Thursday, February 20, 2014

Attention Trader Joe's Shoppers: The Top 15 Items You Should and Shouldn't Buy at TJs.

Dinner by Trader Joe's
Organic Brined Chicken in Many Cloves Garlic Sauce,
Reduced Gilt Mac and Cheese, Asparagus with Garlic Salt 

         My gorgeous daughter-in-law Kym introduced me to Trader Joe’s long before it ever came east. Kym was thrilled with TJ’s because it helped her out in the kitchen.  She sparked to items that were wholesome and, in many cases, pre-marinated, pre-washed, and pre-trimmed. Its offerings were rather like having a prep chef in her kitchen.   And the results were almost always predictably good.    
Trader Joe Coulombe
Trader Joe’s started out as a convenience store in California in 1958.  It later took on its Founder’s first name when Joe Coulombe decided his “Pronto Markets” were so similar to 7-Eleven that he dared not compete. He noticed his friends and customers were taking off for vacations all over the world and bringing new food tastes back with them. So while on vacation himself he decided to name his operation Trader Joe’s.  The name is fluid: Depending on the ethnicity of the food in question, it can become Trader Jose when attached to Mexican food, Trader Ming's when its Chinese food or Trader Giotto's when it’s Italian.  While a major grocery store may stock 50,000 items, Trader Joe’s has only 4000.  And of that 4000, fully 80% are branded “Trader”. Trader Joe’s promises that its private-label products contain no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, MSG or trans fats.  They eschew GMOs altogether and, in the dairy case, nothing comes from cows given hormones or antibiotics.  That doesn’t mean that everything is the store is as pure as the driven snow. Products without the TJ’s brand may indeed contain these ingredients.  But overall, the all-natural glow of TJ’s offerings and very reasonable prices add to the allure.

Monday, February 17, 2014

An Asian Spiced Barbecue in the dead of Winter


         The craving for ribs doesn’t end the minute the grill gets garaged for the winter.  Fortunately, Bobby Flay developed an oven/broiler combination that takes the place of the backyard barbecue and delivers, in no time at all, an excellent rack of Baby Back Ribs.  The whole of Chef Flay’s recipe included a Honey-Mustard Glaze.  I wanted to make mine pure Asian, since I also wanted our dinner to include an Asian Cucumber Salad and, because I am deep-diving into Trader Joe’s “Fearless Flyer” for an upcoming post, I wanted to serve their Scallion Pancakes.  I followed Chef Flay’s technique to the letter and made a Honey-based Glaze cranked up with Asian ingredients.  The ribs were fall-apart good and amazingly tender. The glaze topped them off with sticky sweet and spicy sauce. The Cucumber Salad both complemented the ribs and colored the plate.  And the Scallion Pancakes were more than passable.  But you’ll have to wait on the Trader Joe’s post to hear all about those.  The miracle of this meal was in its timing: Perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked, perfectly sauced ribs in under 2 hours.  No overnight marinade required!  (Try finding a recipe that doesn’t require at least 7 hours advance preparation and you’ll immediately spark to this one.) So what is Bobby Flay’s flawless technique?