When it comes to creating your own palette of flavor in the kitchen, we often head to our carefully curated spice rack as the source of inspiration (or, in my case, a cabinet full of disorganized spice bottles standing in front of an embarrassing pile of crooked twisty-ties and plastic baggies full of mislabeled herbs and powders). But I often overlook my cooking oil and vinegar selections’ potential to impact a dish. Is there anything so sublime as a simple splash of extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and fresh ground peppercorn on a bright green salad?
That’s why I’m so grateful for the special varieties of oils and vinegars we’re featuring in Bulk Foods this month. To be able to buy as much or as little of all these varieties is a perfect way to try flavors. First, consider the balsamic varieties.
Balsamic vinegar is a dark, intensely flavored vinegar originating in Italy, made with grape “must,” which is freshly crushed grape juice with the skins, seeds and stems. Making must is the first step in making wine. And now amazing things are happening with balsamic.
Bourbon, for instance. Bourbon Balsamic Vinegar makes for a bold and interesting twist in a glaze for grilling red meat. It has the subtle flavors of well-aged bourbon — think notes of vanilla, fruity spiciness and a subtle hint of charred aging barrels — without the boozy overtones of a full bottle of whiskey.
The Glazed Onion Balsamic Vinegar is another savory selection, with an intoxicating mix of sweet, caramelized onion and aged balsamic. A rich variety that complements braised meats as you’d expect, but the sweet-onion flavor works beautifully with pasta dishes, too. Also try it as a marinade for an amazing (dare I say life-changing?) take on grilled burgers.
And for a bright, sweeter experience, the Blackberry Balsamic Vinegar is perfect for salads, veggies, fish and poultry. Made in Modena, Italy, this vinegar is blended with real fruit juice. Add a healthy drizzle to some premium vanilla ice cream for a dinner party finale that your friends will be asking you about for months! Great as the key ingredient in a vinaigrette over room-temp asparagus.
And what’s happening in the olive oil world? If you’re looking for a high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil for your everyday drizzling needs, our organic Arbequina is the answer. The nutty flavor bears hints of ripe apple, cinnamon and hay (it’s not just for horses anymore!). The Arbequina also is certified organic, kosher-friendly, and milled from 100% California olives.
When you stop in Bulk Foods, feel free to bring your own favorite bottle, too! Or you can fill a smaller container and explore all of our different varieties without the big commitment of a whole bottle. Just make sure to ask someone from Bulk Foods or the check stand to weigh it first — AKA the “tare” weight — so you don’t pay for your own container. And don’t worry if you didn’t bring a bottle; we’ve got affordable bottles available for purchase.
G&S Farms Corn: A Summer Legend
Sweet corn from G&S Farms in California has been a summer staple for our Produce Markets for so long that we’re sometimes guilty of taking it for granted. Not smart! This is not your run-of-the-mill corn on the cob.
For years, Glenn Stonebarger, the third-generation Brentwood, Calif. farmer, has made an arrangement with Joe Pulicicchio, our Director of Produce and Floral, to select only the most tender, plump and sweet corn varieties available at harvest.
And here’s where it gets interesting; fresh-picked corn actually heats up before cooling down. Crazy, right? That rise in temperature actually causes the kernels to get starchy and tough while it waits around for somebody to eat it.
Not G&S corn, though. Glenn ices the ears right after the harvest, keeping that temperature right where it needs to be. So those delicious yellow ears arrive in our Produce Markets tasting about as a perfect as a summer sunset.
So when you’re craving a little corn shuckin’ this summer, be sure to throw something extra special on the grill. You’ll taste the difference.
The blueberries are plump and sweet now, and the salmon plentiful, so why not some Corn and Blueberry Relish? Please?
Our very own cheese whiz, Shauna Howell, offers up a cheese worth discovering.
Beemster Graskaas - Graskaas is only available once a year and even then, it’s not around for long. It’s the first cheese make of the year, crafted after the cows are put out to the pasture, so it’s richer and creamier than most.
It’s also young and, oh, so meltable — just perfect for a hot sandwich or topped on pasta. The milky freshness of this young cheese really comes through. So don’t dally because before you know it our short supply of first-of-the-season, grass-fed Dutch cheese from Beemster will be gone. Look for the pale-green waxed cheese among all the Goudas in the cheese case.
And if you want to giggle like a 5-year old, take a look at the cows leaving the barn at Beemster after a long cold winter.
Chris Allen is a copywriter and assistant marketer with Town & Country Markets. He’s a former contributing editor, radio anchor and producer, and an Air Force veteran. He’s also mastered the art of chopping red onions with one hand while sipping a dry Tempranillo in the other.