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.
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.
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!