Summer is still in full swing despite the kids heading back to school and it being “Faugust” here in the San Francisco Bay Area. When the peppers are nice and sweet it’s great to make this Italian style relish and have it on hand. Traditionally it is made with tomatoes and basil but Laura omits these in her recipe and adds a little acid by using rice wine vinegar. You can use it on bruschetta, sandwiches, as a topping for fish or toss it with pasta. This little quick relish packs a flavorful punch!
- Prep time: 10 minutes
- Cook time: 10 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4 to 6
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
- 2 yellow bell peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
- 1 medium red onion, sliced into half-moons
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon cane sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- Lemon juice
1 Sauté the onions: Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions. Sprinkle with a little salt and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the onions just begin to color.
2 Add the peppers: Add the peppers and stir well to combine with the onions. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. The peppers should be al dente—cooked, but with a little crunch left in them.
3 Add the garlic, capers: Add the garlic and capers, and sauté another 1 minute.
4 Add sugar, oregano, rice wine vinegar: Add the sugar,dried oregano and rice wine vinegar. Cook 1 minute.
6 Add salt, black pepper, lemon juice: Turn off the heat and adjust your salt amount. Grind some black pepper over everything. Right before serving squeeze a little lemon juice over the dish.
Satsumas have a sweet/tart flavor and suprememely refreshing juice. With its smooth, thin, lightly attached skin, satsumas are wildly popular at this time of year.
History: Satsumas may have originated in China but they were first reported in Japan more than 700 years ago.
The ‘Owari’ Satsuma arrived to the United States from Japan, first in 1876 and next in 1878. During the period 1908-1911, nearly a million budded trees from 1908 to 1911 for planting in the Gulf States. The first recorded introduction into the United States was in Florida by George R. Hall in 1876. The name “satsuma” is credited to the wife of a United States minister to Japan, who sent trees home in 1878 from a place that was then called, Satsuma, on the southern tip of Kyushu Island, where it is believed to have originated.
For the next couple months we will be introducing seasonal citrus varieties to our stores on a regular basis. Please swing by our Produce Department, enjoy a tasty sample and experience how amazing California citrus can be when grown organically and harvested at perfect ripeness!
Small batch, handmade, organic crackers made in Berkeley?
That’s exactly what Cory (long time employee of Berkeley Natural Grocery) said to Birgitta when she told him about her made-from-scratch crackers crafted from a Swedish friend’s recipe.
Birgitta is a long time (30 + years) shopper at our Berkeley store. For years, she bought the same superfood ingredients from our bulk bins. After chatting and recipe sharing with staff, she brought the team at Berkeley Natural (BNG) samples of her crackers. They were hooked. Birgitta and her partner Dianna credit Cory and the BNG team with inspiring them to start their small business.
The recipe originated with Birgitta’s friend in Sweden whose daughter is a very picky eater. When she finally discovered a winning combination that even her daughter appreciated, she shared it with Birgitta. While Birgitta and Dianna have altered the recipe a bit (most dramatically dropping the olive oil in favor of coconut oil), the Swedish roots are strong.
The flower on the label is a traditional Swedish decoration. Their label and logo designer lives on an island in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. The heritage (and inspiration) for these crackers points back to the majestic northern lands of the Baltic.
Cracker culture in Sweden is endless, with entire aisles dedicated to the craft. Everybody buys and bakes crackers. People commonly eat crackers with every meal whether paired with pickled herring, caviar, cheese, smoked meat, gravlax or soup.
The key to Birgitta’s leap into full time cracker production happened while selling Swedish ovenware. She was going to product shows and would bring her crackers along for snacks and meals. Everybody wanted the crackers more than the ovenware. With that nudge and the continued encouragement from Cory and the Berkeley Natural Team, Birgitta teamed up with Dianna (who has a culinary degree) to forge what is now Cult Crackers.
Together, they met the folks at Muffin Revolution and subleased kitchen space from them. That afforded them the chance (in a certified gluten-free kitchen) to produce more volume and become a registered business. When Muffin Revolution outgrew the space, they offered the lease to Cult Crackers. While it was a big jump, they accepted. And thank goodness they did!
These two ladies started their official Cult Cracker journey in June. Berkeley Natural Grocery was store number one, and now they are in ten stores throughout the Bay Area!
The crackers are delightful. At their kitchen, we snacked on them with Mitica Drunken Goat cheese and Crofters Jam. With a box to take home, I shared the crackers with my five year old son (and felt great about it!). He loved them with butter and salami.
We are so excited to carry their crackers at both stores so that you can try them sometime soon!
I love entertaining at home. Compared to dining out, it’s more personal, relaxed, and affordable.
As a former restaurant manager and sommelier, I have a few tips to help you pull it off effortlessly at a moment’s notice.
I find it helpful to stock up (12 or so bottles) and have diverse inventory on hand. At Annex Wine & Beer, we offer a 10% discount if you buy a case or more. Couple that with some bargain items like our Closerie des Lys Blanc for $8.99, and you get great savings. That makes racing through bottles a little easier to swallow!
Wine Shopping list:
- Copious amounts of rosé! Most are delicious with or without food. That makes it a great “cocktail wine” for impromptu visits from friends.
- A yummy white to please your friend who just wants something cold and easy to drink. We have lots to choose from in the $10 price range.
- An affordable red for those who only go for the darker juice. Again, we have a ton in the $10 to $15 range. And remember, you get 10% off if you buy a case. Mixing and matching wine is just fine!
- Reds to complement grilled items. The caramelization that happens on steaks and veggies alike calls for Pinot Noir. Try the Domaine Girard Pinot Noir from France ($12.99), Klee from Oregon ($17.99) or The Gardener Pinot Noir from right here in Sonoma ($25).
- Sparkling wine (Prosecco, Crémant, Champagne) to have on hand for a celebratory start to the gathering or mimosas in the late morning.
Our wine specialists at the Annex can help you curate a terrific summer drinking list with both familiar favorites and new varietals!
Food Prep and Shopping Suggestions:
These finger friendly bread based snacks are great for noshing at formal and informal gatherings.
Step 1: Slice 1 to 2 loaves of French bread (try an Acme baguette) into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.
Step 2: Brush each slice with olive oil (Burroughs Family Farms Bulk Olive Oil is on sale right now. And it’s delicious!) or melted butter (I love how affordable and tasty the Cadia butter is)
Step 3: Place the rounds on baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees until crisp throughout and lightly golden around the edges, about 15 minutes.
1. Spread with Coeur Chevre organic fresh goat cheese, orange marmalade (try one from Frog Hollow or Full Belly Farms, both are located right across from the cheese section) and fresh mint.
2. Spread with fig jam (Inna just delivered their black mission fig jam!), top with blue cheese (Farmstead Original Blue) and prosciutto (try La Quercia) or ham (I love True Story).
3. Spread with fig jam, top with goat cheese and chopped walnuts (grab a bunch from our bulk bins).
4. Spread with butter, top with thinly sliced bread-and-butter pickles (Woodstock or Cadia are both great choices).
5. Spread with hummus (grab our Annex made pre-packed Hummus), top with olive tapenade (try the Divina Kalamata olive spread).
These toppings are all items that are fairly easy to either keep in stock or grab quickly from one of our stores.
Here’s to happy, memory-making gatherings!
Burroughs Family Farms – Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
We recently started selling Burroughs Family Farms organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed extra-virgin organic olive oil [aka EVOO]. This exemplary family-owned farm, situated in the Sierra foothills below Yosemite, is one of our favorite regional producers. We already source quality pastured eggs, organic cheese, and almonds from their property. The Burroughs Family Olive Oil is a blend of Arbeqina, Arbosana and Gretchenina olives (originally from Spain). The oil has a pleasant fruitiness with hints of grassy undertones. It is very versatile and may be used in sauces, salad dressings, as a topping to bread and for low heat cooking.
Here is what Burroughs Family Farms says about their oil:
Our olives are first cold-pressed at temperatures that do not exceed 80 degrees F. This protects the polyphenols, antioxidants, and vitamins that give the oil its nutritional value and its aroma and flavor.
Why extra-virgin olive oil?
- EVOO is known to contain stronger concentrations of phytonutrients (especially polyphenols) that have well-known anti-inflammatory properties
- EVOO supports blood vessels not only by providing antioxidants like vitamin E and beta-carotene, but also also providing unique molecules like HT that actually work at a genetic level to help the cellular walls of the blood vessels remain strong.
- Cholesterol lowering and blood pressure lowering benefits of monounsaturated oil (olive oil contains 75%)
High quality extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of around 405ºF (191ºC), making it ideal for lower temperature cooking such as light sautés and non-cooked uses such as dressing salads and dipping bread. Such uses protect the nutritional value and beneficial qualities of the oil.
Why California Olive Oil?
As with wine, it has taken years for people to discover that some of the world’s finest olive oils are produced in California. Our family owned and operated farms rest on the rolling hills near Yosemite National Park, where the combination of the moderate Mediterranean climate with good soils and water grows some of the world’s finest quality olives.
Buying California olive oils vs. imports supports our farm economy, and California olive oils have a lower carbon-footprint because their shipping distance is much shorter than that of imports.
Conservation on our farms
Ours is not the easiest way to grow olives, but we think it’s best for our land and for our family who lives and works here. From organic production to state-of-the-art irrigation systems, we do whatever we can to protect air, soil, and water from herbicides, pesticides, petrochemical nitrogen fertilizers, and genetically-modified organisms. All that, plus our hedgerows of native plants support the health of native species and bees who have the most important job – the pollination of the olive flowers.
We do it for the future of our farms. For you, it’s deliciousness and more.
Burroughs Family Olive Oil is certified annually by the California Olive Oil Council (COOC). Year after year it’s labeled “extra-virgin” by the council. To get the seal the oil is lab tested and undergoes a critical analysis by an expert panel. The trained sensory panel (think of these people as the sommeliers of olive oil) ensure that the oil is free of defects in flavor or odor. In the U.S., many oils are labeled “extra-virgin” but do not undergo any such testing.
St. John’s Family Farm was founded in 2006. They are located about 40 minutes from Chico and 1 1/2 hours from Sacramento. Their farm is tucked away on a quiet country road, surrounded by nut trees.
Their hens are all pasture raised, free to explore, chase bugs and snack on hearty green grasses. Three times a day, they are served freshly mixed (corn and soy) Non-GMO feed. In their spacious mobile coops, they lay beautiful brown eggs and roost for the evening. It’s pretty bucolic.
Recently they went through the process of becoming Non-GMO verified. And we are thrilled with their new certification! Same tasty eggs, newly verified.
When we visited the farm, it was easy to tell why these eggs are so delicious and why the yolks are so intensely flavorful. The hens roam in wide open spaces, are gently treated by the staff and family and kept safe (mostly from foxes) by some amazing (and cute) guard dogs.
Try their eggs next time to stop by our stores and help support an amazing family and their animals by purchasing delicious eggs!
Every summer our customers and employees anxiously await the arrival of the best tasting tomatoes we have all year. The Dry Farmed Early Girl. But what is dry farming and why do these tomatoes taste so much better than the others? Dry farmed tomatoes are planted during the last rains of spring and never watered again. Their root systems go deep (up to 30 feet) into rich organic earth to get water. This extensive root system also picks up extra minerals, thus creating a very flavorful tomato. Dry farming is all about conserving and retaining soil moisture to support the crops without supplemental irrigation. A drawback is that dry farming creates smaller yields to those crops grown using irrigation, but the flavors can’t be beat! Dry farmed tomatoes are usually smaller because the plant spends a lot of it’s growth potential on it’s root system. This causes the plant to produce an intensely flavored, meaty tomato.
There are also environmental benefits to dry farming. Dry-farmed growers are reducing water use by not irrigating. Further, as water resources in California become scarcer and more strictly regulated, growers will also find themselves exempt from these water regulations, since they are not using irrigation water, or, in most cases, water for frost protection. Dry farming is the way crops were grown in the United States more than 100 years ago. Tomatoes are also not the only crop that are dry farmed. Right now we have local Dry farmed Macintosh apples from Watsonville and a great selection of dry farmed wines at the Annex! Among these are 3 wines from Yamakiri Vineyards here in California. Papillion de Nuit, a Syrah, is grown on the Mendocino ridge. Yamakiri Sauvignon Blanc is grown in the Yorkville Highlands and the Yamakiri Rose is grown in the Anderson Valley. There is also a dry farmed, Biodynamic wine at the Annex right now. Enrique Mendoza’s La Tremenda is grown in Alicante, Spain.
Come on down to The Natural Grocery Company and stock up on all of our dry farmed goodness! Remember, dry farming = great flavors!
By, Casey Goode, ECNG Produce Manager