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) as well as a real bargain.

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 a bit more but 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. At Whole Foods I’m just guessing this would cost double that price?

Boneless pork tenderloin is a lean cut with almost no waste. It sometimes has a “silverskin” which should be removed before cooking. This is not very hard, you just need a very 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

TJ Wild Large Argentinian Red Shrimp


“Trader Joe’s Argentinian Red Shrimp are caught off the southern coast of Argentina. They have a sweet lobster like flavor and texture. Grill, barbecue or sauté. Serve with pasta, on salads or as an entrée…”

RAVE

Trader Joe’s frozen Wild Raw Red Argentinian Shrimp are tasty and practical.

I now buy these frozen shrimp at Trader Joe’s regularly as once I tried them I found them to be sweet, tasty and good value. They are big and meaty and have a sweet “lobster-y” flavor plus are wild caught, not farmed. Argentinian / Patagonian Red Shrimp are caught in the icy waters off Argentina’s coast. They are cleaned then flash frozen individually so easy to use. They are decently sized shrimp (20/25 count aka Large). Are Patagonian Red Shrimp “the sweetest shrimp in the world”? Even if some marketer came up with that line, they actually do taste kind of sweet and yes even “lobster-y”.

(If you are interested in learning more here’s detailed info about “Patagonian Red Shrimp”)

If I’m not using the whole bag I simply take out as many shrimp as I need and put the bag back closed with a twisty, then double bag that inside a Ziplock freezer bag. Use these Red Shrimp any way that you would normally use any shrimp. So first things first, best ways to defrost them. First I would suggest the traditional overnight thaw in the fridge in a covered bowl. Just plan ahead. If you have less time, some other options: Put them in a ziplock bag, submerge the bag in a bowl weighting it down under a plate, and run a light stream of cold water over it. They will be defrosted in about 15-20 minutes. I have also simply put some shrimp in a bowl and covered them with an inch of cold water, stirring them every 5 minutes or so, which also works and takes maybe 20-30 mins. I would not cook them right from frozen as they will surely shrink a lot and lose a lot of juice, nor would I nuke them to defrost them.

Cooking: Whatever cooking method you use, be sure not to overcook them. These shrimp do cook quickly. If you are say using a sauce, you can simmer the (defrosted) shrimp slowly in the sauce at the very end cooking them maybe 2-3 minutes (turning them over once). Patagonian Red Shrimp actually cook faster than other shrimp. They will be done quickly, in maybe 2 minutes. As soon as they are no longer translucent and look firmed up they are done, or at least should be removed at that point and then added back to your dish at the end. Not over cooking them will keep them tender, juicy and plump the way you want them. If you overcook shrimp they become tougher/chewier and shrink and curl up. TIP: Don’t throw out any liquid after defrosting, use it as stock.

They are of course terrific simply sauteed with olive oil and lots of garlic, scampi style. You can blot them with a paper towel, optionally sprinkle them with a little seasoned flour and sauté them in oil and butter. One trick I saw on MilkStreet recently was to grill shrimp on one side only, take them out of the pan then finish them in the dish for 30 seconds at the end. This is a Great idea! These shrimp are of course great grilled or sautéed and used in a pasta dish, or any recipe. Put them on a skewer and broil or grill them. They are equally great gently poached 3 minutes, which is a good way to make them for cold cooked shrimp or on top of salads. TIP: marinate 15 min in lots of TJ’s CUBAN SPICE BLEND, great with these. Or any spices of your choosing. Ajika also is terrific as is TJ’s Peri-Peri Sauce.

You’ll probably like these shrimp if you try them. I find them super convenient to have in the freezer. TJ’s sells Wild Red Shrimp (1 lb. bag) for $9.99 (UPDATE : TJ recently raised the price not long after I posted this; they are now $10.99 – Feb 2021).

More ideas for dishes below.

I made a nice Thai Shrimp Curry with veggies and TJ’s Thai Red Curry sauce and added the shrimp at the very last 2 minutes (a no-recipe recipe follows below).

THAI STYLE SHRIMP CURRYSauté some onions, garlic, and chopped ginger in oil for 5 minutes. Throw in chopped carrots, celery, potatoes (optional add ins: mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes, scallions) …sauté everything for 5 more minutes, then add 1/4-1/2 cup liquid (water or broth*) simmer for 10 minutes, toss in a jar of TJ Thai Red Curry sauce, simmer about 10 more minutes till all veggies are tender. The last 2 minutes add shrimp and cook gently in the sauce, stirring occasionally. Serve the curry with jasmine rice on the side. Add chopped scallions on top.

Another dish: Ramen? Yes. I used these shrimp for (“Roy Choi style”) instant ramen with a slice of cheese and butter. Sounds crazy but it works, see video below). For this dish which was a dinner, I made a veggie stock instead of using the included packet of seasoning* and added some fresh mushrooms. I added the shrimp at the very end of cooking, and only cooked them about a minute or two. You can see they look juicy from not overcooking.

TIP: That little flavor packet included with instant ramen is loaded with Sodium (like 50% of daily recommended level)? Too much Sodium is bad for you, so better to use your own stock or low sodium stock and maybe just add a bit of the flavor packet. Worst case, use only half the packet and if it tastes too flat, add something to flavor it up without adding much sodium (a dash of low sodium soy sauce or a few drops of Nam Pla (fish sauce).

ROY CHOI’S INSTANT RAMEN WITH CHEESE

There are so many ways you might use shrimp, so here’s one more idea: How about Shrimp Rolls (like a lobster roll)? These shrimp are “lobster-y” so would be perfect in a a shrimp roll. Gently poach them then put some on some lightly toasted buttered Brioche bread or aloha buns, (cut up shrimp, a little mayo, some Old Bay seasoning or dried dill) You can pretend it’s a lobster roll; Well its the next best thing.

Another idea? Vietnamese style rice paper shrimp rolls (search Asian markets for the rice wrappers) https://justasdelish.com/vietnamese-shrimp-rolls-peanut-hoisin-sauce/

Want one more idea? Fried rice with shrimp is fantastic.

Vietnamese Shrimp Rolls with Peanut Hoisin Sauce (Gỏi Cuốn with Nước Lèo)

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!

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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.

Trader Joe’s WINTER WAKE UP TEA


So let me just start off with the comment that I really like this tea but frankly found the name a wee bit misleading. When I saw the words “Wake Up Tea”, I just assumed this will make a cup of strong, dark, kick-ass, rocket fuel (English/Irish) tea… A dark cuppa that really wakes you up in the morning. But when I brewed up a cup as you can see in the picture its not a very dark super strong tea. However when I tasted it I thought, oh this quite good! So I really like this tea but my take is kind of Trader Joe’s should have come up with a different name minus “wake up”. “Winter Wake Up Tea” is probably not something I would brew to wake me up in the morning. But other than that comment, Trader Joe’s has come up with an EXCELLENT TEA BLEND with great spice flavors that would satisfy me at any time of day, and makes me feel all nice and warm and cozy!

TJ’s Winter Wake Up Tea is a wonderfully balanced tasty spiced tea, a blend of black tea, cinnamon, orange peel, ginger and cloves. If it was called something a bit different without “wake up” in the name, I would have simply started the review with “A most wonderful spiced tea that will make you feel warm and toasty on a cold snowy winter’s eve, and will warm your heart and soul! Drink it in front of the fireplace and just relax….” Personally Mr. Joe, I would have named it something like, say… WINTER COZY TEA. or WINTER SPICE BLEND TEA* or something like that.

Brew this up and you get a very nice spiced tea that reminds me slightly of CONSTANT COMMENT tea – a famous spiced tea blend created back in 1945. My parents always had it in our cupboard, especially making an appearance when “company” came over, as it was kind of special and would get a “yum… whats this tea?” comment from our guests. Ah the good old days! This TJ tea make a lighter cup than Constant Comment, with less black tea prominent in the blend but probably more spices such as cinnamon, ginger, plus clove and orange peel. It even is has the slightest bit of sweetness naturally as an under-note from a bit of licorice, which possesses natural sweetness.

So will this wake you up like the Irish Breakfast tea which actually is a “wake up tea”? Myself, to wake up I need a strong cuppa like TJ’s excellent Irish Breakfast Tea, or a typical English tea like Typhoo Tea or the like. But still enjoy this Winter Tea for what it is – a quite lovely spiced tea full of flavor.

Aha, methinks, I’ve a great idea! What if I combined the two teas together?! I brewed both teas up together, and very much liked the resulting concoction. If you do you want something a bit darker and stronger but with lots of nice spice flavors, just take 2 cups of water, bring to a boil in a pot, and toss in a bag of this Winter Tea plus a bag of Irish Breakfast Tea. Let it brew for at least 5 minutes. The result is nice mix-up of both, a strong “cuppa” plus lots of warm spices and flavor, not terribly unlike Constant Comment, and which actually now is a Wake Up Tea that will perk you up on a cold winter’s morn.

*So Mr Trader Joe, should you borrow my ideas and rename this product “COZY WINTER TEA” you better at least send me a case of this stuff!

 

 

 

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 SLICED FRENCH BRIOCHE BREAD


“Buttery, moist and perfectly French”

Big wow TJ product.

One of those so good you can’t stop eating them things. SLICED FRENCH BRIOCHE bread is a big big hit at Trader Joe’s, it’s a best seller year round and not for nothing. Almost anytime I go to TJs if I glance around on the check out line at what is in other customer’s carts it’s a sure thing I will see someone with a package (or two) of this. Sliced brioche is one of TJ’s most popular items for good reason. Soft and eggy, slightly sweet, it comes as thick slices, about 1/2 inch thick. This French brioche is the real McCoy as it is “Made in France” and imported. Brioche (and Challah) are rich yeasted breads made with eggs and butter and are yellow from the egg yolks. This super soft fluffy bread is delicious as-is untested perhaps spread with some softened (French) butter or softened cream cheese. It makes great sandwiches.

It is yummy, soft and delicious as is untoasted but of course is equally wonderful TOASTED to a perfect golden brown, which may be the most delicious toast you will ever have.

TIP: Brioche can go from Perfectly Golden Brown Toast to Burnt and ruined in a few seconds, so keep a sharp eye on it as you toast it! 

RECIPES? Wonderful Cinnamon Toast – Toast up some brioche. Put on good butter, ground cinnamon and some brown sugar. Yum!

FRENCH TOAST – Brioche as you may have read online naturally makes THE most amazing French Toast. You must try this next time you want French toast*. It will be moist and delicious and heavenly… A breakfast your family will beg you to make again and again. Its so soft you should ideally leave the bread out overnight to get a bit stale to hold up better but even if you don’t, and use it fresh, its great.

A package of TJ French Brioche is $3.99. Now in a local bakery, a brioche bread like this would be maybe $7? So for 4 bucks it’s as usual a great good TJ deal. One of these can get devoured easily, so I guess thats why I see folks buying it often two bags at a time. I keep it in the freezer, of course. It defrosts rapidly and stays super fresh frozen. TIP: If you want a thin slice of brioche you can cut it more easily frozen when its a bit stiff. Its easier to cut in half, though it’s a little tricky for perfect slices, and be careful of course. If cut in half you get a very thin slice. I find this good for some things, especially if you don’t want a super thick sandwich. For example cucumber sandwiches !  This brioche bread makes the most amazing cucumber sandwiches! Or make open face Scandinavian style things with this (salmon, cream cheese, dill, lemon….)

One note – be sure to peel off the little strip of paper it is baked in before eating !

One more thing – I saw a restaurant serving hamburgers on some brioche that looked very much like this. So I tried it. I made the hamburgers (1/4 lb) kind of square and not round. Toasted the Brioche. Cut in half before serving. Excellent (if a bit messy!)

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  • Need a recipe for French Toast? This is a nice one

https://www.fromvalerieskitchen.com/brioche-french-toast/

TJ recipe for Raspberry Ricotta Toast with sliced brioche

https://www.traderjoes.com/fearless-flyer/article/4647

TJ’s 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 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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Having said how great this fish is please let’s not eat TOO much as this species is on the “near threatened” list. We eat AHI tuna no more than once a month. Though this says the Atlantic Yellowfin is sustainably harvested.

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


MADE WITH SHEEP’S MILK

Imported, authentic Greek feta cheese. Though feta can be made from any milk, sheep’s milk produces the best feta and this one has the wonderful aroma and tangy flavor along with a nice creamy but firm texture. I don’t find it overly salty, but just right. It is packaged with two large slabs covered in brine which is the way feta should be sold and kept in your fridge because brine preserves the texture and flavor.

There are a many types of feta cheese made in many countries made from cow, goat and sheep milk. 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 honestly like feta from all of those countries I mentioned. TJ has on occasion carried an Israeli feta (it came in a plastic bag, and was only available for a year or so. It was excellent! UPDATE: The Israeli feta TJ now sells in a dark blue plastic tub is not quite as good as this Greek one to me, but it’s quite good.

One thing the design of the plastic tub ain’t great. It’s tricky to open! Look at it carefully and you will see the very top part is a lid that comes off, once you have broken the seal by ripping a small plastic tab in one corner of the tub! Break the tab, then pry the top off carefully (on a counter so brine doesn’t fly out). Use a butter knife if you have to, to get the lid off. Once you open it a few times, it gets easier so don’t give up. The feta cheese is worth it. 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 yes it’s delicious just by itself but it’s 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: Cubes of sweet watermelon with cubes of salty feta 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 pretty good if made from cows milk but it’s not great like this imported Greek one. This Greek feta 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. Melissa 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)

VEGETABLE & SOBA NOODLE STIR FRY KIT (aka Yakisoba)


VEGETABLE & SOBA NOODLE STIR FRY

This “stir fry kit” is composed of cut, prepped veggies all ready to stir fry, along with a packet of (cooked) soba noodles, plus a packet of soy- ginger finishing sauce. It has broccoli, bok choy, savoy cabbage, snow peas, scallions.

Look for this in the refrigerated / veggie/salads case. I say this convenient $5 kit is in actuality, most of the makings of Japanese YAKISOBA – minus a few ingredients – that one can easily add to make that super tasty Japanese dish. So when I saw this at TJ’s in the veggies section I said to myself, “Great I’m making Yakisoba tonight”.

YAKISOBA – YAKI means grilled. SOBA means buckwheat (noodles). Ergo, grilled noodles. Yakisoba is one of Japan’s most popular homey dishes, both eaten out, made at home, and served at school. Japanese kids pretty much grow up on it. Everyone loves Yakisoba.

You can cook up this Kit exactly As-Is on the package and get a decent Veggie Noodle Stir Fry. Or easily turn this kit with a few additions, into Yakisoba.

The main thing missing would be some kind of Main or protein (Pork, Tofu, Chicken….) plus some ginger and garlic, and a little more soy.

Protein: If you are vegetarian, you might add BAKED TOFU, sliced up into strips and grilled with the veggies. Possibly also add some sliced mushrooms, either shiitake, crimini or white mushrooms, any of them will add a lot of “umami”. If you are not vegetarian, protein options could be the traditional sliced or ground pork (even very thinly sliced pork belly). In Japan Yakisoba is even sometimes made with squid! Any protein you can stir fry with the veggies will pretty much work. Chicken strips, or steak, even ground beef. When I made it, I used pork tenderloin from TJ sliced up into strips that I first got a nice sear on both sides then set aside to add back at the end when I added the sauce package. I have cut pork chops into strips to make this with. Ditto chicken breast or thighs.

TIP: The noodles come cooked in a plastic bag. When you open the bags the soba noodles are totally stuck together in a firm block that you can’t do anything with. You MUST prep them ahead a half hour before you start your dish. Loosen them up by letting them soak in very, very hot (even boiling water) for 15-20 minutes – not for  two minutes as the package says which is not enough time! Once they loosen up a bit you can gently untangle and loosen them with your fingers and drain them in a colander, ready to throw in at the end with a pinch of more oil. Want more noodles then come in this package? Then just first cook up some Soba noodles or Chinese noodles or rice noodles, drain them and have them ready to toss in the pan with some more oil.

YAKISOBA: In a non-stick pan, sauté some ginger and garlic with your Main Protein (slicked pork, chicken or tofu or SHRIMP (or seafood blend!) in a few teaspoons of neutral oil. Toss in the veggies. Add mushrooms if using. Stir fry veggies about 3 mins. till barely cooked (do not overcook them) Add the softened noodles and the meat or tofu back to the pan. Stir fry for a few more minutes, then turn off heat and add the sauce to coat. A few drizzles of sesame oil would be great. Add some Green Dragon Hot Sauce if that’s your style. Stir all to combine. I threw some arugula and more chopped green onions on top. Katsuobushi* flakes if you have them? Done. About 10 minutes and you have a delicious dish.

PS – If you can find “Katsuobushi” flakes* at an Asian store, that would be great to top this with for authentic Japanese Yakisoba. Amazon sells Katsuobushi.  Ditto for “BENISHOGA” (Picked Red Ginger). Both are traditional Yakisoba toppings. But even if you don’t put these on, it’s still pretty good.

UPDATE: The first time I purchased this kit there were 2 packs of Soba Noodles inside. Recently on 2 occasions when I purchased it, there is only 1 pack of noodles in the kit. Whats up with that? With 2 packs there was really a meal here for at least 2 people but with 1 pack of noodles, obviously that’s less noodle to veggies ratio.

sobastirfry3

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