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

TJ Organic COLESLAW KIT


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

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

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

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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)

Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing


This is one of those “only at Trader Joe’s” products, or at least I’ve never seen another type of product like this one.

I’ll start by saying one could say I am a little bit of a “Sriracha freak”. I mean I love the stuff, and in general I love “the Spicy” but in no way would I deem myself to be one of those chile-head types who go for sauces with “Death Head” logos on the label.  No thanks.

Me, I want a balance of heat AND flavor. Therefore I love – and I mean LOVE – the original Huy Fong Foods SRIRACHA sauce, which is one of the greatest food products on the planet. Its a product who’s fan’s are legion. I will put it on lots of different things. Still I never tried it on SALAD. So guess what? Sriracha Salad Dressing is actually a terrific idea! And Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing  is a terrifically marvelous unique product.

Its a ranch-style salad dressing, which is very spicy. How spicy? Well in its original version, which Trader Joe’s has changed and toned down since I first tasted it, I would have to use this stuff sparingly, as mere dollops. It was actually far, far spicier than actual Sriracha or most hot sauces for that matter. I used to mix it with some yogurt or mayo to tone it down a wee bit, but that is no longer the case. I’m talking about when it originally came out – a year ago? Can others please confirm this change to tone down the heat? I have a feeling people complained it was just too spicy, and they reformulated it with much less of a heat level. Anyway I just bought a bottle and it doesn’t seem nearly as spicy as it used to be, though it is still spicy, and still very good! Not only is  this ranch dressing good on salad or greens of course but it has many, many more uses on all kinds of foods. You can put a little on the side as a sauce for most anything, for instance grilled chicken, or shrimp, or fish, or grilled tofu, or what have you.

In fact you can use this as an ingredient to cook with it. For instance, try brushing this stuff on chicken which you would bake, broil, or grill. Its awesome on hamburgers, mixed with some ketchup for some homemade spicy “special sauce”. Try a little on some asian style noodles… with some chunky organic peanut butter on top? In fact try this on just about anything you think might be better with some spice to it. You will come up with some interesting tests.

So congratulations on a fantastic product, Trader Joe’s. Some chile-heads might be disappointed that you toned down the heat a bit for mere mortals. (But folks, you can mix some Sriracha sauce with this, if you want it spicier still, or add some cayenne pepper and it will be like it used to be). It sells for $2.99 (16 oz. bottle) which is not bad since most TJ salad dressings are 8 oz bottles?

So try this, its one of those love it or hate it type TJ products! Do I love it? Yes, yes, yes!

I’m giving this product a:

RAVE

54860-organic-sriracha-ranch-dressing

By the way, the story of HUY FONG FOODS SRIRACHA and it’s founder Vietnamese refugee David Tran, is one of the best American immigrant success stories there is!

ADDITIONAL LINKS

http://nextshark.com/sriracha-hot-sauce-david-tran-vietnamese/

https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/14-things-you-didnt-know-about-sriracha-including-its-proper-pronunciation

https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-10-22/story-how-one-hot-sauce-huy-fong-sriracha-got-so-hot

UPDATE: AUG 2020 – Reported as Discontinued, during Covid-19!!!

TJ’s Smoked Herring Kipper Fillets


RAVE

I saw these on the shelf at Trader Joe’s, where this bright green can beckoned at me among the tuna and other canned fish items shelf. At the time, priced at just 1.99* I thought I’d try them and give a report. Well the report is simply that these are a great product, and immediately  made it into my ‘always buy these things’ category. as these are extremely handy to have on hand at all times in the pantry.

A can of these may easily be the basis for a super easy quick lunch – or even dinner if you added some side dishes. The can was easy to open using the pull tab, and inside were fat, meaty smoky dark-colored fat fillets of herring (aka “kippers”, which are very popular in Britain) packed in Canola oil which in itself had a lot of flavor (don’t just dump it out!). These smoked Herring Fillets taste wonderful. We both went crazy for their  flavor. If you enjoy smoked fish – which I love – these will send you into heaven as they have a nice but not overpowering smokey flavor. I decided they would be good served with a mustard sauce, which I whipped up in a few minutes. I even used a little of the oil they came in my sauce.

To make it into a “dinner”, I made a healthy salad of whole grains, Barley and Wheatberries, with chopped veggies. They were a good combination with the fish. Or just make some boiled potatoes for a very quick easy side. Trader Joes’ Smoked Herring Fillets; A can cost 1.99 the first time I bought them, then a few weeks later they went up to $2.29 (oh well!) Again very handy to have on hand in your pantry. These taste quite “gourmet” like something you would have gotten at “Zabar’s”, or any high end smoked fish emporium. Equally I could see mashing these up with some finely chopped green onions and spreading thickly on some nice whole grain or dark bread smeared with butter, and lemon slices, for a Scandinavian style open faced sandwich.

CANNED SMOKED HERRING FILLETS WITH MUSTARD SAUCE

Dice up a few tablespoons of ONION. Place the onions in a bowl. Mix in 2 tbs of a good MUSTARD (Dijon or other french style mustard, which Trader Joe’s sells) Add a little OLIVE OIL. Add a little vinegar or LEMON juice till the sauce is of a spoonable consistency. Serve the sauce with the Smoked Herring Fillets with some lemon wedges on the side, and perhaps some parsley. Eat with a good whole grained or dark bread.

A kipper is a fish which has been split from t...

A kipper is a fish which has been split from tail to head, eviscerated, salted, and smoked (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*they’ve gone up in price: $2.29 (july 2014)

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!