Sure, I tried beet salad once. Once. At the time I compared it to gelatin made from dirt, and nothing in the intervene months and years has done anything to convince me otherwise. So it was in a perplexed, slightly surreal haze that I found myself buying Trader Joe’s Chicken and Roasted Beet Salad.
Why am I buying this?, I thought, bemused, as if watching myself in a dream. Why am I paying this quirky sales clerk good money, money which could literally buy me anything, on beets? Have I truly gone mad at last? Sitting at my kitchen table, staring into the unsealed maw of this uncouth salad, it seemed the only likely answer.
I’m willing to admit that I have never eaten any beet and liked it. Certainly not in their rawest, beetiest form. I can boast that I managed to get down about a pint of Trader Joe’s Beet and Purple Carrot Juice a while back, before realizing that, no, this is terrible. Beets really have no place in my life, and I no place in a the life of beets. It’s an arrangement I think we’re both happy with.*
If you, gentle reader, have managed to make space in your heart for this ignoble root vegetable, than you are a better fellow than I, and I would ask you to keep in mind that I’m prejudiced against these things from the start.
This is a terrible salad. I’ve never really had a bad salad from Trader Joe’s, other than, you know, the ones with all the salmonella in them, but their Chicken and Roasted Beet salad blazes new downward territory. It’s not just the beets which are the bad part of this salad, that much was to be expected. The rest of the salad mix contribute as much to this stinker as the beets. It’s as if the salad engineers at TJ’s just gave up while putting it together.
“It’s got beets in it,” they probably said to themselves, pausing to let out a long, defeated sigh, “It’s not like anyone’s ever going to eat it.”
The salad mix here involves a very nice, snappy mixture of greens, but that one high point is defrayed by a couple factors. One, despite being a big 10 oz. salad, there’s not much in the way of greens or chicken in it. Two, it’s packed with a pungent, yet bland fetid cheese. There’s almost as much feta in here as there is chicken. I’ve got nothing against feta, per se, I think it’s a fine cheese, but this particular feta is on the mild and squeaky side. Cheese in a salad should be the highlight, not the grist you have to chew through.
That leads us to the beets themselves. Though unheralded on the packaging, this salad actually comes with two, count ’em two, kinds of beets – red beets and white beets. Isn’t that a pleasant surprise! All too aware that leaving beets in prolonged contact with wholesome food will ruin it, both kinds of beets come packaged in their own individual tubs. It’s these tubs, plus the considerable water weight of the beets, that accounts for the bulk of this salad. Such a sad waste of space.
The beets themselves are typical beets, which is to say: wet, cold, lumpy, drab, unpleasantly musky, and repulsive to the taste. It’s amazing to me how something can be so bland, yet so disgusting at the same time. Mother Nature must have been in a particularly creative and dark place when she came up with beets. It was probably the same day she figured out slugs.
All that said, Trader Joe’s did choose a good dressing to pair the salad with. The balsamic vinaigrette is well formulated, hitting all the rights notes of viscosity, acidity and sweetness. It does a good job highlighting the flavorful notes of the salad while masking the weaker ones. Good, but not good enough to rescue the salad from the beets.
In the end, if you, like all right minded people, dislike beets, then avoid this salad. For good measure, maybe consider avoiding any salads it happens to be touching as well. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind beets then why not eat this, as it appears you’re willing to eat anything.
*I take all this back in the face of borscht, which is one of the most delicious soups in existence. How such a charming son came from such a damned sire, I can’t imagine.
Would I Recommend This: Ha ha ha.
Would I Buy It Again: Ha ha ha ha ha, no.
Final Synopsis: A subpar salad with some beets thrown on. It’s like someone was trying to get fired.
An interesting salad, this Trader Joe’s Super Spinach Salad, an intriguing salad, but not necessarily a very good salad.
Spinach is an incredible base for any salad – tender, and flavorful, and supple, and yielding to the ardent bite, and nutritious, and, and, and – well, I could go on. I have a deep and abiding love for leafy, raw spinach that manifests itself in a refrigerator stuffed full of salad greens and dirty looks I throw at petulant children. My adoration of spinach, I’ll admit, is partially irrational. You see, I lost my salad virginity to spinach.
I was a young man, a college freshman. I hadn’t been looking for love, I didn’t even think I was interested in salads. I had grown up around plates of iceberg lettuce and, apart from the occasional juicy crouton or Baco Bit, they did nothing for me. But then I saw it, there in the dorm cafeteria’s buffet , demure but intriguing. I remember stuffing my mouth full of the delicious young sprigs, the juicy blast of nutritious flavor. I can taste it still. That day changed my life, leading me into the wonderful world of salads, and though I’ve often played around with exotic radicchios and roquettes I’ve always returned home to those tender, loving fronds.
So you’d think a TJ’s spinach salad would be an almost perversely easy slam dunk, right? Not so. Trader Joe’s Super Spinach Salad offers up the sort of charmingly eclectic list of ingredients see in some of their other excellent salads, quinoa, carrots, cranberries, chickpeas, edamame, tiny little tomatoes, and pumpkin seeds, but they simply do not work as well as a unit. It’s hard to say where the salad goes wrong. The main problem seems to be the carrot ginger miso dressing, which is, one, a strange combination of ingredients that don’t work very well with the salad mix, and two, unusually thick, almost like a very gritty mayonnaise that resists spreading evenly across the salad. Worse, the dressing leaves a strong aftertaste of onion in your mouth that lingers on long after the salad is finished.
The veggies do make for a crunchy, crispy unit that’s not bad for munching on, and I would suspect that if you ditched the dressing and substituted it for a personal favorite the salad would benefit greatly by it.
Even worse than being unpalatable, the dressing commits the all-too-common sin of wrecking the otherwise very healthy nutritional profile of the salad. Check out these post dressing stats: 19g of fat (a third of your daily intake), and a whopping 53g of carbs which, even controlling for the 10g that come from fiber, is more than a Big Mac packs.
I’ve got nothing against the occasional decadent salad (perhaps choked with gorgonzola and candied pecans), but it has to be pretty fantastic tasting to make the calories worth it. This salad fails to deliver anything like the level of enjoyment I’d demand for blowing my diet for the day.
Would I Recommend It: With a caution – lose the salad dressing and substitute a healthy alternative.
Would I Buy It Again: Not I, there are far more interesting salads to explore.
Final Synopsis: A very promising salad ruined by a very poor salad dressing.
When it comes to foreign cuisine, no supermarket chain kills it quite like Trader Joe’s. Case in point – Trader Joe’s Seaweed Salad with spicy dressing. We’ve already looked at some of TJ’s bold, if shaky, forays into the Korean kitchen. With this fun spicy salad they can proudly boast that they’ve done something well that no one will appreciate.
Seaweed is not high on the list of most American shoppers, so hat’s off to Trader Joe’s for branching out into the exciting world of undersea vegetation. The history of seaweed cultivation and consumption is as vast and engrossing as the wide Sargasso, and I doubt I can do it justice in this forum. When confronted with a man who just ate a big bowl of limp kelp, the more pressing question of interest is “Does it taste any good?”
Yes, absolutely, this sea weed salad does – if you’re in the market for authentic Korean cuisine. If, instead, you’re looking for a nice, ordinary salad to accompany your casserole, try one of these. If, on the other hand, your on the hunt for an entirely different taste, and texture, sensation to make dinner memorable you couldn’t ask for better.
In a lot of ways Trader Joe’s Seaweed Salad is exactly what you’d expect – a big pile of wet, limp seaweed that smells more than slightly of the sea. In other ways though, this salad might surprise you.
For one, the salad is actually thrown together from a wide variety of seaweeds. Each one brings it’s own texture, color and toothfeel to the dish, seven different types of sea plants go in, from the translucent agar-agar to the bright Carrageenan Yellow.
Eating these fronds is unlike eating any other salad you’ve ever had – large, tender, sometimes slick, sometimes springy textures slide and bounce their way across the mouth with each bite. It doesn’t exactly come packing the taste – few things are as bland and mild and wet seaweed – but what it lacks in taste it makes up for in texture and appearance.
Of course, TJ’s was aware that seaweed needs some help to become tasty, and it provides that help in the form of a monstrously large packet of “salad dressing: that is, essentially, a thick, paste of red hot peppers. Again, kudos to Trader Joe’s for taking the authentically Korean route here. Many mass retailers might have tended toward a milder, more edible dressing, instead TJ’s gives you the full-on Korean restaurant experience.
This is a seriously hot condiment folks, and it’s given to you in a quantity far beyond what you’ll likely need to enjoy your salad. Try a dab of the dressing first before slathering your salad and adjust accordingly. I found about a 1/6th of the packet enough for me – but as we established before, I’m also a bit of a chili wuss.
A final note, making this salad was more fun than it should have been. The meal comes as a freeze-dried thatch that you must dump in a big bow of water and leave to quintuple in size – dinosaur sponge style. It brightened up my day, but then again I am easily amused.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, if you think you like seaweed or interesting textures. No to everyone else.
Would I Buy It Again: I could see it happening.
Final Synopsis: This is a great, exciting, interesting seaweed salad but, ultimately, a seaweed salad it remains.
Beets. Is there any item of food more loathed by man than the heinous beet? Just the word alone, the very act of articulation, is enough to make the tongue whimper. Beets.
This is probably all my own fault. I learned my fear of beets in childhood. I liked broccoli, I was okay with Brussels sprouts, but beets – the third member of that alliterative triumvirate of kid ire – that was what got me. I dare say it’s possible I’d even have been able to tolerate that dripping, unfortunate vegetable if and when it had ever been served to me fresh and raw from the earth, untainted by the hands of man. Unfortunately, that was never my experience. I knew beets solely as they emerged from the darkened insides of tin cans: sodden by their odoriferous preservative bath, pre-cut into unidentifiable strips or chunks, gleaming a bright, queasy magenta utterly dissimilar to the color of any other natural product given to us by God. Beets. And why the hell are they always pickled? Pickled, or all things! Easily the most extreme, polarizing way to prepare an already borderline food. God damn beets.
It was with a heavy heart that I convinced myself I had to buy this marinated beet salad (ingredient: beets, some spices) and test its merits. That is my way, though. To give a second chance to what I don’t spare a second glance.
To my utter surprise and shock, I actually enjoyed! I expected “marinated” to simply be a euphemism for “pickled”, but nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the beets had a rich smoky and peppery flavor to them, a pleasant foil the familiar beety taste I was expecting – a result, no doubt, of the beets being roasted. Not just savory but pleasantly crunchy to boot, these guys enlivened an otherwise boring lunch by bringing a flavor that was strong, but not overpowering. To top it off, the dreaded beet after taste, which can linger on the tongue long after it’s welcome has worn out, was mild and short lived. Consider me flabbergasted.
My only complaint is the size and shape of the beet chunks. Weighing in at about the size of small ice cubes, these guys would be impossible to incorporate into any but he most outlandish of sandwiches, despite the claims of the package’s copy. They’ll do fine in salads or on their own, but I’d like to see some slimmer cuts for enhanced versatility.
Would I Recommend Them: Yes, even if you don’t like beets.
Would I Buy Them Again: These are my go to beets from now on.
Final Synopsis: Beets, edible at last.