Trader Joe’s Inspiration: San Marzano Tomato Salad

When I go grocery shopping, I almost always have a list.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, there are items we may be completely out of which I don’t want to forget.  Second, I like to make sure I always have certain staples on hand, like canned broth, olive oil, sugar, etc.  And finally, I often plan my meals in advance, so when I go to the store, I am also purchasing ingredients specifically for three different meals.

But sometimes I go rogue.  It’s often dangerous, because I end up buying more snack food than I should, and too much produce (which does not have a long shelf life) because it looks so good and fresh.  If my shopping list has “1 bottle of white wine” on it, I get one bottle of white.  But if I have no list and I’m in a Trader Joe’s, well, we all know how that goes down.  That said, I have learned over the years what works and what goes together, so those rogue shopping trips actually produce some tasty dishes.

This week, I popped into Trader Joe’s on my way home from the office.  I didn’t have a list, but I knew I needed to make three meals, I needed some wine, and I wanted some fresh flowers for the living room (because they always have beautiful, inexpensive flowers at TJ’s).  I grabbed 2 bouquets of yellow tulips and a loaf of my husband’s favorite gluten-free white bread (which just happens to be next to the flowers), and then told myself to focus:  you have a job to do here, Theresa!

I like to start with produce, because you can build a meal around what is fresh and what looks good.  I decided a spring veggie risotto would taste good, so I grabbed fresh peas, asparagus, a sweet yellow onion, and basil.  The green beans looked good so I decided to use those as a side dish for something, then I saw the San Marzano tomatoes.

If you’ve never had a fresh San Marzano, you’re missing out.  They are so sweet and crisp, I can just eat them out of the bag.  They are not as acidic as other tomatoes, and have a nice sweet flavor to them, and because they have a firmer skin they are not at all mushy or full of squishy seeds.  I prefer them over cherry or grape tomatoes simply because the flavor is so much better.  Even if you insist that you do not like tomatoes, I suggest giving these a try because they are not like others.  Since I already had the basil in my buggy, I decided that a tomato-basil salad was in order, and found a nice low-fat feta cheese to add to it instead of mozzarella, knowing that the saltiness of the feta would play nicely with the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Spring Veggie Risotto with Shrimp

I ended up grabbing some frozen shrimp and a container of veggie broth for my Spring Veggie Risotto (check out my post all about Risotto for some recipes), some chicken thighs so I could make Sesame Chicken to go along with the green beans I picked up (those would become Ginger Green Beans), and some ground beef, marinara, and brown rice spaghetti for a gluten-free pasta night.  And of course I couldn’t forget to pick up some wine (for me), taffy (for my husband), cookie butter cookies (for my daughter), as well as some staples like balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  So, I mostly stayed on task, with just a few minor deviations!

I made the tomato salad tonight, and it was just what I was craving:  something fresh, sweet and salty, and light.  The salad takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and along with some crusty bread, made the perfect meal.

All of the ingredients are from Trader Joe’s!

San Marzano Tomato Salad

5 to 6 ounces San Marzano plum tomatoes, sliced in quarters or in halves
1/4 cup shopped fresh basil
4 ounces low-fat feta cheese, cubed
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
coarsely ground black pepper

Toss the tomatoes, basil, and cheese in a bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar; gently stir to coat.  Sprinkle with pepper and serve immediately.

*I basically used half a bag of the tomatoes, and half a package of the feta cheese, knowing that the salad really doesn’t keep well in the fridge.  Use the remainder to make another batch the next day!



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