Trader Joe’s SHAKSHUKA STARTER (bring your eggs)


RAVE

Ever hear of SHAKSHUKA ? It’s become kind of cool and trendy in the US. Shakshuka is a popular dish all over 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)

Trader Joe’s SHAWARMA CHICKEN THIGHS


Trader Joe’s SHAWARMA SEASONING BONELESS & SKINLESS CHICKEN THIGHS

RAVE

It’s quite rare frankly for me to buy any pre-marinated meats. Perhaps like you, I can easily make whatever marinade I would want myself. However when I first came upon TJ’s Shawarma Chicken Thighs it somehow caught my attention. Because I so love good Shawarma I decided to give this a try. In short, not only did I like TJ’s Shawarma Chicken way more than I expected to, I have bought this again and again. These to be really, super tasty. So if you don’t want to read this whole piece and just want to know if these are worth buying, the answer is yes.

These are excellent. TJ SHAWARMA CHICKEN THIGHS are extremely flavorful from getting imbued with all the spices they used which include: “Onion, garlic, sea salt, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, paprika, turmeric and parsley…”

This is super easy to make, as well as super convenient. An unopened package can easily stay for a week in the fridge (they state much longer but frankly I think their “good until” dates on the package are way too generous). Naturally one can also freeze it (defrost overnight in fridge).

How easy is this to cook? Pretty much just toss this into a hot pan. 15-20 minutes later, with the addition of a few sides (rice? veggies?) you have a dinner. Upon cutting the bag open, you will immediately smell all the nice “Shawarma” spices in the marinade. Be warned, the tumeric and anatto used will stain your fingers and everything it touches an orange red color. I recommend using tongs or a fork. If your cutting board gets stained just wipe it later with diluted bleach. Once removed from the package blot the chicken a bit with a paper towel before grilling. Any little fat that you may see will melt off during cooking and keep the meat moist, so don’t trim it. Put a few shallow slashes in the thickest parts of the meat to help the thick parts cook evenly. The chicken is imbued with spices having been marinated for some time. Even so I hit the chicken with additional spices (smoked paprika, TJ’s Everyday Seasoning, etc, as these will make it brown up even more. Our kitchen smelled wonderful from all those nice Middle Eastern spices during cooking.

Shwarma Chicken Cooking with added onion and garlic

COOKING: I usually grill this in a cast iron pan (or use non-stick pan) with about 2 teaspoons of oil and butter mix). Cook on medium heat for 7-8 mins, till nicely browned. TIP: I let them brown without touching or moving them (important!) so they really get a good sear. I added sliced onion too and sliced garlic, which go great with the chicken.

When one side is done, turn and cook about another 6-7 minutes till browned. So in about 15 minutes you have can dinner, with some sides, say basmati rice and veggies or a salad. If you have the option to grill these on a real grill, with wood or charcoal or course they would probably taste even better. Baking in the oven can work too for 20 minutes on high. You could even do a Sheet Pan Supper with veggies, for an easy one-pan dinner.

Of course you could add even more spices (more cumin, Ajika, or something spicy…) I always add spices like Spanish smoked paprika which helps with browning and especially fresh garlic. The marinade is not spicy so if you want some heat just add something of your choosing. TJ’s Zhough Green sauce goes especially well with these, with a bit brushed on at the very end, and/or on the side after cooking. A little Peri-peri hot sauce can be great! Cook veggies in the same pan (onions, peppers, cherry tomatoes…) and they will be really tasty.

Sliced and put back in the pan with some arugula

What about cooking these under the broiler? When I tried cooking the thighs this way they gave up a lot of liquid that collected at the bottom of the pan so I kind of keep my grilling in a pan method as best to stay juicy.

Thighs are good because they are almost impossible to overcook – unlike boneless breasts which are easy to overcook and dry out (side note – here’s my secret for cooking juicy boneless chicken breasts –) : (juicy chicken breasts)

When the chicken is done, take the thighs out of the pan and rest them 3-5 minutes before slicing (resting meat keeps it juicier). I slice the thighs up thinly, then put everything back in the pan including any juices to keep warm before assembling the shawarma. Chopped fresh cilantro or fresh parsley or arugula if you like some green taste and color. Maybe a squeeze of lemon. Assembly; warm your flatbread, place some chicken mixture down the center, top with sauce, some optional veggies, and serve. To eat, fold gently and eat like you would a taco.

Shawarma chicken, served on TJ’s Garlic Naan with Tzaziki, and veggies. Super yummy!!

As mentioned, I find these go great with TJs’ “ZHOUG” Yemeni green hot cilantro sauce which is spicy and matches well with Middle East spices. Or Greek Yogurt and Zhoug mixed together. TZAZIKI sauce is pefect.

If you wanted to, you could even cut these up into chunks and thread them on skewers (with onions and peppers) and grill them as KABOBS.

You can serve the chicken many ways but sure a great way of course would be as a SHAWARMA wrap perhaps with TJ Naan or other flatbread. Slice up the chicken, put it on flatbread, warm pita or TANDOORI NAAN (yes!) or even TJ HABANERO LIME TORTILLAS…. add a few chopped veggies (tomato, cukes, shredded lettuce, scallion, parsley…) Top with a sauce, a tahini or yogurt garlic sauce (tzaziki sauce worked great). YEMENI ZHOUG SAUCE if you like spice! Or a little BOMBA. Voila, you have Chicken Shawarma. A little messy to eat with your hands but oh so good. Your family will love them. Basmati Rice on the side, or as a bed, would be a great match with this.

You will love these!

Shopping notes : Shawarma Chicken Thighs, Tzatziki, Frozen Naan, onion, garlic, veggies…..

The second dish I made with these chicken thighs was to use them in Chicken Tacos and Fajitas. Despite the slight cultural melange, they were actually terrific used as Tacos. Well, you did know that Lebanese migrants had a big part in Mexican food culture and created the famed Tacos Al Pastor, right? It’s true. Some Green Dragon hot sauce with it’s tomatillo and cilantro flavor made them perfectly Mexican on our tacos.

The SHAWARMA CHICKEN THIGHS cost $4.49 a pound*. The 1.5 lb package I bought was just over $6 and I got two meals out of it, with sides, so more than if you just bought plain chicken but not a bad deal. These are excellent to also use as the Chicken part of a dish, say a Chicken and Rice (brown the meat with onions, throw in rice, add broth…) I made an Arroz Con Pollo another time with these and it came out terrific! So TJ’s SHAWARMA CHICKEN THIGHS are a good product and worth trying. These are a TJ hit.

If you want to save a little money, naturally you could buy chicken thighs and add your own blend of “middle eastern style” spices for a marinade.

(LINK) TJ’s ARCHIVED INFO PAGE FOR SHAWARMA CHICKEN THIGHS

  • UPDATE 1- * Price increased since I wrote this to $4.79/lb. (Jan 2021) May be higher when you see them due to rampant Inflation now!
  • UPDATE 2 – TJ now sells two other varieties of marinated thighs: HARISSA and LEMON & HERBS. I think these versions are not as good as the SHAWARMA one. For one thing, they are too wet)!

(LINK) Here’s A Recipe I found on TJ’s site with these for Shawarma Chicken Rice Soup

A sheet pan supper using these? Why not? Just cut up the chicken and roast with veggies

THIS IS AUTHENTIC CHICKEN SHAWARMA COOKING ON A HUGE ROTATING SPIT. MEAT THEN SLICED OFF. If you ever get the chance, try it!

TJ’s WHOLE WHEAT COUSCOUS


I always keep a box of this TJ Whole Wheat Couscous in my pantry as it’s incredibly fast and easy to make staple, quicker to make than for example rice or even pasta. It’s versatile, healthy, and tasty. Couscous (“koos-koos”) is a pasta-like grain made from wheat that is a staple in the North African cuisines of Algeria and Morocco. It’s even part of Sicilian cuisine!

Couscous is generally made out of semolina wheat. Trader Joe’s sells this whole grain version made from whole durum semolina. The box says PRODUCT OF FRANCE (yeah baby!) The French love couscous. I have lived in Paris where they have couscous restaurants almost like we have pizza places as there are so many people of Algerian and Morrocan origin.

One of the reasons I love couscous, is it its so fast and easy to make. It is ready in 5 minutes. Here’s the basic method: Put a cup of water in a pot. Bring it to a boil. Add Salt and Butter (or olive oil) Dump in a cup of this couscous (1-1 ratio). Turn off the fire, cover the pot, and let it sit for five minutes, then fluff it up with a fork. Thats it, done!

You can use couscous as a side dish, as you would rice or pasta. It really soaks up sauces or stews. Use it as a “bed” for your Main and add a bit of sauce on top. It’s a great base for a “protein bowl”. You can do other things as well with it like serve it as a salad or make a super healthy couscous tabouli salad hot or cold. A box of Trader Joe’s French imported Whole Wheat Instant Couscous sells for only $1.99 for 500 grams, (a bit over a pound). This is an excellent product to always keep on hand in your pantry and tryHere are some links related to peruse.

https://www.thespruceeats.com/simple-couscous-recipe-2355404

http://www.chefday.com/couscous-merguez

http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/entries/display.php/id/58/

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/232205/whole-wheat-couscous-tabbouleh/

https://food52.com/blog/22956-sicilian-couscous-alla-trapanese-recipe-history-behind-it

RAVE