Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Easy Summer Snacks: Pita Chips and Hummus Recipe

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Pita Chips and Hummus are snacks I can actually eat every day, all year round, and never get bored. However, I find myself making hummus the most in the summer – I just whip up a big batch on Sunday and bring it to work for snack (in jars with carrot sticks), use instead of mayo on sandwiches, and serve it plated elegantly when guests come over. Making hummus from scratch is super-easy, and I love having a healthy, protein-rich treat I can grab and go whenever I’m hungry.

The Best Hummus Recipe on the Planet

What is hummus? Simply put, a delicious spread with chickpeas, garlic and tahini. I’m going to avoid getting into the history of hummus but I will say this: There are a BUNCH of countries in the middle east that all claim hummus as their own, so in an effort to stay neutral (just call me Switzerland) I’m not picking a side. I’m just going to say that wherever it’s from, it’s delicious! Personally, my favorite way to eat hummus is with pita chips.  At times, I buy chips in the store,  but it’s so easy to make my own, and it’s the perfect use for any slightly stale pita you may have lying around.  Without further ado, I give you our best hummus recipe as well as a bonus recipe for super simple, extremely flavorful baked pita chips.  If you plate these beautifully on a chip and dip tray or a couple of platters, you’ve got an instant appetizer. It’s a gluten free, vegan appetizer that even die-hard carnivores will go nuts for!

Ingredients for hummus, ingredients for tzatziki

Pacific Merchants’ Best Hummus Recipe

  • 30 oz cooked chickpeas*
  • 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tahini**
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons ice cold water
  • 4 oz sundried tomatoes, drained (optional)
  • salt (to taste)
  • Olive oil, paprika and cumin, for garnish

*You can either use 2 15-oz cans of chickpeas/garbanzo beans that you drain and rinse, or you can cook dried chickpeas until tender. Both work. If you use canned chickpeas, you’ll probably need to add less salt than if you use fresh.

**Tahini is ground sesame paste. You should be able to find it in the international section of your local grocery store. If presented with the option, go for a light roast tahini. If you can’t find any and/or want to make your own, here’s a recipe. And here are a few more things to do with tahini, since it comes in a big jar.

blending garbanzo beans for hummus

Instructions: If you want to get really technical, you should pinch the skins off each chickpea. It’s tedious work, but it leads to the smoothest, creamiest hummus ever. If you’re fine with a more rustic texture, you can skip this step.

Put everything except for the salt and the garnish in the bowl of a food processor (or a powerful blender.)  Pulse it until mostly combined, then blend until smooth. Taste and add salt as needed.  The beautiful thing about this recipe for hummus is that it’s totally customizable. Add more garlic and you’ve got garlic hummus. Add roasted peppers and you’ve got a red pepper hummus. Throw in a jalapeno for a spicy hummus.  We added the sun dried tomatoes listed above along with some beautiful basil for a tomato-basil hummus.   If you’d like your hummus a little creamier, add a bit more water or blend in some plain yogurt.  I occasionally mix mine almost 50/50 with yogurt to create a really good, creamy dip.

Once your hummus is flavored to your liking, Scoop into the dip portion of a chip and dip plate or mound onto a platter. Garnish hummus by drizzling it with good-quality olive oil and sprinkling with paprika and cumin.  Serve with pita chips (recipe below) or veggie sticks and you’ve got a really easy, crowd pleasing appetizer or snack.

how to make pita chips at home

How To Make Pita Chips From Scratch

My favorite pita chips at the grocery store aren’t cheap, but the pita at my local middle eastern market is, so I took a day and figured out how to make really nice, richly flavorful pita chips. Of course, you can always serve your hummus with soft pita or with veggies, but everybody loves chips, so when I’m cooking for a gathering, I make these every time.

  • 4 rounds pita, cut into wedges
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp za’atar (optional)*

*Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend. It generally consists of sesame, sumac, and  thyme, with other herbs, and sometimes salt. I got hooked on it as a kid in Israel, where we’d get grilled flatbread sprinkled with za’atar and olive oil from street vendors for snacks. SO delicious, but these chips are delicious without, if you can’t find it.

Instructions: Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large bowl, combine the oil and seasonings.  I sometimes need a little more oil than this recipe calls for, but most of the time, this is plenty. Toss the bread in the oil/seasoning mixture until thoroughly coated.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until tops are crisp and golden brown (5-10 minutes.)  Flip over and bake other sides (another 5 minutes) until chips are crisp.  Remove from heat and serve.

Now, if you want to get really fancy,  you can do what we did and create cute little plated appetizers. Simply pipe some hummus onto a chip and garnish and arrange them on a nice plate. We did a little preserved lemon peel, some herbs, and sun-dried tomatoes. It was awesome! You can also serve up the hummus and dip along side some totally cooling tzatziki. Check back next week and we’ll teach you how to make this classic Greek yogurt based sauce!

easy appetizers, easy vegan appetizers

 

 

 

Say Cheese: How to Make a Cheese Plate

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Now I know what you’re thinking: Cheese Plates are easy. Put some cheese on a plate and BOOM! But really, a beautiful cheese plate makes an easy party appetizer or even a simple dinner. I love arranging cheese platters for dinner parties or large gatherings because with a little planning and a teeny bit of work, you’ve got a crowd pleasing appetizer folks can nosh on while you’re still frantically cooking dinner, mopping up spills, and trying to frost a cake…or maybe that’s just my dinner parties.  I always try to over-achieve.

How to make a perfect cheese plate
Here’s how to assemble the perfect cheese plate in 8 easy steps. Believe me, it’s insanely easy.

  1. Figure out how much you need.  Anticipate needing about 3-5 ounces per person, unless your friends go crazy for chevre, bonkers for brie, or psycho for Parmesan. Ultimately, if you like your selection, it’s not the end of the world if you have leftovers. Cheese lasts a bit, and it’s good on everything from sandwiches to eggs to salad. . . but then, I don’t need to tell you that!
  2. Pick your cheeses. Try to include a variety of textures and flavors.  I normally do 3-5 cheeses on a plate. Most cheese belongs to one of four basic categories:  soft, firm, semi-firm, or blue.  Try to pick at least one that fits into each category. I also make an effort to pick some cows milk cheeses, some goats milk cheese, and occasionally some sheep’s milk cheese.  If you’re not sure what you’re getting into, talk to someone at a local cheese shop (list here) or your grocery store cheese counter.  Remember that particularly pungent cheeses will overpower a cheese plate, no matter how delicious they are. Here are some ideas, but by no means the only cheeses out there.

    - Soft: Brie, Chevre, Camembert, Brillat-Savarin, Humboldt Fog, Manouri
    - Firm: Manchego, Parmagiano, Pecorino Romano, Asiago,
    - Semi-Firm: Cheddar, Comte, Edam, Emmental, Fontina, Gruyere,
    - Blue: Cabrales, Gorganzola, Fourme d’Ambert, Maytag Bleu, Roquefort, Stilton

    Blue cheese on cheese plate

  3. Pick some accompaniments. A great cheese plate is more than just cheese – you’re going to need a cheese delivery system (think bread or crackers) and some delicious accompaniments.  Consider textures and flavors, and make sure you get something crunchy, something salty, something sweet.  I normally serve at least one kind of cracker, some sliced baguette, fruit (dried or fresh,) nuts, and either jam or honey (often both) with my cheese plate.  Below are some of my favorites

    - Crackers: Raisin Rosemary, Black Pepper, Gluten Free rice crackers
    - Jam: Fig Jam, Spiced Blueberry Jam, Peach Jam, plum compote, quince paste
    - Bread: Sliced seeded baguette, toasted brioche, raisin challah
    - Fruit: Grapes, Sliced strawberries, dried apricots, fresh plums, raisins
    - Honey: Thyme-infused honey, orange blossom honey, truffle honey
    - Nuts: Candied pecans, salted roasted almonds, chile lime cashews
    - Etc: Olives, Cured meat, breadsticks, artichoke hearts, pickles

  4. Pick your cheese board or cheese plate.  As you see in these pictures, I often use a few smaller plates rather than one big plate.  Why? Less mess, and it allows people who aren’t as comfortable with funky blue cheeses to steer clear entirely. Plus, placing a few different boards at different heights adds visual interest to a table. Occasionally I’ll use a huge platter or a large plank for my cheese board, but I still find myself using tiny bowls for accompaniments, a separate plate for  my soft, spreadable cheeses, and jars for honeys and jams.  Check out my top five cheese dishes here, here, here, here and here and my favorite little bowls here.

    Beautifully Plated Brie Cheese

  5. Line your plates or boards. If you’re using acacia wood dishes or another super-resinous wood, or if you’re using a non-porous material, this step isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s still nice. You can use parchment paper, but I love the look of cheese leaves. They add a bit of visual interest to the plate, they’re food safe, and they help minimze the mess from gooey cheeses and drippy honey. If your dishes are porous (many wood types, slate) lining your plate with cheese leaves will keep the flavor and scent of your cheese from seeping into the dishes. As good as that cheese is, I’m sure you don’t want to be tasting it next week with your chocolate cake.
  6. If you bought cheese ahead of time and stored it in your refrigerator, remove it 2 hours ahead of time.  You want to serve cheese at room temperature to really show off the full flavor and texture of the cheese. After all, if your brie is so cold that it’s hard, it’s not going to give you the creamy, rich experience you’re hoping for.
  7. Arrange your cheese plate(s).  I do this about half an hour before the party is supposed to start. When serving wheels of brie or other creamy cheeses, I leave them whole but supply spreaders. With harder cheeses, I cut some slices and put out cheese slicers or knives for my guests to cut the rest. People are more likely to eat the cheese if they’re not the first one to slice from a wedge, so I make it easy by cutting some slices.  I also put out smaller wedges rather than massive, daunting ones. I hold the rest in the kitchen so that I can replenish the plate as needed. By keeping my cheese plate(s) a little sparse-er, it gives people room to maneuver. When considering how to arrange my cheese plate, I also consider my accompaniments and utensils. Fruit can be grabbed with fingers or tongs, but jam needs spoons, spreaders or knives.  If your guests are prone to food allergies, it may be smart to put nuts and any gluten free bread items on separate plates. If you’re serving on multiple plates, do what we have here and divide some accompaniments among the plates or even top off some of your cheeses, such as our thyme-honey topped goat Brie above.pre-slicing cheese
  8. Last, but not least, enjoy, and enjoy the extra time your cheese plate just bought you.  You may be in the kitchen doing the last few dishes, topping off those cupcakes or plating the chicken, but you can rest assured knowing that your guests are enjoying, and you will too!

Summer Drinks: How to Make the Best Lemonade and Peach Iced Tea Ever!

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Kilner Glass Jars

Featured: Kilner Vintage Clip Top Bottles, Kilner .5L Preserve Jar, 4″ Acacia Wood Bermuda Bowl

Thirsty? Good. Follow your thirst, and quench it with our Thyme Lemonade and Peach Iced Tea Arnold Palmer; the perfect summer drink. Our homemade lemonade recipe is simple and easy to make, and provides you with a twist (no pun intended) on the classic lemonade recipe. Follow these super easy steps for a lemonade experience you’ll never forget.

Here’s what you’ll need:

-6-10 Large Lemons

-Small bundle Thyme

-Two medium peaches

-1/4 cup granulated sugar

-1/4 cup water

Ingredients

Lemon press

1. It’s thyme…to make our thyme simple syrup (Pun intended. I had to.)! This part is easier than you may think. Combine 1 part sugar, 1 part water. Bring to a boil, and then turn off the heat. That’s it. It’s SIMPLE syrup; don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be! Pour your syrup into a Kilner Clip Top Jar, add thyme, and let it infuse as the syrup cools. You can strain this syrup and store it in a jar in your fridge for up to 2 weeks. It’s great in cocktails, as well as to sweeten lemonade.  Let it cool completely before using it in the lemonade – to speed up that process, you can put the entire pan in a bowl of ice water.

2. Once that syrup is done, it’s time to move on to the lemons. Start squeezing all the lemon juice we possibly can out of our lemons. I find the best tool to do this with is a manual citrus juicer. SUCH a great kitchen investment. I use it to make fresh squeezed grapefruit juice for brunch, cocktails, and the like. Pour collected lemon juice into one of our Kilner Vintage Clip Top Bottles, and set in fridge for later. We’ll get back to our lemon juice.

3. Start boiling water for the iced tea. Yes, we’ll have to boil water, steep it, and then let it cool down. An alternative is to use sun tea, which will steep in room temperature water.

 

Steeped Peach Iced Tea

4. Once your tea water is boiling, pour into a large heat safe container. We used a Pyrex glass measuring cup. Add your sliced peaches and tea bags. Let steep for around 8-10 minutes, but keep the peaches in there even after the tea bags are pulled out. We want to extract as much flavor/juices from those peaches as possible without touching them.

Thyme Simple Syrup

5. Now, it’s time to make that lemonade!  Remember the lemon juice you put in the fridge? Combine 3 parts water, 1 part lemon juice, and add that thyme simple syrup to taste. If it’s too strong, add more water. If too sour, add more syrup. If too sweet, juice another lemon.  Once you’ve made that lemonade, stick it in the fridge.  If you’re short on fridge room and want cold lemonade, you can mix 2 parts water, 1 part lemon juice, and 1 part ice (by weight) and then add the simple syrup. Leave on the counter. As the ice melts, you’ll have perfect, cold lemonade.

6. Time to check on your tea. It should be significantly cooler, but if it’s not cool enough then add ice and stick in the fridge.

Peach Iced Tea in Jars

7. Garnish some glasses, and get pouring! You’re almost done. Pour either your iced tea or lemonade first–they’ll be mixed in the end, so it doesn’t much matter!

Arnold Palmer in Kilner Jars

Arnold Palmer

8. Sit back, relax, and sip the fruits (and herbs) of your labor! A great drink for guests or just to keep stocked in your fridge. Enjoy the best lemonade and peach iced tea ever, together or separately!

Let us know how your drinks turn out. Tag your photos on Instagram and Facebook with #pacificmerchants and we’ll repost our faves! Talk to us in the comments.

Love,

Pacific Merchants

 

 

How to Have a Spa Day at Home: Homemade Sugar Scrub and Avocado Honey Face Mask

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

It’s time to start your home spa journey. Are you ready? Deep breath in! *hyyouuuuuuuuuuuuuuu* Deep breath out *haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa*. Now we’re talking. It’s time to get luxurious in the comfort of your own home.

Whether you’re throwing a spa party for a small group of friends, or enjoying a day off of work and some alone time, you can never go wrong with a spa day. We’re really excited to share both our Homemade Sugar Scrub Recipe, and our delightful Organic Avocado Honey Face Mask. They both take ten minutes or less to prepare, make a great gift for friends and family, and save you tons of money on skincare. I guarantee–if you use this scrub 2-4 times a week and follow your scrub sesh with the avocado and honey face mask application, your skin will feel softer and more hydrated than it has in years. I gave a sample to my mom last week and she is absolutely in love! This is a woman who does not cheap out on her skincare regimen, and who I’ve been trying to convince for years that she doesn’t need anything fancy to upkeep her -already- beautiful skin. Last week she finally used some of this magic scrub, and her mind totally changed:

Mom Sugar Scrub Screen Shot

Mom approved! #Score #ImDoingSomethingRight

The benefits of avocado and coconut oil for skin are endless. If you’re looking for a cheap, easy and healthy way to cleanse and hydrate your skin, look no further.

Sugar Scrub Ingredients

Featured Items: Kilner Blue Top Jars (Made in the UK!), Acacia Wood Round Calabash Bowl, Acacia Wood 12″ Square Plate

Hydrating Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

What You’ll Need:

-1 cup white sugar (you may use brown, but I like to use white for citrus scents.)

-1/3 cup coconut oil (found at most local grocery stores these days! People also use coconut oil for hair maintenance, butter substitution in baking and cooking, etc.)

-Zest of 1 lime (may substitute with 1/2 grapefruit rind if you would like a noticeably sweeter scent or like this scent better. It will also color the white sugar a lovely coral color.)

-5-15 drops lemon or lime essential oil (lemon is easier to find.)

-5-10 drops coconut essential oil (optional)

Sugar and Coconut Oil

1. Combine sugar and coconut oil. If it’s too dry for your taste, add more coconut oil and if it’s too oily add some more sugar! The consistency is totally up to you. The nice thing about coconut oil is that it’s almost entirely unscented, so it won’t make a difference in the scent if you add more or choose to dilute it with additional sugar.

Lime Zest

Featured Item: Acacia Wood Round Calabash Bowl

2. Add the grated lime zest to the sugar coconut oil mixture. We actually chopped up our lime peel to make it more chunky, but zesting is recommended and preferred. You can also add lime juice, or even lemon juice/zest. The goal of this scrub is to be generally citrus-y, so if there’s one citrus fruit you prefer, this recipe is definitely flexible! The benefits of lemon and lime include preservational qualities and natural antiseptic properties. By adding a little bit of lemon or lime juice to this scrub we are not only extending its shelf life, but also providing the benefit of a deep, thorough skin cleanse that will kill off many unwanted “germs”. Pretty awesome that this is a natural attribute of the fruit!

3. Add your essential oil drops, and stir thoroughly. If you actually want to smell any coconut you’ll have to add a coconut essential oil. Otherwise, as mentioned above, the coconut oil is basically scentless. This allows you to add as little or as much scent as you want according to personal preference! Brilliant.

Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

4. Pack your Kilner Jars full of your homemade sugar scrub, and voila! Gift, or keep for yourself. This is a great party favor or group activity for a spa party, wedding shower, or craft day. It’s also entirely edible, so it’s safe to make both around and for kids! If you skip on the coconut oil, this also makes a great “rim sugar” for beverages. Our adorable Blue Top Kilner Jars come in a vast array of shapes and sizes, from a sample size to a more hefty pot of scrub.

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Honey Avocado Face Mask Ingredients

Avocado Honey Face Mask

What You’ll Need:

-1 medium to large avocado, preferably ripened

-1/3 cup honey

-1/2 a lemon or lime (to squeeze!)

-1 Kilner .25L Preserve Jar

Scooping Avocado

1. Scoop the avocado into an Acaciaware Bowl from its shell. This recipe makes 1 small jar of face mask, which is good for personal use. If you’re making a larger batch, simply multiply the ingredients by the number of jars you’d like to make.

Add Honey to Face Mask Mix

2. Add the honey. At this point it’s also time to add that squeeze of lemon or lime; this will keep the mix green/fresh for a longer time due to the acidic properties of the juice.

Mash the Avocados for Face Mask

3. Mash the avocado honey mixture with a spoon or with your hands! This part is fun. How easy is this?! If you’re looking for an extremely smooth avocado face mask, put the mixture into a glass or metal mixing bowl and use an immersion blender to smooth out/puree the avocado honey mix.

Finished Honey Avocado Face Mask

4. Apply liberally to your face after using the coconut lime sugar scrub. That’s literally it! The face mask has a shelf life of about 3-5 days in the fridge. Sometimes it even lasts a little longer. We’d love to know how you like both the sugar scrub and this face mask: please tell us in the comments, or shoot us an email at social(at)pacificmerchants.com!

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Last but not least, no home spa day is complete without hydration. Staying hydrated is a great way to make your skin truly glow, and your body function at its full capacity. Your body works so much better when it has water! Sometimes drinking plain water can be boring though, so we decided to try out a flavored water recipe.

Flavored Water

Featured Items: Kilner Vintage Clip Top Bottles, Kilner .5L Preserve Jars, and our Acacia Wood Baguette Tray.

Strawberry Water

Featured Item: .5L Kilner Preserve Jar

Simply add quartered strawberries and sliced lime to your water for a lovely and naturally sweet-sour flavor, or a combo of basil and cucumber for a crisp, savory flavoring. Do this in a Kilner Bottle, and keep refrigerated for a few hours before serving so the fruit has a chance to more greatly flavor the water. Serve in our adorable .5L Kilner Preserve Jars, and garnish for insane cuteness. I am seriously obsessed with jars, it’s a problem. #JarHoarder

Me (warning: this is terrifying):

Jar Hoarder

Feeling a bit more relaxed? We hope so. Hopefully the above photo didn’t jar you too much on this day of relaxation (get it, get it?).

Let us know how your projects turn out, and if there’s anything you tried that you liked better! Also tag your photos on Instagram with #pacificmerchants to show us what you’re up to. Remember people…it’s all about enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Everything else falls into place.

Love,

Pacific Merchants

Vibrant Summer Salad Recipes for your Next Picnic

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

It gets hot here in LA, and on a 105 degree day, the last thing I want to do is fire up all my burners, crank my oven, and make my apartment even toastier.  So what do I do? I make a ton of salads. Sure, some of these require a little bit of burner usage, but turning on one burner to boil water for pasta or cook a piece of chicken is nothing compared to throwing together an involved meal. .  Ready to get your summer salads on? Break out your salad bowls and dressing bottles. We’re gonna do this thing!

Bowls of Green Salad Recipe - So Easy

First up, let’s talk about the green salad.  Sure, it’s a great way to eat your veggies, but the humble green salad gets a little boring.? Here are my top 10 tips for spicing up a green salad.

  1. Right before serving, salt your salad. It tempers the bitterness, wakes up the taste buds, and adds texture.
  2. Unless it’s a kale salad, dress at the last minute to avoid wilted, sad greens.  Always use a large bowl to dress salad so the salad is fluffy and crisp, not matted and soggy.
  3. Hand tear your lettuce/greens into managable pieces. Tearing avoids blackened, wilted edges and breaking your greens up means you’ll get a little something extra in every bite.
  4. Got extra fresh herbs wilting in your fridge? Add them to your salad for unexpectedly flavorful greens.
  5. Add something crunchy. A variety of textures makes a salad feel more satisfying. Consider adding croutons, nuts, carrots, crushed tortilla chips or wonton strips. Let your imagination run wild. I like pretzels instead of croutons.
  6. Add some protein (but cut it small.)  Add cooked chicken, shrimp, tofu, steak, fish, or egg.  But don’t put a whole chicken breast or salmon filet on that salad. Breaking it up means you get a little more with every bite.
  7. Add a hint of sweetness. Most salads benefit from a sweet kick, whether it comes from the dressing or added fruit. I often add a bit of honey to my dressing, but during the summer I just add fresh fruit to the salads. Peaches and arugula are pretty much perfect together, as are blueberries and kale, strawberries and spinach, etc.
  8. Add extras, but not too many. A simple green salad is a great thing, but adding a couple of veggies can really punch it up.  Cut them small so they don’t weigh down the salad and don’t go crazy- 3-5 is more than enough to enhance your salad while still making it feel focused.
  9. Make it a full meal salad by adding whole grain. Barley, quinoa, wheatberries, wild rice and more turn a simple salad into a filling main course. Plus, they all work so well with dressing.
  10. Add brightness – A squeeze of citrus, whether it’s lemon, lime, grapefruit, or orange, really makes the flavors in a simple salad pop. Whisk citrus juice into dressing or just sprinkle it over your dressed salad. How to Make a Beautiful, Balanced Green Salad

Inspired?  Good. Now whip out that salad bowl, harness the power of summer produce, and make something delicious happen.

Want an even heartier salad? Consider a pasta salad. Growing up, I always considered pasta salads weird, overly-mayoed side dishes for potlucks and barbecues. I avoided them at all costs. But you know what? They don’t need to be mayo heavy or even pasta heavy to be an excellent summer side dish.  Here’s my absolute favorite of all the pasta salad recipes I’ve got: A simple caprese pasta salad. With all the ripe tomatoes gracing farmers markets and supermarkets this time of year, it’s the perfect time to make this salad.

Pasta Salad Recipe for Summer

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta, cooked (I like shells best. Whole wheat is fine.)
  • 1 pint container boccocini (small mozzarella balls) or 1 large ball mozzarella cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 lb fresh, ripe tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces, or cherry tomatoes sliced in half.
  • 1 large bunch basil, leaves sliced.
  • 1/3 c Olive oil
  • 2/3 c Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt
  • Fresh Cracked Black pepper

Instructions

  1. In the bottom of your large salad bowl, add the tomatoes and a healthy pinch of salt. Let sit while you make the dressing.
  2. In a jar or bottle, combine olive oil, vinegar, mustard and garlic.  Shake well to combine, then add half of the dressing to the tomatoes.
  3. Add the mozzarella to the mix and toss to combine.  At this point, you can go ahead with the salad or let this mixture marinate for up to 1 day.
  4. When ready to serve, toss pasta and sliced basil with the  tomatoes and mozzarella.  Add salt, pepper, and extra dressing as needed.
  5. Magic – you’ve got a fresh, light summer pasta salad that’s picnic perfect.  Sometimes I add steamed peas, roasted peppers, olives or capers to this salad. Sometimes I don’t.
  6. If you’ve got extra dressing, try it on a green salad. this is a killer basic balsamic vinaigrette. You’ll love it, I promise.

Easy healthy salad recipes

There you have it, folks – a couple of picture perfect summertime salads that’ll remind you why vegetables are so delicious, just in time for those 4th of July barbecues and cookouts. Check back next week for a fruit salad that’ll become your go-to weeknight dessert. Seriously, fresh fruit tossed with mint and raspberry sauce. Could it get any more summery?  Let me know in the comments -what’s your favorite salad? We may re-post the recipe!

Colorful Summer Fruit Salad

 

Korean Recipes: How to Make Korean Barbecue Steak and More!

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Last week we mentioned that we were looking for awesome Father’s Day ideas and decided  that one of the best ways to honor the amazing dads in our life is to cook an amazing meal.  Steak for Father’s Day is pretty standard, so we figured we’d spice things up a little and make a really killer Korean barbecue recipe. The brilliance of this marinade is that it works on anything – you can marinate chicken, beef, short ribs, pork, and even extra-firm tofu in this mixture, grill it, and you end up with culinary magic!

Korean Barbecue Beef on an Acacia plateKeep reading. Not only are we talking how to make the best Korean Barbecue Marinade, we’ll also talk about some other dishes to complement this killer steak, so you can cook your dad (or whoever) an awesome meal! From cocktails and appetizers to dessert, we’ve got you taken care of.  Added bonus: With a little planning ahead (marinate your protein overnight) this is a really quick, easy dish to cook. You can make it as a quick weeknight dinner recipe or as a special occasion meal.  Let’s get cooking!

A few ingredients. Learn how to make korean barbecue

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2/3 cup fresh guava or pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger root, grated
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 2-3 lbs protein of your choice, sliced 1/2 inch thick (steak, extra-firm tofu, shrimp, pork loin, short ribs, chicken breast)

Ingredients for Korean Barbecue Layout

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except for protein in a jar or a bowl and shake/mix well to combine. I used a Kilner jar and it worked like a charm.
  2. Pour marinade over the protein of your choice. I spread mine out on a serving tray for pictures, but a bowl works too.
  3. Massage with your hands to combine.
  4. Cover and set aside for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight.
  5. When ready to cook, preheat a grill to medium high heat. A pre-heated grill is your best friend if you want a nice char and rich flavor.
  6. Grill ingredients for 3 minutes per side.
  7. Remove from grill and serve.

Marinade in Jar Pour that marinade

Ingredients 1 Meatporn closeup

It’s honestly that simple. Nothing to it.  The only hard part is figuring out what else to serve, because meat alone doesn’t make up a meal.  I’m sure your dad told you to eat your veggies.  Here’s our suggested menu, if you want a fancy, multi-course meal. If you want it simple, you could always go the way we did and just serve kimchi, rice and meat, along with a nice green salad, or you can take it that extra step and make a highly fabulous Korean-inspired feast!

Cocktail: We Love this plum-basil cocktail from Saveur.  The ingredients aren’t traditionally Korean by any stretch, but the fruity, herbaceous flavors of the drink really work beautifully with our menu.

Soup: Traditional at New Years, this Korean Rice Cake Soup recipe from The Kitchn is a delicious, warming vegetarian soup filled with rice cakes, herbs, and a hint of seaweed. SO comforting. If rice cake isn’t your thing, consider their Korean noodle soup recipe. Also vegetarian, also delightful!

If it’s a little warm for soup, consider this awesome salad in its place: Spicy Bean Sprout Salad from Beyond Kimchee, an amazing blog with a focus on Korean food. Bookmark it. Read it. Love it.

It’s pretty traditional to serve Kimchi with Korean Barbecue and (humblebrag alert) our Kimchi recipe is excellent. Give it a shot. You may like it. Also, check out our Kimchi Kit.

Let’s move on to Dessert. Coffee and donuts are a pretty perfect pairing. We figured that tea and donuts would be equally good, and this pairing of a warm cinnamon tea (recipe from Aeri’s Kitchen) with sweet potato rice donuts (also from Beyond Kimchee) is the best way to end a meal. Soothing, comforting, and damn delicious!

Marinating MeatWhether you’re thinking about making a steak for Father’s day, looking for an epic menu, or just trying to figure out what to make for dinner tomorrow night, we hope this menu helped. I know we’re excited to have it again this Sunday, June 15 for Father’s Day!

One last thing – To all the dads out there, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY (yes, we’re yelling it!)   You rock. Thank you.

 

Homemade Kimchi Recipe – How to Use a Fermenting Crock!

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

So a few weeks ago we were experimenting with recipes for Father’s Day. Because really, nothing says “I love you” like a home-cooked meal. Except maybe cake. Cake’s pretty good at saying I love you.  Anyway, we were deep into some recipe development and came across a Korean Barbecue marinade that we quickly became obsessed with (check back next week and we’ll share!)  What goes with Korean Barbecue? Kimchi. What is Kimchi? An awesome fermented cabbage/radish condiment.  What do we sell? Fermenting crocks. BOOM! An idea was born, and suddenly we’re testing out kimchi recipes and a DIY kimchi set to go with it!

Learn how to make homemade kimchi

Our Fermenting crocks are full at the moment (sauerkraut and kombucha) so we pulled out a pickle pot and got to work.  And you know what? For this recipe, a pickle pot is pretty much perfect. The lid is heavy enough that not much of the kimchi’s uniquely funky odor can escape, and the pickle pot is just the right size for this batch.  So get ready – you won’t need a lot of supplies, aside from the ingredients to make truly great kimchi. I promise. If you want to make it super easy, check out our DIY kimchi kit. It has all everything you need – except the ingredients!

Making Kimchi in a clay fermenting crock

Special Equipment

See? Just four things.  Of course, the ingredient list is a hair more involved.  You can find all these ingredients in an Asian market, or most of them in a well-stocked grocery store. If you can’t find that Korean red pepper, consider grinding some moderately hot dried red peppers yourself, or use a little less cayenne pepper. The other weird ingredient on the list is the optional dried shrimp. We find them in the Latin section of our regular grocery store, as well as in our local Asian market.  When you open that dried shrimp, keep in mind. It’s kinda pungent.  We weren’t the hugest fan, but Marlow the cat LOVED it. In fact, we caught her trying to go through our bags for more!

Feed me, minions Cats love dried shrimp. Do you?

Ingredients

  • 1 (2-pound) napa cabbage
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • About 12 cups cold water, plus more as needed
  • 8 ounces daikon radish, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 medium scallions, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces, use whole thing
  • 1/3 cup Korean red pepper powder
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried salted shrimp, minced (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar

As you see, there are quite a few ingredients in Kimchi.  You can actually quadruple the amount of daikon, eliminate the cabbage and make a really awesome all radish kimchi, which has an awesomely crisp texture to pair with the spicy-pungent flavor.  So let’s get into the instructions – they’re shockingly easy, so don’t be intimidated.

Making Kimchi from Scratch

Instructions:

  1. Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 2-inch pieces, discarding the root end.
  2. Place in a large bowl, sprinkle with the salt, and toss with your hands until the cabbage is coated. Salting cabbage for kimchi sauerkraut recipe
  3. Add enough cold water to just cover making sure the cabbage is submerged.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap or a baking sheet and let sit at room temperature at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
  5. Place a colander in the sink, drain the cabbage, and rinse with cold water. Gently squeeze out the excess liquid and transfer to a medium bowl; set aside.
  6. Combine all remaining ingredients in large bowl.making kimchi wooden bowl
  7.  Add Cabbage and toss with your hands until everything is combined.
  8. Transfer mixture into pickle pot or fermenting crock with lid, packing tightly.
  9. Let sit in cool dark place, for at least 48 hours, opening occasionally to release gases.
  10. Let ferment for at least 5 days before using.
  11. Refrigerate and eat within a month or pack tightly into Kilner jars and process in boiling water for 25 minutes. Use within 6 months.

Homemade Kimchi in Kilner Jars

I didn’t end up canning my Kimchi this time around. I know I can eat it all in less than a month, so I figured, why waste time. But if you’re looking for a fun, super-flavorful condiment to punch up your pantry, considering making and canning your kimchi. Your tastebuds won’t forget it.

Kimchi Serving Suggestions:

Traditionally, Kimchi is served as part of a collection of banchan or tiny plates served alongside a Korean meal, especially at a Korean Restaurant.  Of course eating your Kimchi with some rice and Korean Barbecue (or other Korean food)  is SO not your only option. Check out some other ideas below. For even MORE ideas, check out this Chowhound discussion!

  • Kimchi Fried rice. Great way to use up leftovers, flavor rice, and make yourself one really rib sticking meal. To gild the lily, put an egg on it!
  • Kimchi Omelet.  Kimchi is awesome with scrambled eggs. A kimchi omelet or kimchi scramble make for a really good breakfast when you’re feeling. . . um. . . like you were out too late last night.
  • Add Kimchi to salad for a flavorful punch.  I particularly like it mixed into a salad with cabbage, green onions, steamed peas, and cucumbers.
  • Toss into a basic chicken broth or even ramen.  It’s an easy way to pimp your cup of noodles.
  • It’s Fermented cabbage – treat it like sauerkraut and put it on a hot dog.

Make your Own Kimchi and how to use it

Summer Cocktail Recipe: Kentucky Sunset

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Remember when you were 5 years old and summer break was a thing?  Whole months in the summer to play, relax and enjoy every moment of every day?  In an effort to reclaim that relaxed spirit of summer in adulthood, we sat down on one unseasonably hot afternoon and created this craft cocktail.  The plan:  with just one sip, the day melts away, you can relax and feel like a kid on summer break all over again.  We’re pretty proud of the way it turned out.   This drink is sweet with fresh squeezed strawberry juice, tangy from grapefruits and just the right amount of bitter.  The bourbon adds a rich note, bringing the whole thing together beautifully.  Ready?  Break out your bottles, or your summer cocktail set, if that’s more your style, and get ready to drink in summer. Literally.

cocktail with strawberries, served in jars

This recipe makes 4 bourbon cocktails. – a perfect summer cocktail recipe for sharing with friends or neighbors by the pool.  When we throw parties, we love putting our fresh squeezed juices, garnishes and bourbon out on the table in Kilner bottles so guests can mix their drinks to their own liking, kids can drink just juice, and everyone can pick the perfect umbrella to go with their outfit.  Because what’s an electric-pink drink without a cocktail umbrella anyway?

How to make a perfect Bourbon cocktail from scratchIngredients

  • 12 oz high-quality Kentucky Bourbon.  Maker’s Mark works beautifully.
  • 8 oz grapefruit juice
  • 12 oz strawberry juice.
  • Angostura Bitters (1 healthy dash per drink)
  • 1 liter club soda, tonic(if you want a sweeter drink) or champagne (if you want a stronger drink)
  • Ice
  • Fruit for Garnish – I like small strawberries and chunks of pineapple.
  • Festive umbrellas.

how to make a summertime cocktail

Instructions

  • Like so many craft bartenders, we make our own juices for this drink.  If you’d like to take a shortcut, buy good-quality, fresh squeezed juices at your local grocery store. If you’re making juices, feel free to do them ahead of time, transfer the juice into bottles, and take time to chill it. It’s summer – you want that drink to be as refreshing as a dip in the pool.
  • Add Ice to 4 glasses (I love the rustic look of Kilner mason jars for bourbon cocktails).
  • Quickly add 3 oz of bourbon to each glass. Yes, they’re strong drinks. Please remember that before getting in the car.
  • Add 2 oz of grapefruit juice and 3 oz of strawberry juice to each glass.  Throw in a healthy dash of bitters and give each drink a stir with a cocktail spoon.
  • Top off with an assortment of fresh fruit (ideally speared on a vividly colored cocktail umbrella.)
  • Kick off your shoes, relax, and enjoy your summer break. Remember, it’s a state of mind.

classic summery cocktail Fruit in Kilner jars - for garnish how to garnish drinks enjoying drinks in Kilner jars poolside

Shameless self-promotion time: All the glassware pictured above is included in our summer cocktail set.  It includes the 3 bottles, 9 jars (6 for drinking, 2 for garnish) and even a funnel to fill those bottles easily.  Basically, if you’re looking to stock a bar cart (for summer cocktails or for making and garnishing the perfect martini recipe.) The umbrellas are not included, but believe me, they’re pretty easy to find and TOTALLY worth having.

Spanish Tapas Recipes Worth Trying: Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp with Garlic)

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Shrimp with garlic recipe

It has been said that Gambas al Ajillo is the world’s most perfect tapa, and every time I try this killer tapas recipe I seriously have to agree. Shrimp. Garlic. Olive Oil. Salt. A hint of parsley. A touch of Paprika. Really, it’s that simple. 6 ingredients total and you have a full-on perfect bite of food.  Now, if you don’t like garlic, or you’re not big on seafood, this probably won’t rock your world.  But for the rest of you, believe me. This is one of those tapas recipes you’ll try once and end up  making a million times, over and over again. You’ll look for any excuse to make it, because it’s that easy and that delicious.

How to make Spanish Food

Want the perfect excuse?  Throw a summer tapas party. Pull together some of your favorite recipes for small, shareable bites (that’s what tapas are, after all) and invite a few good friends. Break out a bottle of Spanish Cava or Rioja (or a lovely, fruity summer cocktail) and enjoy the easiest dinner party you’ve ever thrown. If you need more tapas ideas, click here for last week’s patatas bravas recipe.  Or bounce on over here for some meatballs.  Or head on over to this post for a watermelon salad that, when served in small bowls makes for a refreshing, flavorful bite.

Tapas tasting set spread

But enough talk. Let’s make some shrimp. I’m sure you want to see what the best tapas recipe ever is all about.  This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb shrimp, shelled and de-veined. I often buy mine frozen. It works and it’s cheaper.
  • 10 cloves garlic, sliced. It may seem like a lot, but it’s delicious. Don’t skimp.
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil (Go for Spanish if you’ve got it.)
  • 1 pinch of salt, plus more to taste
  • 1.5 tsp hot smoked Spanish Paprika
  • 3 Tbsp minced fresh parsley.

Instructions

  1. Make sure your shrimp are thawed (if frozen) and peeled. make sure your garlic is sliced and your parsley is minced. This will go quickly.
  2. Throw olive oil, a pinch of salt and garlic into a large saucepan.  Gradually bring to medium high heat, stirring frequently in order to keep garlic from burning.
  3. When garlic is golden brown and your entire kitchen smells amazing, remove garlic from pan with slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Add shrimp and paprika to the hot oil. Give it a stir to combine the ingredients. It may spatter. Prepare yourself.
  5. Cook over medium high heat until cooked through, tossing occasionally. If you used fresh shrimp, they’ll most likely be cooked through 3-4 minutes – They’ll be done a minute or two after they turn pink.
  6. Add garlic back in with shrimp, tossing to combine.
  7. Taste a shrimp (chef’s privilege, y’all) and decide if it needs anything. Add salt, additional paprika. Consider a squeeze of lemon.
  8. Transfer from pan into a terracotta dish.
  9. Serve with crusty bread to sop up all that garlic-oil deliciousness. #carbs

tapas restaurant style gambas al ajillo

There you have it, folks. In less than 10 steps, and WAY less than 10 ingredients, you’ve got the best tapa recipe in the world. So break out your tapas serving dishes (don’t have any? let us fix that!) and call up your friends. You could be rolling in the shrimp and the awesome conversation in less time than it takes to get one of those fancy, $12 cocktails at your local upscale watering hole. Seriously though. Since when does it take 20 minutes to get an old-fashioned?

Restaurant style tapas at home

Easy Tapas Recipe: Patatas Bravas (Spanish Potatoes with Sauce)

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

When it comes to summer entertaining, there’s nothing I love more than bringing together a bunch of good friends, whipping up a bunch of easy tapas recipes, and entertaining on my patio.  It’s the easiest, most relaxed way to throw a party, and let’s face it: summertime just calls for relaxed, chilled out fun. I’m SO inspired by super-awesome summertime tapas parties in fact, that we put together a tapas party serving set on the website.  Now everyone can enjoy one of my favorite summertime activities.

Patatas Bravas Recipe: How to make tapas

Now, unless you’ve been to Spain or to an awesome Spanish restaurant (or you watch a lot of the Food Network) you’re probably wondering: What are tapas and why are they awesome? Simply put, tapas are small bites of food, often served family style, meant to be shared, and straight-up perfect with a cold, refreshing drink.  They’re often foods that taste good hot, room temperature or even cold, so you can serve and forget all about them while you mingle and have a good time.   Plus, they’re tops with a glass of sangria, a cold beer, a glass of wine, or even a nice summery cocktail. And since they can be eaten with fingers, they’re pretty ideal for a party where you want to encourage mingling.

Delicious tapas: Patatas Bravas

So on to the cooking! This recipe for patatas bravas (sometimes called papas bravas) is one of my favorite tapas recipes ever. It’s a little nontraditional, but I’m totally fine with this spicy, flavorful update on a classic. Plus, since we’re sauteing the potatoes rather than deep frying, it’s a little lighter.  This hearty vegetarian tapas recipe (actually it’s a vegan recipe AND a Gluten Free Recipe) is one that will stun both meat eaters and herbivores with its simplicity and seriously bold, punchy flavors. So get your taste buds ready, folks. Let’s make some potatoes that’ll put a tapas restaurant to shame.  Spoiler alert: they’re really easy to make.  This recipe serves four easily, most likely 6. Of course, it makes for fantastic leftovers as well. Reheat in the oven with a fried egg for the best hangover breakfast ever!

Ingredients for gluten free vegan recipe

Ingredients

For Potatoes:

  • 3 lbs red skin potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon smoked Spanish Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley

For Sauce:

  • 3 ripe tomatoes (canned ok)
  • 1 cup roasted red peppers
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked hot paprika
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (or sherry vinegar)

Instructions:

  1. Pre-Cook the potatoes: Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and place in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until cooked through. When potatoes are fork-tender, remove from heat, drain and allow to cool. Leave them alone while you make the sauce.
  2. Make the Sauce:  If you like the taste of raw garlic, keep the cloves raw. If not, saute the garlic cloves in the olive oil over medium low heat until tender.  Set garlic and oil aside.
  3. Add tomatoes (chopped or crushed,)  roasted peppers, salt, spices and vinegar to the carafe of your blender.  Pulse to blend.  Add garlic and oil and blend sauce until creamy.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Sometimes I add a little lemon juice.
  4. Saute the potatoes:  Heat oil and sliced garlic cloves in a pan and bring to medium high heat, stirring constantly so garlic doesn’t burn. When garlic is golden-brown and fragrant, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon. Set on a paper towel and resist the urge to snack on the garlic chips.
  5. Add the paprika, garlic powder and salt to a small bowl. Toss to combine, then add the potatoes. Toss again, then put directly into the hot pan of oil.  Saute until the outsides of the potatoes are golden brown and crisp and the insides are warm, moving the potatoes occasionally so they don’t burn.
  6. Plate your food: Pour the potatoes into a couple of terracotta dishes (they’ll hold heat so the potatoes don’t get cold). Drizzle with that red-pepper/tomato sauce and garnish with parsley leaves.

Patatas Bravas Closeup

There: Told you it was easy. This recipe fits pretty perfectly in the large terracotta dish included in our Tapas for Two Tasting Set.  Sure, it may overflow a little, but we love that bountiful look.   Let us know in the comments: What’s your favorite tapas dish? What’s your favorite finger food? What’s your fave way to serve potatoes? Also share your photos with us on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #PacificMerchants. We’ll repost/share our favorites.Restaurant style tapas at home

 

May the tapas be with you.