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, July 31, 2014

Trader Joe's Zucchini Fries

Zucchini is one of the few things my dad was actually able to grow in the garden in our backyard when I was a kid. I think he managed to salvage a few tomatoes from the ravenous squirrels and rabbits as well, but as I've mentioned before, I've never been a fan of actual tomatoes, despite a paradoxical affinity for all tomato derivatives. Similarly, since raw zucchini is kinda nasty, he'd pan-fry a homegrown specimen or two from time to time, and it always surprised me how good it tasted. Now that Sonia and I have our own big backyard, we'll undoubtedly have our own garden here too, appropriately, in the Garden State. (Au revoir, Media, PA, TJ's. Hello Marlton, NJ, TJ's!) Can't wait to (attempt to) grow our own zucchini and fry them like my old man used to.

These zucchini fries from TJ's are good too, but there are a few key differences from those home-fried zucs I remember all those years ago. First, there's a noticeable coating of batter on these fries. It's apparently made of cornmeal and wheat flour. It's good. It's a nice touch. There's not too much and not too little. Secondly, the pieces of zucchini are completely inconsistent. Some of them are small, some of them are big, and some of them are really just globs of empty batter. And thirdly, due to the inconsistent sizes, it's really hard to cook the entire bag to perfection all at once. The little pieces cook faster and wind up a little charred. The big pieces wind up undercooked and a bit juicy on the inside. It's not a terrible thing, especially if you're one of those "variety is the spice of life" types. You get some crispy critters, similar to the texture of traditional fries, and you get some moist, squishy fries—which have a lot more real zucchini flavor.

Another oddity about these fellows was the absence of a sauce. The bag mentioned something about "serving them with your favorite sauce." Hmmm... I don't think they mean chocolate sauce. Can we have a hint, Trader Joe? Ketchup? Because I don't think that would work either. Fortunately for you readers, I looked up the product on TJ's own site, and they did throw us a bone and suggest sriracha or tzaziki as dipping options there. We actually had tzaziki and sriracha on hand when we ate these. I certainly wish I had known to try it with them at the time. I think that might have sealed the deal and put these puppies in the Pantheon had they included their own sriracha and/or tzaziki. But they're still really darn good as they are.

Having never tried fried zucchini before, Sonia was pretty enthusiastic about this dish. She gave it 4 stars. I'm going to go with 3.5. Let this blog post serve as a petition to TJ's to include a sauce in ver. 2.0.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

18 comments:

  1. I had NO success w/this.. I ended up throwing the remaining away... I followed directions and they still came out a gloppy mess... Nothing beats making them from scratch.

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    1. Really? Threw it away? Well, scratch is still best, that's for sure...

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    2. I don't think I had a decent size piece in the bag.. someone must of packed the runts.. not a pretty sight..

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  2. Maybe try an apricot sweet and sour dipping sauce? Like this: http://www.themakeyourownzone.com/2012/02/make-your-own-sweet-and-sour-sauce.html. Welcome to NJ! Come up and try the giant Westfield, NJ TJs.

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    1. Thanks, lynn! Westfield's a hike for us, but someday we might make the trek...

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  3. TJ's Sweet Chili Sauce is fabulous on these, as well. I'm pretty sure that's what my store demo'ed them with.

    (Also, these are vegan! Just thought I'd mention that since I didn't see a "vegan" tag on this post).

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    1. Thanks, Mo. Two important pieces of info!

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  4. Ranch is good, but my favorite local deli serves theirs with a creamy horseradish dressing. Yum! Good luck on your garden!

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    1. Horseradish sounds interesting...thanks, Jessica!

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  5. Thank you for always including plenty of vegetarian friendly reviews!

    As for your future garden, check out https://www.plantvillage.com/. It has Penn State roots. No pun intended :)

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  6. don't most people dip fried zucchini in ranch dressing? or marinara? it's not that much of a mystery...

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    1. Indeed, including a sauce with these would be like including ketchup with french fries.

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  7. I finally tried these last night [they'd been in the freezer for a while]. Since they were sharing the oven with another pan to be cooked at 400 degrees, I cooked these for ~35 minutes at 400. This seemed to even out the doneness on small and large pieces. They were wonderful. High marks from me.

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  8. You just have to make sure you leave them in long enough to crisp up! At the halfway-flip-over mark, they're still a bit gloppy, but leave them in until they're nice and golden crispy! I took them out of the oven and after noticing they were a little underseasoned, I sprinkled them with a little salt, pepper, and smoked paprika and they were DELICIOUS.

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