The Eat Good Food book from San Francisco's Bi-Rite Market is a combination cookbook, reference book and buying guide to well...good food. Author, and second-generation grocer Sam Mogannam shares the story of how he took over the family business and transformed it into a neighborhood market that places as much value on producers as it does customers, and flavors and quality as it does cost.
The book is organized like a grocery store. There are chapters for the deli, produce and cheese departments, the butcher counter, bakery, wine & beer, and more. Throughout each chapter is advice for how to buy, how to store and how to use everything from fresh produce to pantry items. Tips include things like a cracked skin on a pomegranate is OK (it's actually a sign of ripeness), as is a slightly darker spot on a peach. It isn't a bruise, but rather an area of concentrated sugar. There are photos of apple varieties, cross-sections of various citrus and a guide to charcuterie. Informative sidebars further explain everything from bees to fish farming and why your choices of meat matter.
The buying tips throughout the book are helpful without being preachy. Tips include two options, "At the very least, look for XX," and "Ideally, look for XX." For carrots, they say, "At the very least look for bright stiff greens (if attached); carrots that are firm and show no splitting; and ones that have a diameter somewhere between a dime and a quarter." While the authors would love you to buy organic, locally grown carrots, they at least give you some advice that works at both the supermarket and the farmer's market.
Recipes in Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food are generally for simple dishes that highlight quality ingredients. There's a cocoa-cumin beef roast, since you've learned tips about buying cocoa powder and spices, plus sourcing quality meat. The romesco chicken salad uses the romesco sauce from another recipe and cooked chicken from another. About half the recipes feature the vegetables and fruits profiled in the book and are organized by the season. For fall, there's potato, parsnip and celery root soup, and Brussels sprouts salad with pistachios and a warm bacon vinaigrette. For summer there's padron pepper poppers and nectarine buttermilk upside-down cake.
Profiles about farmers and food producers in the Bay Area, are sprinkled throughout the book. These include Mogannam's parents' Apple Hill Ranch, where they grow apples, kiwis and figs, plus make jams, jellies and preserves that are sold at Bi-Rite Market.
Meet author Sam Mogannam at Book Larder in Fremont on Saturday, December 3 from 3-4 p.m. There is a family-style dinner the same night at The Pantry at Delancey at 6:30 p.m., which is officially sold-out, but it never hurts to get on the waiting list.