Smoked Salmon with Potato Pancakes “recipe”


This is hardly a “recipe”, more of an idea about how putting two or three ingredients from TJ’s together is any easy way to come up with something good.

In this case, for New Year’s Eve I had the idea to make kind of a Russian inspired thing, Smoked Salmon with Potato Pancakes (instead of blinis) and Sour cream. They turned out just as delicious as I hoped, and we really enjoyed these as a super easy holiday treat (or make them any day you like!) I got a package of Trader Joe’s Latkes / Potato Pancakes and some Smoked Salmon, and this time instead of sour cream I actually used Greek yogurt to save a few calories. Of course a Russian would use Sour Cream, calories be damned, and fresh dill. All I had to do to put it together was cook the frozen Potato Pancakes till crispy in an frying pan. I topped them with a good amount of smoked salmon and topped that with a spoon of Greek yogurt. It will be best with sour cream but thats your call. Sprinkle some fresh dill on and a few drops of fresh lemon juice. Voila, it took about 5 minutes until they were ready to serve as a dinner with some salad and roasted beets on the side. Easy as pie to “make” and really yummy, so try this if it sounds good to you. You could make this as an appetizer for a few guests in minutes and make a big splash with almost no work except assembling the ingredients.

Now I was hardly the only one shopping thinking about Smoked Salmon early afternoon of New Years Eve. Trade Joe’s whole section with smoked salmon was completely sold out except for a few packs of this Nova Salmon! The Nova was a wee bit saltier than some other versions they sell, but as fine with the creamy sour cream / yogurt as it it all balanced out. The next time I make these I will probably opt for the Everything Salmon.

Trader Joe’s (frozen) Potato Pancakes Latkes are $2.69 for 10 little pancakes. I think the Nova was about $9 for 8 oz package.

Trader Joe’s (frozen) ATLANTIC SALMON FILLETS


(Product of Norway, Farm Raised)

Each 1 lb package contains 4 portions of skin-on boneless farmed Atlantic salmon from Norway, each portion frozen separate, perfectly. First things first: DEFROSTING. The best method is always an overnight thaw in the fridge. In a pinch however you could do the quick thaw method written on the package (bagged in cold water 30 minutes) but try to think ahead if you can for the best texture . Obviously if you are not using the 4 pieces just seal it up for your freezer with the built in air lock of the package, squeezing out excess air.

COOKING : I tried the quick brine technique of giving the defrosted salmon fillets a 30 minute soak in brine and I liked the results (see link below for full info at The Kitchn)

https://www.thekitchn.com/best-salmon-cooking-method-skills-showdown-23004976

After drying off the salmon, I gave it seasoning on both sides with a nice sprinkle of AJIKA which will give great color as well as flavor (in my case, as they were brined, no more salt was added). I cooked the fillets using the pan fry method in a cast iron pan (or use a non stick pan) with a mix of oil and butter for about 5 minutes on the skin side till the skin looked crispy. Flipped them, then cooked about 2 minutes on the other side which will need less time than the skin side. Personally I hate dried out salmon, or any fish, so recommend one does not overcook it. Cook it just till it’s no longer translucent and flakes easily. You can always put it back for 30 seconds more if it needs it.

If you want some sauce on it I think TJ’s tzaziki sauce would be very good with it, or Greek yogurt mixed with lemon, or whatever your favorite sauce is. Even simple butter and lemon will be great. Fresh dill is wonderful with salmon if you have it.

I plated the salmon up with lemon butter, and served it with a side of TJ’s Harvest Grain Blend (shown) which is really good BTW. The salmon was tasty, if a bit mild of course as this is farmed. Wild salmon, which I adore, is usually about double the price of this. Trader Joe’s sells this for $8.99 for a 1 lb package (a bit little over $2 a portion). For the price I think this salmon is very tasty and a good value. I find Trader Joe’s version, superior to Costco’s version. So giving this a thumb’s up for value and quality. INGREDIENTS: Atlantic Salmon (no added salt) Protein = 23 grams! EAT FISH

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) and a pretty good deal.

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.

(UPDATE: Price has increased since this was written)

Trader Joe’s sells 4 versions of the pork tenderloin. “Plain”, 2 marinated ones (peppercorns and garlic & herbs) that cost more – 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. more expensive. At Whole Foods I’m just guessing this would cost double that price?

Boneless pork tenderloin is a lean cut with almost zero waste. It can has a “silverskin” which should be removed. This is not very hard, you just need a 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)