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Monday, March 1, 2021

Trader Joe's Za'atar Seasoning Blend

Certain things I've never heard of before seem to pop up everywhere all at once. Apparently this seasoning has been around literally for millennia, but I don't think I, personally, heard of it until this product was released at Trader Joe's. Just in the past month, I've seen this seasoning on the shelves of other grocery stores, I've seen people mention it on social media, and some came with our latest HelloFresh meal. It's like the spice version of the Baader Meinhof phenomenon, which I've mentioned on this blog before.

Anyway, it's a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern spice, and it goes with pretty much anything Mediterranean or Middle Eastern. Imagine that. Its number one ingredient is sesame seeds, followed by spices like thyme, coriander, marjoram (never heard of that before, but I'm sure it will come up several times a day now) and oregano. There's also chickpea flour, sea salt, sunflower oil, and lemon oil.

It adds just the right amount of zest and nuttiness to fish, hummus, eggs, and salads, and makes them taste like they came from a gourmet Mediterranean restaurant. It makes exotic meals taste just that much more exotic—balela, couscous, spanakopita, falafel, you name it. In many cases, those dishes already have some of the same spices in them and extra za'atar simply enhances those flavors. 

It's green and flakey. Flavor-wise, it's a little bit savory and a little bit tangy. You'll definitely get some seeds stuck in your teeth. Like most of Trader Joe's other seasoning blends, this selection will run you $1.99. There are technically 106 servings in the little shaker, but I'm thinking most people will use enough of it that it won't last that long. It won't be the boldest or strongest seasoning blend in your spice rack, but it definitely has its appropriate time and place.

Three and a half stars from me. Four from the wifey.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Trader Joe's Chile Spiced Pineapple

Perhaps this is not a universal truth, but here in Pittsburgh it is: No matter how cold it is, you'll definitely see a guy wearing shorts. 

Sure, it's true now, at the end of February and us going through the interminable "false spring" where temps hit the 50s before plunging back to subzero the following week. heck, I was the dude in dungarees earlier today. But even in the midst of coldest, darkest, polar vortex-est winter, you'll see it: a guy wearing shorts. Guaranteed. 

What's this have to do with Trader Joe's Chile Spiced pineapple? Glad you asked. The answer is, obviously,, well...ummm..you see...no idea. Something something promise of warmth and perhaps summery but really not quite there and quit fooling yourself. Yeah...something like that. 

I picked up a small sack of eight slices on my latest TJ's run. No idea if they're newish or not, but I hadn't seen them before, and thought them to be a summery looking bite, with perhaps a little intrigue. For less than $3, it was an easy sell.

The actual product though? Ugh. It fails to deliver, with seemingly a two fold problem. 

First: the actual texture. I was expecting dried pineapple like the little chunks, you'd find ain a snack mix. You know, dry, kinda chalky, a wee bit stiff and fibrous. That's a great texture. these rings, though? They're soft and pliable and rubbery, as if they were halfbaked. Like a bad fruit jerky. It's not a pleasing or texture to have to try and rip off chunks with your teeth instead of a cleaner bite. No thanks. 

But then here's the rub...literally. That chile seasoning is not so great, and it's easy to see why. but first, a little background: if you're not familiar with pineapple, it's sweet with a lot of sugar. The pineapple here is a regular pineapple, just strangely chewier. So, innately speaking, there's already  plenty of sugar....so WHY ADD MORE SUGAR TO A SPICE RUB FOR SOMETHING ALREADY SO SUGARY??? A rub like this might work on a pork butt but a sugary fruit? No! The result is an over cloyingly sweet taste trying to balance out some seasoned burn from chile peppers and friends let me tell you that this isn't happening here. It's all out of whack and just not very good. Barely any spice can be detected - a little, but not enough, especially for how red and potent each slice appears to be. 

Not a fan. I'll finish the bag...eventually....maybe...and be done with it for good. I just don't like being left out in the cold like that. My lovely bride isn't much of a fan either. I think we'll be nice and somehow give the psuedo-spicy sugary pineapple chew rings a 3 between us. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chile Spiced Pineapple: 3 out of 10 Golden Spoons


 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Trader Joe's Kibbeh

Although I haven't been there myself yet, I've known numerous people who've either lived in or visited Israel throughout the years. At least one of them referred to falafel as "Israeli hamburger" with a smidge of disdain. I, personally, could replace hamburgers with falafel and be perfectly happy. But I've often wondered if the reverse were true: if any Levantine people, upon being presented with beef or hamburger, thought, "Oh, this is that American cow falafel I've heard so much about."

That's probably a silly notion, since Middle Eastern diets do include beef. It might not be as ubiquitous as it is here in middle America, but there are a number of Mediterranean dishes that involve red meat. Kibbeh is apparently made with lamb just as often as beef, if not more so. I'm not a huge fan of lamb, so I'm glad this Trader Joe's offering went with another option.

The kibbeh are roughly football-shaped. That's American football-shaped, just to be clear, not futbol internacional...in case you don't speak 'Murican. They're so close to football-shaped, I'm actually wishing we'd broke these out a few weeks ago for the Superbowl. Ah well, there's always next year.


The "shell" is a firm, bread-like crust. I'm guessing that's the bulgur wheat mentioned on the box. It's not tough or chewy at all, but it has a much firmer texture than the ground beef within. The meat is tender and slightly juicy, but not oily or greasy. It's very lightly seasoned and flaunts a mild flavor profile.

It's so mild that it begs for some fixins, in my opinion. My instincts told me to throw a big slab of cheddar cheese on the kibbeh and slather it with ketchup and mustard, but then I came to my senses. 

I just had some beans and veggies on the side and added some extra seasoning. But what I really wish we'd have had on hand to pair with this dish is some baba ghanoush, garlic spread, tzatziki, or zhoug sauce. Even hummus might go well with these Middle Eastern meatballs.

It's another unique selection that I'm glad I got to try. Thanks for broadening my horizons again, Trader Joe's. I'd consider a repeat purchase, but next time, I'll be sure to pick up the appropriate condiments. They're nothing to complain about on their own. $4.79 for six beefy footballs. Three and a half stars from me. Four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.