Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stalking Asparagus

You know it's spring when...

Asparagus has arrived in the produce section at Jungle Jim's! You'll find bundles of tender stalks of white, green and purple asparagus carefully nestled in the chipped ice. We brought some up to the Cooking School to use for testing recipes for upcoming classes and had to get a photograph to show off the beautiful colors.

If you are unfamiliar with the white and purple varieties, consider giving them a try. White asparagus is simply green asparagus grown beneath a layer of hay or soil which prevents photosynthesis from occurring. Fresh white asparagus will have a slightly crunchier texture than the green or purple varieties. Purple asparagus may be a bit sweeter than the green and white types. We have noted that during cooking, the purple asparagus will lose some of it's color when heated, so don't be alarmed or dismayed when the brilliant color fades.

You can prepare cleaned asparagus in several ways:
  • To blanch for as an appetizer, place in boiling water for 15 seconds (small spears) and 30 second (large spears). Rinse under cold water to set the color. Transfer to a clean towel to dry. Season with salt and pepper.
  • To grill, lightly coat the spears in olive oil. Place the spears perpendicular to the grates and grill for 2 or more minutes depending on thickness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • To roast, spread the spears on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Roast at 425 degrees for 7-12 minutes depending on thickness. Season with salt and pepper.
Keep in mind that asparagus will continue to cook in the residual heat, so cook/roast/grill until just tender-crisp.

A Note from Leigh
I stopped downstairs in produce on my way home tonight looking for a vegetable for dinner. The beautiful purple asparagus caught my eye. The stalks are large, 10 stalks weighed 1.06 pounds. Because of the size, I decided to slow-roast them at 350° degrees for about 25 minutes - rather than in a hotter oven for less time as I would thinner asparagus. The result was delicious. The spears were very tender and had a mild asparagus flavor. The vibrant purple color fades slightly with roasting.

Roasted Purple Asparagus
1 1/2 pounds large purple asparagus, about 16 stalks
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Rinse asparagus well and pat dry. Break off woody ends of stalks. Transfer asparagus to prepared baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat lightly and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange asparagus in a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until asparagus is tender. Serves 4.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Say Cheese!"

A Visit from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

The employees in the Cheese Departments at both Jungle Jim's locations took a trip to the heart of Wisconsin's dairy industry. Well, not a real trip, but a 3 hour class conducted by Bob Dilcher and Sara Hill of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. The Wisconsin cheeses carried at Jungle Jim's include all types of soft/fresh, soft-ripened, blue-veined, semi-soft, pasta-filata (mozzarella), semi-hard, hard and processed cheeses. If this incredible variety of cheese baffles you, please ask the cheese department employees to share their expertise. 

After the Cheese 101 segment, the beer and cheese pairing course ensued with a selection of 6 beers paired with 6 cheeses. If you are looking to plan a fun event for friends, family or your cooking club, consider hosting a cheese tasting. Keep in mind this easy rule of thumb: simple flavors pair best with other simple flavors. Try an uncomplicated buttery Monterey Jack with a Sauvignon Blanc or Pilsner. Also be mindful that a strong-flavored, piquant cheeses like a Jalapeno or Pepper Jack may overwhelm the beverage. To make hosting a cheese buffet simple, we have included the beers and cheeses that were part of the pairing and are available at Jungle Jim's.

Beer and Cheese                                                                 
Weiss Beer (Shiner Hefeweizin)  with Chalet Baby Swiss
Amber Ale (Hinterland Amber Ale) with Sartori Bellavitano
Red Ale (St. Rogue Red Ale) with Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve
IPA (Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA) with Carr Valley Casa Bolo
Scotch Ale (Scotty Karate) with Roelli Dunbarton Blue
Porter (Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald) with Hook's Blue Paradise

Cheese Fact: It takes 10 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of cheese.

Humble, Yet Sublime:  Mac and Cheese

It's always a good time of year to dig into a bowl of cheesy comfort food and we have the perfect recipe showcasing cheese. You can use other cheeses as long as it comes out to a total of 1 1/2 cups of cheese plus the 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan. Try crumbling up some blue cheese for a savory tang or chipotle cheddar for a spicy hint of heat. Use up any odds and ends of cheese you have on hand.

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

8 ounces macaroni, shell, penne or other pasta
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil; cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain well and return to pan.

While the pasta cooks, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and whisk in flour until no lumps remain. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until completely incorporated and smooth. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in cheddar, Parmesan, mustard and Worcestershire until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy. Pour sauce over drained pasta and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ratatouille (rat-uh-TOO-ee)

Vegetable Extravaganza

The produce section at Jungle Jim's is a vegetable lover's paradise! Resisting the temptation to purchase colorful and fragrant produce is unnecessary if you have just the right dish to make when you get home. This plentiful pile of produce was two arm-loads full and begged to be photographed before being transformed into a quick and easy ratatouille. 

Ratatouille is a popular dish from the French region of Provence that combines eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic and herbs. The vegetables can vary according to the cook and availability. Our selection in the photo above included the traditional eggplant, onions, zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers and tomatoes. Cooking methods are not fussy - they can be cooked together or cooked separately and then combined and heated briefly together.

Ratatouille is an economical and healthy dish to prepare. If you haven't visited the reduced section at Jungle Jim's, you should make a swing through it. Most times of the year, you can find all the ripe produce needed for ratatouille and supplementing with vegetables and herbs from your own garden can reduce the bottom line cost. 

Served cold, warm or at room temperature, ratatouille is a perfect picnic food or potluck dish that will please the vegans, vegetarians and carnivores in your group. If you need some extra serving ideas, we suggest:

  • served as a side dish, warm or room temperature with fish, chicken or pork
  • bruschetta or crostini appetizers
  • combined with cheese as a tart filling
  • strudel/phyllo filling
  • dusted with parmesan cheese over pasta
  • topped with baked eggs
  • ladled over bowls of  polenta

The Cooking School's Simple Ratatouille

1/4 cup olive oil, divided use
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves, minced garlic
1 medium eggplant with skin on, cut in 1-inch dice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 yellow bell pepper, cut in 1-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, cut in 1-inch dice
2 medium zucchini, sliced in ½-inch coins
6-8 Roma tomatoes, seeded and cut in 1-inch dice
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions to the pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the eggplant and thyme and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and zucchini and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 4 cups

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Setting Our Sights on Shrimp!

May 6, 2013

Shrimp for Summer

Winter is officially over here at Jungle Jim's International. We were getting a little cabin fever the best thing to cure it is a A Low-Country Shrimp Boil. It’s the perfect summer party and just may be an annual summer event you can host for friends and family.

You can see why we have shrimp on our minds when you look at this pile of deliciousness. Our photo comes from the sold out Hands-On Low-Country Shrimp Boil class taught at the Cooking School.

To boost your confidence and encourage you to add more shrimp to your summer menus, we have a few tips:
  • Use larger shrimp for grilling – 13/15 or 16/20
  • If you buy thawed shrimp, do NOT refreeze, use within 24 hours of purchase
  • Thaw frozen shrimp in the refrigerator or under cool running water
  • Do not overcook shrimp, cook just until flesh is opaque
  • Make cooking shrimp easier - buy deveined shrimp!

We took a trip to Jungle Jim's Seafood department to show you the difference between a 2/4 shrimp (top left), a 16/20 Black Tiger shrimp (center) and a head-on 21/25 shrimp (right bottom). Shrimp are usually sold by "count" or size. The count, such as 16/20, refers to the number of shrimp you'll get per pound according to their size. 

Shrimp is so versatile. You can sauté it, grill it, bake it, broil it, fry it, boil it and steam it. This recipe is an easy way to use shrimp for your next meal. It's been tested in our Cooking School!

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

4 ounces dry linguine
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 pound raw shrimp (16/20 count), peeled and deveined
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/8 crushed red pepper - or more to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook linguine according to package directions until al dente.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet. Add garlic and sauté for 15 seconds. Add shrimp and sauté 3-4 minutes, until almost cooked through. Add lemon juice, wine and crushed red pepper and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and stir to combine; simmer and stir sauce until it is creamy and has reduced slightly. Add cooked pasta and toss to combine with shrimp and sauce. Serves 2.

Did you know shrimp is America’s favorite seafood? Leave us a comment about your favorite way to prepare shrimp.