Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Sumptuous Stew

Beef + Beer + Bacon + Onions = Delicious

The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's International Market has the perfect formula for a warm, hearty meal for the folks around your table! The polar vortex has sent us all inside to warm up and a beef stew supper is just the answer to sub-zero temperatures! Once each ingredient is ready, you can prepare the stew for the oven and then curl up under a blanket. The aromatic equation of beef, beer, bacon and onions will draw your family to the table like the Pied Piper! If a steamy bowl of stew sounds inviting, please join us at the Cooking School for a class dedicated to Sumptuous Stews.

This is an all-star cast of ingredients! The bacon has been fried to a crispy crunch and the onions are caramelized and fragrant. We took a trip down to the Tasting Bar for some beer to add to our stew. A note about using beer in stew:  use a flavorful beer that you enjoy. After spending a couple hours in the oven, the flavors of the beer you use will be concentrated. You'll want to select a beer that is balanced in sweetness and bitterness.

When browning chunks of meat for stew, don't crowd the pan with chunks. Take the extra time to brown meat in batches for a beautifully seared crust. As you can see above, there needs to be plenty of room to brown the meat. A crowded pan will result in steaming rather than browning.

The onion slices and brown sugar are added to the bacon fat in the Dutch oven. 

Caramelize the onions until they are a golden brown. You'll get maximum flavor with this slow process.

The stew is ready to ladle into bowls. Roasted potatoes, string beans and a loaf of crusty bread will make a memorable meal on a cold winter night!

Beef and Beer Stew with Bacon and Onions

4 slices bacon
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
3 pounds chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups full-flavored beer

Heat a 4 to 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels. Chop bacon coarsely and set aside.

Add onions and brown sugar to the bacon fat in the pan and sauté until onions reduce and brown, about 25 minutes. Stir in the garlic and transfer the mixture to a bowl; set aside.

Combine flour with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Toss flour mixture with cubed meat, shaking off excess.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to pan and heat over medium heat. Add meat in batches (do not crowd pan) and sear, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer browned meat to a plate.

Pour beer into pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of the pan. Return bacon, onions and meat to the pan and stir to combine. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours, until meat is very tender. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm with crusty bread.

Serves 4

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Setting Our Sights on the Superbowl

Super Snack - Cajun Peanuts

Each year The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's International Market hosts a sold-out Superbowl class that infuses our students with new ideas to impress and please party guests. Recipes range from hearty sandwiches to trendy fingerfood. This Cajun Peanut recipe is a quick, crowd-pleasing snack that perfectly complements a growler full of beer from the Tasting Bar at both store locations. Try serving this addictive peanut mix in shot glasses - or a big bowl! 

When we say this is quick and easy - we mean it! Four simple and readily available ingredients are all you need. If your gang really likes spicy food, you can amp up the heat with more cayenne pepper. The recipe as written has a nice punch of heat that most people will find appealing.

Add the oil and then the dry seasonings over medium heat. A large non-stick skillet makes for easy clean up.

After 30 seconds, when the seasonings are mixed and hot, add the peanuts and stir to thoroughly coat with oil and spices.

Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Allow the peanuts to cool before serving - if you can leave them alone! When cool, store in an air-tight container. Ready, set, party!

Cajun Peanuts

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 ½ teaspoons Cajun seasoning
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound salted, dry roasted peanuts

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add seasonings to oil and stir well for 30 seconds. Add peanuts to skillet. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until peanuts are evenly coated with the spice mixture. Cool before storing in an airtight container.

Makes 3 cups

recipe from Leigh Barnhart Och's cookbook "Be Your Guest"

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Healthy, Happy New Year!

Greek Stuffed Peppers with Farro

We wish our customers and cooking school students a Happy New Year! The Cooking School staff at Jungle Jim's resolved to plan a schedule of innovative and exciting cooking classes for 2014. The fresh produce and grain selections at Jungle Jim's International Market teem with healthy ingredients ready to assist with your resolution to prepare satisfying whole-food and healthy meals. Leigh tested a recipe, Greek Stuffed Peppers with Farro, that makes a wholesome and delicious lunch or dinner and is very versatile for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike. We enjoyed the vegetarian version for lunch today.

Farro (or Emmer) is usually sold in the U.S. semi-pearled (sometimes labeled semiperlato), meaning some of the bran layer has been removed. If you find farro that is not semi-pearled, it needs to be soaked in water overnight before cooking and will need to cook for 30 to 45 minutes more to become tender. Farro has a satisfying chewy texture and nutty flavor. It can be used in baked goods and soups. 

If you are avoiding wheat products, you could easily substitute cooked brown rice. Barley would work nicely, too. Follow the directions on the package to prepare the farro you purchase. To have farro readily available, consider cooking the entire package and then freezing it in 1-cup portions.

The peppers were beautiful and perfect for stuffing! Clean the peppers and cleave them straight down the middle through the stem. It won't hurt to remove the stem, but it sure looks impressive.They fit nicely in the 9x13" baking dish. We couldn't have planned that any better if we tried!

Prepare the filling. Here's where you can get creative. Once you get the filling done, you can remove half to a bowl and then add some chopped, cooked Italian or Greek-flavored sausages to the filling for the meat-lovers at your house. Jungle Jim's International Market carries a wide selection of Aidells and Saag's brands of precooked chicken, pork and beef sausage. Other beans can be substituted for the chickpeas and you can use kale or other hearty greens instead of spinach. Our taste testers agreed that more feta would be a good thing!

The addition of Kalamata olives makes for a welcome salty bite, but you could substitute your favorite olives.

Stuff the pepper halves with the filling - be generous and pack it in. There may be some filling leftover, so spoon it into the bottom of the pan around the peppers. Leigh used a large ice cream scoop to fill the peppers, but you can use a serving spoon or whatever utensil works best for you.

After 50 minutes of baking, you can take the peppers out of the oven and test them for doneness. Take a small knife and stick it through the largest pepper. It should easily pierce through. If you like your peppers firm, then remove them when they meet your test for doneness. If you enjoy your peppers soft, bake them the full 60 minutes.

Greek Stuffed Peppers with Farro
adapted from a New Jersey Herald recipe by Amy Casey (www.amycaseycooks.com)

4 small sized yellow, orange, and/or red bell peppers
½ cup farro, we used pearled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cut peppers in half lengthwise through the stems. Cook farro according to package directions and set aside.

In a large sauté pan over medium high heat add the olive oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes, until the onions are softened. Add the zucchini and sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and sauté until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cooked farro, oregano, tomatoes, chickpeas, olives, and feta cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place peppers in a 9x13-inch baking dish and divide farro mixture among the pepper halves; tuck any extra filling mixture around peppers in the dish. Cover dish tightly with foil. Bake 50-60 minutes, until the peppers are tender and the filling is heated through. Remove from oven and serve.

Serves 4