Big John's PFI March/April Newsletter

  • New Spanish Cheeses

  • European Butter

  • Yerba Mate

  • New Italian Tomatoes

We have some fine new Spanish cheeses for sale, including a new Murcia al Vino, a wine soaked goat cheese, as well as Zamorano, a cousin of Manchego that hails from Zamora. If you like goat cheeses, make sure to check out the Servilleta, Castel Morello, and the Spanish Cabra.
Wonderfully rich butters from Europe. We carry salted and sweet butters from France, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. We even have a mild goat's butter from York, England! Great for those who can't have cow's milk, and for those who love goat's milk. 
Yerba Mate is a shrub from tropical South America whose leaves are brewed to make the beverage called Mate. brewed with hot, but not boiling water, Mate has a vegetal flavor somewhat reminiscent of green tea. Mate has a slightly lower caffine content than Tea or Coffee, so it makes a good morning beverage or afternoon pick-me-up.
That's a lot of tomatoes! New Italian tomatoes from Italissima. Prepared sauces, chopped, whole, and cherry tomatoes make dinner a snap!  
Big John's Pacific Food Importers
1001 6th Ave S
Seattle WA, 98134
(206) 682-2022 
Check out our website at bigjohnspfi.com

 unsubscribe from this list  

update subscription preferences

Sent to *|EMAIL|* — why did I get this?
unsubscribe from this list | update subscription preferences

Mustard is one of the most common condiments in the world. It is made from the seeds of a type of brassica, also called mustard. The Romans provided the first written records of mustard being used as a condiment. They ground  the mustard seeds, mixed them with grape must and called it mustum ardens, meaning “burning must,” which later evolved into the word we use today.

We carry a huge variety of prepared mustards, most of them from France and Germany, but also a Canadian line as well. All of the major types are represented: French Dijon, whole grain deli-style mustard, sweet Bavarian mustard for weisswurst, hot mustard, maple mustard, horseradish mustard, even mustard in tubes and beer mugs.

  Another type that we carry is Kozlik’s “Triple Crunch.” This is not so much prepared mustard as it is brined mustard seeds. Brined seeds are as versatile as regular mustard. They are a   perfect addition to salad dressings, marinades, sauces or simply used as a condiment.

The brining removes much of the heat from the seeds, as well as softeningthem enough that they provide a very satisfying pop and crunch.

These are also really easy to make. Start with plain mustard seeds---we have both yellow and brown---I like to use a mix of the two. Next, make a simple brine out of sea salt, water and maybe a little bit of sugar if you like. Quantities should be to taste, as every type of salt will imbue a different degree of saltiness. You want it to be pretty salty, but not necessarily burn-your-face-salty.

Heat it up to combine the ingredients and add some vinegar. I usually just use white vinegar but you could also use wine vinegar or cider vinegar. Pour the brine over the seeds in a bucket or a large jar and let them sit, unrefrigerated for as long as it takes to soften the seeds enough to bite into them. When they pop in your mouth, they are ready. Brined mustard seeds are shelf-stable and will keep for over a year in my own experience.

Of course, you could also take the next step and  process your brined mustard seeds into Mustard, the condiment. This is also easy. Put the seeds into the food processor and combine with beer or white wine.

Let it just sit there overnight and repeat the next day. Do this over the course of a few days until your mustard is the desired consistency and strength. These are just guidelines. The process can be adjusted in any number of ways. Just remember: it should be easy! 





1 lb. dried Kalamata Figs

                  Press each fig into shape so it will stand upright after stuffing. Make a small X shaped cut in the bottom of each fig (the side opposite the stem). Use a spoon handle or your fingers to open the middle of the fig. Line a tray with wax paper and make room for it in the fridge or freezer.

Chocolate Stuffing

¼ cup heavy cream

4 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

1 tbs. butter

1 egg yolk (optional)

Any flavorings—We used a small tbs. of Kahlua Coffee Liquor

Chop or smash the chocolate into small pieces. Place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just reaches a boil. Add the chocolate to the cream and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Add the butter and stir till melted. Let stand to cool. If using the egg yolk or any flavoring, wait a couple minutes and then incorporate it into the filling. Stir until smooth.

Transfer filling to a small mixing bowl and place in the fridge to let cool until it stiffens a bit.

Cut the corner off of a freezer bag or use a piping bag. Load the bag with the filling and pipe into the figs. It doesn’t have to be perfect, remember we will be dipping the bottom of the fig in a chocolate glaze. This will cover any imperfections. Place the stuffed figs in the fridge to cool. The figs must be cold in order to dip in the glaze.

Chocolate Glaze

6 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

1 tbs. shortening

Chop or smash the chocolate and melt with the shortening in a double boiler (If you don’t have one, you can use a metal mixing bowl set over a pot of boiling water). Once the chocolate is melted, remove from the heat. Now you are ready to dip the chilled figs. Hold the stems and dip halfway into the chocolate. Wipe any excess chocolate off and refrigerate till the glaze is completely set. These stuffed figs are best stored in the fridge or eaten immediately, although they can be frozen. Enjoy!

-Kelley Grady, adapted from a recipe by  Maida Heatter



                  Since 1994, Essential Bakery has been providing fresh baked bread to the people of Seattle. They began by selling at farmer’s markets around the city, and they continue to be dedicated to local, sustainable production. They are certified organic and use zero preservatives and artificial ingredients.

                  If you have a passion for fresh local bread, check out our selection, delivered fresh each morning. We get the over bake, meaning we have lower prices. We receive a random selection, but the rosemary and raisin-pecan are staff favorites, so come early before we eat them all ourselves!


Puff pastry is nothing more than a plain dough containing pastry flour, salt, and water that is wrapped around a thin rectangular slab of cold butter and then rolled out and folded a number of times to create “a thousand” layers. The pastry is then baked so that the layers of dough steam and lift between the layers of butter. 

It’s simple all right, as long as the butter is warm enough to roll evenly inside the dough but cold enough to stay separate from the dough. But one wrong turn of the rolling pin or one little open corner for the butter to slip out and you too could be serenaded by your smoke detector. The tricky part is the butter. Pounding cold butter into the proper shape before it starts getting greasy is harder than it looks.

Now, you may say, “What do I care?  Big John’s PFI sells wonderful pre-made sheets of puff pastry, ready to thaw and bake.” And that is true. The frozen pastry sheets are very easy to use and of high quality. But sometimes we all like to go back and make the real thing ourselves. So, remember the problem with the butter?

Well, we sell Isigny Ste. Mere brand butter from France, already formed in the right shape and with lower moisture content than grocery store butter.

Isigny Ste. Mere butter is very high quality French pastry butter. The hardest part of the job is done; all you have to do is make the dough and roll and fold, roll and fold. 

Once you’ve made the pastry can slice apples into it for a strudel, use it to top a steak-and-kidney pie, roll it around sausages to make Pigs in Blankets, or cut it into strips, sprinkle with grated cheese or demerara sugar and twist before baking. You could bake it “blind” (all by itself with nothing in it), and once cooled, make Napoleons with pastry cream or some entirely new pastry of your own invention.

There’s tons of information out on the Internet on how to produce true puff pastry, but PBS has an old Julia Child videowith Michel Richard that I like best. Bon Appetit! 

-Chris Greenlee



Butter turns up everywhere.  It’s in sauces, in cakes and on your morning toast.  It’s often said that fat is flavor.   But, technically, fat is just a really good vehicle for flavorful ingredients.   Some fats aren’t even that flavorful on their own.  But butter?   Butter is the home of dairy flavor at its most intense.   And that is exactly why butter is used so much in the kitchen. One of the best things you can do with butter is to combine one or two flavors with it, either in its melted state or its firm one, and then use the result as a condiment.   Most of the time when you do this, it’s called a compound butter.    I like to have lots of different compound butters ready-made for all kinds of applications, both savory and sweet.  By the way, many compound butters can be frozen. 

Warm compound butters (beurre blanc, for instance) are pretty difficult for the inexperienced cook to make.  So let’s not talk about them just now.  Let’s talk about cold compound butters all of which pretty much always follow the same basic plan:

Put butter into a bowl.  Whether you use salted or unsalted butter depends upon the ingredients you intend to add to the compound.   Use unsalted butter unless you’re adding savory ingredients that aren’t already salty in which case you can use salted butter.  

Let the butter get about halfway to room temperature.  You want it soft but not too soft - about the texture of cookie dough.   

Now you can cream almost anything you like into it.  What you add depends largely upon what you want to use the compound butter for.  You then form the mixture into a useful or attractive shape.  Most frequently cold compound butters are either rolled into logs or pressed into molds.  Sometimes these shapes are also crusted in herbs, spices or other ingredients.  Either way, they are then chilled for later use.

Here’s an easy example:

To one stick (4 ounces) of softened, unsalted butter add about 1 tablespoon of Amore Garlic Paste and about 4 ounces of either fresh-cooked or canned, drained cannellini beans.  I like Strianese brand beans. Cream the ingredients together until well-combined.   

Roll the mixture into a rough 2” diameter log.  Wrap the log in a piece of waxed paper and then lightly roll the wrapped butter on your counter to smooth the surface of your butter log.  Chill thoroughly in the waxed paper.

Once chilled you can cut the compound into slices which you might arrange prettily on a plate to serve at table with good crunchy bread.  It’s perfect for your spaghetti dinner. 

And that’s really all there is to it.  You can tart it up however you like.   One of my favorite compound butters is actually two compound butters.  But it’s easier than it sounds – and much easier than it looks.   The photo of this is at the top of the article.

First I make a compound butter with Amore Sun-dried Tomato Paste (about 2 tablespoons of paste to one four ounce stick of unsalted butter).   I roll this into a nice tight log and chill it.  Then I make a compound butter with Dolce Gorgonzola cheese – about four ounces of cheese to four ounces of unsalted butter.  This mixture I flatten into a square sheet between two layers of waxed paper and chill.  The square should be about as wide as the log of tomato butter is long.

When both compound butters are chilled, I roll the log of tomato butter into the sheet of cheese butter creating a two-layer log of compound butters.  I love to serve slices of this on freshly grilled steak.  Man, this is tasty!

Another favorite butter for steaks is also shown in that photo:  I grind a quarter ounce of dried porcini mushrooms (available at PFI, of course) into a fine powder.  I like doing this in the electric coffee grinder I reserve for spices.  I pass the powder through a fine sieve and then cream it into four ounces of salted butter.  Roll and chill.  This earthy compound complements red meats magnificently.

Now you have the basic idea for making compound butters.  Here are a few ideas for fast and easy compounds using ingredients readily found at PFI every day:

truffle salt, Amore Hot Pepper Paste, smoked paprika, Allepo pepper powder, zataar, fried pancetta, mortadella, mustard, capers, anchovies, curry powder, pesto, peppercorns (pink ones are particularly pretty and surprising), cheese, smoked sprats, almond paste, cocoa powder, honey, fruit syrups (imagine blueberry or black current compound butter on French toast!) - what about very small amounts of Knorr base?

Page 1 of 4