Remember how my friend got me a quail to roast for my birthday a few weeks ago? Well, that same friend got me a great cookbook for Christmas, too.
The book, Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food, by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough, with photographs by France Ruffenach, brought me back to the re-opening of the Bi-Rite Marketin 1998.
At the time, we lived on 17th street and Dolores, just a block from the market. The book lists June 8, 1998 as the opening day of the market as it operates today. That would put me at about 3 months pregnant. Which, as I recall, makes total sense, because by the time I was in my third trimester and had little to no interest in cooking, many a take out dinner came from the Bi-Rite Market. Lucky me!
The book talks about creating community through food, and the relationship the owners and his family had throughout the years with the neighbors. I experienced this day in and day out, whenever I went in to buy some meat or fish or prepared food, the people behind the counter always recognized me and knew what I was going to ask for before I even asked for it. From the outset, the atmosphere was always inclusive, never condescending and truly inspiring. It was a new take on an age-old traditional local grocer: organic, locally produced foods, where you might pay a little more, but what you got was well worth the investment.
My baby's first solid food (other than rice cereal and cheerios) was a piece of Bi-Rite's roasted chicken. I think that kid ate more Bi-Rite meals than I did in her first few months of solids. It was a good routine: walk down the hill from work, pick up some delicious food, walk the block home and enjoy. Did I also mention that the job I was walking home from was through a random connection that was made in front of the prepared foods case at the Bi-Rite?
I was in the market one afternoon, with my baby in her stroller. A woman approached me, said she liked my shoes and mentioned she had a baby about the same age as my girl. We talked for a bit longer, during which time she asked what I did for a living. At the time, I was managing trade shows, and told her this, and proceeded to ask her what she did. She had just launched an ecommerce start-up that was looking for some people and would I want to send her a resume. Email addresses were exchanged, communication ensued and I eventually became employed by a woman I met at the Bi-Rite.
So, yes, for me, creating community through food holds a special meaning in my heart when it comes to Bi-Rite. And, the book is organized in such a way that it's as if you're going on several visits a week to the store. You can read about pantry staples, locally sourced cheese, wine and produce, as well as get some awesome recipes for all of the above ingredients and more. The book presents the recipes within a story about the ingredients and why the buyer may have chosen to bring a particular variety of a fruit or vegetable into the market. It's written as a whole piece, not just story-then-recipe-then-story. It's more about the nature of how you might shop if you were to shop for your ingredients each day (which I love to do), versus how to make a meal in 30 minutes or less.
There is a definite need to know how to get good food out to the table quickly. This book does an excellent job of explaining how to get the best ingredients into those simple (and also the not so simple meals) and to give you an appreciation of what it took to get that carrot onto your plate. I'm a very busy single-parent who loves to cook and sees the benefit in buying the best ingredients I can, so this book is for me.
In closing, I'd like to share the recipe from page 162 for Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios and Warm Bacon Vinagrette. I made this the other night and was thrilled with the results. I've never used raw brussels sprouts (nor the super fine slicing attachment on my food processor), but I most certainly will do so again.
Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios and Warm Bacon Vinagrette
recipe from Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food, by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough, with photographs by France Ruffenach
copyright 2011, 10 Speed Press
- 1 1/4 pounds Brussels Sprouts
- 6 thick slices Bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
- bacon fat drained and reserved
- Extra-virgin Olive Oil, as needed
- Freshly squeezed juice of 1 Lemon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
- 1 small Shallot, minced, about 1 tablespoon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced Garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon Honey
- Kosher Salt
- 1/4 cup lightly chopped toasted Pistachios
- Peel off and discard the darker outer leaves of the sprouts and trim any discolored areas from the stem ends.
- Cut the sprouts in half lengthwise. then silce them crosswise very thinly - about 1/16 inch.
- Alternatively, you can use a food processor fitted with the slicer attachemtn, but the cuts will not be as clean.
- Transfer to a large heatproof bowl, add the bacon, and set aside.
- Measure 1/4 cup of the reserved bacon fat into a small pan and warm over low heat until liquefied(if you don't have enough bacon fat, make up the difference with olive oil).
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice, vinegar, shallot, garlic, honey, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
- Drizzle the dressing over the brussels sprouts and toss well.
- Taste and season with more salt as necessary.
- If you have time, let the sdalad sit out for 30 minutes or so before proceeding--in this time, the dressing helps the sprouts soften a bit.
- Just befor serving, top witht he toasted pistachio; if using the horseradish, use a microplane grater to shave a little over the top as well.