Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food
Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough
Ten Speed Press, $32.50, 297pgs.
Why I'm squeezing it into my overloaded bookshelf: As the grocer and owner of San Francisco's popular market, Sam Mogannam shares his expertise in selecting the best ingredients, deciphering lables and terms, building a well-stocked pantry, and creating community through food. So much more than another book of recipes, Sam provides us with a truly unique and innovative shopper's guide. As a former chef and restaurant owner, he goes beyond encyclopedic knowledge of how to choose the best meat and produce by addressing the practical issues of using specific ingredients in recipes and cooking.
I especially love: Sam takes into account budget restrictions and accessibility to ingredients -- for different products he lists "At the very least, look for:" and "Ideally, look for." I love the ocassional sidebars of featured farmers, ranchers, and producers, as well as the labeled diagrams- apples, citrus, cheese, meat, etc. And because shopping for the food we consume is first a visual experience, I love poring over the stunning photography and easy-to-read text in this book. Oh, and those wilting herbs I see in countless refrigerators? Sam's got a table that instructs exactly how to store each one to keep them vibrant and fresh.
What's a bit annoying: For those looking for a cookbook chock-full of recipes, this isn't the one. This book is definitely text heavy, but the reading is entertaining and informative. And what it lacks in recipe quantity, it makes up ten-fold in quality. The recipes are well-tested, well-written and yield fantastic results. If only all my textbooks in highschool had been this useful...
The next recipe I'll make: I'll be making the Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pistachios and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette for my holiday table because I love that the raw shaved Brussels can be tossed in the warm dressing 30 minutes ahead of time. And next time I can get beef cheeks from my butcher, I'll be braising Beef Cheeks with Lobster Mushrooms. Like most stews, it's a dish that improves the next day, and a meltingly tender beef cheek is hands-down my favorite cut of meat. For a comforting winter dessert, I'll make Cardamom Rice Pudding with Golden Raisins. While most rice pudding recipes require monotonous stirring and staring at a pot, Sam starts this one on the stove and finishes it in the oven!
Caroline Ford is a food stylist, writer & recipe developer in Portland, OR. More of her writing can be found on her blog: Food. Write. Style.