Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Rice is Nice!

As a thunderstorm was pounding rain on the roof here at Jungle Jim's International Market, we were inside brainstorming what to have for lunch. Which lead to ideas about meals in general and we hit upon a winner - paella! This flavorful, iconic rice dish of Spain is perfect  for summer. It is a one-dish meal, is great for a large group and can be made on the grill if you want to enjoy a balmy summer evening. Add a green salad and some crusty bread and ole!

Attributes of authentic paella include some key ingredients and a specific pan. If you are a fan of paella, here are a couple tips to help you get started:

1.  The Pan - a paella pan is a low, wide, steel pan with handles. Its specific purpose is to make paella. If you want to try making paella without purchasing the pan, you could use a wide 15-inch skillet. Paella pans are not expensive and if you follow the directions to season it well like ours above, you will have a better chance of success. We offer a nice selection of paella pans in our Gourmet Galeria.

2.  The Rice - a short-grained white rice - Bomba - is the traditional. You will find it in the Spanish section or you can use La Preferida brand pearl rice in the Mexican section.

3.  The Saffron - golden-tinged and aromatic, saffron is the most expensive spice on earth. It is the hand-gathered stamen of the crocus plant. The good news is that you only need 1/4 teaspoon and The Cooking School carries a superb, reasonably priced saffron.

4. The Chorizo - a fully-cooked Spanish sausage that adds the smoky kick of flavor. You will find it in our charcuterie case. Don't confuse this with the fresh, raw chorizo you may find in the regular meat department. It just wouldn't taste the same.

5. The Paprika - smoked paprika gives this dish a deep smoky flavor and aroma, a pretty color and some heat. If you like more of a burn, you can use a hot smoked paprika. The Cooking School also carries a nice smoked paprika.

The technique for making paella is somewhat unusual. Once the rice is in the pan, paella is not stirred — or hardly at all. The other is that you want the bottom to brown if at all possible. If this is your first time making paella, don't worry about browning the bottom (socarrat.) - it can easily go from brown to burned.

The steam is rising from a fragrant pan of paella (above). The finished dish below was a perfect lunch!

Paella with Chicken, Chorizo and Shrimp

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound chorizo sausage (Spanish, cooked) thickly sliced

1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups short-grain white rice (Bomba or pearl)
¼ teaspoon saffron threads
½ bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
Zest of one lemon
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
Pepper, to taste

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed

In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir in chicken pieces to coat. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a seasoned 15-inch paella pan over medium heat. Add chorizo and cook until lightly browned; remove from pan and set aside. Add chicken mixture to pan and cook, stirring frequently, until browned and just cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and red pepper flakes to pan; cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Fold in the rice, stirring to coat rice with oil, about 2 minutes. Stir in saffron, parsley, chicken stock, and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and nestle chicken and chorizo into rice. Simmer 20 minutes, checking pan frequently and rotating to avoid hot spots as needed.

Arrange shrimp atop rice, scatter with the peas and cover tightly with foil. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and shrimp is cooked through. Allow paella to rest 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4-6

Friday, June 14, 2013


A Pop-Up Ad

Stacked on shelves, tucked away in bags and bottles is an impressive array of popcorn products at Jungle Jim's International Market. In the salty snacks section neatly displayed are microwave varieties, seasoning mixes and flavored oil. Organic and Non-GMO popcorn can be found in the natural section. Our bulk section boasts organic white, multicolor and yellow kernels. But wait - there's more! Red, yellow, rainbow, white, blue, purple and an intriguing "ladyfinger" variety jockey for space in the international section. If this isn't "corn-fusing" enough, there's even more kernels, oils, seasonings and for the adventurous snack lover - super spicy microwave popcorn - in the international sections at both locations.

Popcorn is "Jungle" Jim Bonaminio's favorite snack and today Leigh popped up a batch of fluffy, crisp white popcorn and an amazing batch of kettle corn. Her kettle corn is every bit as delicious as that tantalizing kettle corn you can get at the state fair. She'll be demonstrating the kettle corn in her sold out 4th of July Celebration cooking class this month at the Cooking School. She also taught a class on popcorn and wanted to share with you some of the information and tips she learned about this popular, healthy snack food.

Leigh tested several types of premium popcorn and by premium she means a more expensive, hybrid popcorn. We use a Whirley Pop popper in the Cooking School and for the best results the manufacturer recommends a premium popcorn, like Orville Redenbacher. At Jungle Jim's we carry a premium brand of white popcorn, Essential Everyday, that works really well for kettle corn and plain popcorn for snacking. The bottom line is that you need to use the popcorn the manufacturer recommends for the best results. Whirley Pop uses premium priced popcorn and most air poppers give you the best yield with standard priced popcorn. Both bowls of popcorn in the above photo are made with premium white popcorn.

Let's talk about oil. It makes a difference what oil you use to pop your corn. Coconut oil has a higher smoke point. In our opinion, it works better and pops a crispier kernel than vegetable oil which tends to burn or get sticky in the pan before the popcorn is completely popped. Coconut oil is all the rage which makes it more readily available in most supermarkets. Jungle Jim's carries coconut oil in the natural foods section and in the Indian international section. We also use the solid coconut oil, not the liquid product. Coconut oil has a longer shelf life because it is more stable than other oils, so if you buy a jar for corn popping, it will last up to 2 years without becoming rancid.

It the first photo you may have noticed two small bowls filled with something. One bowl has an herbed butter we like to melt and dribble over plain popcorn. The other small bowl holds a reddish colored seasoning mix we'd like to share with you for your snacking enjoyment.

Sweet and Spicy Popcorn Seasoning Mix

2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
4 quarts popped popcorn
Melted butter, for serving

Place sugar and salt in a food processor and process to a fine powder. Pour into a bowl and stir in remaining spices.

Place popcorn in a serving bowl and toss with melted butter. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons (or to taste) of the mix over popcorn and toss to distribute evenly.

Store remaining seasoning in an airtight container.

Makes about ¼ cup

The Gourmet Galleria carries the Whirley Pop popcorn popper. We like its dependability and ease of clean up. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Caramel Sauce

Gooey Goodness

Hot and humid days are always part of a Cincinnati summer. The cure for the dog days of summer is a bowl of ice cream with homemade caramel sauce flowing like lava down the sides and puddling along the bottom of the bowl. Topped with toasted nuts and pinch of sea salt, there is nothing much better than that. Everything you need to air-condition your insides is at Jungle Jim's International Market. Grab your car keys now!

Homemade caramel sauce is not difficult to make. Prepare all your ingredients in advance (mise en place) and have on hand a sauce pan, a wooden spoon and a little patience and attention to detail. The following recipe produces about a cup of decadent caramel sauce you can use for ice cream sundaes or a dip for apples. Crushed salted peanuts would have put this dipped apple slice over the top.

Caramel Sauce

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to dissolve sugar. Boil, without stirring, until mixture turns a pale golden color, about 6-7 minutes. Watch closely - the caramel can turn dark very quickly - do not overcook.
Remove from heat, carefully pour in cream and vanilla – mixture will sputter. Stir vigorously until smooth. Serve warm. 

Makes about 1 cup

Please visit the Gourmet Galleria at both Jungle Jim's locations. They are open 7 days a week from 8:00am until 10:00pm. Our ice cream was scooped into a petite pie dish made by Le Creuset and the hot pink ice cream scoop is from Tovolo. If you are looking for kitchen equipment, cookbooks and foodie essentials, stop by and talk to our knowledgeable staff.

The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's offers classes featuring cool summer desserts. Register for Luscious Lemon Desserts on Tuesday, July 23 from 6 - 8:30pm or The Great American Pie on August 27 from 6 - 8:30pm at the Fairfield location at www.junglejims.com

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Fresh Herbs

They Can't Be Contained!

Herbs impart a fresh burst of flavor to almost everything - salads, vegetables, sauces, grilled and roasted meat and seafood and even fruit and ice cream. If you haven't been to the Garden Center at Jungle Jim's in Fairfield, consider stopping in and browsing through the potted herbs. We found these fragrant beauties willing to pose for a photo! 

Since many fresh herbs are available year-round, you shouldn't have trouble finding most of them for any recipe you might be making. If you aren't following a specific recipe, add fresh herbs at the end of cooking to preserve their vibrant flavor and color. Trouble finding the fresh herbs you need? To substitute dried herbs for fresh, cut the amount by 2/3rds:  1/3 tsp. of dried for 1 tsp. of fresh. 

Spotlight on our Cooking School Instructors:  Janet Hontanosas

Janet has been an instructor at the Cooking School since 1995. Fresh herbs are front and center in her recipes. She has a container garden filled with herbs she uses in her kitchen: thyme, Greek oregano, mint, chives and rosemary. She shares her recipe for Buttermilk-Herb Dressing and notes that you can vary the herb combinations depending on what you have available. Try chives and parsley with basil or tarragon. More than just a salad dressing, she says it's great drizzled over oven-baked breaded chicken tenders.

Buttermilk Dressing with Fresh Herbs

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper

Whisk the buttermilk, mayonnaise, chives, parsley, vinegar and garlic in a medium bowl until well blended; season with salt and pepper. The dressing can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Janet's Warm Weather Pasta class on June 13, 2013, will feature fresh herbs for a boost of summer flavor. Rita Heikenfeld, Cincinnati area's local herb guru, will also teach a Make and Take Herb Garden on June 6, 2013. Both classes are held at the Cooking School at the Fairfield, Ohio, location. To register http://www.junglejims.com/cookingschool/index.asp