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)

TJ Shade Grown Ground ESPRESSO BLEND COFFEE


If you really (and I do mean really) love coffee, then the ultimate coffee taste of course is an espresso.

Every day, I wake up, take a shower and immediately start thinking about making my morning “Cap”. I wouldn’t get out of bed otherwise.

If you are one of these “coffee freak” types too, you may own as I do, a “pump” Espresso Machine that you put and tamp grounds into to make your own espresso. Just saying the “Keurig pod” coffee machine people are not as DIY as us pump machine owners, who get our hands dirty and grind and tamp. So if you make yourself espresso drinks at home in some type of machine that you put ground coffee in obviously the most important thing is starting with very good coffee for making Espresso, naturally.

Generally I buy espresso roast beans (whole) by the pound or half pound. I buy coffee here in NYC at Whole Foods, or Fairway or Zabars or Porto Rico Imports, and grind the beans myself every other day or so, so its always pretty freshly ground. This is ideal. If I was less lazy I’d grind coffee every day just before I made every cup, which would be better. As soon as you grind coffee it is a peak flavor, then starts to lose a bit of its flavor and aroma in the next hour or so.

So I usually don’t buy ground coffee. Still I saw this bag of ground espresso on the TJ “new product” shelf a few months back and thought I’d try it, even though its already ground into an espresso grind. Its called TRADER JOE’S “SHADE GROWN GROUND ESPRESSO BLEND”. It comes in a vacuum sealed aluminum bag with an attractive hand drawn design and lettering. Nice. Opening the bag, you will get that wonderful “just ground coffee” smell as the vacuum seal is broken!

The bag states, “Our espresso blend comes from shade grown, hand picked,  100% Arabica beans. The coffee beans come from a family owned plantation with farms located Matagalpa, Nicauragua. It is rich in flavor with attractive notes of nuts and cacao”.

I couldnt have said it better myself. Good stuff! It reminds me of the well loved ”Cafe Bustelo” very popular in New York’s Spanish speaking population. This is a bit darker roast perhaps and it’s clearly a much higher quality coffee, being from one estate in Nicaragua (and don’t get me wrong, I love Cafe Bustelo!). A 14 oz. bag of TJ’s Ground Espresso Blend sells for $8, at the time of this writing (Fall 2017). Which is not a bad deal for about $9.25/lb for a single estate blend from Nicaragua.

If you make your own espresso either in a machine where you tamp the coffee into a porta-filter (I have this exact one called “Cafe Prestige” pictured at right, which is a good basic espresso machine which I bought a few years back for just $100). Or if you make your own espresso perhaps using a “Moka” express type maker for the top of the stove, I think you will really enjoy trying this ground espresso to make the coffee. In fact, if you want to “get into” making your own espresso on the cheap, this little Moka style make I found on Amazon is only $16 for a 2-cup model, which might be a good “starter kit” where maybe later you might get a fancy electric machine – once you get hooked on making espresso at home! Which you probably will.

The bag says: “For Espresso Brewing: This grind is already set up for any type of machine. For a double shot use 1 1/2 tablespoons. Strengh of shots may vary by machine”. If you make your own shots you know there’s a period of trial and error and a little testing till  you get it just right for your taste. For me, I use two slightly rounded standard espresso scoops in my double-shot basket and tamp it lightly but firmly till its completely even on top. This makes me a nice double shot strong enough for the small  amount of foamed milk I use for a “Cap” every morning.

Bottom line, if you like espresso roast coffee, try this. I think you will enjoy it as much as I do.