I am a big fan of Trader Joes. As a college student on a budget and a vegan foodie with a worldly palate, I have yet to find a grocery store that better serves my needs.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I came across Cherie Mercer Twohy's I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook—the latest in a series of I Love Trader Joe's cookbooks. Flipping through its pages is like taking a culinary trip around the world, much like the store it celebrates. Without ever leaving the comforts of your own kitchen—except perhaps to make a shopping run to your local Trader Joe's—you can get an authentic taste of 11 world cuisines.
While this cookbook is by no means meat-free, it is very veg-friendly. Vegetarian and vegan recipes are clearly labeled, and gluten-free recipes are labeled as well. About half of the recipes are vegetarian or vegan, and many of the non-veg recipes could be converted with a substitution or two.
Since I'm already such a fan of Trader Joe's, it didn't surprise me to flip through this cookbook and find several interesting recipes for which I already had most or all of the ingredients. I decided on the quick and easy Mujadara (recipe below), a middle eastern side dish which resembles a lentil pilaf with caramelized onions.
This recipe was a breeze to whip up, with only five minutes of active prep time. I opted for vegan margarine instead of butter, and quinoa rather than white rice. The sweet onions and fall spices really made the flavor of this dish pop. I'll definitely make it again, perhaps paired with the Imam Bayaldi on the following page.
The cookbook closes with an array of useful info, including an explanation of techniques, a list of pantry staples, a conversion chart, and an index for both recipes and ingredients. The ingredient index is especially useful; all too often I decide what I'm having for dinner based on which item in my pantry needs to be used, stat.
This is a well-organized, well-rounded cookbook, and a perfect outlet for a little culinary globetrotting without the expensive plane ticket.
3 tablespoons butter
2 onions, thinly sliced
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cumin
pinch of ground cloves
3 cups cooked white rice (1 cup uncooked)
1 (17.6-ounce) package Trader Joe’s Steamed Ready to Eat Lentils
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, stir to coat them evenly with the butter, and sauté until they soften and turn golden, about 20 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cumin, and cloves and sauté until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cooked rice and lentils and warm through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.