellwether Farms plain yogurt

1 cup fresh peas

3 tbls chopped spring onion

¼ cup Mariquita Farm Pickled Green Garlic, chopped

2 tbls fresh thyme

1 tbls fresh shredded fresh mint

4 tbls butter




Simmer peas and spring onion in 2 tbls butter until tender.

Beat eggs with yogurt, ricotta, green garlic, herbs and S&P.

When peas, onions and garlic have cooled, stir into egg mix.

Butter a round baking dish, pour in egg mix.

Place in a 300 degree oven, and cook until firm, but not hard (about 40 minutes). Remove from oven, and slice once cool.



Cooking with Curds: Strawberry Rhubarb Tiramisu

Sarah’s gallivanting around Europe right now, so I’m playing chef this month.  With more than a little guidance from The Gourmet Cookbook and my dear friend and baking sage Kathleen, we’re turning classic Tiramisu on its head and celebrating late spring fruit and our favorite mascarpone.  Enjoy!

Strawberry Rhubarb Tiramisu

(serves 6)

3 large eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

½ cup very cold cream

1 8-ounce container of Crave Bros. Mascarpone

18 Landyfingers

1 cup chopped rhubarb (about 2 stalks)

2 ½ cups chopped strawberries

1/3 cup Cointreau

1/3 fresh orange juice

1 T lemon juice

Zest of 1 orange


Combine chopped rhubarb, strawberries, ¼ cup sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan.

Heat to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about 25 minutes, until fruit had broken down almost all of the way, and then cool.

While the fruit is cooking, beat together egg yolks and ½ cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until thick and pale.

Beat in mascarpone until just combined.

In another bowl, beat whites and salt with clean beaters until the whites hold soft peaks.  Add remaining ¼ cup sugar a little at a time, beating, until whites just hold stiff peaks.

In a third bowl, beat cream with cleaned beaters until it holds soft peaks.

Gently fold cream into mascarpone mixture, and then fold in whites.

Mix together Cointreau and orange juice in a shallow bowl.  Dip ladyfinger in mixture (about 5 seconds each side)

Soak enough ladyfingers to cover the bottom of an 8×8 1-quart baking dish.  Trim cookies where needed.

Spread half of the cooled fruit mixture on top of ladyfingers.  Cover with half of the mascarpone mixture.

Soak remaining ladyfingers and cover the mascarpone in one layer.  Cover with fruit mixture followed by a layer of mascarpone.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Just before serving, top with orange zest.

Potato, Parsnip and Celery Root Soup: SF Mom takes on Eat Good Food Recipe

San Francisco local Heather Knape moderates our 18 Reasons Food Lit Book Club and writes a blog called Eating Dirt about growing, cooking and eating food with her family. We invited her to try a recipe from Eat Good Food to see how cooking it would fit into her lifestyle as a busy mom and how it went over with the kids! She shared her experience with us:

Spring has sprung, sort of. The snap peas my kids and I planted last year are flowering on the deck, early asparagus is in the market and citrus is reaching its peak for the year. But the time for a dinner celebrating the commencement of bountiful growth hasn’t quite arrived – lamb is good, yet the price of asparagus is still high and there is no rhubarb in sight. About the only harbinger of Spring I can reliably find in good supply is green garlic- though that in itself is a much awaited treat.

Sam’s Potato, Parsnip and Celery Root Soup is an especially good recipe for this anticipatory time of year. It straddles the seasons deliciously, relying on winter holdovers of potato and parsnip as a base, with the brightness of celery root and green garlic to highlight the season. In addition to providing a great opportunity to talk to kids about how garlic matures from a stalk to a bulb, it gives those of us living where greens grow year round a gustatory glimpse into the warming of local soil, like crocus pushing up through the snow in colder climates.

Served with salad this soup makes a great dinner. To entice younger eaters in my house I float tiny meatballs on top; they eat it up. A thermosful also makes a great take-away lunch, both for parents and first graders. Good with homemade croutons, carrot sticks, an apple and a spoon packed alongside.

Potato, Parsnip and Celery Root Soup (adapted from Eat Good Food, p122):
1 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
2 large waxy potatoes, peeled and diced (yukon gold are good)
2 medium parsnips, peeled and diced (or rutabagas or turnips)
1 medium celery root, peeled and diced
2 stalks green garlic, chopped
1 t ground mustard
4 large sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup dry white wine (leave this out if you want to send it to school)
4 cups chicken or veggie broth (homemade or storemade)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cream
1 T lemon juice
1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat.

2. Add the leeks, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 6-8 minutes. The leeks will become translucent, be careful not to let them brown or burn. Add the potatoes, parsnip, celery root and garlic. Cover the pot and let it cook gently for 10 minutes or so, then add the mustard, thyme and bay leaf for a couple more minutes.

3. Add the wine now if you are using it, then cook until it has evaporated.

4. Add the broth, cover the pot partially and increase the heat to medium high. Bring just to a boil, then lower the heat to keep it simmering gently. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the vegetables are starting to break down.

5. To finish, remove and discard the thyme and bay leaf. Then puree the soup, either with an immersion blender, or by letting it cool and then blending it in small batches. Stir in the cream and lemon juice and season to taste with salt. Serve with chives and homemade croutons on top. To make the croutons, cut bread into cubes, then sauté in butter and sprinkle with salt.

Sarah F.

Cooking with Curds: Stilton Spring Breakfast

For a while, the cheese team has focused our energies on teaching our guests how to compose a killer cheese platter. We’ve talked about what kinds of cheese are complimentary, the different ways you can cut and display cheeses, and how to pair fruit and nuts on the platter.

Now we’re turning our attention to a new facet in the wonderful world of cheese: how to use it in cooking! We want to share all of the different kinds of dishes that can be elevated by the addition of the amazing cheeses we have here at Bi-Rite. So each month we’ll share a recipe on our blog that incorporates one of our favorites.

Right now, we’re celebrating cheeses from the British Isles, so I want to share a recipe for Stilton, which is made by the Colston Bassett Dairy specifically for Neal’s Yard Dairy. Two modifications make it different from the rest of their production: an animal rennet rather than a vegetarian rennet is used,  and the cheese is pierced later than their others, allowing the “white” cheese to develop more flavor before the blue mold is introduced to air. I’ve played around with this recipe at home and think you’ll find it easy and delicious for a special spring breakfast!

Stilton Spring Breakfast
(makes 4 open-faced sandwiches)

¼ # Colston Bassett Stilton, crumbled
1 yellow onion
1 head  romanesco
1 bunch asparagus
¼ # baby fava greens
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1 red onion
1 whole Judy’s Lovestick (or other baguette)
4 eggs
olive oil
white wine (to deglaze)
white wine vinegar
red chili flakes

1.  Cut baguette into quarters and toast in pan with butter.

2.  Cut yellow onion in half and slice each half into ¼” slices.

3.  Cut romanesco florets into bite-size pieces appropriate for a sandwich, and slice the asparagus on the bias into similar size pieces.

4.  In a skillet, heat olive oil over slow heat and add sliced onions.  Allow onions to brown slowly and once they begin to caramelize, slowly bring up the heat, and add butter as needed to the skillet.

5.  Add romanesco florets and sliced asparagus and cook until they are slightly softened.

6.  Season the vegetables with salt, pepper, chili flakes, and paprika.

7.  Deglaze the pan with white wine.

8.  Add baby fava greens and lightly sauté.

9. For the garnish, make a quick pickle with the red onion (slice it thinly, lightly boil the slices in vinegar, remove and add immediately to ice bath)

10. Heat more oil or butter in the skillet over medium heat.  Crack egg and cook to over easy.

11. Layer sautéed vegetables on top of toasted baguette, top with egg, pickled onion, avocado and crumbled stilton.  Enjoy!

Register Recipe: The Last Word

I’m excited to introduce some new bottles of liquor gracing the shelves behind the register. Let me share them with you here, while we’re not standing at the cash registers with people milling about:

Gran Classico – $36.99/750mL – Although a Swedish product, Gran Classico follows an Italian bitters recipe dating around the 1890’s. Think of it as a small batch Campari: more citrusy, complex and naturally colored.  My favorite thing about Gran Classico is the finish-the wormwood makes the spirit dance in your mouth! Also infused with bitter orange peel, rhubarb and many other aromatics, this liqueur is extremely versatile– drink it on its own (or with some sparkling water) on ice, or use it in Negronis.

Espolón Reposado – $27.99/750mL – This 100% blue agave tequila is made in a distillery that was recently recognized as the “Best Factory in Mexico.” We’re offering the reposado, which is aged in American oak barrels for 6 months. Espolón Reposado is big bodied and smells like vanilla and sweet tropical fruits. Its price makes it the perfect summer-day-in-February companion.

1512 Barbershop Rye – $32.99/325mL – 1512 was the address of a Prohibition-era barbershop here in San Francisco that once cut hair by day and distilled booze by night. Following his grandfather’s recipe, Sal Cimino (a third generation distiller) makes this 100% rye in Sonoma County. Unlike its amber cousins, this clear whiskey has not been aged in oak barrels. It’s certainly a unique product and part of history we’re happy to celebrate. Barbershop rye is sweet and floral. (This is a very small batch production. Only a few bottles remain in stock!)

Liqueur de Violette – $32.99/750mL – Proudly made in Petaluma, I’m really excited that we’re carrying a violette spirit. It does not at all smell like something a well-perfumed grandmother would wear, but instead this spirit superbly captures the beautiful scent of French violettes. Just a splash of the liqueur is a great way to make a glass of sparkling wine or an Aviation cocktail memorable.

Green Chartreuse – $62.99/750mL – Made in the French mountains of the same name, Chartreuse’s secret recipe of over 130 mountain herbs, plants and flowers has made this cocktail a classic since its introduction in the early 17th century.  So classic, the color chartreuse was named after the color of the Green Chartreuse spirit.  It is intensely herbal and floral, and stands up well to oak-aged spirits (try pouring equal parts brandy and Chartreuse over ice) and also works well in gin cocktails.

Speaking of Green Chartreuse, my dear friend Michael introduced me to the Last Word cocktail and it’s become one of my go-to drinks. Here’s the recipe so that all may share in my enjoyment:

The Last Word

½ oz. gin (Try St. George’s Botanivore)

½ oz. lime juice

½ oz. Green Chartreuse

½ oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and enjoy.