Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Trader Joe's Grilled Eggplant & Zucchini Mélange

A "mélange" is simply a mixture or medley. That's kind of the vibe I got from the word even before I looked it up. Just a big mishmash of nonsense, a sort of confused mess.

"Mélange" is also a French word, which I would have guessed just from the look of it. So, shouldn't it be part of the Trader Jacques line? Sonia actually says she thinks this dish is Italian. If that were the case, shouldn't it be presented by Trader Giotto?

But no, we get an Italian dish with a French name served up by an American. A hodgepodge of origins. That's fine. I suppose you all want to know how it tastes...

When it comes right down to it, I can go either way with zucchini and eggplant. I'm a big fan of baba ghanoush, which is a mashed eggplant topping that goes well with pita and middle-eastern foods. Haven't tried TJ's version of it yet. I also like fried zucchini and zucchini bread. It's one of those foods that's really good dressed up, but by itself, it usually leaves a little to be desired.

All in all, this dish is better than zucchini or eggplant served plain by themselves. There's a tomatoey sort of sauce and some bits of mozzarella (which I didn't even notice while eating the dish, to be honest with you) and some bits of tomato...and maybe some other mysterious things...It tasted like what you'd expect. It's stewed vegetables in a sauce. Not bad at all.

My only complaints are that the pieces of eggplant were too big, and they were a little chewy. I think eggplant has an underrated taste, but it really has to be cooked a certain way or chopped up into tiny little bits and pieces for the texture not to ruin the experience.

We ate the mélange on some Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice Spaghetti Pasta. I like this stuff. The noodles seem heavier and thicker than normal spaghetti, but they aren't giant, beastly things that can't be kept under control.

We noticed that there's a strange gelatinous residue left over in the pot after we cook this pasta. This wasn't the first time we made it, and it left this film in the pot each time. Weird.

So let's get down to brass tacks, shall we? The mélange has a fancy name, a decent taste, and enormous slabs of semi-rubbery eggplant. Sonia gives it a 4. I give it a 3.

Trader Joe's Grilled Eggplant & Zucchini Mélange. Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

The pasta leaves a funky film, but satisfies the tummy. Sonia gives it a 4. Me too.

Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice Spaghetti Pasta. Bottom line: 8 out of 10.


  1. Try the Country Potatoes with Haricots verts and Wild Mushrooms (frozen vegetable section.) Freaking amazing, at one point I was eating them almost every night.

  2. I agree completely about the Country Potatoes. They make a great stuffing for an omelette or fritatta too.

  3. Gluten free rice pasta requires more water than wheat pasta, otherwise you get the gel you noted. With enough water it doesn't happen. Also, rinse with cold water after draining to keep it from making more gel-stuff as it sits.

  4. I also bought this, choosing to cook up a cup of the TJ jasmine rice which was then topped with the zucchini/eggplant melange. It tastes great! Took under 20 minutes to cook both the rice and heat the veggie mix, tastes like a good homemade dish when put together.

  5. I had a heart attack a year ago & am basically on a plant based, no oil diet. However, I do occasionally add an 'off the menu' thing or two, 'lightly', now & again, esp. during a stressful period, & Trader Joe's Grilled Eggplant & Zucchini Mélange was one thing I decided to try.

    I must have missed 'sauce' in the ingredient list, & yes, the eggplant was, indeed, large sliced & chewy. But oil & cheese are not heavy in the list (thus keeping it low in fat, & basically, within most heart healthy recommendation guidelines), so all in all it wasn't overwhelming while adding some taste, texture & interest. So far so good.

    However, I still didn't get the taste I had hoped for - that particular zip or zing I craved - so I simply added a homemade recipe for Morrocon spices (from a Thanksgiving recipe I found), & that did the trick! I even added some Kale to the pot for about 3 minutes - what a dish!

    I paired that with a kale, zucchini, carrot & tomato salad with fat free raspberry vinaigrette dressing, & it was awesome - I was in heaven! Even with the small amount of cheese & oil, it was still a heart healthy meal. Bon Appetit!

    Oh - PS - went back in last night for more...you guessed it...no longer available. They explained why(room for new products), but hey, now I'm wondering how can you keep customers truly happy that way? I'm very disappointed they no longer carry it, but will, of course, continue shopping there. I just wish there was some way to buy products online, that have been discontinued in stores. Otherwise, I'll try whipping it up myself - can't be that hard.

    In the meantime - happy TJ shopping! And if anyone has any heart healthy recipes, please do share:) TJs is the best place to buy the ingredients!

    Have a wonderful day!