Trader Joe’s SHAKSHUKA STARTER (bring your eggs)


RAVE

Ever hear of SHAKSHUKA ? It’s become kind of cool and trendy here. Shakshuka is a popular dish in the Middle East and North Africa, consisting of peppers and onions in a spicy tomato sauce in which eggs are poached in the sauce. Eaten with fresh pita / bread, it can be breakfast, lunch or dinner! It’s delicious and one currently see’s it in trendy restaurants around the US.

In this version found in TJ’s frozen section they have come up with a “Shakshuka starter” kit meaning this is the base sauce to which you add at an egg or two to finish it, and possibly some other things optionally. I took the package, ran some hot water on the bottom to loosen it up and then slid the contents into a pan (personally I like to cook with fire, I’m not big on microwave). I used my trusty, small black cast iron pan. Add 2 tablespoons of water, cover the pan and cook for about 6-7 minutes till nice and bubbly. When ready, make indentations with the back of a spoon, and carefully slide the eggs into the depressions. If you are talented, you can crack your eggs directly in. If not crack them into a little cup first, then pour them in. Whatever you do try not to break the yolks. The runny yolks will be important to the final dish. Put a cover back on the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Ideally we want the yolks runny. Well at least I do. I also added some cubes of Feta Cheese sprinkled around the top before covering the pan, which adds some great flavor.

Take off your cover and tuck in. You can bring the pan to the table and eat it right out of the pan – typical for shakshuka – or carefully spoon it with the whole egg onto a plate. Drizzle on some very good virgin olive oil, maybe add some chopped parsley, and break the yolks so they run all over. Mop up the eggs and sauce with a spoon and lots of bread like Pita bread (or Naan). This amount is only 9 oz, so say one portion. So you should probably make one for each person. YUMMY!

OPTIONS: you can sauté up some more red peppers and garlic in olive oil if you like and add them in. As noted, cheese such as FETA is very nice addition too. Something spicy like HARISSA, BOMBA, OR GREEN DRAGON sauce to give it some kick is a must IMO. This is not spicy as is. It’s only $1.99. Worth a try.

Here’s a NY Times piece on Shakshuka by Melissa Clark with her recipe (may need registration to read)

BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS – How To Cook Them Nice and Juicy!


Lots of people complain about boneless chicken breasts as being dry and tasteless. But they don’t have to be. You can make them easily to turn out juicy and delicious with this little cooking trick I’ve come up with for them described below.

Boneless breasts can quickly go from moist and juicy to dry with just a half a minute of overcooking. So you have to be very careful with your cook time and technique. Over the years I’ve experimented plenty cooking them, and figured out a method that really works and you should try the next time you make chicken. Here’s my my not-so-secret, secret way of cooking chicken breasts so they are never dry and tasteless.

Chicken breast meat, especially off the bone and with the skin removed, is naturally very lean. It just doesn’t have enough intra-muscular fat, as dark meat does, which makes boneless chicken thighs much easier to cook, without overcooking until they dry out. Therefore the trick with cooking boneless breasts is basically to get a very nice sear on both sides, then let them finish in the pan with the cover on and the heat off using residual heat and internal steam to let them finish cooking. Thats the secret. Details follow.

Chicken breasts – Fresh or Frozen. During Covid-19, I started buying frozen breasts instead of fresh at Trader Joe’s. Sure I usually would prefer fresh over frozen but I don’t want to go to a store as often. So having frozen chicken breasts in the freezer is very practical. TJ’s sells them prepped and quick frozen in 2.5 lb bags, either “whole breasts with rib section” which are a big whole breasts, or you can get portioned, trimmed up ones which are one half a breast and make a perfect portion per person. They run about 7 or 8 dollars a bag. And there is an Organic option which doesn’t cost much more than the regular ones. If I get them frozen, I let them do an overnight defrost (full day) in the fridge (how long will depend a bit on thickness). I always use a slow defrost as I have mentioned many times before, as this is best method for defrosting most things. If you rush the defrosting and say leave it out on the counter you will see juice run out of the meat and your breasts will be dry no matter how you cook them. Naturally if you prefer to use fresh boneless chicken breasts, this same cooking method works equally well with fresh breasts. Fresh of course is the “normal” way I would buy chicken pre-Covid-19 and have also at times bought fresh breasts on sale, trim them up and freeze them myself. It’s just a little more work, but when they are $1.99 /lb on sale at my supermarket, its worth it.

Here’s the general outline of this method for juicy chicken: Season/Marinate. Sear on both sides. Turn off the heat. COVER THE PAN. WAIT. Details follow:

JUICY CHICKEN BREASTS COOKING METHOD: Prep / trim up the breasts. Season and/or marinate the meat. In the picture above I used some TJ TACO SEASONING all over the breasts. Its a convenient spice blend I find and actually works well with chicken as well as beef. Its a cumin and chile “mexican” spice blend. Of course any mix or blend of spices of your choosing will work. Smoked Spanish Paprika is great in the mix as it helps browning and is very flavorful (TJ carries it). I almost always add fresh garlic. Let the seasoned chicken marinate/sit for 20-30 minutes on the counter to warm up from the fridge. TIP: Rub Olive oil all over the chicken before adding the spices and they will stick better. Some people like a sprinkle of some coating (a bit of flour, or breadcrumbs or Panko). What we are going for is a nice golden brown color on both sides of the chicken.

Put a tablespoon of olive oil (or oil and butter) in your pan (Non-stick or Cast Iron). Cast iron is terrific. Get the pan nice and hot. Throw in the chicken and let it sear on one side. DO NOT TOUCH or move the breasts in the pan for 3-5 minutes until you see a good “Golden Brown and Delicious” sear on the bottom. A good sear is crucial for great flavor (aka the Maillard effect). When one side is done, flip the breasts over and do the other side. You need to check them and make sure the middle is not completely cooked (opaque). Now turn off the fire and immediately put a tight fitting lid on your pan to cover them. Do not peek or open the cover. If you do you will let the precious steam that will finish cooking them escape. TIP: (optional) Squeeze a quarter lemon in the pan and throw it in before closing the lid.

Set your timer for 7-10 minutes to let the breasts finish cooking in the covered pan. Thats the whole trick, letting residual steam and heat finish them, a bit slowly. Voila! Juicy Breasts with a ton of flavor.

SO again its: “Season, Sear, Heat Off, Lid On. Just wait till done”.

This little trick to cook juicy boneless breasts is that easy. With this method, the seared breasts are not cooked all the way through the middle but the the “closed, moist environment” inside the pan, lets them finish using steam slowly, basically like a poach. Now you may have to play around with your own timing, and adjust a little bit either way based on thickness of chicken and what type of pan. What we are aiming for in the cooking is getting them just over the line of seeing any pink. After they are just past the point of not looking pink and done, you get them out of the pan and rest them on a plate or cutting board for about 4-5 minutes (some foil over them will help keep them warm). Resting meat keeps juices in. The breasts should be cooked through (don’t slice before resting them, but once rested you can “peek” in a thick section). Remember meats continue cooking a bit from residual heat inside. Again why you rest them for a few minutes.

In my picture the bigger piece needed another 30-60 seconds to finish completely so I just put it back with the cover on with a lowish flame. Its way easier if they are a bit underdone to cook them a little bit more then overcook them if you want to be sure they don’t come out dry. You can also make shallow slashes in the thicker part of a breast prior to seasoning them to help even things out with the thinner parts as heat will penetrate the slashed part easier. Or you can pound the thick part flat with a pan a bit which will even them out. Anyway give this method a few tries and you will figure out your exact timings depending on a few factors (chicken thickness, heat source, pan thickness, etc). Electric stoves of course have a great deal of residual heat after they are shut off so Wait Time would really need to be much less (or just move the pan to a cool burner). If your chicken is still coming out “dry” with this Sear & Cover Method, you will need to deduct a minute of the outside browning time especially after you turn them. Conversely if its pink in the thickest part add a tiny bit more time. You can also try it with the lid on for the second side browning, but deduct a minute or two as the steaming effect inside the pan will be more intense. Now that you know this sear and cover method, you can experiment. If you like the results please let us know in the COMMENTS section.

Naturally serving these with a tasty sauce is great for flavor plus keeping things moist too. Try yogurt and Green Dragon or Zhoug -or- yogurt and lemon, or just deglaze the pan with a tiny bit of stock, wine or even just water and using the scrapings, and a bit of butter to make a few tablespoons of pan sauce. If you want a slightly thick sauce, add a pinch of cornstarch slurry.

Hope you enjoy this basic technique. If you want to explore cooking boneless breasts by poaching them instead of grilling, the Kitchn has a detailed explanation and good cooking technique for POACHED BREASTS (LINK BELOW) Poaching is great for moistness, but you don’t get the intense flavor of grilling.

THE KITCHN

Sriracha Ranch, GONE !?! Say it isn’t so, Joe!


Reported Discontinued during the Summer of Covid-19, Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing. The one and only super versatile stuff, which I just adore, well…make that adored (sigh!)

This is one of Trader Joe’s best products which I previously reviewed with a RAVE– so I find this particularly shocking! WTF, Trader Joe’s?! Just to make sure it was not just out of stock for a long time, I when to my store’s Captain to ask him to check the status. Unfortunately he only confirmed my worst fear – “Disco’ed”! (discontinued)

Other than start a campaign to bring it back (has this ever worked?) I will be stingy using the little bit left of the bottle in my fridge now. I may experiment with a DIY version. Some TJ’s RANCH DRESSING mixed with Sriracha or Green Dragon sauce. I won’t be as good but maybe better than nothing

If you are as shocked or mad, please leave your opinions about this in COMMENTS. Things like this were the reason I started this site in the first place.

Pizza 102 – “Getting More Advanced” No Knead Dough


“Pizza 102”

Pizza, No Knead

Pizza (No Knead Dough) Canned crushed tom., fresh tomato, garlic, mozz, Grana Padano, EVOO, arugula topping…

Once you really get into making your own pizza, the next evolutionary step for you to take might be to make your own dough!

No…really! Its easier than you think. Especially now as over the last few years there’s been a kind of revolutionary dough recipe and technique that has caught on like wild fire. I’m referring to “No Knead Dough” which thanks to both its creator, Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery, and the internet, which has spread the recipe to an enormous number of people who’ve tried it, has started many, including yours truly on this truly DIY fun and tasty path.

You can learn a lot by watching Jim Lahey show how to make homemade pizza with no knead dough:

More in depth info:

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/03/jim-laheys-no-knead-pizza-dough-recipe.html

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/no-knead-pizza-dough

http://food52.com/recipes/16641-jim-lahey-s-no-knead-pizza-dough-margherita-pie

No-Knead Pizza Dough
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Co.
Makes four 12-inch pizza crusts OR 1 large square sheet pan pie

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus some more for dusting {Trader Joe’s White Flour does well}
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (such as SAF brand)
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ cups water
1. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until blended (the dough will be very sticky). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 12 to 24 hours in a warm spot, about 70°.
2. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and lightly sprinkle the top with flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
3. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Generously sprinkle a clean cotton towel with flour and cover the dough with it. Let the dough rise for 2 hours (If you are doing a square style pizza then keep the dough in one piece)
4. Stretch or toss the dough into the desired shape, cover with toppings and bake on top of a very hot pizza stone. …Or stretch dough out onto sheet pan, add toppings and bake. Hot oven, 500, until it looks done.

from:
http://www.tastingtable.com/entry_detail/nyc/99/No_Knead_Pizza_Dough_Recipe_by_Jim_Lahey_from_Co_Pizzeria_i.htm

Read more: http://www.tastingtable.com/entry_detail/nyc/99/No_Knead_Pizza_Dough_Recipe_by_Jim_Lahey_from_Co_Pizzeria_i.htm#ixzz2tcZdQqoX

Have you tried this ?  Let me know what you think in the comments section!

DIY – Simple Homemade Jam


jam

My Home-made Peach Jam

This is a jar of some “DIY fast-and-easy peach “jam” or “preserves”. I’m using the quotation marks because it is not the fully “preserved” type that will last months and months. Rather I make this to keep in the fridge, aka “refridgerator jam”. Its EASY and DELICIOUS, fast and much cheaper than store jams. You can make it in half hour. 97210-turbinado-sugar

      Of course one could make this with Trader Joe’s very nice

TURBINADO RAW SUGAR

    Or that plus half plain sugar…experiment!

Here’s a basic recipe:

Buy some fruit. It should be fairly ripe. To make these fast jams, I usually buy the “quick sale” stuff at the supermarket that is over ripe, not perfect looking…but this is exactly what is perfect for making jam. Fruits: you can use peaches, nectarines, plums, pears, figs, strawberries, other berries. Have a fresh lemon on hand too. Sugar – Trader Joe’s sugar is perfect. But honestly almost any sugar will do (real sugar not fake). What matters is that you need to cook this a fairly long time. Use a heavy sauce pan.

    Its not a hard and fast recipe. More like a basic recipe / ratio with many, many variations.

    SIMPLE HOMEMADE FRIDGE JAM

    Ingredients: About 1-2 lbs of fruit. Eg – Peaches, about 6 large.
    Wash and cut up the fruit into small pieces. I do this directly into the pan. I throw in the pits too (will fish out later, or not) as I think they have natural pectin which will help with the ‘jelling’. I put about 1/2-cup to 1 cup of sugar. While that may sound like a lot its not, as it will all cook down, and the sugar will make it jell in this recipe.
    Cook the mixture at a medium-high heat. You want a low boil that will not boil over (your pan should be big enough so that it has high sides and room). Watch it. Cook it stirring occasionally, for about 40-45 minutes total. Check it and stir it every 10 minutes. What you want is for it to all fall apart, and the fruit to mostly disintegrate. What looked like a lot of fruit will become a much smaller amount after its cooked down. At the end, I squeeze in half a lemon or lime’s juice. Let it cool, place in a jar and refrigerate for a few hours. It should thicken up. Use within a few weeks. This won’t be hard, trust me! It probably won’t last that long.

Melissa Clark of the NY Times has a wonderful recipe for jam here which you can use to experiment more with…