Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Quick Review of Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Israeli Style Couscous

We recently had a chance to visit Trader Joe's in Corvalis, which is about half an hour south of us. (We're looking forward to getting our own Trader Joe's in south Salem early next year.) One of the items we decided to give a try was the Harvest Grains Israeli Couscous. The packaging describes it as a "savory blend of Israeli style couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa." Unfortunately, my cooking technique was a little more along the lines of tabouli. Depending on the family member you might choose to question, my cooking was splendid success or, according to my son, it was time to go to Olive Garden again.

First, I prepared the whole package of couscous in two cans of chicken broth, and added shrimp, red pepper, and (some of the last) colorful tomatoes from our garden. We also added a about 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, as well as fresh and chopped basil and mint. If I were making it again, I'd probably not add the tomatoes. I think I'd also use this as a side and not as a main course.

While it was an interesting creation, it definitely was not a family favorite. Using it as a side and leaving out the tomatoes, though, would probably give this wider family appeal. In short, give it a try next time you're looking for something new!

I also wanted to make a mention of a second Trader Joe's product we had a chance to try. This was a clear balsamic vinegar. What an interesting product--and all around cool idea! I had never even heard of clear balsamic vinegar before, but we all found this product to taste just like regular balsamic vinegar. There seemed to me to be a slightly different "texture" than traditional balsamic vinegar, and it may have been less smooth on the tongue. That said, this might also have been an entirely subjective impression.

Using this vinegar, I noticed that it was a little difficult to tell how much was on one's food. When one is dipping bread in traditional dark balsamic vinegar and olive oil, for instance, one can easily see how much is on the bread. It's harder to tell with the clear balsamic vinegar. It's kind of a guessing game to ensure that you're using the right amount. For this reason, I think I prefer the traditional dark balsamic vinegar. However, I can definitely see some situations--e.g. salads--where the clear could be a perfect fit.

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