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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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Trader Joe's Israeli Couscous

Prior to spying this box on the shelves of a local TJ's, I wasn't aware of the existence of Israeli couscous. Regular couscous, yes. But I didn't know this other special version existed. Otherwise known as "pearl couscous" for it's shiny, spherical form, this type of couscous is popular in—you guessed it—Israel, where it is known as "ptitim." 

And since I'm fond of celebrating my 1/16th or so Jewishness, as I've mentioned before, I decided this inexpensive box ($2) of grain/pasta was a suitable selection for my next misadventure in foodie-hackery.

I was about to heat up the saucepan on the stove top when Sonia stopped me and encouraged me to go tend to our animal friends while she did the cooking. I'm pretty sure that's a subtle commentary on my culinary abilities, but she insisted that she just felt like cooking. And wow. Not only did she cook the couscous properly with a bit of olive oil, but she made a whole lovely Mediterranean-themed meal, complete with cucumber salad, hummus, and meat, as shown in the pic to the right.

Strangely, I enjoyed this "Ben-Gurion rice" significantly more than any normal couscous I'd ever had, while Sonia expressed the reverse. I liked the larger size, chewier texture, and lightly nutty flavor of these, while I've always felt as if regular couscous were just a notch above seasoned sawdust. Sonia just prefers her couscous smaller and less chewy I guess. Or maybe she's just not as in touch with her inner-Jew.

It's cheap, shelf-stable, kosher, vegetarian, and relatively high in fiber. It's most definitely not gluten-free...and it's not exactly a party food by itself. But it goes great with vegetables, hummus, fish, or poultry. If you're looking for a wheat-based alternative to rice or regular couscous, I've gotta say, I'm a fan. Four stars from me. Three from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.


  1. My husband cooks up Israeli couscous with chopped peppers and pine nuts. So yummy!

  2. I happened to have a box of this and made a salad with golden raisins, pistachios, and goat cheese.

  3. Try toasting the couscous with olive oil a little salt and chopped garlic for a few minutes and then adding chicken broth instead of water. Gives it so much flavor.

  4. In Israeli we have it in different shapes: Rice shaped, stars, letters...
    I like cooking it with chopped up sausages or minced meat and spices.

    1. Letter shapes!? I'm just thinking about all the fun words I could spell in couscous...

  5. Very good in soups or made as a salad!

  6. Very good in soups or made as a salad!

  7. I was so disappointed to see that TJ's has replaced their instant couscous with this. It was the only place in my town I could get the unflavored instant.