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.

RAVE

 

Easy Pizza with Tandoori Naan


When I saw these frozen TANDOORI NAAN, I had an idea… Could I use these naan for the “base” of a pizza? If so than I could make pizza in mere seconds! OK it actually took me more like 5 minutes to assemble these pizzas (see pic) and pop them in a hot oven. But the idea? It basically worked fine. Using these Naan breads makes it super fast and easy to whip up some individual sized pizzas almost instantly. Just spread some of your favorite sauce, put on some cheese, and pop them in the oven, and Bingo you got a fresh hot pizza in about  10-15 minutes with almost no work at all.

As you can see in the pictures, I simply put some marinara on. I put slices of TJ whole milk mozzarella on, then threw it in the oven on a baking sheet for about 10-12 minutes at 400 .

Yes, I spruced these up a little adding a few sliced mushrooms and a few sliced asparagus to make it a bit “veggie”. I had this stuff in the fridge. Now I turned on the broiler for the last minute or two to really get the top nice and browned (I over did this by a few seconds so be careful if you do the broiler browning part). When they came out, I put some fresh grated parmesan on for good measure, and a drizzle of EVOO.

DELICIOUS!

naanpizza3

The Naan Pizza turned out quite good as you can probably tell from the pic. We ate one each with a salad for dinner and that made a very satisfying (and tasty!) dinner for us. Making these with the Naan requires so little time and effort. Yes the naan is not a real pizza base, it is more bread-y than a real pizza but seriously this was so fast, easy and cheap that making PIZZA NAAN is certainly worth giving a try sometime. TIP: Buy and try this with the GARLIC NAAN version TJ has as well. Obviously the Trader Joe’s Naan are great used in the traditional way too. For example accompanying some of the TJ Masala Chickpeas (frozen section) which are delicious!

A pack of 4 Naan is $1.99 (50 cents each, not bad huh). These are great to have in your freezer for pizza or Indian food or to use in many imaginative ways whenever you are in the mood.

Trader Joe’s AUTHENTIC GREEK FETA in brine


This is an authentic imported Greek feta made from sheep’s milk. Sheep’s milk produces the best feta cheese. This feta has a wonderful tangy flavor and aroma with a nice creamy texture, plus it’s not overly salty. It comes as two large slabs of cheese covered in brine which is the proper way feta should be kept because the liquid brine keeps the texture of the feta creamy and smooth.

There are a many types of feta cheese from different countries and it is made from the milk of different animals (cow, goat, sheep). Feta is produced in France, Bulgaria, Israel and of course Greece. Greek Feta may be the best of them all, though I like all the ones from the countries I just mentioned for different reasons. TJ has on occasion carried an Israeli feta (it came in plastic bag, and was only available for a year or so. The Isreali feta TJ now sells in a plastic tub is not as creamy)

The plastic box this TJ feta comes in was tricky to open – until I understood only the very top part is a lid that comes off, once you have broken the waterproof seal, ripping a small plastic tab in one corner of the tub. So open it up carefully, and do it on the counter so brine doesn’t fly out everywhere (and by the way don’t throw out the brine – more on this later)

Here’s just a few ideas on what you can do with feta cheese. I mean its delicious just by itself but its so versatile to have in the fridge to use with other things, like….

Greek Salad
Just a slab of this cheese on some salad greens, cukes and tomato and you will have a Greek Salad in minutes. Throw on some olives too if you have them of course. Drizzle a very good Extra Virgin Olive Oil and squeeze on some fresh lemon juice. Grind on some fresh black pepper. You could vamp it up with some proteins, like hard boiled eggs, maybe some drained canned tuna, or cooked chicken. Serve with a some crusty bread. Voila, a complete dinner!

Watermelon and Feta
Cube up some nice sweet watermelon and throw on cubes of the feta. Genius combo. I’ve decided I don’t need olive oil on this, just the two ingredients and a grind of black pepper.

Shakshuka and Feta

TJ’s frozen Shakshuka: add cubes of this feta in as you cook it. Double Yum~

Feta cheese is often used in cooking: one of my favorite Greek dishes is “Garides mi Feta” (Shrimp with tomatoes and Feta) It’s fantastic!

As this feta is authentically imported from Greece of course its not as cheap as the small pack of feta cheese TJ carries at $3 for 8 oz. which is OK (its cows milk) but not great like this Greek feta. This brined feta TJ sell is $6.49 for 10 oz (drained). So figure about $10/lb for a real “Product of Greece” feta, which is a decent price for real Greek feta. Honestly this stuff will make your meal or dish, so worth the occasional splurge.

Oh and remember I said keep that brine? You can actually use it. That milky feta brine actually has flavor. Mellissa Clark in the New York Times put out a great recipe for chicken using brine, plus you can marinate chicken breasts in feta brine for 30-60 minutes;  Bake, broil, pan grill…! They will be SO juicy from the brining.

https://food52.com/recipes/69859-melissa-clark-s-feta-brined-roast-chicken

https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/primers/article/feta-guide

https://food52.com/blog/23031-how-to-use-feta-brine-water-salt-tricks-tips

RAVE

“You know how many kinds of feta exist? Thousands. Every place you go in Greece, they make feta” (Greek cheese monger in Astoria Queens)

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

RAVE

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

Trader Joe’s UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR


96923-unexpected-cheddar

RAVE

In this case, the hype is correct

Year in, year out this is one of TJ’s best selling products, and for good reason. This is a “knock it out of the ballpark” Trader Joe’s product. Unexpected Cheddar is an aged cheddar cheese. If you put this out on a cheese plate for company you are almost guaranteed to get some comment like, “Yum, this cheese is amazing…where did you buy 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 both of these classic cheddars such as Cabot. Cabot Extra Sharp is wonderful and its sold at TJs (try it). But “Unexpected Cheddar” is unique, its got a texture unlike any Cheddar you’ve tried. As Trader Joe’s own description is so perfect I’ll simply quote how they describe 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.”

Forgetting the marketing jazz the description of the taste and texture is exactly right on.  The texture is more crumbly than a regular cheddar. As you slice this cheese, it may crumble apart not terribly 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 Pecorino. I’ve tasted this with wine, and it pairs wonderfully with both reds and white wines. Or beer for that matter. It would be a great pick if you are doing 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 Joes. Once you buy this you may find it makes it onto your “Always Must Buy” TJ List every time you go there. To be honest in our house the biggest problem with UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR is it goes so damn fast… Its too damn tasty, and way  too easy for a package to get eaten in one day, so be warned.

Be sure also to try this melted. On a cheeseburger? Grilled cheese sandwich? The most amazing grilled cheese you may ever have! In an omelet? On pizza or as quesilladas… They are all fantastic.

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, figs, etc on a cheese plate. In particular, the ENVY or FUJI apples that TJ carries pair very well with this cheese. It is a bit tricky to slice the cheddar as it tends to crumble a bit but thats OK as I promise you every last crumble will vanish off the plate.

If you serve this to guests, you will get much praise. Seriously, try this. 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.

RAVE!

RAVE