Jan 15, 2013

All things TJ

I resolved to try to write every day this year and talked about it in this post hoping if it is for the world to read I may actually stay with it. The next day after I blogged about my resolve, I promptly broke it. It had been a long day with a Sunday morning Bikram class followed by a trip to the children’s museum. The evening ended with our first visit to Trader Joe’s, the supposed mecca of foodies. I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped to be. Maybe it was all the hype and my own expectations or maybe I was just tired after trailing the kid and his friend in the museum all day (the kid’s best friends was spending the day with us, giving his parents some time to themselves). The kids behaved well enough for a grocery store that did not have any toys for them to gawk at but it still got quite tiring by the time we were done exploring aisle 2. Think the two of them wanting to use the bathroom at the same time or wanting to play tag in the parking lot.

TJ’s did try to entice me by all the chocolate covered almonds, fruits and toffees but I am proud to say I successfully refrained from buying any of the temptations. I did buy two bags of candied ginger but I consider that more medicinal and less sweet-tooth-recreational. The husband on the other hand was like a kid in a candy store. While I supervised the kiddos, he explored the alternate food world of tofu sausages, tempeh, edamame and soy protein. We came home loaded with bags of goodies including one of my new favorites, lentil-potato curls, which taste suspiciously like ganthiya, those deep fried, fat twizzler like sticks, made with besan (chickpea flour).
Chocolate orange sticks = crack!
It was dinner time by the time we were home and while I fed the kid his favorite, dosa and dal, he made good on some of TJ’s purchases. He made a delicious gyro with pita bread, TJ’s tzatziki sauce, some zucchini cakes (from Costco) and the tofu sausage. It was delicious and I was too hungry to take a photo. By the time I cleaned up, I was ready to hit the bed and not worry about breaking my resolution to write. I had succeeded in not eating any sweets, even though a delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookie was handed in my palms by a TJ associate. I took a bite and handed the rest to my kid who claimed they were better than the ones we had at home. Take that Chips Ahoy!

The important thing with resolutions though is to not give up on them. So here I am, a few days later, writing my third blog post of the month and catching up on my resolution. Today, I have a simple aloo mattar rassa for you. Aloo is Hindi for potatoes, mattar (not a typo for ‘matter’) is Hindi and Marathi for green peas and rassa is gravy, usually thin and made by roasting a paste of ginger, garlic, onions and tomatoes. In our house, usually beans or legumes and sometimes vegetables are cooked in this simple gravy with little variations of the spices used.

He never finds the taste of peas to his liking (as in comparable to the “ones we get in India”). This time, we decided to try TJ’s frozen peas. He isn’t home yet and hasn’t tasted the rassa, so the jury is still out on the taste of the peas. I will let you know if these passed the muster. For me, peas are good any which way; in pohe, in sabzi, in usal or simply sautéed with some cumin and ghee. I love my peas.

I used my itty-bitty 3 liter Prestige pressure cooker to roast the ginger-garlic-onion-tomato paste, added the chopped potatoes and the frozen peas and cooked it for one whistle. Alternatively, you could roast the masala in a heavy bottom pan, add the potatoes and peas, enough water and boil till the potatoes are cooked through and peas are tender. It will taste a little different from the cooker version but it will still be delicious.

Aloo mattar, amaranth, pumpkin sabzi and a whole wheat tortilla

Coarsely grind:
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup tomatoes
3-4 garlic cloves
1 inch piece of ginger
4-5 sprigs of cilantro (optional)

Heat 1Tbs of oil in a 3ltr pressure cooker and add the following in the order listed:
1/2 tsp of fenugreek seeds (methidana)
1 tsp of turmeric

Add the coarsely ground onion-tomato paste. Sauté for a few minutes and add:
1 tsp of red chili powder
1 tsp of garam masala powder
1/2 tsp of cumin-coriander powder

Roast the masala with all the spices till the oil separates and the raw smell of onions and ginger-garlic turns into a fragrant aroma.

While the paste is cooking, chop 1 large potato into even pieces. Soak in a bowl of water for five minutes to get some of the starch out. Drain and keep aside.
At this point, check the frying onion-tomato paste. If you find the oil separating from the frying masala, add 1/2 cup of water and some salt.

Now, add the chopped potatoes and 1 cup of frozen peas. If you are lucky enough to get fresh ones, add those but don’t tell me about it. Add enough water or stock to cover the potatoes and peas and put the pressure cooker lid on. Set on medium heat and turn the gas off after one whistle.
Wait for the cooker to cool down before opening the lid. Serve with rotis or rice.
This is my entry for the theme 'Garnet' for the 52-week project

Oh, and by the way, I cooked the aloo mattar rassa in my Indian pressure cooker and it didn’t blow up in my face. If you are wondering what I am talking about, check out this post.   
A TJs Update: We went back to TJs last weekend, this time without the kid(s). It was a much better experience shopping at leisure, exploring all the wonderful goodies on display. I asked for suggestions on what to get at TJs on fb and was rewarded with some gems I would have missed otherwise. Manisha suggested the dried chili mango which is really good and my next favorite after the candied ginger.
Candied ginger and chili mango

She and some other friends also suggested the triple ginger cookies which the kid took a liking to. He has been eating 5-6 of them at a time but since they are really thin, I let him eat them in lieu of his two cookies allowance of Pepperidge Farm double chocolate cookies. I think it is a fair trade. I couldn’t find the rasmalai a cousin highly recommended. But the lentil potato curls were bought again and so was a ton of soy based food (not that we are turning vegan or anything. I tasted some roasted pork at Central Market yesterday and it was delicious). I was tempted to buy the chocolate biscotti but refrained from grabbing it. Overall, we realized that though small, TJs still had a lot of options to choose from and the ingredients and the quality of goods was overall superior to most of the name brand goods. We go back again in two weeks.


  1. I love to see a new post from you. I adore TJ's for it carries so many seasonal quality items that are rarely seen in other stores and the staff is so polite and friendly. I don't visit as often as I make impulsive purchases and it's not near my home.

    I will give this curry and your dal a try, sounds quick and delicious. I do plan to participate in your event, will email you something in a few days.

    - Priti

    1. Thanks Priti for being a faithful reader. :-) Would love to read what you send in.

  2. I like the look of that chili mango, reminds me a bit of the bhaiya outside school grounds with his 'tokri' of raw mango, beri, guavas etc.
    I hope I can got to TJ's soon. It was very close when I was living in Los Angeles, unlike the 25 or so miles here.

  3. Ah..Indian comfort food is what I call this. Of course puri is more comforting than roti with this dish, but we are in these diet concious times and we have to adhere to that :p

    This is my tonight's dinner!


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