EDAMAME (Soy Beans, frozen)


Trader Joe’s sells two versions of EDAMAME (Soy Beans) in both in the shell and unshelled versions.

Both kinds are excellent, tasty and super healthy veggies for you to add to your menu if they are not already on it.

You may have first seen Edamame typically in a Japanese restaurant or in the Sushi section somewhere, where they are served in the shell with a sprinkle of salt for you to nibble on and suck out the beans in the shells. In the shell these are very typical “bar snacks” in Japan in a restaurant or Izakaya (pub). Edamame is Japanese for “Soy Beans”. Very healthy and good for you of course as well as very being quite DELICIOUS, with a taste a bit like peas but nuttier and earthier. I like them both ways, in the shell and out of the shell, so I usually buy a bag of both versions. TJ’s frozen Shelled Edamame are very convenient, as you don’t have to peel them of course if you just want the beans ready to use. Useful as a side dish, the same way you would serve some peas, or for adding to a dish, such as a rice dish*, again, the same way you might add green peas. When I add edamame, say to rice in the last 3 minutes, I don’t cook them first as the bag suggests (they are already cooked in fact). I just put some in a colander, rinse under the faucet in a colander the till they are no longer frozen, and then toss them in the pot of rice (or anything) for maybe 3-4 minutes. As a side dish you can’t go wrong with Edamame with a pinch of salt and some butter. Yummy! Or use them, as an addition to your favorite recipe. Soy Beans contain Lots of protein (9 gr in a half a cup!), lots of fiber, vitamins and basically everything that is Soy Good for you. Maybe one of the healthiest things you can eat.

A 12 oz. bag of the shelled version is $1.99 which is less than in a Asian specialty store where you normally find these goodies. And about $1.69 (1 lb) in the shell, which are of course great to serve people to nibble on and suck out of the shells in the traditional style. Maybe the kids would like those, as they are very hands on, play with your food.

  • RANT: Re: rice. We’re a rant I have about Trader Joe’s. They carry Basmati rice , Jasmine rice, Brown rice varieties… but they don’t carry SHORT GRAIN (Japanese) Rice! Why oh why Mr. Trader Joe’s?! Short grain rice is called for, for Asian dishes. I have to buy it at Asian groceries. It would be so convenient if you carried short grain rice. Any one else second this? Arghh!

More:

https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-edamame-3376830

RAVE

 

TJ ORGANIC RED LENTIL PASTA



Trader Joe’s (Giotto’s) ORGANIC RED LENTIL PASTA

 

Normally we eat pasta in my house at least once if not two or more times a week. My wife and I adore pasta. I’m good at making it. Or I should say “we used to” eat it that often! Recently my wife decided to try going “Gluten Free” and that has changed things not just for her but for “Us”. To keep life simple as far as eating and cooking, whats happened is basically we stopped eating pasta, much to my chagrin as you could say I’m a bit of a pasta freak. As Italians usually do, I could eat pasta almost every day. Really, I could be happy as a clam eating pasta every day, in fact I’d be super happy eating Linguine with clams!

So I really wanted to try something in the pasta department that we both could eat together, meaning I would give “Gluten Free Pasta” a try.

So I saw this Red Lentil Pasta at TJ. Unfortunately I was not impressed with this for cooking as a substitute for regular pasta. For me at least – that is someone who can eat gluten and wheat products – this lentil pasta would not be something I would willingly sub in for my “normal” pasta.

TJ Red Lentil Pasta is made from “red lentil flour”. Its even made in Italy! (I can imagine them rolling their eyes at making this stuff for all those crazy Americans) Uncooked, it looks quite nice, like a beet colored pasta. It has an interesting shape I was not familiar with, “sedanini”, a ridged, curved long ziti type shape.

When I cooked this, well this gluten free pasta just didn’t do it for me. This could never replace pasta for me, but again I don’t have to be Gluten Free. I had made a nice meat sauce sauce to go with this, a kind of Ragu for the lentil pasta, and cooked it up a bit with some some sauce just as I would normally prepare regular pasta. When we ate the finished pasted with the sauce we both kept commenting on that it was just not the same as eating pasta. Honestly we didn’t really enjoy it due to the somewhat odd texture we found. It didn’t have the chew of pasta. It seemed to get kind a bit grainy or granular when chewed, not smooth like real pasta.

To top things, the GF pasta’s at TJ are a bit expensive as well. A 12 oz package goes for $3. This is about 2 to 3 times the cost of TJ’s extremely good “regular” pastas made with semolina flour.

So I wanted to like this but didn’t, as I don’t have to eat this. it was a choice. On the other hand, my “gluten free diet” wife, found it to be not great but OK as in it was kind of “acceptable” if you can’t eat normal pasta but you want to eat something like pasta. If you HAVE to be on a gluten free diet, then you may find it OK too. I can’t think this will fool anyone as an excellent substitute for real pasta. For me, its kind of fake pasta frankly. A knock off.

Still I will try some of the other gluten free pasta products TJ sells, and see if they work better than this one made from lentils. TJ does have a few gluten free pastas: a black bean ziti, and a spaghetti made from brown rice and lentils. So if you must be gluten free, try all three and see which you like best out of what they have to offer. So just saying if you must be gluten free, then there are a few choices. Everyone raves about the Cauliflower Gnocchi (frozen). Again I tried it. I found it pretty good, but I still prefer TJ’s regular gnocchi. If you don’t need to be GF, like me, I find regular pasta and related products are superior to any GF ones.

If you are not gluten free and want an excellent pasta, get TJ’s Organic Spaghetti or Ziti. That is excellent high quality pasta, made in Italy, and is the equal to top Italian import brands sold in the US for 3-6 times what TJ’s sells it for, $1.29 for 1 lb, which is an excellent value.

If you are GF then this may be OK for you with a lot of sauce.

 

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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Trader Joe’s CUBANO WRAP SANDWICH


Pretty rare that I buy pre-made sandwiches but I saw this in the case at Trader Joe’s recently and was intrigued at the name, Cubano Seasoned Wrap. The label say its”Roasted Pork, Ham, Swiss Cheese and Dill Pickles on a flour tortilla with Cuban inspired mustard dressing”.

Just in case you’re not familiar what that is, a Cubano is a pretty famous, not to mention, amazing sandwich concoction made as this is, with both Roasted Pork and Ham (yes two kinds of pork in one place!) Swiss cheese and pickles. This traditionally goes on a very soft “Cuban bread” with a good smear of butter and goes into a special grill press which basically is like a “panini” grill. It gets pressed and grilled until its toasted up and golden brown and delicious with that swiss cheese now all melty and gooey and everything warm and yummy smelling. Trust me, if you ever had a really good Cubano, you would love it, they are to die for.

The Cubano sandwich is super famous in Miami as you might imagine with its large Cuban population. But fortunately its available in other places, especially with a large Hispanic speaking population, like New York City for one, where you can get a good Cubano. I used to go way uptown in Manhattan to a little Dominican bakery on Dykman Street in Inwood that makes them right in front of you, super non-fancy but amazingly good.

So I decided to try Trader Joe’s “Cubano Wrap” and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. This tastes really good. It contains a good amount of the traditional ingredients: roasted pork with ham and Swiss cheese plus pickles but instead of bread they have put it into a burrito style wrap. The wrap variation works pretty well. I got one to make for lunch for my wife and I. We thought this was very tasty, both gave a thumbs up and since then I’ve bought it a few times.

Please note, this is a sandwich (wrap) that have to heat up – don’t even think about eating this cold, room temp, as-is.  Check out that grill mark in the picture? Thats what you want. Personally I would not “nuke” it to heat this, I suggest you grill it. Put the wrap in a non-stick or cast iron pan on med-low heat and heat it for about 4-5 minutes a side, pressing down gently till its one on one side, then flip it till both sides are G.D.B. and when everything will be warm and the cheese all melty inside. Eat it while its hot. As you can see in the photo here, it looks pretty damn yummy and for $3.99 this a good deal for a “sandwich”. It could be a dinner, for me. My wife and I usually split one for a light lunch, with some other stuff on the side. I served it with some TJ Horseradish Aioli, which was perfect with this Cubano Wrap. That is a very good sauce (I will review in future). So all in all, this Cubano Wrap gets a Thumbs Up, a Worth Trying, and Good Value seal of approval.

Let’s be real though. Its a little high in calories and sodium, so I treat this as a special treat for once in a while. I would not eat one every day no matter how yummy it is.

If this video doesn’t make you want to get a on plane to eat one in Little Havana, Miami, somethings wrong with you. Making Cubanos. From the film “Chef” with John Leguizamo and Jon Favreu.

 

RAVE

 

 

 

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 is really really delicious! 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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TJ Fresh Mozzarella Log


I think I can get this review in just in time for End of Summer when one can get excellent tomatoes. Well the perfect thing to pair with those perfect juicy tomatoes is this: Trader Joe’s Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Log. Unlike the firmer, drier “pizza” mozzarella, fresh mozzarella is a soft fresh cheese. Fresh mozzarella is perfect for pairing with tomatoes, basil and decent olive oil for a super easy and delicious classic: the “Caprese Salad” (Insalata Caprese) Caprese Salad is the simplest of Italian salads, with sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil leaves, dressed with olive oil. Like Pizza Margherita, it features the colors of the Italian flag: green, white, red.

The cheese is shaped like a log and is pre-sliced into rounds which makes this super convenient and super easy. Open it, and put some mozz on a plate with sliced tomatoes. You can arrange them artistically, alternating tomato and round of cheese if you want to impress, but even just cutting the slices into quarters and tossing with cubed tomatoes is fine! Good extra virgen olive oil, of course! Sometimes I add a few capers and a little of the caper liquid. With some good bread you have a super easy dinner or lunch and a small slice of heaven ready in minutes -especially if you can find some great tomatoes. Serve this salad to guests and they will love it. And its also good of course just eaten as is, put on a cheese plate, or making a terrific sandwich.


A 1 lb package is $4.99, which for fresh mozzarella is as usual, a pretty good deal.

NO-RECIPE RECIPE CAPRESE SALAD (INSULATE CAPRESE): Layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella. Tear up a good number of fresh basil leaves and sprinkle them all over everything,  arranging the salad on a large, shallow plate or platter. Drizzle the salad with good extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. (OPTIONAL: some jarred capers with some of their juice, or a very small amount of a vinegar) Serve with a nice crusty bread.

(Post Summer) If you can’t get great tasting beefsteak tomatoes get the small cherry egg shaped Italian tomatoes Trader Joe’s carries. They are a little expensive but are really tasty, cut in half, and mix up with cut up mozzarella …..

RAVE

Trader Joe’s SAUERKRAUT with Persian cucumbers


SAUERKRAUT – German for “sour cabbage”

If like yours truly, you love sauerkraut then you will find that this TJ product is probably the best sauerkraut you ever tried. According to Trader Joe’s website they say even if you don’t like it now, this may change your mind about SAUERKRAUT. Now, that’s confidence in your product, huh?! Unlike commercially made mass-produced sauerkraut which is cooked and has vinegar added to it, this sauerkraut is a raw, fermented product. TJ says its made by a small batch producer in the traditional way, which is simply cabbage treated with salt, left to ferment for a period of time. So Old School. This is the real McCoy in Sauerkraut. It has pickled Persian cucumbers in it too, which are nice and add a little more crunch and variety. This Sauerkraut goes perfectly with hot dogs, of course, and sausages and would especially be great of course with the German made BAVARIAN BRATWURST previously reviewed, with a Rave. As we know now, fermented foods are very good for your digestive system, gut health and overall health in general. It’s considered healthy to eat something fermented on a regular or daily basis. A spoonful of this – or kimchi or kefir – and your gut will be aces.

Trader Joe’s Sauerkraut with Persian cucumbers is $3.99 for a 14 oz. container. Ingredients:, Cabbage, Persian Cucumbers, Salt, Garlic.

TJ Organic COLESLAW KIT


This is a super easy to prepare, organic Cole Slaw Kit. Just dump the contents into a bowl, fish out the packet of dressing, and squeeze it out and mix everything up together. That’s it, done.

With slaws its best if you do this at least an hour in advance (and keep in the fridge, to keep crisp). You could let it rest more, for 4 or 8 hours or even make it the night before. Everything will become all nice and cole-slaw-y when the cabbage has “pickled” a bit and the flavors meld together.

The package contains shredded green and red cabbage plus carrots, all organic. The organic dressing is a tangy, slightly sweet & sour dressing in the mayonnaise/ thousand island vein with lots of poppy seeds which add a nice flavor. Everything blends up well to make a nice, tasty fresh “homemade” cole slaw. Could you make this yourself easily with some cabbage, some carrots a hand shredder and some dressing? Of course, and I do many times during the summer especially, but if you don’t feel like doing “all that work” this kit makes it super easy. It doesn’t make a huge amount of cole slaw, about a pint of finished slaw after you let it sit for at least an hour when it will “shrink up” a bit as it marinates. A package is 10 oz and costs $2.69

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TJ’s ROSEMARY HAM


Trader Joe’s Sliced Rosemary Ham

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RAVE

Oh yeah this Good Stuff. Wonderful aroma, flavor and and truly excellent texture. I find this to be a superb, high quality, out-of-the ordinary sliced rosemary ham. It doesn’t say exactly where its produced so I imagine in the U.S. but to me somehow its got an Imported kind of taste and quality. The back of my mind says “Italy” but they would state that if it was true. I’m pleased to know WE can produce this quality too here at home! This is what I would call really good “adult ham”. Its not too salty nor sweet. Has just the right salinity and sweetness. Oven roasted with rosemary. ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS. MINIMALLY PROCESSED. No Nitrates, Nitrites, its cured with all natural, real ingredients on the label that you can recognize without a dictionary, such as : Sea salt, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar cane, and of course rosemary. You get a pronounced aroma of rosemary as soon as you open the package but the rosemary flavor does not overpower the flavor of the ham, it enhances it with a lovely little rosemary coating on the outside edges. Sliced super thin, it has a super tender, fall apart, melt in your mouth, texture. Probably cooked for a long time, low and slow. Its so tender and comes apart so easily into shreds that if you don’t want to rip a slice as you remove it, you will need to do it carefully.

I love this, its a really great TJ product. It’s a little more expensive than the other ham I usually buy (Black Forest) at TJ ($3 for 8 oz). This one is $3.29 for a 6 oz. package, which is 6 slices. But for this quality, a bit less than $9/lb for a sliced ham this good, is not untoward and certainly worth trying. I would imagine if you are having guests and put this out on a plate rolled up into little bites with a toothpick….you would get a lot of “hey where do you get this ham ?”

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TJ’s SWEET CHILI SAUCE


RAVE

Apparently this is one of Trader Joe’s most popular products, and not without good reason. This is absolutely one of my favorite TJ products and on my “always have in fridge” list. As the name says, this is a delicious sweet chili sauce, that is pretty much an exact copy of the traditional Chinese sweet and spicy chili sauce you can find at any Asian grocery. It’s both sweet and spicy but not crazy spicy, with a perfect balance of the two tastes plus garlic of course. This sauce is typically served with chicken in many Asian cuisines. I had been buying Chinese brands of this stuff for years whenever I went to a special Asian grocery or supermarket but now Trader Joe’s make a version of it so even more convenient, as we put this sauce on many things though its terrific with most any chicken. If you bought a store cooked rotisserie chicken for dinner, serving with this sauce will that roast chicken 10x as tasty. What else can you use it for. Really anything… Chicken sausages? Yes. Fish? Yes (in fact you can put some on top of almost finished broiled salmon and put it back for a minute for a sweet spicy glaze). Grilled pork. Sure! Eggs? Yes. Get it? Seriously I think there is little this would not be good on, except may ice cream.

Easy dipping sauce for dumplings: a few tables spoons of this sweet chili sauce, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a little rice vinegar. Fresh grated ginger if you have it. Easy. Some extra garlic wouldn’t hurt either. Now you have a sauce for the pot sticker dumplings in the freezer. Dinner in 10 minutes.

A bottle used to sell for only $1.29. Last time I checked it went up to $1.49, still a bargain. I can’t live without this stuff. I always have a bottle in my fridge.

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