Some Like it Hot
While searching our recipe archive, we realized how many of our favorite recipes feature chili peppers to add both heat and flavor. And, this is reflected in the aisles of our stores by the variety of peppers both, fresh, dried and preserved that we offer to our customers.
The great thing about cooking from scratch is you can adjust the amount of heat in a recipe not only by the amount of pepper you add, but also the type. So, we put together a little primer on the peppers in our store. It is interesting to see both the heat index of the different peppers and also the flavor variations. Hopefully this will help you make creative use of a variety of chilis.
are named after the Southern California city where these not-so-fiery peppers are grown. They are a mild chili that boasts a ton of flavor without the raw burn that comes with other chilis. They’re delicious fresh, charred over an open flame, or roasted in the oven. The peppers are typically green, and large enough that they can be stuffed in
. We carry them fresh in the produce section.
California Chili has a smooth and fruity flavor and is used in a wide variety of Mexican recipes. This mildly hot chili is also known as “chilacas”. It will add a nice color to your favorite dishes. We carry them dried in a bag from Badia.
Fresno Chili is similar to the jalapeño with thinner walls and a milder heat. It is frequently used for ceviche, salsa, and as an accompaniment for beans and rice. The green Fresno chilis are milder than the rip red ones. We carry them fresh in the produce section.
Jalapeño Peppers are found in many Mexican dishes and range in heat. Some varieties are mild and others much spicier. But, they tend not to be face-meltingly spicy. We carry them fresh in the produce section.
Japanese Hot Chili or Japonés Chili is an Asian spice staple often used in Japanese and Chinese cuisines, especially Szechuan and Hunan dishes. They are “fire bringers” – providing heat to a recipe without a lot of flavor complexity that could potentially muddle the overall flavor balance of a dish. They have a moderately high heat index.We carry them fresh in our produce section and dried in a bag from Badia.
New Mexico Chili were first grown by Pueblo and Hispano communities in New Mexico. The flavor has been described as pungent with a subtly sweet, spicy, crisp and smoky taste. The degree of spiciness depends on the variety. We carry them dried in the produce section.
Pasilla Peppers (also called the chilacha pepper when fresh) can be called the chile negro when dried. They are popular in Mexican cuisine for making sauces like moles and salsas. Like all peppers, they have a range of heat and average milder than the jalapeño. We carry them in the produce section both fresh and dried in our produce section as well as dried in a bag from Badia.
Serrano Peppers It’s said that serrano peppers are about five times hotter than jalapeños. Though they pack a punch, serranos are nuanced in flavor as well—some varieties have sweeter flesh while others taste bright and fresh without overwhelming heat.
The word serrano means “of the mountains.” These pepper plants tend to grow in the elevated regions of Mexico. We carry them fresh in the produce section.
Thai Chilis boast one real flavor: intense spice (the kind that will make you fan your mouth and down a glass of milk in record time). Also called bird’s eye chilis, they are commonly found in Southeast Asian cuisine where they complement curries, stir-fries, sauces, and salads. We carry them fresh in the produce section.
Preserved Chili Peppers
Aside from fresh and dried, we also have chili peppers that are shelf stable.
Authentic Calabrian Hot Chili Cherry from Italy's Calabrian region. These Spicy chillies are packed in sun flower seed oil and have a unique flavor to make your Italian dishes spicy.
Pimientos Del Piquillo from Spain are delicious added to paella or served as a simple tapas with a hunk of crusty bread. They have a rich, spicy flavor.
La Costeña Serrano Peppers are convenient, practical and full of flavor. Use them in salsas, guacamole, and any Mexican dish.
Herdez Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce is delicious in chilis, salsas, and chipotle mayonnaise. Chipotles are smoked jalapeños that are canned in a sauce with a variety of seasonings including oregano, vinegar, and garlic.
If you are looking for hot sauce, there are so many to recommend. e have a fantastic variety in the store with many different flavor profiles.
For Harissa, we recommend
Mina that comes in both mild and spicy. And from
Huy Fong Foods we carry their famous Tuong Ot Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce as well as their Chili Garlic Sauce and Simbal Oelek Fresh Chili Paste.
Mother In Law's you can pick up their Fermented Chile Paste Concentrate, Gochujang Fermented Chile Sauce (Tangy), and Gochujang Bibimbap Chile Sauce (Sesame). We also carry their Korean Chile Flakes.
For Indian spice, we carry
Brookyn Delhi's Tomato Achaar Indian Tomato-Chili Sauce (Spicy, Savory, Tangy) and Roasted Garlic Achaar Indian Garlic -Chili Sauce (Spicy, Savory, Lemony, Sweet)
And for Thai recipes,
Lee Kum Kee Thai Style Sweet Chili Sauce is delicious.
Dried Chili Powder
Chiquilín Spanish Paprika is crafted by drying and grinding ripe peppers. It provides nuanced flavor and color to your dishes. We carry their hot, sweet, mild, and smoked
Morton & Bassett we cary an array of their excellent spices including their Guajillo Chile, New Mexico Chile, and Cayenne Pepper.
A Staff Favorite
This week's staff pick is cherries because they are ripe and delicious and cherry season is short. So, get them while they are fresh!
Cherries don't ripen further once they're picked. They are very delicate fruits, bruise easily, and should be treated with care.
Look at the stems of the cherries: those with plump, bendable stems have been picked recently. If the cherry stems are shriveled and brittle, the cherries are older and will be past their prime before long.
Choose cherries with stems still attached; this helps them maintain their freshness.
Select cherries with firm, smooth, unblemished skin, and buy only as many as you plan to eat in the next few days.
For best results, store them refrigerated in a plastic bag with holes in it, and don't wash your cherries until you're ready to use them.
Here are some of our favorite cherry recipes from our archives.
Almond Stone Fruit Tart
is perfect for a celebration. It takes some time to make, and we have marked where it is possible to prepare some of the steps a day or so in advance for ease of assembly.
is great for brunch or a light dessert. We like to make our Cherry Clafoutis in a blender—it is so fast!
Quick and Easy Fruit Cobbler
Both tapioca flour and Instant ClearJel are good choices for thickening. They keep the fruit’s juice clear and the fruit flavor true. The resulting color and flavor are spectacular.
News & Events
We have had some beautiful tomatillos at the market lately and keep taking them home to try new dishes like this recipe for Pork Chile Verde.
Tomatillos look like little green tomatoes, usually sold wrapped in their thin, papery husks. When choosing tomatillos, get firm, smooth ones that aren’t too loose in the husk. To cook with them, remove the husks and rinse off the sticky residue before using them.
The tomatillo is also known as the Mexican husk tomato and, like tomatoes, is a member of the nightshade family. These small, green or green-purple fruit originated in Mexico and were cultivated in the pre-Columbian era. A staple of Mexican cuisine, they are eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes, particularly (our favorite) salsa verde.
Mexican salsa verde is a tart, vibrantly green sauce with a base of tomatillos, chiles, and cilantro. Our recipe for Roasted Salsa Verde is full of flavor and extremely versatile. While tomato-based salsas are popular, salsa verde translates into green salsa—with the green color coming from the tomatillos.
Tomatillos lend acidity to this salsa, so no lime is needed. For the fresh chile pepper, choose between a jalapeño or serrano. Serranos run spicier. (Just remember, with either pepper, remove the seeds!) The garlic and onion add deep, savory notes, and chopped cilantro brings freshness.
From our blog, The Kitchen Table
Netflix and Chile Verde
Last week I made something I haven’t made in…forever. Pork Chile Verde. I love Chile Verde but it takes a while. So, it’s not something that frequently graces my dinner table. I tend to only order it when we go to a restaurant for Mexican. In this instance, I had boneless pork shoulder in the freezer that kept getting in my way and driving me nuts. And I wanted to figure out what to do with it beyond the usual pulled pork.
On impulse, I bought a bunch of tomatillos and brought them home for no other reason than I was bored with the usual stuff, (And, they were in a basket next to the jalapeños and Anaheim chiles which are a veggie drawer staple in my house.) I had no idea what I was going to do with the tomatillos but having them on hand must have lead me to the whole Chile Verde epiphany.
The urge to make Chile Verde sent me into this somewhat manic desire to create an entire experience like going to our favorite Mexican restaurant. I made the Mexican rice and the refried beans as well as the tortillas. I even went so far as to make flan for dessert. (So worth it!). I mean, it’s not like I had anything else to do so why not? If we can’t go out to eat, then we’ll do it at home with plenty of margaritas in the blender.
The key to this dish is meat that isn’t too lean which is why pork shoulder is great. You gotta have the fat or it will be dry.
A Staff Favorite
These extra-thick, restaurant-style El Molino Tortilla Chips are a perennial staff favorite. They are soooo flavorful and fresh. Imagine biting into a delicious restaurant tortilla chip, but miraculously, you just pulled them out of a grocery bag! That’s El Molino quality.
Our customers love them, too. We buy them by the pallet full and sell them all day, every day.
And if you are looking for some delicious guac to serve up, check out our recipe for
There ain’t nothin’ better than fresh guacamole with fresh chips. Amy's is so easy to make. Just make sure the avocados are super ripe…but not brown.
A Cookbook Recommendation
By Thomas Schnetz and Dona Savitsky
Ninety recipes for delicious Mexican food anytime of the day from the beloved Oakland restaurant
Delicious dining and simple word-of-mouth have turned Dona Tomas into a destination where happy patrons line up nightly to sample chef Thomas Schnetz's authentic Mexican cooking. Schnetz, along with his partner, Dona Savitsky, have studied the regional cooking of Mexico, including dishes from Oaxaca, Veracruz, and the Yucatan, to craft a menu that is a mouth-watering tribute to the diversity of Mexican cuisines.
Dona Savitsky was the head chef at Café Marimba in San Francisco before opening Doña Tomás in Oakland and Tacubaya in Berkeley. Thomas Schnetz formerly worked at Bizou in San Francisco and is currently a partner and head chef at Doña Tomás.
Recipes include: Sweet Tamale with Fresh Corn and Pineapple; Sopa Tortilla; Crab, Chile, and Lime Taquitos with Avocado Salsa; Long-Cooked Green Beans with Chorizo; Halibut Cheeks Veracruzano; Slow-Roasted Lamb in Banana Leaves with Ancho-Guajillo Chile Sauce; Crème Fraîche Cake with Blackberries, Cinnamon, and Pecans
…(a) knockout on every level…one of the most appealing Mexican cookbooks ever published.
–-Los Angeles Times
News & Events
During this pandemic we have become highly aware of the frequency in which we eat—preparing three meals a day at home is rife with challenge. And, it helps to see what others are preparing. Here is a short list of videos of chefs cooking in their home kitchens that includes some great recipes.
Samin Nosrat shows you how to make a stellar lasagne. You can follow along as she walks you through the process from her Berkeley kitchen. We find this video so charming as she fumbles with her technology and balances the spinach on the trash can.
Tejal Rao, The New York Times’s California restaurant critic, can’t show you her face (to remain anonymous for restaurant reviews). But, she does show you how to make perfect dosa and aloo masala—something we didn't realize we could ever make at home.
"From my Ranch to Your Kitchen"
Mrs. Angela, a Mexican abeula, shows us that culinary legacy can be shared beautifully through social networks. She teaches mouth-watering homemade recipes to transmit the Culinary legacy from generation to generation.
Most of her videos have subtitles, but non-Spanish speakers can learn a lot even from the ones without. We are fascinated by her simple, rustic kitchen and tools as well as the ranch where she grows her food.
King Arthur baker Martin and his son Arlo are
in their home kitchen during the pandemic. We need to have these Flourless Fudge Cookies in our lives and thought you might too.
Yewande Komolafe is a recipe writer who grew up in Lagos and a regular recipe developer for NYT Cooking. Here, she's making her Yam and Plantain Curry With Crispy Shallots, a take on Nigerian asaro, the Yoruba word for a dish of starchy root vegetables simmered in a seasoned tomato and chile-based sauce. Simply gorgeous!
And, for the power of cuteness, you might just want to follow this short chef on Instagram (@kobe_yn) or Youtube. Kobe has unmatched enthusiasm for cooking. And, although you might not be able to duplicate his recipes, you will cheer each time he manages to dump the ingredients into the bowl.
A Staff Favorite
Monin’s Syrups can instantly transform a drink from ordinary to extraordinary.
We have found that Monin Flavoring Syrups have the most balanced flavor and sweetness of any syrups we have tried. There is nothing artificial tasting about them. They are perfectly smooth and not too sweet or strong. This is why so many chef stores and good coffee shops carry Monin.
What started over a century ago in a small town in France has become a global reputation for quality. Try them in your cocktails, teas, lemonades, to flavor sparkling wines and, of course, Italian Sodas.
Experiment with dressings, marinades, sauces, and dessert recipes, for delicious creations. The Monin website has a great collection of culinary recipes exploring ways to cook using the syrups.
From our blog, The Kitchen Table
Nothin' But Time
So here we are at the end of May still with a lot of time on our hands. If you planted a veggie garden at the beginning of all this, time may not be all that you have on your hands. My tomatoes have been going crazy, and even more so with the recent heat. I don’t have any actual tomatoes yet but they are definitely coming. What I do have are cucumbers.
I love cucumbers. I use them in salads, obviously, but I really like to use them by slicing them up and putting them along with a fresh mint sprig in a pitcher of water to keep in the fridge. The cold cucumber water is especially refreshing on hot days.
The best use for an over-abundance of cucumbers is, of course, pickles. These Garlic Dill Pickles are my favorite but sometimes the same old thing gets, well, old. My sister is big into pickling and has a number of favorite recipes—but the one I think she uses the most is the turmeric pickle recipe from the Mustard’s Grill Napa Valley cookbook that we highlighted for one of our Cookbook club dinners. Mustard’s is a Napa Valley icon and, since things seem to be opening up in those parts, it might be worth a trip in the weeks to come…
In the meantime, try these pickles if you have the inclination. They are excellent when made with both cucumbers or zucchini which means you will always have a way to handle an over-producing garden. I like to add a dried chili in there for a little extra kick….
News & Events
We are over two months into this shelter-in-place order and we seem to be going to the internet for every part of our life—work, entertainment, socializing, recipes, exercise classes, and as a quick fix for boredom. It is becoming painfully evident that this is not the ideal way to experience life! We're connected yet disconnected and it all feels weird.
Now, we get the irony of composing this post on our devices and posting it to social media. But, how else to get the word out?
What are you doing to make certain you spend time connecting to actual reality instead of the screen? Here are a few ideas to get started.
1. Set up an outdoor living space. This could be in your own yard or balcony or a cozy spot at your local park. Grab a book, a blanket, and get takeout from one of
your favorite spots on the Avenue
and spend some time in the fresh air.
2. Get some dirt under your fingernails. We are discovering ways to use our outdoor spaces more and
digging in your garden
—this (could be the back 40, the local community garden, or even some planters on your windowsill or balcony.
3. Head for the hills. Take a nice long hike or urban walk. There are rumors of more parking becoming available at trailheads, but we are not there yet. So, we need to stick close to home for our walks. It is a great time to get out the map and discover some new routes.
4. Get Crafty. Many of us have jumped on the face mask wave and started sewing. But, beyond masks there is a world of crafts waiting for us to engage in—everything from beading (
Blue Door Beads
is doing curbside pickup) to
knitting and crocheting,
adult coloring books
. Maybe it is time to learn a new skill or dust off an old one?
5. Go to an old-fashioned drive-in.
The West Wind Theater
in Concord is now open for drive-in movies once again. They are showing double-features for both adults and kids. They have digital projectors and the audio is sent directly to your car's stereo.
6. Start a family dance party with your favorite playlist—this even works if it is just you and the cats! SF MOMA has put together a
on Spotify for the online fatigued.
7. Write a letter, do a drawing and send it via snail mail. Support our U.S. Post Office.
8. We never thought we would be recommending this, but play
Dungeons and Dragons
. Granted, you need to be living with a group of willing people to get started. But, it can be both creative and fun!
From our blog, The Cocktail Post
This cocktail balances the bold flavor of mezcal with the brightness of hibiscus and ginger. It is the perfect drink for warm weather and delicious to sip while watching the sunset.
News & Events
YBG Festival Turns 20!
2020 marks the 20th anniversary year of Yerba Buena Gardens Festival! Every week they are releasing videos that delve into the Festival’s history and celebrate the power of live, outdoor performances. The first Festival memory is a lively festival highlights video from 2011.
Follow Yerba Buena Gardens Festival on Facebook and Instagram (@ybgfestival) to watch a new video every week.
If you are missing the Festival this year, check out their all-star staff profiles on social media to get to know the amazing humans who make Yerba Buena Gardens Festival possible.
The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival presents free music, theater, dance, cultural events, educational and children’s programs, reflecting the cultures and creativity of the region. In May through October the Festival presents nearly 100 programs in Yerba Buena Gardens.
From our blog, The Kitchen Table
Until yesterday, I had no clue that this weekend is Memorial Day Weekend. Let’s be real. I even struggled to try to remember that it was Wednesday today. Every day feels like the same day on repeat. It is, in fact, groundhog day. I don’t really feel there is much of a difference between Tuesday and Saturday and I am pretty sure I am not the only one.
So, Memorial Day…
Theoretically, it is the unofficial beginning of Summer. Any other year we’d be packing for a tournament and figuring what to throw on the grill when we got home. This year?
I’m sure you all will forgive me for my lack of enthusiasm. It’s becoming harder and harder to be excited about what I am making for dinner. Call it culinary lethargy. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just as some restrictions are slowly being lifted around the state, stone fruits are starting to make their appearance in the produce department. Hurray!
Yep, the arrival of cherries, apricots, and early peaches and nectarines are just the thing to get me excited again. In fact, these two recipes got my mouth-watering to the point of embarrassment just by looking at them.
Grilled Apricots with Burrata, Country Ham and Arugula
can also be made with plums, peaches, and pears (depending on the season). And our recipe for Grilled Apricot and Ricotta Tartine is the bomb.
From there it was not hard to picture snacking on either while enjoying this weekend’s warm weather on my back patio, cold beverage in hand…Voila!
Memorial Day Weekend saved!
Recipes from Our Archives
From our blog, The Kitchen Table
One thing that is obvious as we pool through our recipe archive is our affinity for cooking with spice. There are so many that it is hard to choose! So, here is our best attempt at a list of favorite recipes that highlight chili peppers for added flavor.
So many of our favorite dished get their inspiration from Mexico.
is a breakfast dish that also makes a great dinner. It’s spicy, cheesy, crispy goodness piled high on your plate.
Spicy Mushroom Tamales
are time consuming, yes, but oh so worth it. Serve them with some tasty beans and a salad.
Slow-Cooker Chicken Mole
What is great about this delicious recipe is the ease of preparation. It is perfect to do in the morning, and find a simmering pot of mole when you get home from a day’s work.
From our blog, The Cocktail Post
It is not too big a leap in flavor from kombucha to cocktail, and this recipe for the Kombucha Mule is a great jumping-off point. Kombucha’s tangy-tart flavor has a bit of fizz and translates well into this simple to prepare beverage.
The classic Moscow Mule is a mixture of vodka, lime, and ginger beer that is often served in a copper mug. We garnish our Kombucha Mule with some sliced, fresh ginger to punch up the ginger flavor.
Vendor of the Month
Mi Rancho combines ancient, old-world authenticity with innovative, state-of-the-art equipment to produce great tasting tortillas. Mi Rancho’s heritage-style baking and commitment to authenticity comes through in every tortilla.
When Mi Rancho first opened on Seventh Street in Oakland in 1939, it was the only Mexican grocery store in the area, drawing people from all around to purchase fresh hand-made tortillas, hot food, and goods from the Mexican bakery.
Mi Rancho continued to grow once they began supplying tortillas and chips to local restaurants, and it soon became clear that the future of Mi Rancho was as a premium tortilla manufacturer. Today Mi Rancho produces over 4.5 million tortillas a day!
What we have in the store
Currently, we are carrying a nice variety of Mi Rancho Tortillas including Organic Flour Tortillas both small and large, Organic Corn Tortillas, Organic Corn Taco Sliders, Authentic Flour Tortillas Burrito Size, Authentic Flour Tortillas Soft Taco Size, and Authentic Flour Tortillas Fajita Size.
How to Heat Mi Rancho Tortillas
For optimal performance and flavor, gradually bring tortillas to room temperature before use.
Hot pan or skillet–Add a small amount of butter or oil to your hot skillet, then place your tortillas and allow them to heat for about 30 seconds on each side.
Open flame–We recommend heating the tortilla over an open flame for optimal results, making the tortilla quite flexible.
Temporary Store Hours During Shelter-in-Place
10 AM to 8 PM
Special shopping hour for seniors
9 AM to 10 AM
We will update you with any new hours as the shelter-in-place situation unfolds.
4038 Piedmont Ave.
Oakland, CA 94611
Visit our recipe blog to learn what Amy, our VP and resident foodie, is cooking up in her home kitchen.