Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tomatoes Taking Over

When life gives you tomatoes, make sauce!

One of the popular spots at Jungle Jim's International Market is the reduced section. There is a goldmine of produce and other culinary treasures that are priced right for immediate use. If you happen upon the Grainger tomatoes from Tennessee, grab them, hurry home and make a fresh, vibrant tomato sauce. Homemade tomato sauce is simple and sublime and transforms a bowl of pasta into a lovely meal. Add grilled, spicy Italian sausage for heartier fare. This sauce will work well using an over abundance of ripe garden tomatoes you may be pondering how to use. It's best used right away - freezing it will make it watery when thawed.

If you haven't made a fresh sauce before, there is a bit of preparation you must do before making the sauce. First, you'll need to peel the tomatoes. Get a large pot of water boiling and then score an X on the bottom of the tomato. You can cut about a 1/4-inch deep X.

Next plunge the tomatoes in boiling water and submerge them for about 1 minute. Remove the tomatoes with a large slotted spoon or a pair of tongs.

With the side of a knife, you can peel the skin right down the edge of the tomato. It will easily peel off. Remove the skin, take out the core and chop. By the way, this same technique works for peeling peaches.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

2½ pounds fresh tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Peel tomatoes by scoring the skin of each tomato with a sharp knife (do not cut too deep). Drop scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling water and boil for approximately 1 minute. Remove tomatoes and plunge into cold water. Peel and dice tomatoes and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add onion and sauté 1-2 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook 5-8 minutes, until thickened. Add chopped parsley, basil, salt and pepper.

Makes approximately 3 cups 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Jamón Ibérico

A Fine Swine

The life of a prized pig in Spain is short, but sweet. The "Pata Negra" is an ancient breed native to the Iberian Peninsula in Spain. As a free-range, acorn-eating pig who stores more fat than other breeds, this pig produces the King of Spanish Ham - Jamón Ibérico. This most prized and distinctively flavored ham is cured much longer (14 - 36 months) than a traditional ham resulting in "an intense and complex flavor with an unparalleled note of sweetness." The charcuterie counter at Jungle Jim's International Market offers our customers authentic Jamón Ibérico for $119.99 per pound. We've been told that once a customer tries a sample, they are compelled to buy some because it tastes so luscious and those of us in the Cooking School agree. We've tried it and love it! Feel free to consult with Brad Hacker, the head of our cheese and charcuterie department.

Jamón Ibérico is a simple and sumptuous treat that can be readily prepared for a cocktail party or casual tapas dinner. Leigh put together three tapas that feature fresh produce and paper thin slices of this delicious ham.

Starting on the left, you'll see a fresh peach and ham combination, slices of plain ham, stuffed dates wrapped in ham and a crostini rubbed with vine-ripened tomato and topped with ham. We asked Dave Schmerr, the head of our wine department, to recommend a Spanish wine to complement the tapas: a light Spanish Grenache like Borsao would be great..$7.99 and a steal for the price...also a nice dry Rose called Marques de Caceres would be fine (around $10 per bottle). Or to be completely indulgent, try the fantastic Sierra Cantabria Rioja at $64.99!

Fresh Peaches with Jamón Ibérico

2 ripe peaches, halved and stones removed
4 slices of Spanish ham
Cracked, fresh pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Arrange the peach halves cut side up and stuff the centers with a slice of ham. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly cracked pepper. Allow the stuffed peaches to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Serves 4.

Iberico Ham Bites with Cambozola and Prunes

3 ounces cambozola cheese, room temperature
18 walnut halves, lightly toasted
18 large pitted prunes
18 thin slices Iberico ham

Mash cheese in a small bowl with a fork. Spread cheese mixture on prunes and press a walnut half on each. Roll each piece in a slice of ham and secure with a toothpick. Arrange on a platter and serve. Makes 18

Spanish Ham and Tomato Crostini

6 slices French style bread
1 large ripe tomato
6 thin slices of Iberico ham

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Lightly toast bread on both sides. Cut the tomato in half and rub the cut sides of the tomato on each slice of bread. Place a slice of ham on top each piece of bread. Place the slices back in the oven for a couple minutes or until the fat starts to soften and the meat glistens. Serves 6. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tex-Mex Black Bean Salad

What Can I Bring?

Impromptu gatherings are always fun and usually your first response to an invitation is, "What can I bring?" If you're lucky, the answer may be a specific request - like brownies. Generally, the hostess replies, "Whatever you want to bring." We have just the right potluck, carry-in dish. All the freshest ingredients for this versatile, Tex-Mex Black Bean Salad are available at Jungle Jim's International Market. This particular salad is special because it satisfies all the requirements for a gluten-free, low-fat, high fiber, vegetarian and vegan diet. No one has to walk away hungry! The photo below shows this salad with grilled chicken, so you can add protein to make a heartier salad.

Let's talk a little about the ingredients. The vinaigrette gets its zing and smoky flavor from the chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. It's a product you can find in our Hispanic section at both stores. The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. What do you do with the rest of the can? Don't throw it away! Put the remainder of the can in a blender or food processor and puree it. Keep it for up to 6 months in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a plastic lid. Because of the acidity of the peppers and sauce, do not use a metal container or lid. Now you can readily add a teaspoon to sauces, salsas, hummus or any other dish that could use a little punch of heat or flavor.

While fresh corn is at its peak, steam or grill it before adding to the salad. In the winter months, use frozen corn, but make sure you drain it well. We like to use converted rice, like Uncle Ben's, because it is less sticky than other kinds of rice. Brown rice works well, too, but is just not as colorful.

Tex-Mex Black Bean Salad
One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
One 15-ounce can corn, drained
1 cup cooked rice
6 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 small orange pepper, small dice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each: cumin and chili powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk dressing together in a small bowl and pour over salad. Toss to combine and refrigerate a few hours or overnight. Allow salad to come to room temperature and stir before serving. Serves 4-6 as a side salad.

Variation: Add a finely chopped jalapeno pepper to heat things up! Add grilled shrimp or chicken and serve over salad greens as an entrée. Add a diced mango or omit rice, if desired.

From Leigh’s cookbook:  Be Your Guest, A Collection of Super Simple Make-Ahead Recipes. 

You can purchase this cookbook at the Gourmet Galeria at Jungle Jim's International Market.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


You say Kabob, I say Kebab

Pronunciation and spelling are very important. However, at Jungle Jim's International Market, our primary concern is taste and flavor! Regardless of how you pronounce or spell kabob/kebab, they are a great way to grill meat, fish and vegetables. Quick and easy, kabobs are an easy way to customize a meal for each family member and use up odds and ends in the refrigerator. We carry Gerber's Amish Farm boneless, skinless chicken thighs that make a juicy addition to any kabob. Fresh pineapple and red onion add sweetness and flavor. The hoisin bbq dipping sauce teams up perfectly with this particular combination. You'll find the recipe and grilling directions below.

We want to say a little more about the chicken we sell here at Jungle Jim's International Market. Gerber's Amish Farm chicken really does taste better and here's why: it has no added antibiotics, no by-products, no hormones and nothing added. The "nothing added" means no injected salt solution. When marinating this chicken, no salty solution dilutes the marinade. When you purchase meat that has been "enhanced" with a sodium solution or pre-made marinade, the sodium content is considerably higher than a natural product. We always like to point this out to our students at the Cooking School. It's important to know, especially if you are watching your salt intake. When making pan sauces with enhanced chicken, the solution dilutes the sauce in the pan along with raising the sodium content.

To assure you have a successfully skewered meal, follow a few guidelines:

* To guarantee each kabob is cooked completely, leave about a 1/4" between each piece of food. Some people keep each kind of food on a separate kabob - quickly cooking food on one and slower cooking food on another.

* To add really firm vegetables to kabobs, like potatoes or cauliflower, steam them prior to grilling.

* To grill fish and seafood, select firm-fleshed fish like halibut or tuna.

* To prevent food from slipping and turning, use 2 skewers per kabob. Or, use the Cooking School's favorite flat, rectangular skewers (pictured above) that keep food in place.

* To prevent burning a wooden skewer, soak it in water for 30 minutes prior to grilling.

* To easily marinate kabobs, thread each skewer, pour the marinade in a resealable bag and place the kabobs inside.

It took about 4-5 minutes per side to grill this kabob. Leigh slathered some sauce on during grilling and then we put it on top a pile of mixed vegetable rice. Quick, easy and healthy!

Hoisin BBQ Chicken Kebabs
¼ cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon sherry
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce
1¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 skewers
Salt and pepper

Whisk hoisin, ginger, garlic, sherry, honey and chili-garlic sauce in a bowl.

Thread chicken, pineapple and onion onto skewers; season with salt and pepper. Sear in a grill pan or grill over high heat until brown, about 4-5 minutes. Turn skewers over, baste with hoisin mixture, and cook 3-4 minutes more; turn and baste again and cook until chicken is cooked through and caramelized, about 2 minutes longer.

Serves 4

Monday, July 1, 2013


Brain Freeze!

Remember the halcyon days of summer? Afternoons at the swimming pool with friends doing cannonballs off the diving board? Most public pools had a snack bar that offered frozen treats to cool the sun-burned swimmer. The Red, White and Blue Turbo Rocket pop was a favorite and you couldn't hide the fact you ate one - the red and blue tongue and lips gave it away! Jungle Jim's International Market carries many frozen goodies that will delight your kids. But you're an adult now and we would like to introduce you to popsicles for grown-ups.

The 4th of July holiday is a good time to whip up a batch and hide them in the back of the freezer away from the kids! You will need some equipment:  popsicle molds, a blender or food processor and of course, fresh and flavorful ingredients. You can tell from the photo below we are thinking about some relaxing time off! We used a new product - coconut water - and it gave the popsicles a nice, refreshing taste.

Popsicle Pointers:

1.  Use seasonal fruit - the riper the better because it's more flavorful. Also, the riper the fruit, the sweeter it is and you can use less sugar.

2.  Fruit chunks will sink to the bottom - this is gravity at work! To prevent this, fill your mold part way and partially freeze and then add more mixture and fruit to fill. This way you'll get some fruit in every bite.

3. Make whole fruit pops by simply pureeing fruit, filling the mold and freezing.

4. For easy unmolding - run under water for a few seconds.

Pineapple-Coconut Ice Pops - for Kids and Adults
(above left)

1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
¾ cup coconut water
2 tablespoons sugar

Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze.

Makes 4 or more, depending on size

Strawberry Margarita Popsicles - for Adults!
(above right)

8 ounces limeade
1 cup strawberries
1/3 cup tequila

Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Pour mixture through a medium-mesh strainer. Pour strained mixture into popsicle molds and freeze.

Makes 4 or more, depending on size

We had some adult mix left over and decided to create a "shot pop". Just the right amount of frozen refreshment to cool you down. A plastic shot glass and half a straw are the only things you need to create a little fun.

Our "groovy" popsicle molds can be found in Gourmet Galeria at both store locations. Tovolo makes a set of 6 pop molds that are dishwasher safe, BPA free and of course, food safe. Six recipes are included.