Trader Joe’s Kale and Cauliflower Curry Salad

Trader Joe's Kale and Cauliflower Curry Salad

Yeah, this makes sense.

There’s no way in hell this crazy combination of vegetables and spices should work as a salad – and yet it does, and does so beautifully.

Ranking: 4 stars 4 star rating

What it is: A kale, cauliflower, raisin and wheat berry salad.
Costs: $3.99
Worth it: Yes, all this actually works.

On the surface of things, you might expect a salad made from cauliflower, wheat berries, kale, canola oil and raisins to be a true disaster. None of those things seem like they should work well together – let alone when combined with curry powder – and yet the whole salad executes beautifully.

In fact, this is probably the most daring salad that Trader Joe’s has ever put out. On top of the eponymous kale and cauliflower, you also get a whole army of wheat berries, a scattering of big, sweet golden raisins, a liberal drenching of canola oil and, to top it all off, a “curry” salad dressing that isn’t actually curry flavored, at least not if you expect curry to be at all spicy. A better description would be “arid and pungent turmeric sauce”, because what it lacks in spice or complexity of flavor it makes up for in a potent turmeric punch. And the weirdest part is, I’d go back for seconds.

Honestly, no one is more shocked than me. I’ve been completely grossed out by a couple of Trader Joe’s more recent, “hip and daring”, salad developments – notable their divisive Kale and Edamame Salad, and their offensive bulgur and carrot salad nightmare. What is it that this equally out-there salad gets right?

For me, it comes down to one thing – the wheat berries. Wheat berries are nothing more than whole wheat kernels, and when soaked and added to salads provide a sort of satisfying, chewy toothsomeness and mild nutty flavor. In fact, one of my all time favorite Trader Joe’s salads – Trader Joe’s squash, quinoa and wheat berry salad – makes similar good use of this wholesome grain.

Although they don’t get top billing here, wheat berries make up the bulk of this salad – providing the binding agent that holds together the piquant curried cauliflower and intensely robust kale leaves. In fact, kale is more of an accent vegetable in this salad than the backbone. A few shreds of kale leaves hang out alongside the crunchy cauliflower – deep green, uncooked to the point of toughness, and tasting almost aggressively nutritious. If you’re looking for more roughage in your diet, this kale is eager to provide it.

The cauliflower is its typically mild and roughly textured self, but without the springy, soft wheat berries to pad out the bites in between the two vegetables this salad would be a much less tasty experience. Not to be overlooked, of course, are the raisins. Providing interesting bursts of sweetness to the otherwise beige-tasting affair, the raisins work brilliantly with the tumeric dressing and compliment the mild wheat berries perfectly.

Despite everything that’s going on in this salad, it’s not so much of a taste sensation as it is a texture experience. The flavors are bold, but not overwhelming. Far more notable is the vivid spectrum of textures that play across your tongue from bite to bite. If the thought of slippery wheat berries mixed up with strong ribs of kale makes you shudder, you’ll definitely want to give this one a miss. If you can get past that, however, this is a nutritious and wholly original salad perfect for shaking up your culinary routine.

The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: Cautiously – this salad isn’t going to be for everyone.

Would I Buy It Again: To my own amazement and surprise – I would.

Final Synopsis: There’s no way this outrageous salad should work – and yet it does.

Trader Joe's Kale and Cauliflower Curry Salad - Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Kale and Cauliflower Curry Salad – Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Romanesco Basilic

Trader Joe's Cauliflower Romansco Basilic

Every time I eat romanesco I feel compelled to tell people about fractals in nature. I apologize in advance.

Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Romanesco Basilic is, pretentious name aside, a nifty little dish.

So often it’s so hard to eat like a reasonably decent human being on a frozen vegetable budget. Oh sure, if you’ve got some skill in the kitchen you’ll manage to make do, but for the rest dinner time is a harrowing event not to be looked forward to. It’s parade of sorrow: sacks of frozen, mechanically-chopped spinach wilting into a messy wet pile in the skillet, or yet another bag of green beans that repel all attempts to make palatable or, worse, tiny plastic TV dinner trays with impossibly hopeful names that do nothing to mask the depression that infuses every misplaced kernel of corn or sloppy lump of beef product.

What I’m saying is it’s tough out there for the unskilled bachelor (or bachelorette) folks, and it’s rare to find something to eat in the flash frozen food aisle that makes you feel like you’ve still got your dignity about you. Trader Joe’s awesome Hake en Papillote dish is one, and their Cauliflower Romansco Basilic is another. It not only provides a truly delicious side dish to any meal in minutes, bit it does so with so much class and style that you actually feel like a better human being while eating it.

First off, it’s healthy. 70 calories per serving, (serving size 1 cup), and oly 6 grams of carbs, two of which are fiber. The world garlic butter does show up right there in the title, so you’ve got to expect some fat, but at only 4.5 grams per serving it’s not an unreasonable amount.

Now healthy is no big thing if it doesn’t taste good, and man does this stuff taste good. So good that you’ll relish munching each morsel of cauliflower and want to slurp up the juices after. How does it manage this trick on otherwise undesirable cauliflower? Through the miracle of garlic butter folks. Right out of the microwave your portion of steaming veggies are swimming in a sea of melted garlic-infused butter – enough to pack each piece with a savory, smooth, tongue-pleasing taste without going too heavy on either the butter or the garlic. It walks that knife edge of light but delicious and reaches the other side unscathed. And tender, my god – can we talk about tender? I’m going to wholeheartedly endorse preparing your cauliflower melange in the microwave because six minutes turns these ice-crusted veggies into yielding, supple morsels that provide absolutely nothing in the way of resistance. It’s like eating a cloud, so pleasant it is.

Trader Joe’s ingeniously preps their broccoli and cauliflower for success by freezing the garlic butter sauce around each sprig or stalk. It’s a stroke of absolute brilliance that eliminates the fuss of having to deal with a enclosed secondary sauce packet. The sauce melts around each individual piece as you heat it, meaning that you can portion out your veggies in any quantity over any length of time and always get just the right amount of garlic butter sauce with them. Goddamn brilliant!

All of this is, of course, ignoring the coolest part of the Cauliflower Romanesco Basilc, which is of course the romanesco – that craziest looking of vegetables adored by fractal-lovers and gourmands alike. If you’ve never had it before, don’t get too freaked out by it’s glorious, Fibonacci sequence exemplifying spirals, just relax and try some – it’s taste is halfway between cauliflower and broccoli. I absolutely applaud it’s inclusion here, or in fact, anywhere that it replaces it’s boring cousin broccoli if for no other reason than novelty.

The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: You’ve got to try this one at least once.

Would I Buy It Again: Without hesitation.

Final Synopsis: A downright scrumptious vegetable side perfect for any occasion.

Trader Joe's Cauliflower Romanesco Basilic - Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Romanesco Basilic – Nutrition Facts