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Jessie Rogers

Pre-Order Thanksgiving Dinner Online!

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www.instacart.com


Welcoming Thanksgiving: Our Guide to a Perfect Celebration

Thanksgiving is upon us! I love this time of year for the celebrations and wonderful food. From gorgeous seasonal produce, to amazing roasts and turkeys (including, of course, unforgettable heritage turkeys from BN Ranch), to ready-to-eat foods and complete dinner kits prepared in our Kitchens by our talented Chefs, we’re here to help reduce the stress of your holiday. I invite you to peruse our 2014 Thanksgiving Guide to see everything our Buyers and Chefs have created for you; you can view it online below, or pick up a printed copy at either Bi-Rite Market.

Partnering with Instacart is another way we can make your Thanksgiving more convenient. You can now pre-order your holiday meals for pickup at either Bi-Rite Market location from our special online Holiday Market. Simply choose Bi-Rite at 3639 18th Street or 550 Divisadero Street as your pick-up location, and you’re all set.

As always, we’re here to help make your Thanksgiving entertaining a success. Come in and chat with us, or call us with any questions. We look forward to seeing you. Happy Holidays to All!


Fall Wine Blitz! Coming November 3-9!

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The Bi-Rite’s Fall Wine Blitz is almost here! Starting on Monday, November 3rd through Sunday, November 9th you can get 20% off mixed cases of wine from our selection of more than 200 wines. Plus, get free delivery within San Francisco! This huge sale is available at both Bi-Rite Market locations!

It’s the perfect time to start stocking up for Thanksgiving dinners, family gatherings, or just to restock the wine fridge. Whatever the occasion, we’ve got you covered with some old favorites as well as new, exciting wines from amazing producers and importers that are perfect for fall entertaining. 

Want to taste the wines yourself before you buy? Stop by the Fall Wine Blitz Pre-Tasting at 18Reasons on Thursday October 30th between 6pm-8pm to taste up to 30 wines. Here’s a preview of what we will be tasting.

2013 Leo Steen Chenin Blanc Saini Vineyard
$19.99; Wine Blitz Price just $15.99
Chenin Blanc was one of the most widely planted white varieties in California but have been ripped up in favor of more popular varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Luckily, California Chenin Blanc is making a big revival lately, with producers working with amazing old vines Chenin Blanc that had survived. Leo Steen is one of the winemakers championing this varietal, which is on fitting because Steen is the South African word for Chenin Blanc. Sourced from 33 year old vines in Dry Creek, this Chenin Blanc is bone dry with notes chamomile and lemon verbena.

2012 Ojai Chardonnay Solomon Hill Vineyard
$29.99; Wine Blitz Price just $19.99
Ojai Vineyard winemaker Adam Tolmack, along with Jim Clendenon of Au Bon Climat and Bob Lindquist of Qupe, is considered one of the fathers of California Chardonnay. His Chardonnay from the cool Solomon Hill Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley has none of the California-style tropical fruitiness. It’s all lemon curd and piney with bright mineral freshness. It’s perfect foil with a roast chicken and cream sauce.

2011 Jean Tardy Hautes-Cotes de Nuits
$24.99; 
Wine Blitz Price just $19.99
Jean Tardy worked for Meo Camuzet, the famed Burgundy producer in Vosne-Romanee. He started his own domaine in 1981 and has grown the estate to several  holdings in the Cotes de Nuits including the Grand Cru vineyard, Echezeaux. With respect to Tardy’s winemaking talent, we’re so happy to offer one of his stunning Burgundys for under $25. This Pinot Noir has it all, aromatic and elegant with earthy spice notes. Amazing with a seared duck breast and caramelized quince.


2013 Lo-Fi Cabernet Franc
$24.99; Wine Blitz Price just $19.99
Lo-Fi is a brand new project from winemaker Mike Roth, formerly of Martian Ranch. Roth’s winemaking is raw, soulful, and natural, letting the wine shine without much technical influence from modern winemaking. His Cabernet Franc is California meets Bourgueil, fresh and bright with red fruits and herb notes. We like serving this slightly chilled to accentuates the wonderful California fruits.

WB22007 Copain Harrison Clarke Vineyard Syrah
$29.99; Wine Blitz Price just $23.99
This 2007 Syrah was the last vintage that winemaker Wells Guthrie worked with at Harrison Clarke Vineyard, located in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley. This vineyard is very reminiscent of the Northern Rhone, with limestone and clay soils; the perfect environment for Syrah. Wells’ deft hand with the varietal has created a wine that is elegant and powerful at the same time, with notes of olives and blackberries. We were able to secure a great deal for this wine, previously sold at over $40 a bottle, we were able to offer this wine for under $30 and with the Blitz sale, you can get it for only $23.99!

Jason Rose

Brand New Seasonal Salads for Fall

I’m thrilled to announce six new salads, highlighting the beautiful colors and flavors of fall. You can find these salads in our Deli Service case starting today at both Bi-Rite Market locations.

 NewSaladRoastedCarrots   NewSaladDelicataRed

Llano Seco Heirloom Bean Salad with Winter Squash, Roasted Fennel,
Toasted Coriander & Lemon Tahini Vinaigrette
$9.99/lb

Winter Squash Salad with Kale, Currants, Pumpkin Seeds,
Sage & Maple Cider Vinaigrette
$9.99/lb

Roasted Vietnamese Brussels Sprouts with Nuoc Mam Cham,
Spicy Chilies, Cilantro & Mint
$9.99/lb

Citrus-Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Sumac, Pistachios, Apricots,
Grilled Winter Chicories & Honey
$10.99/lb

Middle Eastern Rice Salad with Roasted Parsnips, Garbanzo Beans, Mint, Dill, Parsley
& Lemony Paprika Vinaigrette
$8.99/lb


Amaro Amore!

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It’s Amaro amore! We’re celebrating the regional diversity and flavor variations of this bitter-sweet Italian liqueur by featuring several different Amari varieties, all of which tell the story of the region where they’re created. For some fun ways to enjoy these aromatics, Rachel from our Wine & Spirits Team has pulled together a few of her favorite recipes for refreshing Amaro cocktails. You can also enjoy Amaro straight! There’s a profile to suit every palate.

Lucano Fizz

  • 2 oz Lucano Amaro
  • ¾ oz lemon juice
  • ½  oz simple syrup
  • ½ oz egg
  • 1 ½ oz seltzer
  • Orange peel

Combine ingredients (minus seltzer) in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously without ice for 5 seconds. Add a handful of ice and shake again. Add seltzer to serving glass and strain cocktail over seltzer. Cut orange peel, minimizing pith, and twist over drink.

Girovago
Girovago means ‘adventurer’ in Italian, a variation on the French Boulevardier, which is a negroni made with bourbon.

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth (we use Cocchi di Torino)
  • ½ oz Varnelli Sibilla Amaro
  • Lemon peel

Add spirits to a mixing glass, stir over ice. Strain over a large ice cube. Cut lemon peel, minimizing pith, twist over drink and serve.

Hoffman House
Ascoli-Piceno style

  • 1 ½ oz gin
  • ½ oz dry vermouth (we use Dolin Dry)
  • 1/3 oz Meletti Amaro
  • Dash orange bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass.

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Jason Rose

A Slew of New Sandwiches!

I’m so thrilled to introduce a new lineup of fresh sandwiches from our Deli. All of these sandwiches are the result of lots of testing and perfecting, and from our new Bi-Rite BLT to the classic Banh Mi, we know you’ll love them!

We serve sandwiches all day. Call us at (415) 241-9760 for 18th St. or (415) 551-7900 for Divisadero St. to place an order for pickup, or order from the Deli counter in the Markets. You can also sign up for Instacart and get your sandwiches delivered within San Francisco in as little as 1 hour!

Legend: (VEG)=Vegetarian, (V)=Vegan, (N)=Contains Nuts

Bi-Rite Market Divisadero Street Sandwiches

The Olympic—$10.99
Olympic Provisions Salami Cotto, Mortadella & Capicola with Provolone, Pepperoncini, Red Onion, Lettuce, Italian Dressing & Lemon Aioli on Semifreddi’s Ciabatta

The Vegan Hippy—$8.99
Avocado, Crispy Fried Sweet Potato, Pea Shoots and a Rum – Braised Green Onion Aioli on Toasted Josey Baker “Seed Feast” Bread

Vietnamese Tofu Banh Mi—$9.99—(VEG)
Lemongrass-Ginger Marinated Hodo Soy Tofu Topped with Scallions, Pickled Carrots, Cilantro, Jalapeño & Lemon Aioli on a French Roll

Salmon Burger—$11.99 (Served Hot–plus tax)
House-Made Salmon Burger with Capers, Fennel, Lemon, Herbed Greek Yogurt, Shaved Cucumber, Pickled Red Onion & Arugula on Bakers of Paris Brioche

large_2232ca03-da43-478b-8631-02d2383d1cb6Niçoise Tuna—$10.99 (Served Hot–plus tax)
Pan-Seared Tombo Tuna, sliced thin & served with Lemon Aioli, Olive Tapenade, Arugula & Tomato on Toasted Semifreddi’s Ciabatta Roll

Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Onions & Provolone—$9.99
Free-Range Grilled Chicken with Provolone, Balsamic Onions, Aioli & Arugula on Acme Focaccia

Diestel Ranch Turkey & Provolone—$9.99
Roasted Free-Range Turkey Breast, House-Made Aioli, Dijon, Lettuce, Tomato & Provolone on an Acme Roll

Bi-Rite BLT—$9.99
Benton’s Hickory Smoked Country Bacon, Heirloom Tomatoes, Lettuce & Black Pepper Aioli on Toasted Josey Baker “Seed Feast” Bread

large_d11eda03-2de7-49f1-8e59-922114690b90Mozzarella & Prosciutto—$10.99
Belfiore Mozzarella, La Quercia Prosciutto, Pepperonata, Basil & Arugula on Acme Rustic Baguette

Pulled Heritage Pork—$9.99
Braised Heritage pork shoulder, Cider Coleslaw, Lemon Aioli & Dijon Mustard with Pickled Jalapenos on a Toasted Acme Roll

Vietnamese Banh Mi with Roasted Heritage Pork—$9.99
Slow-Roasted Heritage Pork Shoulder Topped with Scallions, Pickled Carrots, Cilantro, Jalapeño & Lemon Aioli on a French Roll

Hot Ham Melt—$8.99 (Served Hot–plus tax)
Llano Seco Apple-Wood Smoked Ham with Gruyere Cheese, Béchamel & Dijon Mustard on Josey Baker Sliced Country Bread

large_58ff0ea9-24f4-402f-876f-81525d378dbaSlow-Roasted 5 Dot Ranch Beef & Cheddar—$10.99
California-Raised Beef Cooked Rare with Sweet Onion Jam, Cabot Vintage Cheddar, Arugula, Lemon Vinaigrette & Black Pepper Aioli on a Potato Rosemary Roll

Additions

  • Add 3 fat slices of Benton’s bacon for $3
  • Add Avocado for $2

Bi-Rite Market 18th Street Sandwiches

The Olympic—$10.99
Olympic Provisions Salami Cotto, Mortadella & Capicola with Provolone, Pepperoncini, Red Onion, Lettuce, Italian Dressing & Lemon Aioli on Semifreddi’s Ciabatta

The Vegan Hippy—$8.99
Avocado, Crispy Fried Sweet Potato, Pea Shoots & Rum-Braised Green Onion Aioli on Toasted Josey Baker “Seed Feast” Bread

large_68a535d1-e2ed-446d-b344-736fcb1add96Vietnamese Tofu Banh Mi—$9.99—(VEG)
Lemongrass-Ginger Marinated Hodo Soy Tofu Topped with Scallions, Pickled Carrots, Cilantro, Jalapeño & Lemon Aioli on a French Roll

Salmon Burger—$11.99 (Served Hot–plus tax)
House-Made Salmon Burger with Capers, Fennel, Lemon, Herbed Greek Yogurt, Shaved Cucumber, Pickled Red Onion & Arugula on Bakers of Paris Brioche

Niçoise Tuna—$10.99 (Served Hot–plus tax)
Pan-Seared Tombo Tuna, sliced thin, served with Lemon Aioli, Olive Tapenade, Arugula & Tomato on Toasted Semifreddi’s Ciabatta Roll

large_04ba199a-9592-402b-be8f-d582b7101433Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Onions & Provolone—$9.99
Free-Range Grilled Chicken with Provolone, Balsamic Onions, Aioli & Arugula on Acme Focaccia

Diestel Ranch Turkey & Provolone—$9.99
Roasted Free-Range Turkey Breast, House-Made Aioli, Dijon, Lettuce, Tomato & Provolone on an Acme Roll

Bi-Rite BLT—$9.99
Benton’s Hickory Smoked Country Bacon, Heirloom Tomatoes, Lettuce & Black Pepper Aioli on Toasted Josey Baker “Seed Feast” Bread

Mozzarella & Prosciutto—$10.99
Belfiore Mozzarella, La Quercia Prosciutto, Pepperonata, Basil & Arugula on Acme Rustic Baguette

Pulled Heritage Pork —$9.99
Braised Heritage pork shoulder, Cider Coleslaw, Lemon Aioli & Dijon Mustard with Pickled Jalapenos on a Toasted Acme Roll

Vietnamese Banh Mi with Roasted Heritage Pork—$9.99
Slow-Roasted Heritage Pork Shoulder Topped with Scallions, Pickled Carrots, Cilantro, Jalapeño & Lemon Aioli on a French Roll

Ham & Swiss—$8.99 (Served Hot–plus tax)
Llano Seco Smoked Ham with Aioli, Dijon, Tomato & Swiss Cheese on an Acme Sweet Baguette

Slow-Roasted 5 Dot Ranch Beef & Cheddar—$10.99
California-Raised Beef Cooked Rare with Sweet Onion Jam, Cabot Vintage Cheddar, Arugula, Lemon Vinaigrette & Black Pepper Aioli on a Potato Rosemary Roll

Additions

  • Add 3 fat slices of Benton’s bacon for $3
  • Add Avocado for $2

 

 


Christine Mathias

Bi-Rite Catering: New Peak-of-Season Harvest Menu

CateringFlowersWith the shorter days of fall comes an increased need to fill our bellies with serious comfort food! The air carries whiffs of cinnamon, foliage, and the richness of harvest time. Bi-Rite Catering has some amazing new ideas for your autumn celebrations – whether it’s for someone who passed the Bar Exam, a Halloween hootenanny, or a cocktail reception for your biggest client. You are so covered! Our new savory tartlet options are always eagerly anticipated, and the Harvest menu is introducing a great one. Our Savory Tartlets with Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Melted Leeks, Ricotta and Thyme are earthy and fantastic, with light pastry and a touch of herbs. cateringApplesAlso coming fresh from our ovens: a new Focaccia Flatbread with Caramelized Onions, Roasted Apples, Bacon, Goat Cheese and Chives. You’ll really get a sense of the flavors of fall with the Focaccia Finger Sandwich with PorchettaFall Fruit Mostarda, Parmigiano Reggiano and Aioli on Salted Focaccia. CateringPumpkinSeedsYou’re looking for amazing sides, too – no one can subsist on yummy bread products alone! (Although we can try, right?) For the gluten-free among you, the French Lentil and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Truffle Oil and Herbs is filling and aromatic and the Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean and Quinoa Salad with Roasted Poblano Peppers, Cumin and Charred Tomato Vinaigrette is smoky and sublime. Add a leafy Salad of Local Chicories with Roasted Delicata Squash, Currants, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds with Sage, and Maple Cider Dressing and you can feed an army with little to no effort on your part. Check out the rest of our catering menu here for seasonal picks and our tried and true favorites. If you need delivery or you want to pick it up at either of our markets, it’s no problem! Now go jump in a pile of leaves or something! These new additions, as well as our complete Catering Menu, are available to order beginning Saturday, October 4 after 3pm, for events starting Monday, October 6 or after. Contact us for assistance with planning your fabulous fall event!


Jessie Rogers

Do-Si-Do! Come to the 18 Reasons Barn Dance September 27th!

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Join the Bi-Rite and Bi-Rite Creamery family for an old-fashioned Barn Dance, as we support 18 Reasons in celebration of their 6th anniversary! Put on your cowboy boots and head to Sonoma on Saturday, September 27th for food and fun with friends and family–all while supporting everyone’s favorite San Francisco community and food education non-profit.

The afternoon will begin with games and activities for adults and kids, including farm tours, lasso lessons, face painting, and a lively game of horseshoes. Enjoy a wonderful harvest dinner with dishes from Bi-Rite, and local friends Fatted Calf and Primavera Tamales. The picnic-style meal will be accompanied by fresh lemonade, beer, and wine from Casey Flat Vineyards. Hang out on a haybale and enjoy a beautiful late summer evening.

Dancing will begin in the barn at 7:00pm, led by professional caller Celia Ramsay and her bluegrass band. If you’ve never do-si-do’ed before, don’t worry; Celia will teach you everything you need to know.

Ticket prices include all activities, food, drinks, and dancing. Kids under 10 are free. Get your tickets and more info here! We’ll see you there!

 


Jason Rose

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: High Holy Days Menu Available 9/23-10/4

We are pleased to announce our complete menu for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The menu from our kitchens, as well as an array of kosher wines, iosher cheeses, and grocery items, and traditional  Jewish baked goods from Bi-Rite Creamery will be available at both Bi-Rite Market locations from Tuesday, September 23 through Saturday, October 4. To order in advance, please call, or we welcome you to order in person in either market. You can now also shop for home delivery from Instacart.com.

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Rose

Changing the World With Cabot Vintage

Cabot1Greetings, friends, and welcome to another installment of our cheese news! I’m happy and proud to write to you about a cornerstone cheese that we carry at Bi-Rite, one that is righteous and beautiful in both flavor and backstory, creating change and changing taste buds. 

Cabot Cooperative has been dairy farmer-owned since 1919, establishing itself as a source for sustainable and responsibly-produced dairy products. Currently numbering more than 1,200 family farms, the Cooperative has ensured the survival and growth of many small dairies, during a time when commodity cheesemakers have made it very difficult for most to do so. On top of this, Cabot Cooperative is  a Certified B Corp; the idea behind B Corps is to encourage businesses that focus on more than profit margins, and that give back to their communities and industries in very real, tangible ways. This can be seen in the many jobs that Cabot provides, but also by the fact that such a large organization continues to create such delicious, sustainable, well-made products. This is exactly the type of business that Bi-Rite loves to be working with; one that cares very deeply about the process, the producers, and the community that the product reaches.

My focus today is a very special cheese, one that I am sure you have seen around the market, one that has most likely caught your eye with its captivating form and proud signage: Cabot Vintage Cheddar.

Cabot2Cabot Vintage is aged for a minimum of two years, revealing beautifully buttery round notes that punctuate with a salty sharp bite.  Surrounded by decadent purple wax, (which draws comparison to Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes and royal Roman garb), it is both delicious and beautiful to behold. Our Kitchen and Deli at Bi-Rite Market on 18th Street use it in a variety of dishes, the current crown jewel being the Slow-Roasted 5 Dot Ranch Beef and Cheddar Sandwich (a staff favorite for sure). We find it pairs expertly with apples and mustards, the tangy sweetness complimenting both textures and flavors. It melts like a dream, but also is a frequent guest favorite due to its delightful snackability. When you combine all of these factors with its very Bi-Rite-esque background, you come up with the cheese of the season, one that will fit easily in your backpack as you hike the trails, snuggly in your picnic basket as you picnic on the windswept beaches, or sweetly in your hand as you soak up the crisp fall sun at Dolores Park.

The cheese stands alone, my friends, spreading the good word of the Cabot Cooperative and the B Corps organization. We are pleased to carry Cabot Vintage as one of our many stellar cheeses, and hope to see you in the Market soon asking for a taste. You will not be disappointed.

Curds and whey,

Rose

 

 


Matt R.

Yamas! Cheers to Greek Wines!

greekThe Greeks have one of the longest traditions of wine-making of any civilization out there. They have been producing wine for over 4,000 years, and yet Greek wines as a category remain a mystery to American wine drinkers. But don’t shy away from the unfamiliar; there are great wines (and great values) worth searching out in Greece!

From the Greek Islands to the mainland, the variety of terroir in Greece is astounding. Even more astounding (and head-ache-inducing) are the 300+ grape varietals native to Greece. It’s no wonder that grapes names like Malagousia, Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko, and Roditis haven’t stuck in our memories so easily. Yet these indigenous varietals are part of millennia of wine-making tradition in the region. If any wine region has the experience and wherewithal to know its terroir and produce great wine, it’s Greece.

We’re excited to have a couple new Greek wines on the shelves at the Markets. Swing by for a trip to Greece in your wine glass. (It’s cheaper than a plane ticket!)

nassou

2009 Chrisohoou Naoussa Xinomavro  –  $16.99

Naoussa is the center of wine production in Macedonia, situated just an hours-drive west of the city of Thessaloniki. It’s here that the grape Xinomavro is the star. Greece’s most noble of its red varieties, Xinomavro is widely planted and made in various styles. It’s a typically late-ripening grape with somewhat aggressive tannin, so it often takes a bit of time for wines made from Xinomavro to mellow out and reach their peak. Some often compare Greece’s Xinomavro to Italy’s Nebbiolo, both for its similar flavor notes and its ageability. Chrisohoou is a family-owned estate established in 1978 and today run by the young winemaker, Nana. 2009 is her current release of the Xinomavro from Chrisohoou and we think it’s stunning for the value. Don’t be fooled by its lighter color; it’s lush with full of notes of dark fruit, singed herbs, and mouth-coating tannin. This would be perfect with grilled lamb chops and eggplant!

(Available only at Bi-Rite Market 18th Street.)

2011 Kir-Yianni Petra  –  $14.99petra

Yiannis Boutaris founded Kir-Yianni winery in 1997, when he broke away from his family’s Boutaris wine brand, a large wine producer in Greece. Today he is the mayor of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city located in the region of Macedonia, and his son, Stellios Boutaris, has taken over the operation at Kir-Yianni. Stellios is focused on producing wines of character using grapes native to the region. The Petra is made from the indigenous grape Roditis blended with a small percentage of Malagousia. Roditis is a lightly pink-skinned grape that can produce lovely whites and roses from hot climates like Naoussa in Macedonia. We find it reminiscent of Muscadet from the south of France. It’s light in texture with briney minerally notes and hints of pine, herbs, and lemon zest. Mouthwatering acidity on the finish make this an easy pairing with seafood dishes like simple grilled octopus with lemon!

(Available at both Markets.)

noussa22004 Vaeni Naoussa Xinomavra  –  $19.99

Vaeni is one of the world’s greatest wine co-ops, on par with famous names like Produttori di Barbaresco or La Chablisienne. As we mentioned earlier with the Chrisohoou, Xinomavro needs some time in barrels and bottle to let the acidity and tannins come to a balance. The Vaeni Grande Reserve is aged for a minimum of five years in wood and another four years in barrels before release. The additional aging gives the wine an added weight, depth, and complexity that add up to greatness. With all the time spent on aging the Xinomavro, Vaeni’s Grande Reserve is surprisingly affordable. We dare you find any Nebbiolo that is as complex as this wine, even at twice the price.

(Available only at Bi-Rite Divisadero.)

Upcoming Events:

18th Hour Cafe – Thursdays, 6-9PM – Drop-In – At 18 Reasons

Spirit Tasting with Barr Hill – Saturday, July 26th, 1-3PM – At Bi-Rite Divisadero

Wine Tasting with Christian Adams from Rudi Wiest Selections – Sunday, July 27th, 12-2PM – At Bi-Rite Divisadero

Beer Workshop: Hops – Tuesday, July 29th, 7-9PM – At 18 Reasons

Don’t hesitate to call us with any questions or special requests (415.241.9760 for 18th St. or 415.551.7900 for Divis) or email wine@biritemarket.com.

Sincerely,

Matt Rupert and the Wine and Cheese Team

Bi-Rite Market


Stephany

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

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.