What I Buy at Trader Joe’s – Part 2

Oh, this list can go on forever, but I’ll try to fill in the blanks little by little, each time with a new list of goodies. I have fun at Trader Joe’s. I have fun at supermarkets period. At farmer’s markets. At Costco. At foreign supermarkets, outdoor markets, little food stores. Seeing food on display, deciding what you want, imagining recipes, discovering new products, sampling, happy to see the season’s new crops…I love all of that. It’s my idea of a good time.

New List of My Trader Joe’s Favs:

Fresh Artichokes – 4 medium artichokes to a pack – cheap money

Fresh Artichokes at Trader Joe's

Fresh Artichokes at Trader Joe’s

I am an artichoke junkie. I love the Italian word for artichokes: carciofi. Finding fresh ones, consistently, that aren’t the size of tractor trailers, that are human-sized, that you can cook up in the many ways I love to cook them (here’s one recipe), is sometimes the equivalent of obtaining the Holy Grail (yes, I exaggerate). But these are gold-like to me. And TJ’s is the only place where the packages are stacked high and easy to buy. I grew up eating them “Italian-style” then shared an apartment on LI with a California friend (hello, Castroville, CA, American capital of artichoke growing) and learned her way of eating them and then we came up with a recipe we both adored: boil or steam them till the heart is tender. Make a dip of mayo, lemon juice and soy sauce. Umami-central.

Olives (Picholine)

Trader Joe's Picholine Olives

Trader Joe’s Picholine Olives

Trader Joe’s has 3 different olives that I love. Picholine is one of them. Perfect acidity, soft but al dente, goes with ANYTHING. My other favs are their pitted Kalamata and the green Jaques Lucques olives–oh, yum.

Red Argentinian Shrimp

Trader Joe's Argentine Shrimp

Trader Joe’s Argentinian Shrimp

These are in the freezer section. Raw, shelled. And are not always available. They SELL OUT. Something unusual about this shrimp. They are pink while raw, and they are soft when cooked. It’s an odd, pleasant, and luxurious sensation to bite into one, like you’ve been invited to the high gourmand table.

Trader Joe’s Italian Shelled Fava Beans

Trader Joe's Frozen Fava Beans

Trader Joe’s Frozen Fava Beans

This product is a boon to mankind. How often do you run across fresh fava beans? I do, sometimes. Sometimes in the regular supermarket. More often in the Asian market. But not always. THESE are out of their pods, but still in their individual shells. I just discovered them in TJ’s freezer section last month. LOVE. I give them a quick blanche, then peel each shell away to reveal that startling green lovely, so lovely, fava bean. My fav recipe: SautĂ© some sliced onion and diced pancetta in some olive oil. Add beans, add a bit of wine. Cook for just 5 minutes or so (TJ’s are young beans, so don’t need to cook too long). Add some salt. LOVE this.

Walnuts, Halves & Pieces

Trader Joe's Walnuts Halves & Pieces

Trader Joe’s Walnuts Halves & Pieces

So when I usually buy walnuts they are whole. Supposedly, that’s preferred. If you’re snacking on them I’m sure that whole is more satisfying. But if you’re cooking, I end up breaking them between my fingers (since on a board with a knife they tend to have a flight life all their own). Trader Joe’s sells them broken. TJ’s nut department– no, not the employees — nor the shoppers — but the nuts as in walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds is EXTENSIVE. It’s a pleasure just to peruse the shelves and marvel at the variety. Yes, you can get whole walnuts, but I like these broken ones…ready to go. Same with pecans, whole or broken, candied or salted, raw or roasted. And the list goes on…leaving an irresistible trail for you to follow …nibbling all the way.

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Trader Joe's Cocoa Powder

Trader Joe’s Cocoa Powder

I love this package. And I love this cocoa. What more could you want?

Blood Oranges (when they have them)

Trader Joe's Blood Oranges

Trader Joe’s Blood Oranges

I almost fainted when I saw this bag of blood oranges at Trader Joe’s this past January. They’re a rare commodity. They aren’t there now. But you never know. And that’s the thing about Trader Joe’s. They come up with seasonal stuff. (Like a 2-foot branch of Brussels sprouts. And their burnt-around-the edges-but yummy matzoh crackers only in around Passover.) And then it’s gone. Grab it when you can. These blood oranges are so delicious, not as sweet as “orange” oranges, but the tartness elevates the flavor. They’re so pretty and remind me of my student days in Rome. My other fav TJ’s orange is the Cara Cara.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for Part 3. Because there’s always something cool to get at TJ’s. Don’t be shy about trying stuff. You will likely not go wrong. (They ain’t paying me for this.) (Maybe they should!) 🙂

TJ's Blood Oranges

TJ’s Blood Oranges

What I Buy at Costco – Part One

Campo dei Fiori, Rome, Italy

Campo dei Fiori, Rome, Italy

Costco ain’t Campo dei Fiori. But…

I resisted for a long time. The idea of paying a yearly fee to shop didn’t sit right with me. But my mom (my voice of reason and still my advisor) encouraged we join. So we did. Little by little we discovered and tried and explored and now have a list of regular stuff we buy and rely on.

Costco’s brand is Kirkland. It’s not the only brand they sell, but when you see the Kirkland label you know it’s reliable and (so far that we’ve tried) really good quality.

Everything is extensive at Costco. Huge produce department, cheese department, meat and fish, big frozen food department, aisles and aisles of jarred, canned, packaged foods. I push around the SUV-sized shopping cart thru aisles stacked, stocked & full…agape at this Museum of Giant Food.

Here’s what helps: my mom and I often share stuff, which means we can get the multi-can package of baked beans, or the large bag of mini-cucumbers, or the 8-to-a-pack artisan romaine lettuce, or the 4-lb package of unsalted butter sticks. And because of my classes I often pick up the “large” size; my menus absorb quantity. STILL a single shopper can do great (helps to have a freezer).

I’ve got a long list of favorites but here’s a partial roundup. It would be fun to take people with me when I shop so I can show them where I get my ingredients. People in my classes often ask. In lieu of that, here’s a Costco shopping tour on a page!

Large Bag ‘O Lemons/5 lbs.

Costco Lemons

Costco Lemons

I LOVE lemons. Not only do they sneak into many of my recipes but I’m in the habit of making Duane and I a lemon elixir every morning. We split a squeezed lemon and a squeezed orange with a little water. It’s a shot of toxic-clearing liver-cleansing goodness. (This morning drink was recommended by Mom, but, added to that, I remember long ago when I was doing a residency at the MacDowell Colony, a long-time-resident writer there would drink a cup of hot water with lemon every morning. She was about 95 years old.) Costco lemons are beautiful and sometimes as large as the ones I found in Amalfi! Here’s something fun to do with lemons inspired by the Amalfi Coast: Click Here for TV Demo SegmentClick Here for Recipe

Columbian Coffee… 3 lbs

Costco Columbian Coffee

Costco Columbian Coffee

Okay. My mom’s advice again. She insists Columbian coffee tastes the best and loves this coffee. I don’t drink coffee (except espresso), but Duane drinks coffee every morning. He’s not fussy about what kind but likes this one just fine (it certainly smells heavenly). The price for the quality is excellent.

Citterio Italian Rosemary Ham… 2 – 1/2 lb. packs

Citterio Rosemary Ham

Citterio Rosemary Ham

Imported from Italy. This ham has a slight hint of rosemary giving it an exotic irresistible spin. Comes in a 2-pack. I cut them apart and freeze one for later.

Already Peeled (except for tail) Raw Shrimp…2 lbs.

Kirkland Shrimp

Kirkland Shrimp

Kirkland brand, 31-40 to a pound. So easy to defrost in 1/2 hour (put in a bowl and run cold water on top, then let sit in cold water until soft). I love shrimp (okay, who doesn’t?). Here’s a fav shrimp recipe: Spaghetti w Shrimp

Grated Parmesan Cheese…3 lbs.

Cello Grated Cheese

Cello Grated Cheese

Yes, I know. Grating your own parmigiano or grana padana is IDEAL. But I go through a lot of cheese in my classes. Not only is grating yourself time-consuming, parmigiano is EXPENSIVE. I found this Cello brand grated domestic parmesan to be a superior quality and it complements so many of my recipes. It’s reliable and affordable. (Put some in a container in your refrigerator, freeze the rest until you need more.)

Campari Tomatoes…2 lbs.

Campari Tomatoes

Campari Tomatoes

The size of these tomatoes is seductively charming. I can’t resist. They have a lovely taste and adapt to cooking or salads or pairing with mozzarella. And their name is Campari (my favorite drink). I love these for making Fish in Crazy Water (Acqua Pazza), which is a tasty, easy way to make fish: Acqua Pazza Recipe

Kirkland Unsalted Butter…4  1 lb. boxes

Kirkland Unsalted Butter

Kirkland Unsalted Butter

Butter? Oh, yes. I often have pastry-based desserts on my class menus: tarts, pies, galettes, and savory pies, too. I use a lot of butter. 1 lb. goes in the fridge, the rest in the freezer until needed. This brand has a great taste and works well in recipes.

Eggland’s Eggs…18 eggs

Eggland's Eggs

Eggland’s Eggs

You can certainly get Eggland’s eggs in any supermarket but this dozen and a half pack is a good price. I like these eggs. They make me happy. Got eggs? Why not make a frittata? Frittata Recipe

Stay tuned for What I Buy at Costco Part Two. In the meantime let me know if you try any of these products and how they turn out. I’m not sponsored by them or anything. Just a shopper, eater, teacher, appreciator!

Spaghetti. With Shrimp. In just a few minutes.

Shrimp Pasta

Shrimp Pasta

Okay, I used linguine. But you get the idea. When I was in my twenties in my first NY apartment (studio, 4 floor walk-up) I used to soothe myself from the barrage of NY (a barrage I loved) with sautéed shrimp and angel hair pasta mixed with butter. It sealed up the insanity and made me feel whole again.

That was a long time ago (yet very crystal clear).  But these days I don’t stray too far from that brand of comfort food. Still with the shrimp. Still with the pasta. But minus the butter (olive oil instead). And a couple of added goodies.

Here goes:

First off, I cut the shrimp in half lengthwise it makes a nice shape when cooked and gives you more shrimp to the mouthful. Figure about 1 pound of shrimp to almost a pound of pasta (two-thirds?).

Shrimp

Shrimp

Then I heat some olive oil in a large sauté pan. When hot I sauté the shrimp until opaque, then take them out.

Shrimp on pan

Shrimp in pan

Now add some diced onion and minced garlic to the pan. Let them cook and soften (add some more olive oil if needed). Then add diced up fresh tomato and diced up lemon — including the peel…gives you a nice surprise bite of lemon. Let that sautĂ© till hot.

Onions, Garlic, Tomato, Lemon

Onions, Garlic, Tomato, Lemon

Add about a half-cup of dry white wine…

Add wine

Add wine

Let wine evaporate by half and let the mixture sautĂ© nicely while you start boiling the pasta…

pasta water

pasta water

And making the breadcrumbs. I heat a little oil in a small sauté pan, add about a cup of panko crumbs, season with salt & pepper, and sauté until breadcrumbs brown to deep golden.

browning the breadcrumbs

browning the breadcrumbs

Add the shrimp back to the pan w the onion-garlic-tomato-lemon mixture just as the pasta is almost done. Drain pasta, reserve some cooking liquid, add pasta to pan with shrimp. Toss to coat and to let pasta absorb some of the tasty juices. Add some pasta water if too dry and another drizzle of olive oil. Season to your liking with salt & pepper and a little hot pepper. Add a good dusting of breadcrumbs.

Shrimp w Lingiune

Shrimp w Linguine

I promise you the cares of your day will melt away. This is especially fun eating quietly while watching a favorite, also comforting, TV show. Not the news. A comforting TV show. That makes you giggle. Or draws you into the story and characters. An old movie is perfect. Preferable something from the 1930’s or 40′ or 50’s or early 60’s.

See that? It can be easy to feel good.

Recipe for Shrimp & Spinach Cannelloni

 

Cannelloni ingredients

Cannelloni ingredients

Here’s the recipe for the Shrimp Cannelloni. It’s a bit more involved than I usually get, but it’s worth the journey. Make it on a day when you can relax and have fun with it (or involve friends, family, or kids!).  Let me know if you have any questions about the recipe or process.

Buon Appetito!

Shrimp & Spinach-Stuffed Cannelloni 

For the Tomato Sauce:

1 28-oz can plum tomatoes

1 small onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled

drizzle of olive oil

2-3 sprigs of parsley

salt & pepper to taste

ÂĽ cup cream

For the Pasta:

2 cups flour

ÂĽ teaspoon salt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

For the filling:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 lb. shrimp, shelled, deveined, each shrimp cut into 3 or 4 pieces

3 tablespoons brandy

1 small onion, minced

2 celery stalks, minced

9 ounces spinach, cooked and minced (or thawed frozen spinach), well-drained

2 cups besciamella sauce (see below)

1 cup mozzarella, shredded

ÂĽ cup parmigiano

For the Besciamella sauce:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

pinch nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Make the tomato sauce:

Drain and the canned tomatoes, reserving the liquid. Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet. Add plum tomatoes from can, onion, garlic, parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Spread mixture out. Bake in a hot oven until simmering and caramelized—about 20-30 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse sauce until blended. Stir in the reserved tomato liquid. Stir in the cream. Adjust for seasoning.

Make the pasta:

Whisk the flour and salt in a large bowl. Create a “well” in the middle of the flour and add the eggs. Using a fork slowly mix the flour into the egg, until the dough comes together. Press dough together to make a rough ball. Gather the dough and knead on a lightly floured surface. If it’s too sticky add a little flour. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth. Shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest at room temp for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into four pieces. Work with one piece at a time and keep the other pieces covered in plastic wrap. Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle, and roll through the pasta machine, changing the numbers from thick to thinner one at a time until you reach the setting before the last. Lay the sheet on a table and cut it into rough squares approximately 4 inches wide. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Heat water in a pasta pot until boiling. Add salt. Boil pasta sheets until al dente then remove and rinse under cool water.

Make: the Besciamella sauce:

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the flour and whisk until flour is cooked, about 2 minutes. Add the milk and whisk. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer over medium heat, whisking, until thickened. Allow to cool.

Make the Shrimp filling:

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet. When hot, toss in the shrimp. Season with salt. Cook a minute or two until hot, then add the brandy and let evaporate. Take shrimp out with slotted spoon and reserve. Add the onion and celery. Cook until softened. Take mixture off the heat to cool. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the the onion and celery, spinach, shrimp, mozzarella, besciamella sauce, parsley, . Season with salt & pepper.

Make the Cannelloni:

Lay some paper towels on a work surface and lay out the pasta sheets on top. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the shrimp filling on one of the short edges of a pasta sheet. Roll up to form the cannelloni. Repeat with the rest of the pasta and filling.

In a casserole dish spoon some of the tomato sauce, Line up the cannelloni in the dish seam side down. Spoon tomato sauce over the top. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake for 40 minutes until golden. Serve warm.

NOTE: In picture below we had some extra besciamella sauce left so we drizzled it on top of the cannelloni before baking.

 

time to eat the cannelloni!

time to eat the cannelloni!

 

 

Fresh Pasta Cannelloni Stuffed w Spinach & Shrimp

cannelloni stuffed with shrimp & spinach

cannelloni stuffed with shrimp & spinach

Wednesday night’s class was a knockout!

Here are some pix…this is a delicious dish. Let me know if you’d like the recipe!

Cannelloni ingredients

Cannelloni ingredients

great cooks in my kitchen rolling up the cannelloni

great cooks in my kitchen rolling up the cannelloni

cannelloni almost ready to bake!

cannelloni almost ready to bake!

time to eat the cannelloni!

time to eat the cannelloni!

Shrimp Fritto Misto w Prosecco Batter

Shrimp Fritto Misto

Shrimp Fritto Misto

Oh yeah. This is easy and this is spectacular. You use Prosecco in the batter to make this luscious shrimp fritto misto. It’s so easy it’s sinful. It’s so tasty it’s decadent. It’s so just what you hope it will be.

Shell and devein 35-40 large shrimp (leave tail on if you like). Blot dry with some paper towel. Toss with a little flour to lightly coat. In a medium bowl whisk together 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup corn meal, salt & pepper, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Add 2 cups Prosecco and whisk till smooth. It will be a thin batter which is great because it will just lightly adhere to the shrimp and let the real shrimp flavor shine.

Heat a mixture of canola oil and olive oil (about 2/3 canola, 1/3 olive oil) in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. About 2 inches worth of oil. Let it get hot enough (not smoking) so that a bit of bread sizzles and pops quickly to the surface when tested. Be careful as you cook the shrimp. Monitor how hot the oil is — if it’s “boiling” too much lower heat. Be extra careful all around — this is HOT stuff.

Put about 5-6 shrimp in the batter and lift them out one at a time with a slotted spoon. Let excess batter drip off before putting it in oil. Fry about 5-6 shrimp at a time, cooking till they turn golden, about 3 minutes. Lift out with another slotted spoon or fish spatula. Drain on paper towels (or brown paper bag). Season with some salt. Repeat with the rest of the shrimp, lifting out loose bits of batter so they don’t burn. Serve hot/warm with lemon wedges.

You’re welcome. (YUM.)