Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holiday Hiatus!

Seasons Greetings

We are taking some time off over the holidays to enjoy our friends and family. We'll be back Tuesday, January 7, 2014 to share new recipes, tips and information with you. Stay tuned - we'll announce the first 2014 post on Facebook. If you're not a Facebook fanatic, you can join us again right here in January.  The Winter 2014 class brochure is full of great classes for seasoned chefs and culinary hopefuls. If you are looking for a last minute gift idea, please consider a Cooking School gift certificateThanks for your support of The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's! Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Meat-Full Meal!

For the Meatloaf Connoisseur

Fans of meatloaf will enjoy this iconic American comfort food - with a twist! Since we specialize in the extraordinary at Jungle Jim's International Market, how could we not add a flavor kick to this classic dish?! The dark, rich glaze topping this meatloaf is a bottled balsamic glaze made by Gia Russo. The heady aroma of balsamic vinegar will draw your family and friends to the table to enjoy this easy-to-prepare dinner entree. The perfect combination of lean ground sirloin and ground pork creates a moist meatloaf with a big punch of meaty flavor.

The ingredients for this meatloaf are easy to find on the shelf:  ground beef and pork, pesto, bread crumbs, eggs and sun-dried tomatoes. The prepared pesto is from Stonewall Kitchens. The Cooking School just completed "The Distinctive Flavors of Stonewall Kitchens" class and enjoyed the pesto in the mashed potatoes dish. The bread crumbs are freshly made. If you don't have fresh bread crumbs, you could substitute panko. Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes are a good choice here - they will be moist and can be easily blended into the meat mixture without being chewy.

Gently mix the ingredients by hand - don't overmix! Form the ingredients into a 9x5-inch loaf on a foil-lined sheet pan. You may notice that we cover most of our baking sheets with foil - it makes for a quick and easy clean up!

The grease around the pan is a yellowish hue because of the red color of the sun-dried tomatoes. You can drain the excess grease before adding the glaze.

Once the meatloaf is glazed and completely cooked, allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving. A side of mashed potatoes and some steamed broccoli would complete this meal and make a healthy, colorful presentation.

Italian Meat Loaf with Balsamic Glaze

Meat Loaf:
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
3/4 pound ground pork
1/2 cup prepared pesto
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2/3 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt

2-3 tablespoon prepared balsamic glaze, optional

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 11x7-inch shallow baking dish with foil.

Combine all ingredients, except balsamic glaze, in a large bowl and mix gently, but thoroughly with your hands. Form the mixture into a 9x5-inch loaf in the prepared baking dish.

Bake 55 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160° when inserted into the center of the loaf. Remove from oven and spread top with balsamic glaze, if using. Return meat loaf to oven for 3-5 minutes to set glaze. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Serves 4-6

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Let's Have Cake

"Baking" in the Microwave

Sometimes it's fun to just play in the kitchen. Today in The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's International Market, we decided to test a cake recipe "baked" in the microwave. To be honest, it felt a little like being 10 years old and baking with an Easy Bake Oven! We eagerly stood around the microwave waiting to see how our cake would turn out. Unlike the spongy texture of remembered childhood "cakes", this Espresso-Walnut Cake was moist with a nice crumb. Disclaimer - This is not an oven-baked cake, but for a spur-of-the-moment, no-muss-no-fuss cake, it was good. The coffee flavor and walnuts elevate it to an adult-level and the espresso butter cream icing is yummy. The only childhood behavior left to indulge in is licking the spoon!

You will need a microwave-safe pan for the cake. We had a Pyrex 6x8x2 inch glass pan that worked really well. Lightly spray it with non-stick cooking spray.

The ingredient list is short and you may have most of them in your pantry with the possible exception of the instant espresso powder. You may substitute instant coffee granules for the espresso. If you are making a trip to Jungle Jim's, you'll find the espresso powder in the Italian section of the International Department.

Leigh mixed the batter with a handheld electric mixer, but you can use a stand mixer, too. It comes together quickly and the aroma of the espresso is nice. The purple spatula is a hands-down favorite utensil in the Cooking School. The Gourmet Galeria carries Switch It by Chef'n in many bright colors. It can withstand high temperatures - we use these spatulas in every class!

As you can see, there is not a copious amount of batter. It came up about a fourth of the way up the side of the pan.

We microwaved the batter just as the recipe stated. After the cake has cooked for the  2 minutes at 50% power, you will notice that the batter along the edge looks slightly wet. Ignore that and just look for a toothpick to come out cleanly from the center.

When the cake is finished it will come up about halfway up the pan. Wait until the cake cools completely before you ice it. This may be overkill, put have a piece with a cup of coffee!

Espresso-Walnut Cake
For the microwave

3 ounces very soft butter
3 ounces sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces self-rising flour
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
¼ cup chopped toasted walnuts

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon milk
2 ounces very soft butter
4 ounces confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts

Grease an 8x6x2-inch baking dish* with nonstick spray.

Make the cake: Beat the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs in 2 additions. Add flour and espresso powder and mix well. Stir in ¼ cup walnuts by hand. Scrape batter into prepared baking dish, spreading evenly.

Place in microwave and cook at full power for 2 minutes. Reduce power to 50% and microwave again for 2 minutes. After the 4 minutes, check to see if cake is cooked – it should have risen, will spring back when touched and a toothpick should test clean when inserted in the center of the cake. If it needs a bit longer, microwave at 50% power for 1 minute more at a time, checking for doneness after each minute. Do not overcook or cake will be dry. Allow cake to cool completely on a rack.

Make the espresso buttercream: Dissolve the espresso powder in the milk in a medium bowl; add the butter and confectioners’ sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread the buttercream over the cool cake and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts.

Serves 4-6

* Jungle Jim's carries the 8x6x2-inch glass baking dish in the American Grocery Dept. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hearty Lasagna Soup

Lasagna-in-a-Bowl Soup

Everyone talks turkey in late November, so we opted to pick another topic that's very appropriate for this chilly time of year - Soup. If you have visited the Italian pasta aisle in the International Department at Jungle Jim's International Market, you have arrived in pasta paradise! The curly, trumpet-shaped Gigli pasta was the inspiration for the lasagna soup recipe in today's post. You could break apart dried rectangular lasagna sheets, but the Gigli pasta is frilly and fun and makes a pasta-tive statement for this hearty bowl of steamy, cheesy soup.

The cast of ingredients is pretty standard fare; however, we especially like Gerber Farms hot Italian chicken sausage, whole milk ricotta and of course, the Gigli pasta. If you are lucky enough to shop at the Eastgate location, you can purchase the fresh ricotta they make at the store.

The chicken sausage comes in links, so remove the casings and prepare as you would bulk sausage. Keep stirring because the Gerber Farms chicken sausage is very lean and may stick to the bottom of the pan - don't walk away! You may want to add a tablespoon of olive oil.

Add all the fresh vegetables and other ingredients to the sausage and mix - you can see it is a nice, thick soup. If your prefer a thinner soup, you can add more chicken broth. We used low-sodium chicken broth, so check for seasoning before serving.

The Gigli pasta should be done in 8-10 minutes. Don't stir too vigorously because the ruffled edge starts to break apart once it is cooked.

It's a very impressive and showy pasta shape! Don't you agree?

The ricotta dumplings are just small pillows of cheese flecked with fresh parsley. You can form them with a regular tablespoon or with a cookie/ice cream scoop.

Depending on the size of your ricotta dumpling, you can add several to each bowl to maximize the cheesy goodness. The dumplings really make this taste like lasagna!

We enjoyed a bowl of soup for lunch and it tasted great! Each spoonful brought up a bite of melted cheese. Be sure to sprinkle each bowl with a generous handful of fresh Parmesan. 

Lasagna Soup with Ricotta Dumplings

1 pound Italian chicken sausage, removed from casing
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 (14½) can low sodium chicken stock
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup red wine
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
4 ounces small ruffled pasta–or mini lasagna noodles or broken lasagna noodles
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the sausage in a 5 to 7-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. As the sausage cooks, break it up into bite-sized pieces. Continue cooking for 8-10 minutes until the sausage is browned and cooked thoroughly.

Add the onion, red pepper and garlic to the pan and sauté until onion softens, about 3-4 minutes. Add Italian seasoning, chicken stock, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, wine, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Bring to a boil then reduce to a heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add noodles and continue simmering the soup for 8-10 minutes or until the noodles are tender.

While the soup cooks, make the dumplings. Mix ricotta, Italian blend cheese, parsley, salt and pepper together until well blended. Scoop heaping tablespoons onto a plate and set aside.

To serve soup: Place a ricotta dumpling in the bottom of each bowl and pour hot soup over the top. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese and serve.

Serves 6 generously

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

For Dinner Tonight

Roasted Chicken and Chorizo with Fingerling Potatoes

"What's for dinner?" If you hear that plaintive question asked repeatedly at your house, The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's International Market has a ready answer! One quick stop in 3 departments will have you leaving with a bag of fresh ingredients ready to make dinner for 4 in just about an hour. Roasted Chicken and Chorizo with Fingerling Potatoes is a hot and hearty, just-a-little-spicy entree that is easy to make and clean up. This is a versatile dish that lends itself to some experimentation. Check out the bins of fresh root vegetables - parsnips, turnips and golden beets - to add even more color and variety. In case you aren't acquainted with cooking chorizo - it's a spicy, pre-cooked Mexican sausage that you will find in the Hispanic refrigerated section. Try it! You'll like it!

We used a pack of 8 Gerber Farms bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs to test the recipe. Drumsticks will work well also or a mix of both. Tip -  if you pat the thighs dry with a paper towel, they will brown very nicely.

There were a variety of fingerling potatoes available in the produce section today, so we opted for a colorful mix of purple, red and yellow. If you can't find fingerling potatoes, substitute Yukon Golds or even russet potatoes. Be sure to cut them into similar sized chunks so that they bake evenly. Red onions, garlic and fresh rosemary add a wonderful flavor and fragrance to the dish.
You will find everything but the chicken and chorizo in the produce department. 

Depending on the brand of chorizo you purchase, you may need to removed the "skin" - just peel it off and then slice into coin-sized pieces. Once you have all the ingredients cleaned and chopped, place them in an even layer in a large rimmed baking sheet covered in foil. Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In 50-60 minutes - dinner is served!

Roasted Chicken and Chorizo with Fingerling Potatoes

3 ounces chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 medium red onions, cut into wedges
4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
8 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on
12-16 fingerling potatoes or 3 medium potatoes, unpeeled and cut into wedges
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the chorizo into 1/4-inch slices. Put the onion and garlic in the foil-covered baking sheet. Scatter over the chorizo, then add the chicken pieces, potato, rosemary and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 50-60 minutes.

Halfway through the baking process, turn the chicken pieces and baste with the cooking juices.

Serves 4

*Note: If you have left over chorizo, you can add it to a frittata, omelet or quesadilla.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Another Gift Idea

Over-the-Rim Savory Rosemary Shortbread

The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's International Market just concluded a week of "Gifts from the Kitchen" classes that are an anticipated holiday tradition. Our next holiday class series begins the first week of December with a hands-on candy class, then a gourmet holiday desserts class and finally, the popular "Great Cookie Caper."  To help you jump start the season of giving, we invite you to try Savory Rosemary Shortbread which is a little bit cracker and a little bit cookie. We hope it puts you in the holiday spirit and encourages you to join us for some delicious holiday classes. 

This display gives you an idea of how unique an over-the-rim treat can be. Stack some in a cellophane bag, tie with a festive ribbon and attach to a favorite bottle of wine. What a great hostess gift!

Before you begin your preparations, take the butter out of the refrigerator. It should sit out for at least an hour before making the dough. Follow the directions below for making the dough, form into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. After chilling, place the disk on a lightly floured work surface.

Our sous chef, Debbie, likes to roll out dough that has been covered with a piece of plastic wrap. The dough doesn't stick to the rolling pin. You can choose not to use plastic wrap, just make sure your rolling pin has some flour on it. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness.

These cookie cutters are specially cut to allow the shortbread to hang over the rim of a glass. This star shape looks a little strange, but when baked, it hangs perfectly over the rim of a glass.
We found 4 available cutter shapes:  a star, a fluted circle, a heart and a sun burst. 

They are small, so you can fit a lot of them on a rimmed baking sheet.

They should bake until the edges just turn golden. Allow them to cool and then taste one! These are a perfect gift for the wine lover. Of course, you can skip the special over-the-rim cookie cutter and opt to use a small cutter to make savory shortbreads to enjoy with cocktails or for your cookie platter.

Savory Rosemary Shortbread

1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon white sanding sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
1¼ cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 300°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon sanding sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

In a food processor with a metal blade, process the sugar for several minutes until the texture of the sugar becomes very fine. With the processor on, add the butter and process until smooth and creamy. Scrape down sides of bowl; add rosemary and flour and process just until mixture turns to crumbly bits.

Scrape dough out of processor bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until mixture just holds together. Chill dough about 30 minutes for easier handling.

Roll the dough out on lightly floured parchment or other floured surface to a
¼-inch thickness. Cut out cookies using a 2-inch cutter and place on prepared baking sheet. (Scraps may be re-rolled 1-2 times) Sprinkle tops liberally with salt/sugar mixture.

Bake 15-18 minutes, until pale gold in color*. They should not brown. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Store completely cooled cookies in an airtight container.

Makes approximately 36 savory cookies

*If using over-the-rim cutters, check after baking 12 minutes. If space to hang cookies over-the-rim is closing, remove baking sheet from oven, use a sharp knife to gently re-open the space, and return to oven for 3-6 minutes until pale gold.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Apples and More Apples

The Season for Apples!

The fragrance of apples can't be mistaken when you walk into the produce section of Jungle Jim's International Market. Right now the locally harvested apples are in abundance - so enjoy them while they are at the peak of crispness and juicy goodness. You'll discover new varieties and old friends, like Golden Delicious, just waiting to be transformed into pies, muffins, crisps and quick bread. If you are looking for a special apple treat, try one of Sharon's caramel apples. They are perfection - seriously. You'll find them in the Bakery. 

For the Cinnamon Apple Cider Quick Bread recipe below, you'll need to grab 2 large apples and some apple cider. Locally grown apples will work just fine. They are a bit smaller, so you may want to use 3 instead of the 2 called for in the recipe. The Huber's Orchard & Winery cider captures the essence of fresh, crisp apples and added to the recipe, it magnifies the apple flavor in the quick bread. Give this local Starlight, Indiana, cider a try.

We used a 5-cup bundt pan for the batter. If you don't have a bundt pan, consider using a 12-cup standard muffin tin, a 9x9 inch baking pan or a standard size loaf pan. The baking times may vary, so check the suggested times in the recipes.

You can mix up this recipe by hand in 2 bowls. It is easy - dump and then gently stir together! 

The bread releases from the sides of the bundt pan easily if you butter or spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray before hand. Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

The apple cider glaze is just a little bonus. If you like a bread that is less sweet, omit it. This is a dense, moist bread; it would make a good breakfast selection because it is not too sweet. You could use white whole wheat flour in place of one cup of all-purpose flour to add a whole grain component. 

This chunky, hearty bread is a nice fall treat that you can enjoy any time of the day. 

Cinnamon Apple Cider Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute 1 cup of white whole wheat flour for 1 cup ap flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt
2 small apples (about 3/4 pound), peeled, cored and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup toasted and coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Apple Cider Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons (plus a couple teaspoons more if needed) of apple cider

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With nonstick baking spray or butter, grease either a standard 12-cup muffin pan, an 8-inch round, a 9-inch square baking pan, a standard loaf pan or a 5-cup bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Gently stir in the diced apples and chopped walnuts.

In a larger bowl, whisk the apple cider, maple syrup, eggs, melted butter and vanilla. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and gently combine until just mixed. Do not overmix.

Pour batter into the greased baking pan of choice. Bake until bread is golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Time in the oven varies depending on your choice of pan:  30 minutes for muffins and 45 minutes to 1 hour for a cake, loaf or bundt pan. Our bundt pan was done in 45 minutes.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Apple Cider Glaze:

Whisk the apple cider into the powdered sugar until well incorporated. Adjust the glaze with more apple cider if it is too thick. Drizzle over bread.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Rolling in the Dough!

The Cooking School staff has had fun testing pizza recipes for the Sub Shop located inside Jungle Jim's International Market. As a result of our experiments, we discovered that Jungle Jim's frozen pizza dough is easy to roll out and work with and tastes really good. If you enjoy pizza as much as we do, this dough is great to have on hand when the mood for pizza strikes. One 20 ounce ball of dough will make 2 very thin-crust 13-inch pizzas or 1 thicker-crust 13-inch pizza. Now there's no excuse not to indulge in a serious pizza craving! 

You'll find the frozen pizza dough in the Bakery department along side very tempting-looking frozen desserts. Don't let them distract you from your mission of getting the pizza dough - unless it's a tradition to serve dessert with pizza at your house!

The best way to thaw the frozen dough is to put it in the refrigerator the night before. Use the thawed dough within 2 days.

Lightly flour the work surface. Have your rolling pin and pizza peel ready. Your pizza stone should preheat in a 500 degree oven for 1 hour prior to baking. A pizza stone will give you a crispy crust that is hard to duplicate with a metal pan.

A pizza peel makes the job of sliding the crust onto the stone so much easier. If you don't have a peel, you can slide the dough onto a pizza pan and then slide the dough from there onto the stone. Gather the toppings to dress your pizza while the crust parbakes. If you are at a loss for unusual topping ideas, just walk up and down the aisles at Jungle Jim's - it's inspirational! 

Parbake the crust for about 3 minutes. Parbaking helps the crust set up, makes it easier to handle and dress and most importantly, produces a crispier crust. We used our home-made pizza sauce that you'll find the recipe for at the end of the post.

Many people are tempted to overload the pizza with too many toppings - resist the urge! The crust will be crispier if it isn't loaded down with heavy toppings. We used a whole-milk mozzarella that we shredded here in our kitchen. This 13-inch pizza has 2 cups of shredded mozzarella on top. Use any variety of cheese you like, but you'll notice the rich flavor and gooey-ness of a whole milk mozzarella.

If you are a fan of pepperoni, try using the "sandwich" pepperoni found in the Deli at Jungle Jim's. You can put these spicy, large pepperoni slices right on top of the cheese. They look impressively delicious. Put your dressed pizza back on the hot stone and bake for 5 - 7 minutes or until the top is slightly brown and bubbly on top.

Slice and eat. The aroma of freshly baked pizza is like the Pied Piper drawing folks into the kitchen! Everyone who tasted this pie liked the crunch of the crust, the great flavor of the toppings and the overall visual appeal of a homemade pizza. Give it a try! Just to let you know how good this pizza is - "Jungle" Jim stopped by and ate 4 slices!

Beer Alert! We asked Dave Schmerr, the manager of the Wine and Beer department what beer he would select if "forced" to choose to drink with a slice of fresh, hot pizza. He said all the beers are good! But, he would pick the Winter Solstice from Anderson Brewing Co. that you can get ice cold from the Growler bar in Fairfield. 

Pizza "Recipe"

1 13-inch crust ready to be "dressed" 
Pizza sauce (recipe follows)
2 cups of shredded cheese *
Toppings of your choice (we used sandwich-sized pepperoni from the Deli)

Preheat the pizza stone for 1 hour in a 500 degree oven. Roll out the dough and parbake for 3 minutes. Dress the pizza with toppings of your choice. Slide back onto the hot stone and bake for 5 - 7 minutes or until the top is slightly brown and bubbly.  

* we used Grande whole-milk mozzarella found in the Charcuterie case.

Quick and Easy Pizza Sauce

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1-2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

Whisk all ingredients together. This is enough sauce to top 2 13-inch pizzas. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gifts from the Kitchen

Panforte di Siena (pahn-FOHR-teh)

Don't hate us for thinking about the holidays already! If you like to give and receive homemade gifts of food, allow us to introduce you to a wonderful Italian cake/confection that you can make right now and give as a gift for the holidays. It's a good time to purchase the ingredients for this treat - Jungle Jim's International Market is stocking the shelves with all the dried fruits and nuts you will need for this recipe. 

What exactly is Panforte? The word means "strong bread." It's a firm, sweet cake/confection full of nuts, spices, pepper and candied fruit. This is NOT a fruitcake! A specialty of Siena, Italy, Panforte is traditionally served in the winter, especially at Christmastime. Served in very thin slices, it's delicious as dessert or an afternoon snack with tea. We think it would be a fabulous addition to a cheese course. A light dusting of powdered sugar makes for a pretty presentation. 

To give as a gift, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then parchment/butcher paper and tie with a decorative string or ribbon. Panforte should sit for at least a week before serving and will last for up to a year. Store it in plastic wrap - no need to refrigerate.

We are giving you  instructions with a few more photos so you can confidently make this in your own kitchen this holiday season. 

After you have toasted all the nuts, chop them in large pieces. Leigh chopped the hazelnuts in half, so you can use that as a size guide for the rest of the fruit and nuts.

Mix the bowl of dry ingredients into the chopped fruit and nuts. Combine well until the nuts and fruit are coated.

The sugar, honey and butter should be mixed thoroughly and brought to 238 - 240 degrees. Our mixture is almost ready to be removed from the heat and added to the nuts and fruit.

Be careful as you add the hot mixture to the nuts and fruit! Stir well until all the dry mixture is covered with the honey mixture. The batter is too thick to use a spatula - a sturdy wooden spoon works well.

Scrape the mixture into your prepared cake pan.

Once the mixture is in the pan, lightly dampen your fingers and press the batter evenly into the pan.  

It should reach almost to the top of the pan.

Occasionally the batter may run over, so put a pan on the next rack down to catch the overflow.
The batter will bubble about 2 inches in from the edge of the pan. Don't worry if the center doesn't bubble. Once done, follow the directions for cooling and removing from the pan. 

This is a beautiful, unusual gift that your friends will enjoy. If you don't have a 7x2 inch round cake pan, visit our Gourmet Galeria at either location. 

The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's has a popular holiday class tradition offered every November  - "Gifts from the Kitchen." If you enjoy giving homemade gifts, consider joining Leigh for some fresh ideas that you can make this holiday season. We offer 4 classes to fit busy schedules. Check out the 2013 menu.

Panforte di Siena

1½ cups whole blanched almonds, lightly toasted
1 cup whole hazelnuts, skinned, lightly toasted
1 cup diced candied orange peel
3 ounces dried apricots, diced
3 ounces dried figs, diced
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting, optional

Preheat oven to 325° with rack set in the center of the oven. Generously spray a 7x2-inch nonstick round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of pan with a parchment paper circle, spray parchment paper circle with cooking spray. Coat bottom and sides of pan with flour, tapping out excess.

Roughly chop almonds and hazelnuts and place in a large, wide bowl, along with orange peel, apricots, and figs; toss to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, cocoa powder, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper. Add to bowl of nuts and fruit and toss until well combined.

Place sugar, honey, and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook mixture until it reaches 238-240° on an instant-read or candy thermometer. Remove pan from heat and quickly pour sugar mixture into nut mixture. Stir until well combined, using a wooden spoon. Transfer mixture to prepared cake pan, pressing lightly (damp hands) and smoothing surface with a spatula.

Transfer cake pan to oven and bake until about 2-inches of the outer edge is bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack and let cool about 1 hour; run a warm, damp knife around edge to loosen. Cool for an additional 15-30 minutes, run a damp knife around edge of pan again and invert over rack (smack pan bottom) to remove from pan; turn cake over again (bumpy top up) and cool completely (pull parchment off bottom while still barely warm). Wrap well with plastic wrap, parchment paper, and then again with plastic wrap. Store in a cool, dry place at least one week before serving; panforte keeps well at least 3 months.

To serve, dust the panforte with confectioners' sugar, if using, and cut into thin wedges with a sharp knife. Makes 24 or more servings.