Trader Joe’s ITALIAN BOMBA HOT SAUCE


bomba1

Since it was released Trader Joe’s Italian “Bomba” Hot Pepper Sauce has blown up as one of the best new products that Trader Joe’s has come out with. Once again in this case it’s not unjustified hype…. all the hype about TJ’s “BOMBA” is completely justified! This stuff is just incredible. I could say “its the bomb” but I won’t!

BOMBA is made primarily from crushed Calabrian chiles which in this product are also fermented. You probably know that fermenting foods adds complex elements to flavor, expanding them more. They become deeper and more complex, and in this Bomba sauce the fermentation of Calabrian chiles adds that magical “fifth” taste.. yup you got it. UMAMI. Now of course this Bomba hot sauce is spicy but it is really not knock your head off spicy. It’s spicy and full of flavor at the same time. I just put a small spoonful in my mouth and while I got “yes this is kind of spicy”, it didn’t want to make me want to drink a glass of milk or anything. I got something beyond “spicy”, there is a kind of funkiness (oh, thats the fermentation and umami) even a tiny bit of sweetness. Depending on the amount you use, you can adjust the level of spiciness. If you add even just a little bit to dishes, I am talking a quarter of a teaspoon or a few drops, it will add a level a flavor that may surprise you. How to use Bomba sauce? Of course this is going to be great added to tomato sauces, say on pasta or pizza or what have you. But what about other pasta dishes? A little bit in your Carbonara? Yeah baby. A spoonful mixed into your Spaghetti Aglio e Olio? Yes. And all those Gnocchi you love?! Regular, cauliflower, kale, or what have you… OMG folks, this stuff and some very nice olive oil will make your gnocchi soar.

But Bomba is for more than for “just Italian”. I put some on my scrambled eggs and it was divine. A drop of it onto of my buttered toasted baguette. A small spoon mixed into my avocado toast or guacamole. Add some to your next marinade. Dips and sauces? Perfect. You can mix this up with some Greek yogurt (or mayonnaise for that matter) for an instant wonderful sauce, to top some cooked Chicken Breasts, Shrimp, or Tofu as well. Or try that mix as a dip for some chips. Drizzle some with olive oil and garlic on your roasted veggies. Add a spoon of this to your soup or most any sauce to give it some jazz. I love it on cottage cheese (seriously). On my sardines on toast. Add garlic to Bomba, and of course these two go into the stratosphere. The list is endless and I promise you, you will discover uses on your own exploring that you will come up with (and if they’re good, please share some with us in the COMMENTS below).

TJ’s Bomba is truly a premium gourmet offering. Amazingly Trader Joe’s sells this for $3 a jar, which is frankly incredible. Oh and it’s really Italian, says “Product Of Italy” on the label. I have found it sold out on occasion missing on the shelves as its a big hit at TJ. So if you like it, next time grab an extra one to keep in the pantry like I do (but leave some for the next guy!) Ingredients are: Chilies, Sunflower Oil, Olive Oil, Basil, Salt, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid. I generally add some very good Extra Virgin Olive Oil down the road to “seal the top” off and help keep it fresher for longer as well. Honestly even if you are not really the “hot sauce” type I suggest you get a jar of this to try. Calabrian chili’s are not super hot; they are in the “medium” spice level. People can pop them in their mouths easily. Personally I can’t live without having a jar of Bomba in the fridge now and if you try this, you may feel exactly the same.

RAVE

Envy Apples


I never heard of this apple before I saw them at Trader Joe’s. A hybrid developed in New Zealand, “Envy” apples are a hybrid of Royal Gala and Braeburn varieties. Both of those are excellent apples, and this hybrid, Envy, is well, just a terrific tasting apple. When I first tasted this Envy, my taste buds went pretty wild with “this must be one of the best apples I ever had”. Seriously this is just a great apple. Nice crunch, firm texture, sweet but with a hint of sour underneath? It’s a complex flavor, way more complex than just “sweet” like say a Honey Crisp apple or Red Delicious (yuck). Envy are a favorite pick of the Trader Joe’s crew, who I imagine taste everything they sell. I kind of trust those “crew picks”.

INFO

https://envyapple.com/en/about-envy#tab-1

These apples go great with just about everything. What about Envy with cheese? Yes, please. I knew they would match well with most any cheese, and frankly there is absolutely nothing better than to slice up these apples and put them on a plate with the Unexpected Cheddar. What a combo these make together. Seriously. Try either that or Cabot cheddar with these apples. I would imagine Brie would be great, or let’s face it any cheese you like. I love these just eaten out of hand on their own of course. I like them in the morning, diced up for my breakfast cereal. Your kids will love these paired up with some peanut butter. I know I do. Envy sell for $1.29 each. A bit more than the apples TJ sells for 79 cents but worth the little splurge every now and then. So if you haven’t ever tried these, try one for yourselves. You may get hooked on them. I know I have. I always buy one when I’m at TJ’s.

RAVE

Trader Joe’s DRIED BABY BANANAS


In the Dried Fruit section at TJs, I’ve always liked a package of dried bananas that Trader Joe’s has sold. A few days ago, this bright yellow package caught my eye. Trader Joe’s DRIED BABY BANANAS. Not sure if product is new, replaced those, or I just never noticed them before but they stoked my curiousity to review for the site so got a bag. DRIED BABY BANANAS are tasty! Some people might think they look a little scary, almost like little dried cut off fingers. Taste-wise they are just what they sound like, baby bananas, which I am guessing are sun or air dried.  They are a bit moist, a bit chewy and have an intense banana taste as the flavors are concentrated. And “baby bananas” are a different variety than your normal banana. So did I like them? Here’s the answer. After I tasted one, then another, I basically couldn’t stop eating them! Delicious. They were quite tasty as-is right out of the bag. But then I had a bright idea, “Hmm, I wonder if they would be good match if I dipped them in peanut butter!?” Needless to say, great combination…  of course if you put some out with a little bit of PB to dip them in on the side I have a feeling kids would love these like that as a snack. Though when they first see them no doubt they will say something like, “ewww gross, these look like dried fingers off a dead monkey” – which they do to some extant, though they look exactly like what they sound like, dried baby bananas all shrunken up. The package says they come from Thailand. INGREDIENTS: “DRIED BANANAS”. So I call that a pretty “Natural” product. A package costs $1.99. The bag I got yesterday seems to have only 4 little bananas left when I just checked them…. so you could say they went down easy and way too fast. Next time I better buy 2 bags. In short, another very good dried fruit snack from TJ, well worth trying so check them out.

RAVE

TRADER JOE’S PESTO ALLA GENOVESE


TRADER GIOTTO’S (TRADER JOE’S) PESTO ALLA GENOVESE

Mentioned in an earlier post, Trader Joe’s Pesto Genovese (basil pesto) comes in glass jar which makes it a great pantry item so extremely convenient to always have on hand. You can open up a jar of this pesto and add to some pasta and bingo, a hot dinner or a side dish is on your table in under 15 minutes with little effort and for very little dough ($3-4)! What’s not to like?

Now if you have ever made pesto yourself, you know it takes a bunch of ingredients and some effort but in the end its truly worth it as the smell when you open up your blender, when the pungent aroma of fresh basil, cheese and garlic permeates your kitchen. The smell is so heavenly it may knock you off your feet.

So having said that, I won’t tell you this jar of pesto is as good as if you made your own pesto. How could it be? Still TJ’s Pesto is actually very tasty and the convenience of having it in your pantry is fantastic, for whenever you get a craving for pesto. This is a great TJ value at only $2.50! Though you can tell by the fact that is says Sunflower Oil as the first ingredient and not olive oil, they skimped a bit on the most expensive ingredients. But even so, TJ’s jarred Pesto Genovese is good and believe it or not, I prefer this one they sell to the “fresh” one TJ sells in the refrigerated section which costs a bit more. I was pretty surprised that I tried both and liked this one better!

Now you can, and should absolutely, tweak and improve your plated past with a nice splash of very good quality EVOO plus a nice sprinkle of extra freshly grated Parmigiano and / or Pecorino cheese plus freshly ground black pepper on top of your finished pasta dish.

For $2.50, this is a good buy and good value and worth keeping a jar or two in your pantry as a go-to item to always have on hand. I certainly do, its made us a dinner a few times when I “had nothing to eat” around!

Trader Joe’s CORN TORTILLAS


(gluten free? absolutely!)

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These are good corn tortillas. Actually one of the best things about Trader Joe’s CORN TORTILLAS is what’s NOT in them. True, authentic corn tortillas like these have only 3 ingredients: CORN, water, lime. Which makes them already better than most tortillas you can buy elsewhere. The package lists: “white corn, water, lime” (and by the way “lime” in this case refers not to the fruit but to a natural chemical Calcium hydroxide (Spanish, cal) which is essential to breaking down dried corn kernels and releasing proteins, aka Nixtalmization process of cooking corn kernels.

These days it’s not easy to find corn tortillas with 3 ingredients. Check the label on most brands of tortillas at your local supermarket. You’ll see there about ten ingredients listed, as most commercial tortilla manufacturers have switched in the last few years to adding preservative chemicals that extend shelf life and make tortillas feel soft when you buy them. So besides CORN, WATER, LIME…. you will see things like: “contains 2% or less of: cellulose gum, guar gum, amylase and propionic acid, benzoic acid and phosphoric acid (to maintain freshness).”

for example: MISSION CORN TORTILLAS (Ingredients: GROUND CORN TREATED WITH LIME, WATER, CELLULOSE GUM, PROPIONIC ACID (TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS), BENZOIC ACID (TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS), PHOSPHORIC ACID (PRESERVATIVE), GUAR GUM, AMYLASE.

vs.

Trader Joe’s Corn TortillasWHITE CORN, WATER, LIME 

Ya dig? Pretty clear why I (and you probably) would prefer Trader Joe’s tortillas, which are All Natural! Now as they don’t have those extra preservatives of course TJs Corn Tortillas won’t stay as soft and fresh as long as the ones with preservatives. Use these within about a week or two. I keep them tightly wrapped and DOUBLE BAGGED in still another plastic bag in the fridge. Unfortunately corn tortillas don’t freeze well – they get mealy – but they’re right cheap and there aren’t that many in a package (12 tortillas). Only $1.50 for the bag. 

Whole Foods sells an artisanal tortilla which are good but kind of crazy expensive at $5/bag. I have tried this brand, VISTA HERMOSA tortillas. They are very good but the price is outrageous. Read about them here as they have lots of good info about Tortilla making in general, if you’re interested.

https://www.vistahermosaproducts.com/corn-tortillas

The reality is tortillas in Mexico are so far better tasting that anything we can buy (at least on the East Coast, I can’t speak for West Coast) In any Mexican town you could buy a kilo of “artisanal” tortillas made from nixtamalized freshly ground corn, mixed and baked on the spot probably no more than an hour before made from ancient varieties of corn that have a hundred times the flavor of what we have here in the States. And they cost around $1 for a kilo. They have to. The government keeps the price low for the masses. Tortillas are the staple of life there for millions. Corn and beans together make high quality protein.

TJ’s also sells a Corn & Wheat (mixed) tortilla. They are softer and not bad. I sometimes buy those too but I find a 100% Corn tortilla has much more flavor.  The corn & wheat ones last longer and are softer. I do use both on occasion but the all corn tortillas not only possess more flavor, they get pleasently chewy when cooked.

IMPORTANT TIP: Corn Tortillas need to be served as HOT as possible and eaten ASAP. To heat, I put a tortilla right on the gas burner of my stove and flip them over and over for about 30 seconds. I try to get a few “burnt spots” as I like the way they taste. But don’t over do it. You can also put them under a hot broiler instead for a few minutes until you see them puff up with a few cooked spots, but again they can burn easily so keep an eye on them. Or nuke them in the microwave for 20 seconds. Keep your tortillas warm in a covered basket or bowl with lots of tea clothes/dish towels, etc. Or if you eat them often you might get a real tortilla warmer (Amazon has tons for sale: https://amzn.to/2M3YX3u)

For tacos, you can also heat them as above. Or heat with a small amount of oil in a pan till slightly crispy. Remove and fill and eat immediately. Or make Quesadillas with some cheese and other fillings, like shredded chicken or soy chorizo and arugula. I love these, they’re to die for: crispy, chewy, oozy-gooey cheesy deliciousness!

RECIPE – QUESADILLAS

Ingredients

– Corn Tortillas (are best, but you can use flour or corn/wheat tortillas if you wish. I feel all corn tortillas give a better taste and crispy chewy texture)

– Cheese (Monterey Jack with Peppers is ideal, or use any cheddar,  Jack or even Mozzarella for ooey-gooeyness)

OPTIONAL EXTRA STUFF: add a bit of something like shredded chicken, steak, ham, soy chorizo, crumbled baked tofu and/or arugula, spinach….

For the topping: Arugula, Chopped Tomatoes, Salsa, Sour Cream/Crema, Greek Yogurt, Bomba Hot Sauce, Zhoug….. VEGGIES on top: Sliced radishes, lettuce, cabbage….

Put about a teaspoon of oil in a non-stick or cast iron pan large enough to hold at least 2 tortillas; top one 1/2 of tortillas with grated cheese; (option) top this with some extra ingredient (as per above) Cook for a minute just until you can fold the tortillas over into a half moon without it breaking (will soften as it cooks). Cook until bottom side is just a little browned and crispy and cheese is melted; press down gently, flip and cook the other side, till slight golden.  If you don’t want to fold, just put another tortilla on top of the first one and flip over carefully. The cheese is the glue! Plate and top with something… guacamole, sour cream/creama, greek yogurt, salsa, hot sauce or Sriracha (optional) and some more fresh arugula, or cilantro, or eat plain!

On the side serve REFRIED BEANS.

THE REST OF THIS POST IS AN ANTHROPOLOGY FOOD HISTORY LESSON IF YOU ARE INTERESTED: Corn Tortillas are one of the most important Historical Foods on Earth dating back over over a thousand years or more. If you want to learn about the history of Tortillas, Masa and “Nixtamalization” (processing corn with lime) you can learn more with the links below.

NIXTAMALIZATION

Nixtamalization is a food science/process discovered and used by the Ancient Peoples of Meso-America as long as 2-5,000 years ago. In many kitchens in Mexico today you can find the exact same utensil, called a Metate, many found intact in Mayan tombs, used the same way now they were by the Maya and Aztec peoples. This is a modern one.

Mexican Cazuela

PS – Sometimes I make tortillas from scratch with Masa Harina. Maseca is another common brand of Corn Masa easy to find in many supermarkets. Bob’s Red Mill is an organic, gourmet (pricey) kind but gives good results.

masa

Making tortillas from Masa isn’t terribly hard but takes a little time. But the results are amazing, you can’t get fresher better tasting tortillas than hot off the comal (grill). Homemade of course tastes better than anything pre-packaged. Here’s a link to a video of a guy explaining how to make them if you want to try.

 

GET SOME IDEAS ON WHAT TO MAKE

https://www.brit.co/corn-tortilla-dinner-recipes/

And if you really want to see the real thing, the whole process of making Masa (dough) from soaked cooked corn kernels to a finished Tortilla, watch this video. The “metate” (stone grinder) she is using is the exact same design used today as those found in ancient Mayan tombs. I bet her tortilla’s taste out of this world. Any tortilla you might buy made on a street corner by some lady by hand in Mexico City, Oaxaca, or anywhere in Mexico is going to blow any we buy in the U.S out of the water.

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC BAKED TOFU


RAVE

How about this for a review? I’m not vegetarian but I buy this all the time. This is a terrific tofu product for anyone. It seems to be one of the more popular products Trader Joe’s sells. I often see people grabbing 2 or 3 packages at a time and throwing them in their cart. Sometimes its even sold out. Clearly there is a reason it’s this popular! It’s great.

TJ’s ORGANIC BAKED TOFU is an excellent, tasty and very versatile (and healthy) tofu product. Its high in protein, and excellent “meat substitute” that one can use this in many ways.

BAKED TOFU as the name implies, is a tofu that’s been marinated then baked. Baking tofu gets out a lot of the water in it, and gives it a very pleasant, firm…and frankly a nicely satisfying “meaty” texture. This is great for non-vegetarians as well as vegetarians/vegans. Again I’m not vegetarian but I buy this all the time because its healthy and tasty. This can make a very good substitute for a meat protein like say, chicken? In fact this can be used as a “main” ingredient in many, many dishes. This is great for a Stir Fry for example. It can be eaten on its own as the Main. You can eat this just As-Is, cold or room temp, with a nice sauce or dressing such as their Sweet Chili Sauce or Sriracha Ranch Dressing, or Spicy Peanut Dressing…. or make up your own.

As you can see from what I did with it, it can still be cooked (see pic below). I usually grill it, which I think improves it’s flavor even more. There are two flavors available of the baked tofu, TERIYAKI and SRIRACHA flavors. Though I am a big fan of Sriracha sauce I find the Teriyaki version is my preferred of the two. If you are trying this for the first time, I suggest trying the Teriyaki version first. But honestly both flavors are good so do try both at some point and see which of the two you like best. Perhaps you will always buy one of each kind, as I see many people do!

What I did with it here (pictured below) is just cut it into slices and sautéed it in a non-stick pan with some Toasted Sesame Oil for about 5 minutes a side until it was golden brown. I then added Soy Sauce and a little raw Sugar (the two basic elements of Teriyaki sauce) and a good deal of fresh black pepper and cooked that for a few minutes more until the sauce has cooked in and thickened a bit. So basically I wanted some more Teriyaki sauce and flavor. Fresh Garlic (and fresh ginger) would be great to add too, of course for even more flavor.

If I had added more of soy sauce and the sugar that would have produced more leftover Teriyaki sauce, which a good way to make it. This can be served with that sauce on the side or spooned over it on a serving dish. You can use almost any sauce, prepared ones at Trader Joe’s such as Teriyaki, Dumpling Sauce, SoyYaki, Sriracha, Green Dragon Sauce, or even Sriracha Ranch Dressing. Serve the tofu along with some rice, a vegetable, and salad and you have a great tasty, healthy, fast, easy dinner.

If thats too much work for you, you can just open the package up and just slice it into cubes and throw it on top of a bed of arugula, Power Greens, spinach leave, etc., drizzle your favorite sauce or dressing on top, maybe some peanuts, and voila – you have Lunch or Dinner.

Roughly I would say one 7 oz. package with 2 blocks of the baked tofu serves about 2 people, if you serve with above other stuff.

Some readers report just slicing it up thinly and using in sandwiches, as you might use sliced chicken. As the package says “be creative”.  This would be good with the SOBA STIR FRY KIT. You could also use this, or the Sriracha version, as your “main protein” plus veggies with TJ’s very good  THAI CURRY SIMMER SAUCE for a Thai curry. 

In short I find this is great stuff to always keep on hand in the fridge, and I almost always have a package in mine, as it’s already cooked it has a long BEST BY date (about 5-6 weeks) so its not like a meat product.

A 7 oz. package has gone up in price now to $3.69 (current price, May 2019, NYC)

Some more uses: cut into strips, sprinkled with more seasonings (chili powder and garlic powder), stir fried, then added to lots of veggies in an asian stir fry.

RAVE

NYT no-recipe recipe idea. Soba/Tofu and Kimchi
Here’s what to do: Get some firm tofu; some soba noodles; some jarred kimchi. Make a sauce of minced garlic and ginger, some soy, hoisin or oyster sauces, a splash of raw sugar, honey or maple syrup, another of toasted sesame oil, a some red-pepper flakes, all whisked together. Boil water for the soba. Cut the tofu into manageable pieces, and pat dry with paper towel. Heat a good quantity of neutral oil, like canola, in a big sauté pan, then add the tofu in a single layer and fry it over medium-high heat, turning to get every side. Meanwhile, cook the soba. Remove the crisp tofu and toss with the sauce. Serve in a bowl, the hot soba arranged to one side of the tofu and the kimchi to the other, along with the sauce. Oh, man. You could put some roasted asparagus on top. A soft-boiled egg. It’s so delicious.