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.

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. The perfect thing to pair with some perfectly ripe, juicy farm fresh tomatoes is this Trader Joe’s Fresh Mozzarella Cheese. Unlike the firmer, drier “pizza” mozzarella, fresh mozzarella is a milky soft fresh cheese. Fresh mozzarella is perfect for pairing with tomatoes, basil and good virgin olive oil for a super easy and delicious classic: a “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.

This mozzarella is shaped as a log and is pre-sliced into rounds which makes this super convenient and 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! Douse with some 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 chez Trader Joes.

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 AUTHENTIC GREEK FETA in brine


This is an authentic, imported Greek feta made from sheep’s milk. Sheep’s milk produces the best feta cheese, and so this feta has the wonderful tangy flavor and aroma with a nice creamy texture that sheep’s milk brings plus it’s not overly salty. It comes as two large slabs of cheese covered in brine. The proper way feta should be sold and kept because the brine keeps the texture of the feta creamy and smooth.

There are a many types of feta cheese made in many countries and it’s made from the milk of different animals (cow, goat, sheep). Feta made from sheep’s milk is produced in France, Bulgaria, Israel and of course, Greece! Greek Feta may be the best of them all Though I like all the ones from the countries just mentioned. TJ has on occasion carried an Israeli feta (it came in plastic bag, and was only available for a year or so. It was excellent! The Israeli feta TJ now sells in a dark blue plastic tub is not quite as good as this Greek one in a light blue tub.

The plastic tub this TJ feta comes in I find a bit tricky to open – Only the very top part is a lid comes off, once you have broken the waterproof seal, ripping a small plastic tab in one corner of the tub (look for that tab). Open it up carefully flat on a counter, so brine doesn’t fly out everywhere (and by the way don’t throw out the brine – more on this later) Here’s just a few ideas on what you can do with feta cheese. I mean its delicious just by itself but its so versatile to have in the fridge to use with other things, like….

Greek Salad: Put a slab of feta on top of salad greens, chopped up cukes and tomatoes and voila, you have a Greek salad. Throw on some olives if you have them. Drizzle a good slug of very good Extra Virgin Olive Oil on and squeeze on fresh lemon juice. Grind on fresh black pepper. You can even vamp it up with more proteins like hard boiled eggs, drained canned tuna or sardines, or grilled chicken. Serve some good crusty bread and you have a lovely, super easy dinner in minutes.

Watermelon and Feta salad: Cube up some nice sweet watermelon with cubes of feta cheese which is a Genius combo. I’ve decided I don’t need olive oil on this, just the two ingredients and a grind of black pepper. But if you like with EVOO go for it. Fresh ground pepper is good with this.

Shakshuka and Feta: Use TJ’s frozen Shakshuka starter: add cubes of this feta as you cook it. Fantastic!

Feta cheese is often used in cooking: one of my favorite Greek dishes is “Garides mi Feta” (Shrimp with tomatoes and Feta) It’s fantastic!

The latest craze is that “Baked Feta Pasta” recipe that is making feta cheese hard to find so many people started looking for it, producers could not keep up!

As this feta is imported from Greece of course it costs more than the small pack of feta cheese TJ carries at $3 for 8 oz. which is OK (its cows milk) not great like this Greek sheep feta. This Greek feta TJ sell is $6.49 for 10 oz (drained). So figure about $10/lb for a real “Product of Greece” feta, which is a decent price for real Greek feta. Honestly this stuff will make your meal or dish, so worth the occasional splurge.

Oh and remember I said keep that brine? You can actually use it. That milky feta brine actually has flavor. Mellissa Clark in the New York Times put out a great recipe for chicken using brine, plus you can marinate chicken breasts in feta brine for 30-60 minutes;  Bake, broil, pan grill…! They will be SO juicy from the brining.

https://food52.com/recipes/69859-melissa-clark-s-feta-brined-roast-chicken

https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/primers/article/feta-guide

https://food52.com/blog/23031-how-to-use-feta-brine-water-salt-tricks-tips

RAVE

“You know how many kinds of feta exist? Thousands. Every place you go in Greece, they make feta” (Greek cheese monger in Astoria Queens)

GNOCCHI WITH PESTO -A NO-RECIPE RECIPE, FIVE MINUTE $3 DINNER


The other night I came home tired and hungry. I looked in the fridge and saw nothing really to eat.

I wanted something hot and delicious that would not require any time at all.

I looked in the cupboard and saw 2 things, a package of TJ GNOCCHI plus a jar of TJ PESTO ALLA GENOVESE.

Aha, dinner!

(NO-RECIPE RECIPE) FIVE MINUTE GNOCCHI with PESTO SAUCE

STEP 1 – BOIL WATER

STEP 2 – THROW IN THE GNOCCHI (ADD A PINCH OF SALT IF YOU LIKE) BOIL GNOCCHI THREE MINUTES

STEP 3 – DRAIN GNOCHI (NB: RESERVE A 1/2 CUP OF THE PASTA WATER!) TOSS THE DRAINED GNOCCHI BACK IN THE POT TO KEEP WARM

STEP 4 – ADD PESTO (I ADDED ABOUT 1/2 THE JAR). ADD A FEW TABLESPOONS OF THE SAVED PASTA WATER BIT BY BIT STIRRING GENTLY TILL YOU HAVE A SAUCE OF YOUR DESIRED CONSISTENCY. KEEP WARM WITH A TINY FLAME UNTIL READY TO PLATE

DONE

FANCIER? A drizzle of a great EVOO…. Freshly grated Parmigiano or Pecorino (or Mozz?) Fresh ground black pepper. Optional: Green it up with some chopped arugula (or parsley or baby kale). I added in some Arugula to the pot and stirred for about 45 seconds until it wilted a bit into the pesto. YUMMY! With 2 slices of toasted bread, some greens and dressing, a glass of wine…we had a full nice dinner that took almost no effort and very little time.

TIME (under 5 minutes not counting the water boiling)

COST – TJ’s Gnocchi (1 lb) costs $1.69.  A jar of the Pesto Alla Genovese costs $2.49 (so figure 1/2 jar’s $1.25) So the dish costs less than $3 with 2 nice servings as a dinner, or about 4 as a side-dish.

So its a good idea to keep these 2 handy items on hand in your pantry! The Trader Joe’s Gnocchi is in the dried pasta section, and come in a shelf stable sealed plastic package that is good for many months at room temp. The Pesto once opened lasts a few weeksin the fridge. Covering the pesto with some olive oil will help it keep a bit longer.

I also see TJ’s has another fresh PESTO they carry in the refrigerated section. Must try that one too.

pesto2

RAVE

Pizza 102 – “Getting More Advanced” No Knead Dough


“Pizza 102”

Pizza, No Knead

Pizza (No Knead Dough) Canned crushed tom., fresh tomato, garlic, mozz, Grana Padano, EVOO, arugula topping…

Once you really get into making your own pizza, the next evolutionary step for you to take might be to make your own dough!

No…really! Its easier than you think. Especially now as over the last few years there’s been a kind of revolutionary dough recipe and technique that has caught on like wild fire. I’m referring to “No Knead Dough” which thanks to both its creator, Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery, and the internet, which has spread the recipe to an enormous number of people who’ve tried it, has started many, including yours truly on this truly DIY fun and tasty path.

You can learn a lot by watching Jim Lahey show how to make homemade pizza with no knead dough:

More in depth info:

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/03/jim-laheys-no-knead-pizza-dough-recipe.html

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/no-knead-pizza-dough

http://food52.com/recipes/16641-jim-lahey-s-no-knead-pizza-dough-margherita-pie

No-Knead Pizza Dough
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Co.
Makes four 12-inch pizza crusts OR 1 large square sheet pan pie

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus some more for dusting {Trader Joe’s White Flour does well}
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (such as SAF brand)
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ cups water
1. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until blended (the dough will be very sticky). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 12 to 24 hours in a warm spot, about 70°.
2. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and lightly sprinkle the top with flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
3. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Generously sprinkle a clean cotton towel with flour and cover the dough with it. Let the dough rise for 2 hours (If you are doing a square style pizza then keep the dough in one piece)
4. Stretch or toss the dough into the desired shape, cover with toppings and bake on top of a very hot pizza stone. …Or stretch dough out onto sheet pan, add toppings and bake. Hot oven, 500, until it looks done.

from:
http://www.tastingtable.com/entry_detail/nyc/99/No_Knead_Pizza_Dough_Recipe_by_Jim_Lahey_from_Co_Pizzeria_i.htm

Read more: http://www.tastingtable.com/entry_detail/nyc/99/No_Knead_Pizza_Dough_Recipe_by_Jim_Lahey_from_Co_Pizzeria_i.htm#ixzz2tcZdQqoX

Have you tried this ?  Let me know what you think in the comments section!

Easy Home-Made Pizza using TJ’s Pizza Dough (Re-Visited!)


I noticed that the all-useful TRADER JOE’S PIZZA DOUGH which had been only 99 cents (!) for as long as I can remember, went up to bit by bit and is now $1.29. While I loved it for under a buck, its still not a bad deal, say compared to Whole Foods prices.

The pizza recipe” post I did before seems to be one of the more popular posts here, so I’m re-visiting the topic of PIZZA (Yeah, baby!) Pictured below is yet another pizza I made for dinner using TJ’s ever useful bag of Pizza Dough sold in the refrigerator section.

To make this I used some homemade spaghetti sauce, with some extra veggies I had leftover from another dinner (eggplant, peppers, and onions). Mozzarella, and some hot Italian sausage. At the end I put on some cooked Kale with garlic I had made another night too. See, part of the “pizza night” ethos is to use up whatever one can find in the fridge, that might work on it!


Seriously, doesn’t this home-made pizza look so damn yummy and delicious that you wish you could eat it right now?! Well guess what, you canMake your own pizza at home, folks. No really, it’s pretty easy. Do you need to use home-made sauce? Of course not, a jar or canned sauce like TJ’s Marinara would be fine. Making your own pizza is easy, fun, super delicious and is of course cheaper than buying one. There is nothing like eating a pizza you made yourself and just pulled fresh out of your oven, bubbly and browned. If you have never made pizza at home before, you must try making one yourself at least once. I promise once you do, you’ll want to make a pizza once a week. Every time I go to Trader Joe’s I buy a package of dough to keep in my freezer to always have it on hand for these occasions. It will defrost on the counter in about 3-4 hours (or leave to defrost in the fridge overnight).

Is a Recipe needed to inspire you? OK then heres how to make a pizza:

pizza5HOMEMADE PIZZA WITH TJ PIZZA DOUGH

Ingredients needed: 1 package of TJ’s Pizza Dough, about 8 ozs of some sauce (Marinara, etc),  about 1/2 lb cheese (Mozzerella, Parmesan, Pecorino, Grana Padano, Jack, etc ) and using more than one cheese is even better (optional: fresh garlic, diced tomato, fresh/dried basil, onion, parsley, cooked mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, kale, etc) and of course Italian Spices (oregano, basil, rosemary, red pepper, black pepper….)

1) Take your (defrosted) package of TRADER JOE”S PIZZA DOUGH out of the fridge –  leave it out at room temperature for at least one hour (the package says ’20 minutes’ but it is too short). Room temperature dough will be easier to work and press out,so plan ahead! (around the 1/2 hour point, turn on to pre-heat your oven to 450-500…very hot) Do not nuke it.

2) Prepare a clean work surface thats large enough to work your dough on. Dust it with flour. Remove the dough from the package (TIP: Its sticky! I invert the plastic bag to remove and just keep tugging and pulling till I get it all out). Dust the dough with flour so you can work it. Now you shape it. With your hands well floured and adding a little extra flour (or cornmeal) on the surface of the dough as needed, start to press out the dough using your fingers. Keep working and turning it until it is your desired size and shape. I generally use a square non-stick “half-sheet pan” to cook my pizza in. Its a little trickier to make the dough into a square/rectangle instead of a round but I like it like this. If using this kind of sheet pan, put a little olive oil in the pan on the bottom, put in your dough, put some oil your fingers and on top of the dough and work it into shape using your fingers, pressing it out gently. The oil will help you to stretch it out and work the dough towards the corners. Let the dough rest five minutes if you find its not ‘listening’ and keeps pulling back on you. Normal dough behavior. Just let it rest 5-10 minutes, then come back. Try to be careful and not to make the pizza “too thin” (or rip it!) if you can. And not too thick either or it will be tough! Get it just right. Build up the outside edge a bit. You can gently brush the edges with some olive oil if you want (optional). Another Option: Use a rolling pin to get it started and transfer that carefully to the pan and then work it. Remember if its the pan style its a rectangle you are shooting for. Shaping the dough is the only tricky part of making a pizza. The more you do this, the more you will get the hang of handling dough. If its not perfectly shaped your first time don’ worry. It will still taste as good! Don’t give up. Check YouTube for some videos on making pizza, study a bit, practice and keep doing it. You will get the hang of it and find it much easier in future. If you want to go the traditional round pizza route, of course try that. Moving the raw pizza into the oven is a tricky part, though personally I have found a square one in a sheet pan works.

IMG_0003READY TO ASSEMBLE (I am using smoked mozz and a little provolone) 
Now that you have your pizza dough base ready, its time for the ingredients
3) Spread your tomato sauce out with a large spoon. Do not oversauce – that will make the pizza harder to cook evenly and soggy. Add sauce as a thin layer. Now add your other ingredients, again in moderation, and spaced out. Don’t place too much stuff on it. Sprinkle on grated mozzerella or other cheese as desired. I like to use more than one cheese (Parmesan is great as well as Grana Padano) If using sausage, pre-cook a bit just till you can slice easily (I cooked mine covered for 5-6 minutes, let it cool in the pan, then sliced it up and added it) Add extra spices as desired (Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, Red Pepper flakes….). Add fresh cracked pepper. Drizzle a bit of Olive Oil all over just before baking (Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Adjust the ingredients as needed. I’m sure you know how. Soy cheese perhaps?)

4) BAKING: When its ready to bake, place the pizza in pre-heated 450-500 degree oven. Very hot! Real pizza ovens are much hotter than your home oven can go but we can work with just longer baking. TIP: I have started to put the pan on the oven floor for 7-10 mins then move it to the middle or top rack for the rest of the baking time. This really bakes the bottom (if you don’t have a pizza steel or stone). If moving it sounds too complicated, just use the middle rack.

Check pizza after 15-18 minutes (ROTATE the pan after 10 minutes, to even the baking. The pizza will probably need a total of around 20-25 minutes to bake, but your mileage may vary, as every oven is different. Check it frequently until you think its done. When it is done, I think you will know; it should be bubbly and slightly browned on top (as well as the bottom) However be careful not to over-cook your pizza or it may be a bit tough. Real pizza ovens are 600-900 degrees or hotter, so a pizza bakes in mere minutes….we just do our best with our regular home ovens. When your beautiful pizza looks – and smells – like its done, it probably is, so remove it from the oven. Check it. If its finished, you should let it rest 2 minutes before cutting as it will be easier to slice. Yes, waiting is the hardest part. SLICE it up with your favorite tool. I’ve got a pizza cutter from a 99 cents store, and it works fine. Believe it or not I even use kitchen shears to cut up pizza, and that works fairly well. If you have fresh Basil, now is the time to add it – use kitchen shears as I learned to do watching master pizza maker Dom DeMarco at the legendary DiFara’s Pizza in Brooklyn)! Dom’s pizza’s are to die for.

IMG_0002Before and After. The hardest part in the above may be waiting 20 minutes for the pizza to come out of the oven.

IMG_0004

The thing is, once you get the hang of making a pizza yourself a few times you will find its really not that hard to make, nor takes that much time. You must try making pizza yourself.

Please leave some feedback on your successes (or failures)

UPDATE / TIP: I have been experimenting with “aging” the TJ dough in the fridge and let it sit for a few days before use. It will ferment slowly and will get sourdough-y taste this way as the dough ferments. Try this aging for 1 (or 2 days) past the “sell by” date. Experiment with the aging of the dough tip and see if the crust and flavor is improved. I find it so.

Personally I have found the regular dough is the best version TJ has  – I have found the whole wheat version too tough, and the herbed version too off-tasting and bitter. Your mileage may vary. If you really want great pizza, eventually you may even make your own dough!

Buona Fortuna (good luck!) and Enjoy…

Gently remove dough from bag and place on lightly floured work surface. Let dough rest for 20 minutes, then, for best results, stretch by hand or roll out with rolling pin to 12-inch diameter. Top with your favorite toppings and bake in a preheated 450 degrees oven or BBQ grill for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese begins to boil and the bottom of crust is golden brown.Use a hot pizza stone or lightly oiled pan for optimum results. Mangia!

AND YET MORE PHOTOS OF MAKING OF A PIZZA USING HOMEMADE DOUGH

HALF ZUCCHINI / HALF TOMATO

TJ’s Refried Black Beans “With Jalapeños”


“High in Fiber and a Good Source of Iron”

Says so right on the front label and all true. This is a very healthy thing for you to eat. And since a can costs just 99 cents, it’s very economical too. Now if you are not familiar with “Refried Beans” there are a few things you should know. One is in Spanish “frijoles refritos” is slightly misleading in that while it literally can be interpreted as “re-fried beans” they are not “fried” twice, they are “cooked twice”, first the beans are boiled, then they are mashed/fried with some kind of fat. Authentic Mexican FRIJOLES REFRITO are either pinto, black, or other beans that have been cooked till very tender, and then mashed till they are a smooth paste. The mixture is cooked with onions and garlic and spices in some oil or fat (traditionally manteca (lard) is used but more ‘modern, healthy’ versions may use olive oil). Manteca does give the beans the best flavor though!  Cooked until a thick paste, Refritos generally is eaten with corn tortillas in one form or another, or simply put on the plate as a side. Of course the famous combination of Corn and Beans eaten together create a complex protein that is equal to meat protein, and are eaten in many places all over the world to sustain a population. In Mexico this is very true. This classic combination is both a high quality protein at a relatively low cost compared to meat/chicken/etc, and is a staple eaten daily by MILLIONS of people around the world.

However Trader Joe’s Refried Black Beans are a much simplified version of this classic bean dish. The ingredients list says simply : Black beans, water, sea salt, spice, jalapeños. So actually since there is no fat of any kind listed, in truth these are not really “refritos” at all! You could eat them this way just out of the can, but I find them just so-so that way, I think of them as a time-saver over making my own beans (soaking overnight, etc) and mashing them. Tasting these you may say as I did, “what where’s the jalapeño’s?” Are there really Jalapeño peppers are in this?? They seem non-existant taste wise so I assume the amount is miniscule.

When you open up up the can, be aware this beans don’t look too appetizing till prepared (frankly one could say it looks like dog food) but it will look fine after you heat them up and hopefully gussy them up as I suggest .

Anyway think of this can as a starting point to something. If you invest a mere 5 minutes to improve these* to make them tastier and more authentic, you will be rewarded with something twice as good as the way they taste right out of the can, I promise you. Here’s what I suggest you do with these mashed black beans – Smash or chop up a fat clove of garlic and toss it in a non-stick pan, over medium heat with a nice slug of good Olive Oil (I used TJ’s Spanish EVOO). Add the bean paste from the can (carefully! it may spit in the hot oil)  Perhaps add some diced fresh or pickled jalapeños or other chile peppers ‘to taste’. A great thing to add would be one small can of TJ’s Roasted Green Chiles, chopped up. A little diced onion sauteed for 5 minutes in the oil before the beans go in couldn’t hurt and will add much flavor to your Frijoles Refritos. Now add some spices: oregano, cumin if you like it, a dash of red pepper flakes plus a good sprinkling of black pepper. Taste for salt. Cook the the beans, pushing down with a wooden spoon, mixing into the oil and every now and then stirring and making sure they don’t burn as they cook. Use a low flame. Cook the mixture for about 5-10 minutes until the paste softens up, moves freely (If too thick, add a tiny pinch of water) until the Frijoles look smooth and smell wonderful. If you like spicy, a few splashes of your favorite hot sauce would go well added now. There….much improved over just opening this can.

Are you so Lazy that reading the above makes you say all that sounds like way too much work? Wow you are a lazy bum! OK then if you do nothing else, at a minimum when you heat the beans up just add some olive oil and lots of black pepper and some hot sauce to the pan.

Eat your Frijoles Refritos with tortillas, tostadas…. Use as fillings in burritos. Add salsa, cheese, tomato, greens. Refritos are also great served as a side with a sprinkle of cheese, maybe some mexican style rice, and possibly some Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo.

If you’ve never had these before, try them, or their cousin Trader Joe’s Pinto Refried Beans with Salsa.  Those are also quite good. They are very tasty when jazzed up a little, so filling, healthy and economical it’s not even funny. Your heart and cholesterol will thank you, especially since you made them with olive oil and not lard (thought authentic manteca does taste best, sorry!)  For a dollar you can easily always keep a few cans of these in the pantry.

RAVE.

VEGAN FRIENDLY

 

 

Homemade Pizza (Recipe) with TJ dough


Here’s a Pizza I made for dinner last night. For the base, I used Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough, in the refrigerated section. The bag of fresh dough sells for the super price of just 99 cents (for 1 lb). Thats correct, 99 cents folks. Whole Foods has pizza dough too- however  they sell it (frozen) for almost double or triple TJ’s price.

Trader Joe’s has three varieties of Pizza Dough – Regular dough, Herb and Whole Wheat. I amost always buy the “regular” (ie, “white”) dough. Why? Well I have tried the herb dough but found it a bit bitter and off tasting. You would be better off adding your own fresh garlic and fresh or dried herbs.  As far as the Whole Wheat dough, while noble in thought as “healthier pizza” in reality I found it came out with a too tough crust compared to the regular dough. You can try them all over time and see what you think.

I find a package of dough makes a very nice sized pizza for two people with leftovers (maybe). The 1 lb bag of dough could easily feed three. It might feed four with some side dish and/or a big salad. As pizza dough is after all “bread dough” of course one can use this to make a loaf of bread or some breadsticks (see below). This is a good idea too. So this is one of those TJ items I ALMOST NEVER LEAVE THE STORE WITHOUT. If you Freeze it, you have this handy stuff on hand whenever you want. It can defrost overnight or in a pinch  you can leave it out in the morning to defrost by  dinner time.

HOME-MADE PIZZA

Ingredients:
This time, believe it or not I did not use tomato sauce though I usually do. Today I was a bit unorthodox and did use some fresh tomatoes. Plus a ton of other vegetables: zucchini, mushrooms + peppers (I cooked both before with oil and garlic), more fresh garlic, olive oil, Mozzarela, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, hot pepper flakes, more fresh tiny red peppers I had on hand, plus anchovy paste… oh yeah and a simple homemade pork sausage with peppers and garlic (which I browned up first) and crumbled on top. It was “almost” a vegetarian pizza, and you could easily make it that way. Maybe use some TJ Soy Chorizo, perhaps for the sausage component…Or not.

(READY FOR BAKING)

Method:  Its will take a little practice but this is do-able. Take the Pizza Dough out of the fridge for at least a 1/2 hour to 1 hr beforehand! It needs to not be super cold to work it. Turn the dough out of the bag on to some flour. Flour your work surface and gently stretch out your dough to your pan. I used a non-stick half sheet pan. Put some olive oil in the pan first and spread it with your fingers. Put some more on top of the dough. I stretched the dough to fit the whole pan and used my fingers to build up the edges. Then add your sauce and toppings and cheese.

I dabbed some anchovy paste all around the body of the pizza, and gently smushed it in with my fingers with a good dollop of Olive Oil (TJ’s Spanish EVO). I cut my zucchini into paper thin slices and laid them out all over in neat rows, laid tomatoes sliced thin all over, added my cooked mushrooms and peppers I made the night before, laid out the Mozz (shredded) all over, hit it with red pepper, sliced garlic, Italian seasoning, a little arugula, and more olive oil which I brushed on the edges with my fingers. Some more tomato on top which got “roasted”, some more fresh red peppers, a pinch of salt, plus lots of black pepper.

Baked it at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes (The TJ dough package says bake 9 minutes, thats sounds crazy short unless you have a very very hot pizza oven) In the style of my idol, Dom DeMarco (of Brooklyn’s DiFara’s Pizza) I tossed on some grated cheese (Parmesan or Grana Padano as Dom uses) AFTER it comes out of the oven. This gives your pizza some extra zing for sure.

OUT OF THE OVEN

Also like Master DeMarco, I was liberal with the Olive Oil especially on the pan for this squarish rendition, as I wanted that crust to get really crispy and brown -which it did thanks to that oil. After it was ready, I hit it with more fresh arugula on top (was tempted to use lemon juice like Paulie Gee too but didn’t…next time. Lemon juice on pizza? Trust me, with the arugula, its fantastic. Paulie Gee has some real pizza chops).

Result: Due to all the veggies honestly I felt the center was too thin and came out too wet  with all too many veggies I had loaded it with. If I did it over, next time I would not stretch out the dough quite as much and leave it much thicker all over to hold up to the veggies. The zucchini and fresh tomato produce a lot of moisture. In the center it was too moist. However other than the center the pizza came out perfectly. The outside edge crust (aka cornicone) was really crunchy and good, especially for something made in a regular home oven. Would it be better with a pizza stone? Maybe, I just don’t have one, nor do I have a Pizza Peel so would be a bit hard to get in the oven, without using the sheet pan I felt. I’m a very adaptable cook. Taste-wise? EXCELLENT. I got a high five from my Mrs, who deemed it one of the best pizzas I’ve made. First time I used the anchovy paste, which added a wonderful undernote of flavor. And the homemade sausage was fantastic on top. So basically I made the “sauce” right on the pizza in the oven. It does look tasty, no? I hope this picture inspires you to make a pizza at home; Its easy and delicious.

Oh and I tested out making a few breadsticks with a bit of the extra TJ’s dough. They were good! Try doing some of those too with this dough. You could of course even make a fresh baked bread with it too. I am now buying at least 2 packages of TJ’s Pizza Dough, and throwing one in the freezer to have on hand at all times. I do make my own dough on occasion but it requires some thinking ahead.

Now I know this isn’t exactly a “recipe” but to me, Pizza is a basic idea, that is improvised depending on your mood, ingredients, etc. So for the most basic “recipe” buy this dough, stretch it out on to a half sheet pan, add some homemade or good jarred marinara or tomato sauce, some mozzarella, olive oil, fresh garlic, etc. (add preferred toppings here). Bake it in a HOT oven. Check it at 15-20 minutes and make sure its brown and bubbly. Cook for another 5-10 minutes if not. When done, take it out and toss on some (fresh I hope) grated Parmesan or other hard Italian cheese. Remove from pan to a surface you can cut on and slice it up. Once you do this, you may never go back to “ordering in pizza”.

TRADER JOE’S PIZZA DOUGH =

RAVE

TJ’s FRENCH GREEN BEANS (Haricots Verts)


UPDATE! SUMMER 2019 – out of stock all year, this product has finally is back in stores !

 (Updated, Nov 2019) This product is in stores!

RAVE

These can easily be on any Trader Joe’s Top 10 List.

Easily best “first try” of a TJ product in a while, I was quite impressed with the quality of these frozen green beans. These are are extremely high quality French Haricots Verts (“green beans”). They are “IMPORTED FROM FRANCE”. These Haricot Verts are the real McCoy and a super bargain. 

French “Haricot Verts” are better and higher quality bean than our usual standard green beans. Haricots Verts are a skinnier French green bean variety, thinner and more tender than our regular US green beans.. These are the expensive-ass skinny green beans you get next to that $35 entree you ordered when you go to an expensive restaurant. When I see fresh HARICOTS VERTS, imported from France, at a top green grocer like Fairway for example, which does carry them, they are always quite expensive, something like $8-10 per lb? As opposed to $2/lb for our “normal” fresh green beans. I always think ‘who can afford to buy these 12 bucks a pound green beans?! They must have money to burn.’ Well now thanks to Trader Joe’s great buying skills, all of us non-Rockefeller normal folks can afford to buy these wonderful French green beans, just they’ve come flash frozen.

TJ’s sells a package of the frozen HARICOT VERTS in a 24 oz bag. (1.5 lbs) for $1.99! Do the math, thats comes out to about $1.50/lb so thats about the same price or LESS, than I might buy regular fresh green beans (a price check followup in April 2012 show this is still the same price!) 

These are those same wonderful thin, french haricots verts, all prepped and ready to use, which have been flash frozen. Dark, nice green color. Blanched for a few seconds prior to being flash frozen. Certainly easy to use: they are all prepped (tip and tailed) which you would spend time doing with fresh beans. This is a big time saver as prepping beans is the one thing I don’t like about when I buy fresh green beans, they take a bit of work to tip and tail a pound of beans. These come trimmed and cut into bite size lengths, ready to use. Handy. To cook, throw them in boiling salted water.

Or you can also just toss the beans into a hot sauté pan with some butter and oil (and garlic?) Cook either way for only 1-2 mins till just tender. Don’t overcook these! You can easily ruin them. With a bit of minced garlic and butter you have a nice French side dish of haricots verts, ready in minutes. Salads? Yes! I threw them into a salad after boiling them for about 45-60 seconds, dumping them in a colander and running cold water to cool them, and they were really good tossed with some good Virgin Olive Oil and White Balsamic vinegar…Delicious. Toss in some diced hard boiled eggs, and parsley, and you have a nice “salade composé”. I also use these a lot by just adding them to any dish I’m making, generally breaking them in half first as I add them to stews, soups, etc…..

haricots verts cocoCategory:Green beans

haricots verts cocoCategory:Green beans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To sell at this price, I can only imagine these are one of those items TJ’s makes a huge deal with the farmer or vendors. TJ’s purchases in such huge quantities directly from the vendor and they say pays in cash for the next crop and thats how TJ’s makes deals so they can sell products at such bargains (case in point is Olive Oil, right? They buy HUGE massive quantities from vendors all over the world)

Anyway TJ’s FRENCH GREEN BEANS (Haricots Verts) are my new favorite vegetable, and are now on my “always these have on hand” Trader Joe’s List. I now always buy a package to have in my freezer at all times. Right next to TJ’s Frozen Peas and Frozen Edamame, also all staples in my house.  These are very versatile things to have on hand at all times. Try them, you won’t be sorry.

RECIPEHaricots Verts With Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

(If you make this remember the recipe assumes using fresh haricots verts so adjust the cooking time down)

Have you tried this product?  Let me know what you think in the comments section!

NOTE: THIS WAS M.I.A FOR SOME TIME AS NOTED BY MANY READERS. I INQUIRED ABOUT IT WITH THE CAPTAIN AT MY LOCAL TJ (NYC) WHO TOLD ME THE PRODUCT WAS NOT DISCONTINUED, THEY RAN OUT OF IT, AND HADNT BEEN AVAILABLE FROM THE SUPPLIER. HE TOLD ME THEY WERE WAITING FOR THE NEXT HARVEST AND SHIPMENT TO COME IT. IT SHOULD AGAIN BE AVAILABLE IN JUNE (2019) – As of July 2019, I still don’t see it

AUGUST 2019 – I think I found it again finally!!  Package looks different (white bag instead of clear) and instead of “Trader Joe’s” label says “DU JARDIN” but seems to be the Haricot Verts “extra fine green beans” “Product of France”…. so this must be it?…Except now bag is 16 oz instead of 24 oz and its $1.99. So price went up. Of course.

UPDATE2 (SEPT 2019) This product (original package) is back in the stores!

TJ’s Tuscan Pane bread


RAVE:

You will see this bread on many a “Trader Joe’s Top 10” and “best products” lists, and rightly so. I think its one of the best products they sell, by far the best packaged bread I’ve had, period. Its a very good, country style bread. Pretty sure this is a slow rise sourdough; its usually full of air holes. Its has a very nice chewy texture and a good crust, of course which is better heated. In fact it gets 10x better toasted or grilled. Tuscan Pane makes unbelievably good toast, and many a morning this bread toasted is what I crave at breakfast. Top the toast with butter, jam, cream cheese, cheese, veggies or just about anything and you have a little slice of toast heaven. One of my faves would be with cream cheese and tomato. Or brie with jam, warmed till the brie is a bit melty.

A large 27 oz. loaf of Tuscan Pane original “white” was until recently $2.29. It has gone up to $2.49 (All wheat products are up) The Whole Wheat version goes for $2.69. Flavorwise I think I prefer the original “white” one to the whole wheat one but the whole wheat is still good too if you prefer that. I usually always prefer to buy whole wheat breads, but this one, not really. Since first trying this, this is yet another TJ product I’ve been become totally hooked on. I must have Tuscan Pane on hand at all times now. I keep it in the freezer; it keeps well frozen at least a week or two.

This bread can be the base of many easy sandwich, snacks and other recipes (croutons? yes!) I make quick and easy Bruschettas using this all the time. Here’s a fast, simple recipe:

BRUSCHETTA

-TJ’s Tuscan Pane

-Fresh garlic, ripe tomato, olive oil

Grill or toast a few slices of bread. When golden brown, immediately rub a cut clove of garlic on the bread. Take a slice of ripe tomato and ’smush’ it into your toast. If you want to be neat, you can dice your tomato and top it (but rubbed in is authentic Italian or Basque Pa Amb Tomaquet style) Drizzle on a nice splash of olive oil, sprinkle with some fresh black pepper and sea salt. A little herbage (basil) on top can’t hurt, but if you don’t have, thats fine.  If you want something heartier, add some sliced or grated parmesan or other cheese or perhaps some prosciutto. Done. YUM!

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