A Non-punny Headline Pertaining to Nut Products!

Sante nuts

Seriously, even Santé's website succumbs to the temptation in a couple of spots but we are going to boldly resist any mention of "showing off our nuts" or talking about a product we're "just nuts about"...... Ooops!

Anyway, the point is that nuts are a delicious and nutritious food that are great for snacking or using as an ingredient. These delights from a family owned and operated business in Santa Clara (they're across the street from the Intel Museum and a short drive Google's HQ... Google it!)  are great for either - from the sweet and spicy pecans to the candied walnuts to the cardamom-flavoured cashews (our particular favourite, in fact). 

They're so delicious you'll be tempted to just snack the whole bag but take a moment to visit the aforementioned website for some really great recipe ideas for how to incorporate these nuts as an accent to a variety of healthy dishes (we made the Roasted Cabbage Wedges with Pecan Crumbles and they were amazing!)

Signing off unpunnily until next week!

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For the Kid in Dad (or just for the kids)

Assorted Ice Pop Molds

We admit it, we were caught off guard. 

Remember a few weeks ago when there was that heat wave in May? We had put out our stock of various ice pop molds just to remind people we had them, really, but within a week they were mostly gone. So we immediately placed an order for more and of course it turned cold again. Which is fine because there was a delay in the delivery. But as the official start of summer looms, we're glad to report that ice pop molds are back in stock in a variety of shapes and manufacturers.

Choose the Onyx stainless steel models for durability (and for a household where you don't need a lot of them!) or go with the fun shapes and different sizes from Tovolo. There are plenty of choices, now you just need to decide what flavours to make! For a guide to some great flavours and combinations - from kid favourites to healthy alternatives to boozy adults-only versions, check out these recipes.

And don't forget that Father's Day is this weekend. If you don't think he'd like popsicle molds, maybe something in the BBQ or hot sauce department? But don't limit yourself, the options are endless, as always, at the Mercantile.

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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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RECIPE: Okazu Theory into Practice

Okazu Recipe

One of the great pleasures of having a store that offers specialty ingredients is hearing about the myriad ways customers put those ingredients together and we thought it might be fun to share those with our readers from time to time.

Susan Gesner's recipe built around one of our favourite ingredients - Spicy Chilli Miso from Toronto's Abokichi - earned her the designation of "Okazu Master" and includes a few ingredients you'll find on our shelves, including Kozlik's Amazing Maple mustard and some balsamic vinegar or glaze (we've gone with Nonna Pia's basic reduction here).

We tried a couple of variations of Susan's recipe (including a sous vide rendition - which is great for texture but the glaze doesn't caramelize in the same way). Of course, we get our OceanWise salmon down the street at De La Mer and the one step we always think is worthwhile for salmon is to prep the fish with a dry brine: coat the fish with a mixture of salt and sugar and put it on a plate in the fridge for half an hour or so. This will draw out some of the excess moisture and eliminate the white albumen-y stuff that often emerges when cooking salmon. Just wash off the mixture and pat dry before proceeding. Here's Susan's recipe:


  • Enough Atlantic salmon / Arctic Char for 4 people
  • 2 tablespoons of spicy chili or chili miso
  • 1 tablespoon of Kozlik’s Amazing Maple mustard
    • or other sweet tinged mustard such as the Russian
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (either glaze or regular)
    • I usually use a balsamic fig or some kind of strong flavoured balsamic
  • Pepper as you wish


Pre-heat oven to 420F

Wash and dry dry-brined fish and place in an over-proof pan lined with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix chili miso, mustard, balsamic and pepper together. Spread this all over the top of the fish. When the oven is hot, put in middle rack and set timer for approximately 20 minutes.

Serve and enjoy with your favourite sides.

If you've come up with your own recipe using ingredients sourced at the Mercantile, feel free to share them with us and maybe we can make these community recipes a regular feature!




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The Rise and Fall and Rise of Pad Thai

Pad Thai Fixin's

It's a very common story in the world of culinary trends:

A dish from outside of the mainstream culture is identified by critics and food fashionistas as "the quintessential flavour" of whatever place and everyone imagines themselves as some modern day urban explorer as they seek out restaurants and recipes and the buzz grows. Then the most interesting edges of it kind of get smoothed out and before you know it the dish starts showing up on every corner. It happened to Spaghetti Bolognese and Chicken Kiev in their day; it happened to Nachos, it happened to Jerk, it happened to Butter Chicken and it happened to Pad Thai. By the time the dish has shown up on the menu at Kelsey's, trendsetters have declared it an inferior example of the originating cuisine and they start looking for the Next Big Thing.

But when the foundations of the dish are strong it can just move into the repertoire of home cooks and not bother about whether its trending on Instagram (looking at you, #blackicecream)! So we were looking at a few basic items on our shelves - and a couple of new additions from Lotus Foods - and we thought this might be a great opportunity to remind everyone that 8 million residents of Bangkok can't be wrong: Pad Thai is hearty and delicious and made even simpler than it already is with this great recipe from Epicurious. PLUS, with our new black rice noodles you can choose to make it just that much sexier and more exotic if you want!

Come to us for the noodles, sambal, tamarind and fish sauce (maybe even use our black peanuts to match or contrast the noodles!) then head down a few doors for some shrimp from our friends at De La Mer.

กินให้อร่อย (gin hâi a-ròi)!

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Putting It All Together

Togarishi Kale Chips

Some people come into the Mercantile for their favourite snacks and treats (sometimes they don't even make it our of the store before they're devoured!) and we share that enthusiasm. But one of our favourite things is when someone comes into the store with a vague look of panic asking for that elusive ingredient they need for something they're preparing at home. You have no idea how gratifying it is to be able to say "Yes, of course we have that!" to some of the most obscure requests. As avid home cooks ourselves, we're always thrilled to play some small part in your home culinary adventures.

To that end, we thought that instead of just touting a delicious product or two this week, we'd give you some specifics on how to make use of things.

First of all, we've written before here about the amazing Okazu condiment by Toronto's Abokichi. It's a versatile condiment with great depth of flavour and we even have a few little booklets from Abokichi to hand out if you come in and buy a jar but when we sampled some the other day and someone was asking us about applications for it we had a bit of a brainstorm and tried it out:
-Take a tablespoon of Okazu and a tablespoon of mayonnaise and stir those together;
-slather that on a crusty kaiser or soft Asian steamed bun:
-lay on a slab of braised pork belly;
-top with watercress, chow down.

OK, here's the other one - a simple, healthy snack using togarishi - a Japanese seasoning that consists of between 7 and 9 flavours, including chilies, sesame, orange peel, nori seaweed and ginger (you'll find it just past the salts near the coffee grinder):

1 bunch curly kale, washed and dried
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of togarashi with sea salt

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the kale then gently pat it dry. Remove the tough stems from each leaf, then tear the leaves into large pieces (they will shrink when they bake).
-In a large bowl drizzle the olive oil onto the kale, using your hands to massage the oil into the leaves. Sprinkle the salted togarashi onto the kale — you may need to use your hands to evenly distribute the spice.
-Lay out the leaves on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper or a silpat. Bake for 16 minutes, turning after 8 minutes. Leaves should be crips and curled at the edges.



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North Ontario Meets North Africa

North Ontario Meets North Africa

Settling in Toronto, Walid Hachani just wasn't finding a harissa to measure up to his mother's so he decided to make it himself and so El Tounsi Foods was born. Walid promises there's more to come from El Tounsi in his quest to introduce the Canadian palate to the full range of North African cuisine but it all starts with harissa.
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