Smoked Salmon with Potato Pancakes “recipe”


This is hardly a “recipe”, more of an idea about how putting two or three ingredients from TJ’s together is any easy way to come up with something good.

In this case, for New Year’s Eve I had the idea to make kind of a Russian inspired thing, Smoked Salmon with Potato Pancakes (instead of blinis) and Sour cream. They turned out just as delicious as I hoped, and we really enjoyed these as a super easy holiday treat (or make them any day you like!) I got a package of Trader Joe’s Latkes / Potato Pancakes and some Smoked Salmon, and this time instead of sour cream I actually used Greek yogurt to save a few calories. Of course a Russian would use Sour Cream, calories be damned, and fresh dill. All I had to do to put it together was cook the frozen Potato Pancakes till crispy in an frying pan. I topped them with a good amount of smoked salmon and topped that with a spoon of Greek yogurt. It will be best with sour cream but thats your call. Sprinkle some fresh dill on and a few drops of fresh lemon juice. Voila, it took about 5 minutes until they were ready to serve as a dinner with some salad and roasted beets on the side. Easy as pie to “make” and really yummy, so try this if it sounds good to you. You could make this as an appetizer for a few guests in minutes and make a big splash with almost no work except assembling the ingredients.

Now I was hardly the only one shopping thinking about Smoked Salmon early afternoon of New Years Eve. Trade Joe’s whole section with smoked salmon was completely sold out except for a few packs of this Nova Salmon! The Nova was a wee bit saltier than some other versions they sell, but as fine with the creamy sour cream / yogurt as it it all balanced out. The next time I make these I will probably opt for the Everything Salmon.

Trader Joe’s (frozen) Potato Pancakes Latkes are $2.69 for 10 little pancakes. I think the Nova was about $9 for 8 oz package.

TJ’s SALMON BURGERS (frozen)


Trader Joe’s was carrying fresh Salmon Burgers for a while. However I haven’t seen them for some time, and I fear they’re discontinued. TJ’s does also sell frozen Salmon Burgers. Because they have a lot more ingredients listed, I was a bit reluctant to try them. However they were actually a bit better than I expected. I tried cooking them defrosted, which the package says not do. I found out why. They are so soft you can’t easily get them out of the plastic if they’re defrosted, they want to fall apart. So I cooked them again from frozen as recommended. The frozen burger puck was much easier to handle. The results cooking them both ways were actually about the same. I grilled them in a pan and they were pretty tasty. The Sodium level listed is not terribly high which is good. I would buy these again. They’re about $7 a package. Also available: Mahi-mahi burgers and shrimp burgers.

TJ’s “Everything but the bagel” Seasoned Smoked Salmon


Is there anyone reading this who would not enjoy some tasty smoked salmon on an everything bagel shmeared with some cream cheese and squeeze of lemon? Well Trader Joe’s had a decent idea when they decided to combine smoked salmon and their wildly popular seasoning “Everything but the bagel…” with to come up with this great combo as and additon to the successful “Everything but the Bagel” seasoning blend family. I found Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel SMOKED SALMON to be very tasty. The everything seasonings do not overpower the (cold smoked) Atlantic salmon. The seasonings add a nice top note to the mild farm raised salmon which has a nice buttery texture.

I tasted the salmon in two ways, the first being in a classic Sunday breakfast, putting this smoked salmon on a bagel, with some cream cheese, a little pickled red onion and a squeeze of lemon, all on top of a very fresh TJ’s Artisan everything bagel, with a nice slice of salmon…. This was perfectly delicious and really Everything good!

The second way we enjoyed this EBTB smoked salmon was using the salmon in some “Temaki sushi (hand rolls)”. I made sushi rice and which we ate topped with pieces of smoked salmon, some sliced avocado and cucumber sticks nestled into a piece of Trader Joe’s seaweed treats for little tasty sushi hand rolls. This was incredibly tasty and made an easy and super yummy dinner.

It’s $5.49 well now increased to $5.99 for a 4 oz package and yes the four slices inside went very quickly! But is an affordable splurge, this smoked salmon being still a fairly decent value. FYI at Zabar‘s smoked fish counter, the sliced smoked salmon goes for $50 a pound now! (winter 2021). This is half that price, though yes it is not hand sliced in front of you by a seasoned pro.

This is well worth trying and I would buy it again, as well as TJ’s very tasty Pastrami smoked salmon.

simple sushi handroll

Trader Joe’s (frozen) ATLANTIC SALMON FILLETS


(Product of Norway, Farm Raised)

Each 1 lb package contains 4 portions of skin-on boneless farmed Atlantic salmon from Norway, each portion frozen separate, perfectly. First things first: DEFROSTING. The best method is always an overnight thaw in the fridge. In a pinch however you could do the quick thaw method written on the package (bagged in cold water 30 minutes) but try to think ahead if you can for the best texture . Obviously if you are not using the 4 pieces just seal it up for your freezer with the built in air lock of the package, squeezing out excess air.

COOKING : I tried the quick brine technique of giving the defrosted salmon fillets a 30 minute soak in brine and I liked the results (see link below for full info at The Kitchn)

https://www.thekitchn.com/best-salmon-cooking-method-skills-showdown-23004976

After drying off the salmon, I gave it seasoning on both sides with a nice sprinkle of AJIKA which will give great color as well as flavor (in my case, as they were brined, no more salt was added). I cooked the fillets using the pan fry method in a cast iron pan (or use a non stick pan) with a mix of oil and butter for about 5 minutes on the skin side till the skin looked crispy. Flipped them, then cooked about 2 minutes on the other side which will need less time than the skin side. Personally I hate dried out salmon, or any fish, so recommend one does not overcook it. Cook it just till it’s no longer translucent and flakes easily. You can always put it back for 30 seconds more if it needs it.

If you want some sauce on it I think TJ’s tzaziki sauce would be very good with it, or Greek yogurt mixed with lemon, or whatever your favorite sauce is. Even simple butter and lemon will be great. Fresh dill is wonderful with salmon if you have it.

I plated the salmon up with lemon butter, and served it with a side of TJ’s Harvest Grain Blend (shown) which is really good BTW. The salmon was tasty, if a bit mild of course as this is farmed. Wild salmon, which I adore, is usually about double the price of this. Trader Joe’s sells this for $8.99 for a 1 lb package (a bit little over $2 a portion). For the price I think this salmon is very tasty and a good value. I find Trader Joe’s version, superior to Costco’s version. So giving this a thumb’s up for value and quality. INGREDIENTS: Atlantic Salmon (no added salt) Protein = 23 grams! EAT FISH

TJ’s (fresh) SALMON BURGERS


“Made with Norwegian farm raised salmon” Bake, pan fry or broil. Ingredients – Salmon, parmesan cheese, panko breadcrumbs.

Trader Joe’s uncooked SALMON BURGERS are in the fresh fish refrigerated section. They come packaged on a tray with vacuum wrapped plastic tightly covering the two burgers. Made from ground salmon, these burger are quite soft. So soft that removing them from the package was tricky without breaking them. I ended up carefully cutting around the plastic wrap with a sharp knife. They kind of wanted to fall apart on me just trying to get them out, so I ended up sliding a spatula under each one to lift it out intact. So be careful, lest they fall apart. Frankly if this was my recipe I would have put egg in the mixture with a bit more binder so they would stay together better (bread crumbs / panko….hmm, that may not be a bad idea, I may do exactly that next time and re-shape them.) I am guessing TJ’s wants you to know they are mostly all salmon with little binder, however in this type of burger made from ground fish, the binder in reality help keep things together.

“Cook 4-5 minutes, flip and cook another 4 minutes or to desired done-ness.”

I cooked these pan fried in a tablespoon of butter, first dusting them with some more panko breadcrumbs. I found these a bit under seasoned so I would give them a hit of salt and pepper. I could not taste Parmesan cheese though it’s listed as an ingredient, probably as a binder.

We ate these salmon burger patties on a toasted hamburger bun. They were good. I put some Tzaziki sauce on them but realized what I should have actually used: TJ’s Tartar Sauce – Of course that would match with these! I will get some next time. These were good on a bun but they might be equally good without the bread just served on their own with some sauce and some sides (rice, potatoes, veggies…). They really do need a bit of some sauce to liven them up, and TJ’s tartar sauce should match perfectly with these.

Two salmon patties are $6.29, or about 3 each. I would buy these again. SHOPPING suggestions: Salmon burgers, buns, tartar sauce, lemons, soft greens for garnish. Maybe your fish-hating kids will eat it if you disguise it as a burger!?

UPDATE (FALL/WINTER ’21) I have not been able to find these for some time. I am afraid they may be discontinued. Anyone ? Can you still buy them? TJ’s does sell frozen salmon burgers.

TJ’s Smoked Ahi Tuna


Trader Joe’s Sesame Crusted Smoked Ahi Tuna

I am crazy for most any smoked fish. Some nice smoked salmon on a bagel with a shmear of cream cheese is my idea of Heaven, or at least a heavenly Sunday breakfast. I also love Ahi Tuna, so when I saw this new product, Smoked Ahi Tuna it immediately said to me, “give this a try”.

TJ’s Sesame Crusted Smoked Ahi Tuna is very, very lightly smoked. As in barely smoked. Unlike most smoked salmon, where you open up the package and really get a smoked fish aroma this is so light that its a mere hint. So to be honest, while I found TJ’s smoked ahi tuna to be kind of tasty it’s not anything like smoked salmon or most any smoked fish I’ve had. Maybe people who don’t love smoked fish might like this as it’s not strong, its light. It has a light pink color and looks rather pretty. There are some white thread-like areas (more on this later*). It was cut a bit unevenly so it was a little thick in some places and thin in others. I found the thinner cut tuna tasted better than thicker areas. Cutting smoked fish by hand is an art.

What I didn’t like at all about this product were white thread-like areas, some of which when you ate them were tough and inedible. Like sinew.,,, do tuna have sinew? I guess they do! You can see the white thread like areas in the package. I carefully cut the densest of the white areas away before serving, which was a pain. These tough white areas seem like a lack of quality of the tuna and its preparation. These *white thread sinews are tough and inedible. Not good!

Anyway I served it by putting the smoked Ahi Tuna on top of halves of TJ’s Red Chile scalloped crackers (LOVE THESE!) spread with softened cream cheese mixed with a pinch of greek yogurt and lemon, and topped it all off with fresh dill. This actually did make a nice combination and a nice appetizer for us. Still our guests and I couldn’t help thinking it would have been better made with smoked salmon. So would I buy this again? Frankly I doubt it as it was not terribly special, was not great quality and I think the smoked salmon TJ sells is better for the same price. However if are not big on smoked fish and/or want to try something different for all I know you just might like this as it’s barely smoked fish. A package is $6.

I would not buy this again myself.

RANT

TJ Wild Large Argentinian Red Shrimp


“Trader Joe’s Argentinian Red Shrimp are caught off the southern coast of Argentina. They have a sweet lobster like flavor and texture. Grill, barbecue or sauté. Serve with pasta, on salads or as an entrée…”

RAVE

Trader Joe’s frozen Wild Red Argentinian Shrimp are tasty and practical.

I buy these TJ’s shrimp regularly as I find them to be very good and a decent value. These frozen shrimp are rather large and meaty and actually do have a sweet “lobster-y” flavor and texture. A big plus is they are not farmed but wild caught. Farmed shrimp can be less flavorful than wild caught shrimp. These Patagonian Red Shrimp are caught in the icy waters off Argentina’s coast in Patagonia. They are cleaned and individually flash frozen and are decently sized (20/25 count aka Large). Called “the sweetest shrimp in the world”…well even if some marketer came up with that line they actually do taste kind of sweet and yes even have a “lobster-y” texture. You can use these Red Shrimp any way that you would normally shrimp.

(If you are interested in learning more here’s detailed info about “Patagonian Red Shrimp”)

If I’m not using the whole bag, I simply take out as many as I need, then close it up tight with a twisty and double bag it inside a Ziplock freezer bag, to keep them as best as possible. So first things first, best ways to defrost them. First I would suggest the traditional overnight thaw in the fridge in a covered bowl, if you can plan a little ahead. TIP: Don’t throw out any liquid after defrosting, it can be used as stock.

If you have less time, some other options: You can put some in a ziplock bag and submerge the bag in a bowl weighting down with a plate, and run a light stream of cold water over it. They should be defrosted in 15-20 minutes. I have also simply put some shrimp in a bowl and covered them with an inch of cold water, stirring them every 5 minutes or so, which also works and takes maybe 30+ mins. I would not cook them right from frozen as they will surely shrink a lot and lose a lot of juice, nor would I nuke them to defrost them.

Cooking: Cook normally but whatever cooking method you use be sure not to overcook them. These shrimp cook quickly, even quicker than other shrimp. If you are say using a sauce, you can simmer the (defrosted) shrimp slowly in the sauce at the very end cooking them maybe 2-3 minutes (turning them over once). Patagonian Red Shrimp actually cook faster than most shrimp. They will be done quickly, in maybe 2 minutes. As soon as they are no longer translucent and look firm, they are done, or at least should be removed at that point and then added back to your dish at the end. Not over cooking them will keep them tender, juicy and plump the way you want them. When you overcook shrimp they become tougher & chewier, shrink and curl up. They are terrific simply sauteed with olive oil and lots of garlic, scampi style. You can blot them with a paper towel, optionally sprinkle them with a little seasoned flour and sauté them in oil and butter. One trick I saw on MilkStreet recently was to grill shrimp on one side only, take them out of the pan then finish them in the dish for 30 seconds at the end. This is a great idea.

These shrimp are of course great grilled or sautéed and used in a pasta dish. Put them on a skewer and broil or grill them. They are equally great gently poached 3 minutes, which is a good way to make them for cold cooked shrimp or on top of salads. TIP: marinate 15 min in lots of TJ’s CUBAN SPICE BLEND, great with these. Or any spices of your choosing. Ajika also is terrific as is TJ’s Peri-Peri Sauce.

If you try these you will probably like these shrimp. I find them super convenient to have in the freezer. TJ’s sells these Wild Red Shrimp (1 lb. bag) for $9.99 (UPDATE : These are $10.99 now – Feb 2021).

More ideas for dishes below.

I made a nice Thai Shrimp Curry with veggies and TJ’s Thai Red Curry sauce and added the shrimp during the very last 2 minutes (a no-recipe recipe follows below).

THAI STYLE SHRIMP CURRYSauté some onions, garlic, and chopped ginger in oil for 4-5 minutes. Throw in chopped up carrots, celery, potatoes (optional add ins: mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes, scallions) …sauté everything for 5 more minutes, then add 1/4-1/2 cup liquid (water or broth*) simmer for 10 minutes, then toss in a jar of TJ Thai Red Curry sauce and simmer about 10 minutes or until all the veggies are tender. The last 2 minutes of cooking, add your shrimp and cook gently in the sauce, stirring occasionally. Serve the curry with jasmine rice and add chopped scallions on top.

Shrimp Roll on Brioche Bun

There are so many ways you might use shrimp, so here’s one more: Shrimp Roll (like a lobster roll)? As these shrimp are “lobster-y” they would be perfect in a a shrimp roll aka the Poor Man’s Lobster Roll. Gently poach them then put some on some lightly toasted buttered Brioche bread or Brioche Buns, (shrimp, a little mayo, some Old Bay seasoning or dill) Delicious!

Another dish: Ramen? Yes. I used these shrimp for (“Roy Choi style”) instant ramen with a slice of cheese and butter. Sounds crazy but it works, see video below). For this dish which was a dinner, I made a veggie stock instead of using the included packet of seasoning* and added some fresh mushrooms. I added the shrimp at the very end of cooking, and only cooked them about a minute or two. You can see they look juicy from not overcooking.

TIP: That little flavor packet included with instant ramen is loaded with Sodium (like 50% of daily recommended level)? Too much Sodium is bad for you, so better to use your own stock or low sodium stock and maybe just add a bit of the flavor packet. Worst case, use only half the packet and if it tastes too flat, add something to flavor it up without adding much sodium (a dash of low sodium soy sauce or a few drops of Nam Pla (fish sauce).

ROY CHOI’S INSTANT RAMEN WITH CHEESE

Another idea? Vietnamese style rice paper shrimp rolls (search Asian markets for the rice wrappers) https://justasdelish.com/vietnamese-shrimp-rolls-peanut-hoisin-sauce/

Want one more idea? Fried rice with shrimp is fantastic.

Vietnamese Shrimp Rolls with Peanut Hoisin Sauce (Gỏi Cuốn with Nước Lèo)

TJ Soy Ginger Marinated WILD COD FILLETS


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I picked up a package of Trader Joe’s “Wild Soy Ginger Marinated Cod Fillets” in the Frozen section at TJ’s to try. I was quite satisfied, this dish turned out to be really  good. This marinated cod costs about $7/lb. – very much on the lower price end for almost any fish these days, and this is wild caught cod from the Atlantic, so another good find at TJs.

This cod is  tasty, and easy-peasy to make. I followed instructions on the package about defrosting them overnight in the fridge. An overnight thaw in the fridge is always the best method for defrosting as thawing slowly is best to preserve the original quality. So just remember you need to think about this the day/night before if at all possible. If after an overnight thaw, you find its not completely defrosted when you are ready to cook you can put it in the sink in a pot and run a stream of cold water over the unopened package for 5-15 minutes till it feels completely defrosted. I didn’t try the method on the package where they say you can defrost in a bowl of warm water, in fact I would completely say never use warm water, its too fast and damages cell structure. If  you really need to do a “quick defrost” again run a stream of cold water on it till defrosted (again, “emergency only” method). A fish monger told me to do it with cold running water.

On the package they suggest 3 methods to cook the cod – in a skillet, bake it or microwave it. Me, I decided I would cook the miso cod by broiling the fish and glazing them with the marinade. Broiling is a typical Japanese method of cooking. I took the fillets out of the package with tongs careful to reserve all the marinade for later use. I placed the drained defrosted fillets in a black cast iron pan (my favorite cooking utensil), dotted them with a little butter and put the pan under a very hot (pre-heated) broiler. The fillets were not thick. One was a little bit thicker. So I cooked the fillets for about 3 minutes then took the pan out of the oven so I could pour over that reserved marinade over the fillets. Aha! The reserved marinade will make you a very nice soy miso glaze. So I immediately put the pan back under the broiler to finish for about just another minute or two, keeping a close eye on the fish and the glaze which was all bubbly and browning up. As you can see the glaze browns up beautifully, thickens, to make a nice sauce for the fish, and obviously keeps the fish moist and not dried out. You can even put another little bit of butter in the pan and hit the fish with freshly ground pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. I forgot to mention I threw in some frozen shelled Edame (soy beans) around the fish to cook with it. The edamame were a perfect match with the fish, along with some some rice. There’s a Japanese meal for you.

We really enjoyed this. Sometimes cod fish can be a bit boring but this miso / soy marinade treatment makes this product very good. You can hit it if you like with even more freshly grated ginger (I generally do).

To sum up I found TJ’s Soy Ginger Marinated Wild Cod Fillets to be super convenient, easy to make, and really tasty. I would buy it again, and in fact have a few times since I first tried this. This is becoming a Go-To item for me at TJ now and I usually have a package in our freezer.

RAVE

 

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TJ’s AHI TUNA


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“The secret to cooking Ahi Tuna is not to overcook it”

“Ahi” is the Hawaiian word for Yellowfin Tuna. AHI TUNA STEAKS are sold in the frozen section at Trader Joe’s. As the package states, “Wild Caught, Spain”, means it was fished from Spanish waters of the Atlantic.

How To Cook: A slow defrost overnight or longer in the fridge is the best method. Slow defrosting is best = but in an “emergency” you can try putting the package in a shallow dish and using the running cold water method, put it under the faucet with a slow stream of cold water. I suggest you Do Not nuke it to defrost it. The package states you should “remove from package before defrosting”. Huh? I’m not quite sure why… does anyone have a clue why? Anyway I defrost it in the fridge overnight or for 24 hours if I can. Once the fish is defrosted I marinate it for a half hour to an hour. As far as marinades go, I generally make a typical Asian/Japanese style marinade: Soy sauce, fresh grated ginger, fresh ground black pepper, a pinch of honey or brown sugar, plus a bit of some oil, either olive oil or better still a teaspoon of TJ’s dark roasted sesame oil. You can add some type of acid if you like: a tiny amount of cider vinegar, lemon juice, or sake if you have it. You should serve it with some citrus, fresh Lemon or Lime.

Cooking Ahi Tuna: It is crucial that you don’t overcook tuna as it can dry out easily. Tuna is very easily overcooked so be careful with your cooking time. Personally I think AHI is best cooked in the Japanese “Tataki-style” way which is just searing the outside on all sides and leaving the center barely cooked, a bit pink. I generally cook it in a black cast iron pan over med-high heat with a little neutral oil, searing the outside for 60-90 seconds on one side then turning with tongs to cook the other sides for a minute. You can use the tongs on the sides but again be careful not to overcook your fish. After you do it once or twice you will get the hang of cooking this way. When done, take the fish out of the pan, and let it rest for a few minutes before you slice it. Which you will do against the grain like a steak. Be sure to save the pan juices and any juice that runs out on the cutting board to pour over your fish.

You can deglaze the pan with sake, rice vinegar, or a tablespoon of water, or some extra marinade that you saved at the beginning. I found that if you marinated the fish and use that marinade to deglaze the pan there is protein that coagulates when you cook it, so it glops up a little (I just thin it with soy and some water, it doesn’t bother me too much,  it makes it thicker thats all). If that gloppy stuff bothers you, don’t use the marinade, make a fresh sauce to serve with the fish. Here’s some ideas for sauces….

“Butter Shoyu” (Soy Butter Sauce) Put a fat dollop of butter in the pan along with a little soy sauce, which are a terrific combination. Mix it well and and pour over the Ahi. Serve with slices of fresh lemon or lime.

PONZU: Another classic Japanese sauce. Combine Soy sauce and fresh Lemon Juice. Do not cook this, just mix together. A bit of grated lemon rind would be a gourmet touch.

As in the photo of my finished Ahi, it should end up seared on the outside and pink in the center, just how pink is up to you. I like mine like it is in the thickest part, the center (just this side of raw) while my wife likes it as it is cooked on the ends (medium) which I think of as overcooked. As a final touch, I sprinkled some sesame seeds on top, sliced it against the grain, and put it on a bed of arugula, pouring the pan juices over the top. Ahi Tuna is really delicious and I am sure your family will also love this very steak-y fish (which they normally know from a can).

You could even try it as “Poke” I guess (ceviche style). I am willing to eat it this way but my (Japanese) wife won’t let me make this as poke as she says this is not “sashimi grade tuna” (true) which costs three times as much, selling for about $25/lb instead of this at $8/lb. So at 8 bucks a pound this is a another good deal from Mr. Trader Joe. Ahi Tuna is one of my favorite fishes that TJ’s carries, and I highly recommend trying it if you never have before. If you have any leftovers, it is delicious served cold the next day, maybe on a bed of rice or a salad.

ASIAN MARINADE: 2-3 tbs soy sauce; 1″ peeled fresh ginger, grated; fresh ground black pepper, a little honey or brown sugar, teaspoon of sesame oil (or olive oil) plus lemon or lime juice for a marinade (you can make a bit more and save some to serve on the side). Marinate in the fridge (on fully defrosted fish) for 30-60 minutes turning it once. Cook as desired.

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Having said how great this fish is please let’s not eat TOO much as this species is on the “near threatened” list. We eat AHI tuna no more than once a month. Though this says the Atlantic Yellowfin is sustainably harvested.