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Toronto Heatwave

Toronto Heatwave

Clustered on your tongue, in your mouth and on your skin are thousands of TRPV1 thermoreceptors. Their function is to kick into action at temperatures about 43C and above to initiate a pain response and trigger some protective measures to try to cool us down and dissipate the heat - things like producing sweat.

Now, by complete accident it turns out that a couple of non-heat-related enzymes also bond to these receptors - one of them being capsaicin, the active ingredient in chilli peppers. That's why we perceive spicy foods as "hot". They're not really. It's an illusion created by those TRPV1 receptors!

So why do human beings deliberately subject themselves to that pain response by eating spicy food and adding capsaicin-rich sauces to all foods? One theory floating around the scientific community is that prolonged exposure to capsaicin causes a desensitization of the TRPV1 receptors. ie., eat more spicy food and feel the actual heat a little bit less!

Given the successive heatwaves that have hit Toronto this summer - and global warming trends in general - maybe one response is to amp up your intake of hot sauce. Toronto produces some exceptional hot sauces and spicy condiments from a number of different traditions - including Okazu fermented sesame chilli and Mado's Dominican pepper sauce, both featured here on the blog in recent posts - but the flag-bearer for the recent explosion of heatwaves of flavour in this city has got to be No. 7 Mexican Hot Sauces.

Founded in the Junction Triangle in 2013 by the husband and wife team of Sandra and Carlos Flores, they offer a line of hot sauces ranging "from Mild to Wild" with no added preservatives, sodium or sugar. They are soy/dairy free, gluten-free, peanut-free, as well as vegan. Try the sweeter Pasilla (made with tequila!) or the smoky Chipotle or challenge yourself to the Habanero-Ghost Pepper blend (softened somewhat by the presence of cauliflower and carrot in the mix).

Remember, you may be preparing your body to handle the heatwaves still to come!

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Mado's in the Shados

Mado's Pepper Sauce

If you're a regular Mercantile customer, you probably know Mado's Pepper Sauce and it's likely you've heard one of us tell you it's beautiful Toronto origin story: for years Erin Dowse of the Old York Tavern on lower Niagara St. had been buying it by the bucket-load from a Dominican-Canadian named Elizabeth Madonis who made it in her bathtub in Ajax. As word spread and demand grew, Elizabeth had trouble keeping up with the orders so Erin bought the rights to the recipe and commercialized the operation. It has become a legendary condiment, made according to the original recipe with pumpkin, papaya, scotch bonnets and cider vinegar for the perfect balance of sweet and hot and tart and umami.

And we're not the only enthusiasts. People come from various parts of town knowing we're a source for this beloved and versatile local favourite. And those who love it love it a lot - never wanting to be down more than a bottle and a half in the pantry and fridge. We've been saying for ages that if Erin wanted to take Mado's global, it could easily hold its own with HP and Sriracha and the rest of them. 

While most producers struggle to get a minute with the big distributors and grocery chains, lately they've been knocking on Erin's door and Mado's is poised to get a whole new profile. Just remember, you knew Mado's when you could only get it here and a handful of other shops around town.

So in celebration of the success of Mado's so far and the success yet to come, here's a recipe for something we've been doing with it lately:

Mado's Glazed Chicken Thighs

6-10 boneless skinless chicken thighs
6 ounces Mado's Pepper Sauce, divided
1/2 cup yogurt
2 Tbsp honey or sugar
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
flaked salt to finish

Mix the yogurt and half of the Mado's in a bowl and toss in the chicken thighs to coat. Marinate in the fridge for an hour or two - longer if you like.

In a small sauce pan, combine the rest of the Mado's with the honey or sugar, vinegar and salt and simmer until it reduces substantially. You're done when it starts to look like a thick glaze.

Take the thighs out of the marinade mixture and shake off any excess. Lay them on foil or Silpat in a baking sheet and paint with the glaze mixture.

Put the tray on the top shelf of the oven under a hot broiler (or on the hot part of the BBQ grill if you're outdoors) and cook for 5 minutes per side, until you see the sugar in the glaze start to bubble.

Top with a few flakes of Maldon salt and maybe some chopped parsley or coriander and serve with rice and veg or a crispy fruity salad and you are good to go.

You're welcome.

Long Live Mado's!

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