Asiago Cheese with Rosemary & Olive Oil


“Rosemary and Olive Oil intensify the rich nutty Asiago flavor”. Yes, it does! TJ’s Asiago with Rosemary is an excellent, super tasty cheese. I was really impressed when I tasted it. Compared to the regular Asiago that Trader Joe’s carries, which frankly is just OK, this is way more flavorful. In this version the added flavor, especially that of rosemary which the cheese is liberally coated with, really benefits and expands the cheese’s flavor. It’s excellent just on its own, sliced thinly. Great on crackers. Great with wine. Obviously this cheese will be a great match with almost any Italian dish. I grated this and tossed a generous amount over sautéed gnocchi and it was absolutely delicious. If you try this with almost any pasta dish you will like it. This is great as a second or third cheese on a Pizza. I did one with it and people scarfed it up! Rosemary Asiago would be great on a cheese plate or charcuterie plate, especially with grapes or other fruits, and some nice crackers. Wine too, naturally! TJ sells this cheese for $9/lb a decent price for a premium cheese like this. Try this, you will love it.

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Rutland Red Leicester Cheese


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rutlandredcheese

If you are a cheese lover – I certainly am – you will probably really like this, Rutland Red Leicester. I found it a very interesting cheese and terrific new find. This is a special cheese, I mea a kind of quality hand-made artisanal cheese that one might find in a high end gourmet cheese shop… yet you can buy it at TJ’s (well while they still carry it, don’t tarry, just in case their supply doesn’t last). When my eye caught it in TJ’s cheese section, I first thought it was a French cheese which looks the same and is a favorite of mine called “Mimolette“.

This reddish orange cheese is however from England and is in vein of a true English cheddar. Red Leicester has a wonderful nutty flavor and crumbly texture. Red Leicester is a traditional hard English cheese made from unpasteurised cow’s milk, and is produced in the county of Leicestershire which is up in England’s Midlands. Leicester City is well known for two things these days, Richard III‘s bones and its football team winning the English Premier League a few years back as a 500-1 underdog!

Supposedly the history of Red Leicester cheese dates back to the 17th century when farmers decided that the color of the cheese should denote its richness and to set it apart from cheddar, they decided to give it a reddish color using annatto, a natural vegetable dye.The wheels of cheese are coated in butter to make it richer then wrapped in cloth (i.e., a “cloth-bound”cheese ). Rutland Red Leicester is dense and has that “aged cheese” look and taste with a crumbly flaky texture and has an edible orange rind. I like it sliced very thinly. It’s excellent served on a cracker or toast or with fruit such as apples or grapes. It would probably pair wonderfully with wine, a white or a light red. I also found it melts very well and is delicious melted or cooked (grilled cheese with this, yes!)

If you put this on a cheese plate for guests it would surely get attention and questions. I’m sure the terrific English striker of Leicester FC Jamie Vardy would love this cheese. Well I do. TJ’s sells Rutland Red Leicester for $10 a pound -in a cheese shop this would be a $20/lb cheese, so once again, a TJ bargain.

“As the cheese ages, the butter keeps it moist, and the cloth seals in the butter, resulting in a super crumbly texture that simply melts in your mouth.”

Here’s a link to Trader Joe’s post on it. If you are interested, get this while you still can, it may not be there forever, unfortunately.

https://www.traderjoes.com/digin/post/rutland-red-leicester-cheese

Mustard and Ale Cheddar Cheese


Trader Joe’s “British Mustard and Ale Cheddar”? Hmmm…Sounds a bit intriguing, no? Comes in a small package, only 5 ounces and kind of cheap, it was well under two bucks. Now I have to say I’m not usually one who is too into cheeses with added “flavors”. Still on rare occasion you do come across a quite decent cheese with something added to the cheese that works quite well. An example are some Dutch Gouda’s that have cumin or caraway seeds in them. I’ve tried some that are really delicious. I didn’t know what to expect from a Mustard and Ale Cheddar. I love mustard with cheese of course especially cheddar. So I got some of this mustard and ale cheese to taste, and frankly thought well it’s OK, its got a lot of whole mustard seeds in there which are a little strong, maybe over-shadowing the cheddar. I couldn’t put my finger on the “ale” part really. So I think, it’s OK but would I buy more, no, not really, I’d rather buy a jar of TJ’s excellent Whole Grain Dijon Mustard and some Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar or New Zealand Extra Sharp Cheddar and use some mustard as I see fit. But here’s the funny part. During this evaluation, I tasted a piece, then tasted another. Just one more bite…. ok one more… and soon I realized during this tasting I had eaten about half the package. It was hard for me to stop tasting this cheese! Maybe I liked it more than I though? So if the combination sounds appealing to you, you may want to give this a try and see what you think.

TIP While we are at it, if you want a great melted cheese sandwich, try spreading that TJ whole grain Dijon on some nice bread before you add your cheese. Grill it up with butter. When all the elements melt together its pretty great. So I figure this cheese might make a very good melted cheese sandwich too. If anyone tries that let us know if its any good like that. So its a bit odd, but this cheese may be worth trying. If you put it out on a cheese plate, folks might even ask where you got this stuff.

Cabot Vermont Extra Sharp Cheddar


My review for TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar seems to get a good deal of interest, so next up for review in the Cheese Department is an absolute classic cheddar which I mentioned in that earlier post.

For my money the well known, long established, classic cheese, Cabot Cheddar, is the very definition and Gold Standard for what an “East Coast” Extra Sharp Cheddar tastes like. Its terrifically convenient that Trader Joe’s carries it under Cabot’s own well known brand.

Cabot extra sharp cheddar is my personal go-to cheese to pretty much always have in the house. Labeled an “Extra sharp” cheddar, it’s got a slight tangy taste to it. “Intense, rich cheddar flavor with an “East Coast” bite” is how they describe it on the package and I would say that description is spot on. Cabot is made in Vermont, and is a bit unique as a company, as its a Farmer’s Collective. Cabot has been around for almost 100 years and has won many many “best” awards.

Cabot extra sharp cheddar is both great just sliced as is out of the package. It’s also great to cook with. It melts wonderfully well and I think makes one of the most fantastic melted cheese sandwiches you will ever try. Also terrific melted into an omelet. Do I need to say, melted on top of a burger is good? It’s not, its freaking amazing.

Eaten as is slice up and paired with some fruit, that is a perfect, heavenly match especially paired with an apple, grapes or a pear. Put a piece of this cheese in front of me with a knife and a good apple (like TJ’s Envy (!) and I am one happy camper eating that delicious salty sweet combo. Ending a dinner with this is a divine dessert.

Trader Joe’s sells Cabot cheddar for an excellent price ($6/lb) in a block. If you have never tried this cheese, you may want to give this a Try. I think you will love it (even though the kids may want something a bit tamer)? You can give them the New Zealand cheddar, also excellent, or TJ’s sliced cheddar. The adults can enjoy the Cabot Extra Sharp.

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TJ Fresh Mozzarella Log


I think I can get this review in just in time for End of Summer when one can get excellent tomatoes. The perfect thing to pair with some perfectly ripe, juicy farm fresh tomatoes is this Trader Joe’s Fresh Mozzarella Cheese. Unlike the firmer, drier “pizza” mozzarella, fresh mozzarella is a milky soft fresh cheese. Fresh mozzarella is perfect for pairing with tomatoes, basil and good virgin olive oil for a super easy and delicious classic: a “Caprese Salad” (Insalata Caprese) Caprese Salad is the simplest of Italian salads, with sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil leaves, dressed with olive oil. Like Pizza Margherita, it features the colors of the Italian flag: green, white, red.

This mozzarella is shaped as a log and is pre-sliced into rounds which makes this super convenient and easy. Open it, and put some mozz on a plate with sliced tomatoes. You can arrange them artistically, alternating tomato and round of cheese if you want to impress, but even just cutting the slices into quarters and tossing with cubed tomatoes is fine! Douse with some good extra virgen olive oil, of course! Sometimes I add a few capers and a little of the caper liquid. With some good bread you have a super easy dinner or lunch and a small slice of heaven ready in minutes -especially if you can find some great tomatoes. Serve this salad to guests and they will love it. And its also good of course just eaten as is, put on a cheese plate, or making a terrific sandwich.


A 1 lb package is $4.99, which for fresh mozzarella is as usual, a pretty good deal chez Trader Joes.

NO-RECIPE RECIPE CAPRESE SALAD (INSULATE CAPRESE): Layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella. Tear up a good number of fresh basil leaves and sprinkle them all over everything,  arranging the salad on a large, shallow plate or platter. Drizzle the salad with good extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. (OPTIONAL: some jarred capers with some of their juice, or a very small amount of a vinegar) Serve with a nice crusty bread.

(Post Summer) If you can’t get great tasting beefsteak tomatoes get the small cherry egg shaped Italian tomatoes Trader Joe’s carries. They are a little expensive but are really tasty, cut in half, and mix up with cut up mozzarella …..

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GNOCCHI WITH PESTO -A NO-RECIPE RECIPE, FIVE MINUTE $3 DINNER


The other night I came home tired and hungry. I looked in the fridge and saw nothing really to eat.

I wanted something hot and delicious that would not require any time at all.

I looked in the cupboard and saw 2 things, a package of TJ GNOCCHI plus a jar of TJ PESTO ALLA GENOVESE.

Aha, dinner!

(NO-RECIPE RECIPE) FIVE MINUTE GNOCCHI with PESTO SAUCE

STEP 1 – BOIL WATER

STEP 2 – THROW IN THE GNOCCHI (ADD A PINCH OF SALT IF YOU LIKE) BOIL GNOCCHI THREE MINUTES

STEP 3 – DRAIN GNOCHI (NB: RESERVE A 1/2 CUP OF THE PASTA WATER!) TOSS THE DRAINED GNOCCHI BACK IN THE POT TO KEEP WARM

STEP 4 – ADD PESTO (I ADDED ABOUT 1/2 THE JAR). ADD A FEW TABLESPOONS OF THE SAVED PASTA WATER BIT BY BIT STIRRING GENTLY TILL YOU HAVE A SAUCE OF YOUR DESIRED CONSISTENCY. KEEP WARM WITH A TINY FLAME UNTIL READY TO PLATE

DONE

FANCIER? A drizzle of a great EVOO…. Freshly grated Parmigiano or Pecorino (or Mozz?) Fresh ground black pepper. Optional: Green it up with some chopped arugula (or parsley or baby kale). I added in some Arugula to the pot and stirred for about 45 seconds until it wilted a bit into the pesto. YUMMY! With 2 slices of toasted bread, some greens and dressing, a glass of wine…we had a full nice dinner that took almost no effort and very little time.

TIME (under 5 minutes not counting the water boiling)

COST – TJ’s Gnocchi (1 lb) costs $1.69.  A jar of the Pesto Alla Genovese costs $2.49 (so figure 1/2 jar’s $1.25) So the dish costs less than $3 with 2 nice servings as a dinner, or about 4 as a side-dish.

So its a good idea to keep these 2 handy items on hand in your pantry! The Trader Joe’s Gnocchi is in the dried pasta section, and come in a shelf stable sealed plastic package that is good for many months at room temp. The Pesto once opened lasts a few weeksin the fridge. Covering the pesto with some olive oil will help it keep a bit longer.

I also see TJ’s has another fresh PESTO they carry in the refrigerated section. Must try that one too.

pesto2

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Trader Joe’s SMOKED ENGLISH CHEDDAR


 


I’ve never seen this cheese before at TJ’s and as I’ve previously mentioned, Cheddar is one of my favorite cheeses. I love “smoked” cheeses too, generally and thought this looked worth a try.

Not only is it smoked, it says “With Spring Onion and Chive” and from the picture you may be able to make out the green flecks in the cheese as well as the brown edge which smoked cheeses have.

I liked the taste of this cheese a good deal. Its very interesting and unusual. The two added flavors (smoke and onion) add an entire new dimension of flavors and fit in nicely and are balanced. While pronounced, the added flavors do not overpower the taste of the cheddar. In a traditional English pub, a cheddar cheese along with some pickled onions and bread are an old traditional menu item…A “Ploughman’s Lunch“. So cheese and onion… perfect together.

We tried it on some crusty baguette. Upon tasting this Smoked English Cheddar my wife said, “I think this would be good with some red wine”. She’s smart, it definitely would. “That’s exactly why I bought it”, I said. We’ll test this theory out later tonight.

Update: It was superb with a nice red wine (Malbec)

This Smoked English Cheddar sells for $9/lb. and gets a Recommended and a

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(update! – this product may have become unavailable !)

Trader Joe’s UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR


96923-unexpected-cheddar

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In this case the hype is correct

Year in, year out, Unexpected Cheddar is one of TJ’s best selling products…and for good reason. It’s a “knock it out of the ballpark” item. TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar tastes like a an aged premium cheddar cheese with hints of Parmigiano. If you put this out on a cheese plate for company you are almost guaranteed to get some comment like, “Hmm this cheese is amazing, where do you get this?”

While I have not tried every cheese that Trader Joe’s sells (I wish!) I have to say Unexpected Cheddar is one of the best cheeses I have purchased there or frankly anywhere. I’m a huge fan of a good Cheddar, the sharper the better for my tastes. Is it because I’m a Damn Yankee (well a New Yorker) and Sharp Cheddar has always seemed to me to be a very Yankee or “East Coast” cheese? On this side of the Atlantic anyway as Cheddar cheese is quite English in origin. Historically in my taste memories, the Sine Qua Non of a classic Cheddar, that was in our house since we were kids was always CABOT CHEDDAR from Vermont.  If we didn’t have a piece of CABOT Extra Sharp Cheddar in our fridge we would at least always have a package of Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp as my dad’s favorite cheese was Cheddar by far. TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar is quite different from these classic cheddars like Cabot. Cabot Extra Sharp is wonderful and it’s actually sold at TJs (I recommend trying it)! But “Unexpected Cheddar” is unique, its got a texture unlike most any Cheddar you’ve tried. As Trader Joe’s own description is so perfect I’ll simply quote it:

Unexpected Cheddar has been a best-seller since it first hit our cheese cases, back in 2011. It presents itself as an aged Cheddar, and tastes like one as well. Until, it doesn’t. That creamy Cheddar takes an unexpected flavor turn, the texture seems to change as you eat – you might swear you were enjoying an aged Parmesan. On first try, it’s an unexpected pleasure. With subsequent purchases, the only unexpected part of the experience is that it continues to be such a great value. Then again, you’ve come to expect great values at Trader Joe’s, so our price of $3.99 for each seven ounce piece may not be so unexpected after all.”

Ignoring the marketing, the description of the taste and texture is exactly right. The texture is more crumbly than a regular cheddar. It may crumble apart when you slice it, not unlike a piece of Parmegiano Reggiano. There are flavor profiles in the Unexpected Cheddar which have that same “umami” overtones of a Parmigiano, Grana Padano or an aged Pecorino. I’ve tasted this with wine, and it pairs wonderfully with both whites and reds. Or beer for that matter. I can see this as a good pick for a wine tasting or a beer tasting.

At $4 for 7 oz. figure this costs a bit under $10/lb. for a super premium cheddar, a very good deal as usual from Trader Joe’s. Once you buy this you may find it makes it onto your “Always Buy” list. To be honest in our house, the biggest problem with UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR is it goes so damn fast. Its too damn tasty, way too easy for a package to get eaten in one day. Be warned.

Be sure to try this melted. On a cheeseburger? Gets a wow. Grilled cheese? The best grilled cheese you may ever have! In an omelet? On pizza or as quesilladas… They are all fantastic with this cheese. Want some ideas for foods to pair this with? While it is excellent on its own of course, I find it goes exceptionally well with fruit, such as apples, grapes, pears, or figs, added to a cheese plate. In particular, the ENVY or FUJI apples that TJ carries pair very well with this cheese. It is a little tricky to slice the cheddar perfectly as it tends to crumble a bit but thats OK as I promise you every last crumble will vanish. If you serve this to guests, you will get praise. Seriously, try this if you never have. You will love it.

By the way, TJ does now carry CABOT EXTRA SHARP VERMONT CHEDDAR. Also worth trying if you’ve never had it, Cabot Extra Sharp is THE classic East Coast cheddar cheese.

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