Home Posts tagged 'Balakian Farms'

Posts Tagged ‘Balakian Farms’


Simon

Summer Lovin’: Stone Fruit Season

Bi-Rite Crew at Balakian

Bi-Rite team at Balakian Farms

The month of May is all about local cherries, but as they start to slow down in the middle of June, crops like peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, and pluots start to taste really good.  Bi-Rite’s selection of stone fruit during the summertime is a showcase of the many different local varieties and the world-class farmers who grow them.  There’s truly nothing better than sinking your teeth into a peach that was picked at the perfect ripeness so that sugars have developed into the sweet juicy goodness that makes us nostalgic for summers from childhood.

This spring the Bi-Rite Produce and Marketing teams took a field trip into the heart of Central Valley to visit a few of our favorite  organic farms, and learn more about what it takes to grow amazing organic fruit!

Mas Masomoto

Mas Masumoto, Masumoto Family Farm

Located just over 200 miles south of San Francisco in the heart of California’s conventional, industrial agriculture there are three family farms doing their best to keep organic stone fruit alive. Masumoto Family Farm in Del Rey, CA is a beautiful, 80-acre orchard of land purchased by the Masumoto family in 1948. A third-generation farmer and celebrated author, Mas Masumoto has mastered the art of building soil to support the growth of his trees.  The Masumoto family is in love with the tang of the yellow flesh fruit and seeks a sugar and acid balance that screams WOW! They’re just about to start harvesting the Flavorcrest Peach, a popular variety for conventional growers who like a firm piece of fruit that can ship.  Next up is everyone’s favorite, the freestone Sun Crest Yellow Peach, a large peach with a red blushed skin and juicy texture – this is the peach that put the Masumoto Family Farm on the map.  The last variety of stone fruit we will see from the Masumoto is the clingstone Le Grand Yellow Nectarine.  The Le Grand is a large piece of fruit with a rich sweet flavor and firm flesh which makes it awesome for making nectarine ice cream.

Peaches and nectarines are categorized in two ways, freestone and clingstone. When the flesh of the fruit is attached to the pit you have a clingstone variety. They can be the best to eat but are harder to work with in the kitchen. The meat (flesh) freestone varieties are completely detached from the pit which makes them easier to work with for canning, freezing, and cooking.

Stella Balakian

Stella Balakian, Balakian Farms

Stella Balakian moved to Reedley from Boston almost 50 years ago, and she is the heart and soul of the fourth generation Balakian Farms. For the past 15 years the Balakian family has been driving 3 ½ hours one-way to deliver fresh-picked stone fruit to the doors of Bi-Rite Market. The Balakian’s farm sits on just over 40 acres. They have diversified to grow one of the best pomegranates, which we celebrate in the Markets every fall. As far as stone fruit goes, Balakian focuses largely on early season stone fruit , but keep an eye out for the Flavor Grenade Pluot.

One of the biggest challenges facing these organic stone fruit grower in Central Valley is the limited local market for them to sell their premium organic fruit. These farms rely heavily on the markets in the Bay Area to bring them the financial return needed to survive as a small farm and pay their workers a living wage.  Most of the farms that grow us all these amazing fruits and veggies that we see at Bi-Rite are in low-income communities that can’t afford the prices for specialty organic fruits and vegetables.

Blossom Bryce and Dad

Ted & Bryce, Blossom Bluff Orchards

Blossom Bluff Orchards is located on a “bluff” overlooking the King River in Reedley, CA, and it’s one of the most stunning landscapes in the area.  As we walked the orchard it was so good to see all the wildlife taking advantage of the diversity on the farm.  The Loewen family farms on about 80 acres and grow a wide variety of stone fruit, citrus, and persimmons.  Bryce and his father, Ted, operate the farm together and they have so many different fruit varieties that Ted has to keep a little black book just to remember the locations of the each varietal.  Two of the crops the Loewen’s have mastered is plums and pluots, which are just getting underway. We are finishing up the last of the unique Black Splendor Plum with its dark purple/red skin and meaty flesh, which will be followed shortly by the Yellow Dolly Plum with perfect, yellow skin and juicy flesh.  Soon after the Dolly, the Catalina Plum will be harvested, with its dark amber skin – it is one of the sweetest plums of the season and just a taste of what you’ll see at Bi-Rite from Blossom Bluff Orchards this summer.

If biting into a sweet and juicy piece of stone fruit doesn’t get your taste buds fired up, we have a terrific recipe for Peach Cobbler from our Pastry Chef Keri,  and of course Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop is taking advantage of all of the amazing stone fruit to create all sorts of summer treats like Masumoto Peach Ice Cream and Peach Frangipane Galettes.

StoneFruit_Recipe_web


Jessie Rogers

Festive Finishing Touches for Thanksgiving

6BiRite-HOLIDAY-2015-Creamery-Thanksgiving-33-2When Thanksgiving Turkey and Menu plans are wrapped up, it’s time to focus on the little flourishes that make the day even more special. Deck your table with gorgeous flowers, treat guests to an elegant cheese platter, and end your meal with a sweet treat from Bi-Rite Creamery. And if you’re a guest, show your host your gratitude with a truly special gift. It’s all available for pre-order until Tuesday, November 24 at 5pm from our Holiday Market on Instacart for quick, convenient pick-up from either Bi-Rite Market location.

(There’s still time to pre-order Turkeys, complete Dinner Kits, our house-made side dishes and more for pick-up! Just visit our Holiday Market on Instacart!)

Holiday Cheese Plate

Essex1pateGreet your guests with a selection of cheeses to prime their palates. Kick off with Cabot Creamery Artisan Reserve 3-Year Aged Cheddar, a classic crowd-pleaser. We also love the best-in-class Essex Street Cheese Marcel Petit Fort Saint Antoine Comte and L’Amuse Signature Gouda. Pair them with Bi-Rite Market’s House-Made Pate de Campagne and Duck Rillettes, and be sure to include La Maison du Piment Sweet Cherry Confit and Peccati Di Ciacco Truffle Honey on the side for balance.

Farm-Direct Thanksgiving Floral

FullBellyFlowers2We have an incredible Floral Team at the ready to provide you with seasonal and responsibly-grown plants and flowers. You can pre-order a Bi-Rite Market Mixed Bouquet to take along with you to your event. We also carry Dried Kitchen Bouquets from Oak Hill Farm that maintain beautiful color. Best of all are the Custom Thanksgiving Floral Centerpieces that our teams can create for you. Come to either Market and talk to the Florists about your specific needs!

Sweet Treats from Bi-Rite Creamery

Bi-Rite Creamery6BiRite-HOLIDAY-2015-Creamery-Thanksgiving-18 makes incredible pies all year ’round, but their Holiday specialties are not to be missed. We have the classics: Pumpkin Pie, smooth and rich. Apple Pie, with crumb topping and plump apples from Hidden Star Orchards. And Pecan Pie, with the perfect layer of sweet pecan crunch on top. For something a little different, don’t miss the Pumpkin Bundt Cake, made with organic pumpkin and topped with Salted Caramel Glaze and Vincent Family Dried Cranberries. It’s moist, dense, and delicious, and only available for Thanksgiving. And whether it’s pie or cake, a serving of Bi-Rite Creamery ice cream is a must!

Giving Thanks to your Host

Bourbon2pan3Don’t show up empty handed! Show your gratitude with a bottle of Signatory Imperial Scotch. This extremely limited 15-year-old Scotch, one of only two bottlings every created in a historic distillery in Speyside, Scotland is exclusive to Bi-Rite. Or bring along our special single barrel bottling of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, hand-selected by our Spirits Buyer; it complements the fresh, hand-made Ship to Shore Hot Buttered Rum Balls (a Bi-Rite staff favorite!) to create a festive and warming drink. Beautifully-wrapped and delicious, Rustichella d’ Abruzzo Panettone in Classic, Cherry and Chocolate, and Fig and Chocolate options is a traditional Italian artisan bread they’ll love; perfect with coffee the morning after Thanksgiving.

We’re here to help you plan your entire Thanksgiving meal, including all the little extras to make your day spectacular. The deadline to pre-order through our Instacart Holiday Market for pickup at the Markets  is 5pm on Tuesday, November 24th. And of course, just call or visit if you need recommendations or advice. Our Thanksgiving Hotline is available at (415) 241-9760; select option 3!

New to Instacart?

Create a new account and save $5 on your first order of $35 or more when you pre-order Thanksgiving Turkey and Menus from the Bi-Rite Holiday Market!
Enter the code BIRITETHANKSGIVING
when you check out, after selecting a pick-up date!


Stephany

Summer Squash: Fun, Versatile & Perfect for Dinner!

Hi, I’m Stephany! I’m a member of the Produce Team at Bi-Rite 18th Street, and I’m also an experienced cook with a passion for food, community, and sustainability. This summer I’ll be writing a series of posts highlighting my favorite summer produce along with ideas for how to prepare them. This is the very first post and I’m delighted to share my passion for food with you.

SDinner1GeneralSquashUp first: summer squash. I get excited when summer squash comes in because it’s a fun, versatile section of our produce aisle that has tons of variety. Summer squash comes in a number of different varietals. Zucchini is the most well-known, but here at Bi-Rite 18th Street and Bi-Rite Divisadero we have lots of others, like Zephyr, Crookneck, Flying Saucers, Baby Acorn, Sunburst, Pattypan, Costata Romanesco and Eightball. Some of these don’t look like what you think of when you think of squash, but trust me–they taste great. Most squashes share similarities in flavor–fairly mild, sweet and creamy–and are a good foil for bolder flavors.

We get summer squash from some of our favorite local farms, typically first from Balakian Farms, then from Happy Boy, Tomatero and Terra Firma as the season progresses. They’re beautiful and delicious, but just as importantly, they’re also easy and fun to prepare. Summer squash can be eaten raw, but it also cooks quickly. It’s lovely in a shaved salad, tastes great roasted to bring forward sweetness, looks and smells beautiful next to those burgers and onions on your grill, and is rich and substantial sautéed. Smaller and rounder squashes like Eightball or Pattypan make fantastic ingredients for stuffings.

You can shave summer squash into ribbons using a peeler; you’ll find that it comes out almost like noodles, making it a great substitute for pasta. If your shave it into ribbons, you can salt it (called “cold-sweating”) and the salt will pull out all of the extra water; you can then hand-squeeze the water out after about five minutes. Then you can dress your noodles however you want. Personally I like them with pesto, basil or any kind of fresh, bright herb, and they also go well with cheeses, peas and other fresh summer produce like cherry tomatoes.

Here’s a favorite recipe of mine using summer squash that I hope you’ll enjoy! You can get everything you need for this recipe at either of our two market locations. Just ask our staff for help.

 SDinner1Ingredients

Summer Squash “Pasta” Salad

SDinnerFinalIngredients:

  • 4 long summer squash such as Zucchini, Crookneck & Zephyr, for shaving
  • 1-½ lbs mixed summer squashes such as Pattypan, Sunburst, Flying Saucer & 8 Ball, chopped into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 lb English peas, shelled
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, stems removed (I used Terra Firma Farm’s Golden Nuggets, first of the season! We also have their Sungolds & Sweet 100s)
  • ½ bunch basil
  • 1 stalk green garlic, bulb halved and greens finely chopped
  • 1 red spring onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or to taste. Any milder/sweeter vinegar would work- champagne or white wine, or lemon juice)
  • Olive oil
  • Golden Valley Farm’s Pepato Cheese to finish (Pepato is a wonderful peppercorn-studded aged sheep’s milk cheese from the fine folks who make Yosemite Bluff, down in Chowchilla, CA. The pepper complements the natural sweetness of the squash and other veggies.)

Directions:

  • Shave long squashes into ribbons using a mandolin or vegetable peeler. (If you don’t have one, a Benriner Japanese mandolin is one of the best kitchen tools you can have. They cost around $15 and are long-lasting and durable).
  • Place squash shavings in a bowl, and salt generously. Toss to distribute salt and set aside. The salt will pull out the excess moisture from the squash so you salad won’t get soggy. If you are eating it right away, you don’t need to do this, but it helps tenderize it as well.
  • Heat up a cast iron skillet over med-high heat. Add a little olive oil, and add half of the chopped squashes in a single layer. Avoid overcrowding the pan; if it is too crowded the squash will just steam. Giving them a hard sear caramelizes the sugars and brings out the natural sweetness, and adds a bit of nice crisp texture on the outside. Season with a little salt. Once they are browned, flip to brown on all sides. Set aside, and cook off the rest of the squash.
  • Wipe out the pan, add a little more oil, then drop in the English peas. Sauté for 1 minute or until just barely cooked. Set aside. Add a bit more oil, then add the green garlic and cherry tomatoes, sauté until the garlic is browned and the tomatoes are starting to split. Set aside.
  • Pound the green garlic with half of the basil to form a coarse paste. Add enough red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt to taste.
  • Toss with the squash “noodles,” roasted squashes, peas, tomatoes and spring onion. Finish with some torn fresh basil and shaved Pepato Cheese to taste.