BONELESS PORK TENDERLOIN (with recipe ideas)


Another one of those things that I get almost every time I go to Trader Joe’s as it’s delicious and an extremely versatile thing to have in the fridge (or freezer) as well as a real bargain.

If you are not familiar with “pork tenderloin” let’s put it this way… If this was beef it would be the filet mignon. The best melt-in-your-mouth deliciously tender cut. One big difference? Beef filet mignon costs about $15-20/lb or more? But this “pork filet mignon” sells for $4/lb at Trader Joe’s. A $5 piece can feed a family. So deliciously tasty as well as super affordable.

Trader Joe’s sells 4 versions of the pork tenderloin. “Plain”, 2 marinated ones (peppercorns and garlic & herbs) that cost a bit more but come on, it’s so easy to do a marinade of your own in a few minutes. TJ also sells a “crate free” pork tenderloin if you prefer which is $6/lb. At Whole Foods I’m just guessing this would cost double that price?

Boneless pork tenderloin is a lean cut with almost no waste. It sometimes has a “silverskin” which should be removed before cooking. This is not very hard, you just need a very sharp knife.

I frequently just cut the tenderloin into “medallions” or steaks about 1/2-3/4 ” thick, season them, and cook them as one might cook filet mignon. Or one can cook it whole in a pan, then slice it afterwards (deglazing the pan after for a pan sauce). Cut the meat into strips, and this is so perfect for Asian dishes & stir-fry’s. Or Fajitas or Tacos! Whole, its great for roasting in the oven. Pork tenderloin can be an impressive center-piece of a fancy dinner (See the stuffed roast pork tenderloin video recipe below) Another tip: Be sure not to overcook tenderloin, as it’s so lean it can easily get overcooked and dried out. A correct cook of tenderloin should have a bit of pink (trust me, it’s safe and fine) TIP: Slice slits in the meat and insert thin slices of garlic all over.

Seasonings for pork tenderloin? You can not go wrong with any of these: garlic, lemon, rosemary, cumin, peppercorns…. and AJIKA!

TIP for Asian stir frying: The Chinese technique of Velveting any meat for 20 minutes will make it even better.

https://www.theendlessmeal.com/baked-pork-tenderloin/

https://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/healthy-pork-tenderloin-recipes

This is a terrific looking, easy recipe from Milk Street, SPICE CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN BITES

Trader Joe’s Harissa Chicken Thighs


By now you’ve probably heard of TJ’s Shawarma Chicken Thighs which are very good and a big hit. I gave them a big thumbs up, and from what I can gather checking the internet, everyone seems to agree that they’re great. TJ later came out with other marinated chicken thigh flavors. They have three versions now, they added a “HARISSA” version and a “LEMON & HERB” one. I decided to give the HARISSA flavored chicken thighs a try. These are a bit trickier for me. Unlike the SHAWARMA version which I buy pretty regularly now, I don’t think I would buy the HARISSA version again, though I did make a great Chicken and Rice dish using them. Some bloggers seem to like the Harissa version while many others don’t. Not a clear cut winner, so you may have to try and decide for yourself if you are interested. As for me, these Harissa things are nowhere near as good as the Shawarma ones. 

Now after some careful label checking, I think I figured out one major “problem” with these after I looked closely at the two packages. Here’s one big difference between the Shawarma and Harissa versions: the liquid content.

The label on the Harissa Flavored Chicken Thighs says “Contains up to 28% Solution….”

The Shwarma Chicken Thighs however say “Contains up to 7% Solution…”

A-ha, right? The “Harissa flavored” version has a much “wetter” marinade that the Shawarma version and this wetter marinade (i.e., more water) means they would absorb more liquid as weight into the meat sitting in this package. To me 1/4+ of the weight of a package of chicken being marinade seems massive. So one thing I found with these compared to the Shawarma thighs is it was harder to get a good sear going quickly when I threw them into a hot cast iron pan, as with the Shawarma thighs. Which frankly makes sense considering a much higher liquid content, and that fact is not in the Plus Column. Another bugging point to me was, why would tomato paste be the first ingredient in a “Harissa” marinade? Tomato paste is present in harissa, but its a minor player, the primary ingredient being fresh or dried red chiles.

These also didn’t have anywhere near as a distinctive flavor as the Shwarma version. So all in all, these are “just OK” for me. Personally I wouldn’t buy them again (unless I was making an Arroz con Pollo, for which these worked well). Frankly my suggestion is, if you really want to make some “Harissa Chicken” — just buy some boneless chicken at TJ, buy a jar of TJ’s Harissa ($2.70) and marinate it with lots of harissa smeared all over the thighs (or breast) for a 1/2 hour or so. I bet it would be delicious and work way better than these. Boneless skinless organic thighs I think are 2.99 a pound. These Harissa chicken flavored thighs sell for $4.99 a pound. 

PS – If I remember correctly when I looked at the label, the “LEMON & HERB” marinated thighs have an even higher “contains up to XXX % solution” content (50% or more?) You are paying chicken prices for lemon juice!

So these are not terrible but not great. RATED AS “MEH” – UNLESS DOING AN ARROZ CON POLLO which did turn out great with rich tomato-y rice (and if you want a basic recipe idea leave a Comment)

TRADER JOE’S PESTO ALLA GENOVESE


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

Mentioned in an earlier post, Trader Joe’s Pesto (basil pesto) in the glass jar makes an extremely convenient item to always have in your pantry. Whenever you get the mood for a Pasta and Pesto dish simply open a jar of this and add it to pasta (with a little pasta water) and bingo, you made dinner or a side dish to put on your table in under 15 minutes with almost no effort and for very little dough ($3-4)! Add some fresh grated Parmigiano and EVOO and improve it. So what’s not to like?

Now if you have ever made pesto yourself, you know it takes a bunch of expensive ingredients and some effort but in the end its truly worth it as the smell when you open up your blender, when that 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 or your Italian Nona made you some to take home. Let’s be honest. Still, this jarred TJ’s Pesto is tasty and the convenience of having it in your pantry makes up for a lot and you can (and should) Level Up this stuff.

Value-wise this is a great TJ value at only $2.50 for a jar. Though you can tell by the fact that is says Sunflower Oil as the first ingredient and not extra virgin olive oil, they skimped on the expensive ingredients. But even so this TJ jarred Pesto Genovese is decent and believe it or not, I prefer this glass jarred pesto to the “fresh” one TJ sells in the refrigerated section which costs more. In fact I was pretty surprised that I tried both and compared them and liked this one a bit more. You can, in fact should absolutely tweak this with good ingredients! Pour a nice glug of your favorite TJ EVOO plus a nice sprinkle of extra freshly grated Parmigiano and / or Pecorino cheese plus freshly ground black pepper on top of your finished dish. If you have a few sprigs of fresh basil you can tear over it, all the better. For $2.50, this is good value and really 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 quick tasty pasta dish a few times when I “had nothing to eat” in the house.

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.