Hot take: I think Trader Joe’s is totally overrated.
Sure, I’ve picked up delicious things during my infrequent visits (mainly snacks). And I like some of their products fine enough to buy them again if I happen to end up there. But I never go out of my way to shop at Trader Joe’s. First, it’s always jampacked with people, so the checkout lines are long. And I don’t tend to buy a lot of the products they’re known for, like individual frozen meals and marinated meats. But I found a new reason to go: the frozen falafel.
You may be wondering—if I'm not a fan of Trader Joe’s, why I was even there in the first place? I stopped in a few months ago to buy tamales for my daughter’s Spanish class celebration (why do kids always sign up for the most complicated thing and then tell you the day before?). Since I was there, I decided to grab a few new-to-me products to pop in my freezer. While I am pretty good about getting a mostly homemade dinner on the table every night, there are some nights when I turn to frozen convenience foods. Sick of frozen pizza and dumplings, the frozen falafel patties caught my eye.
Let me start out by saying that I have feelings about falafel. The fried balls of ground chickpeas, herbs, spices, lemon, onion and garlic that get a little lift from a touch of baking soda are incredibly easy to make. I make them from scratch at least twice a month. But after sampling some absolutely terrible falafel at restaurants, I’ve learned that they’re also incredibly easy to screw up. So much so that I refuse to order them anymore unless I’m at a Middle Eastern restaurant.
And there they sat in my freezer. Was I leery about trying them? A little, I guess. I didn’t want to make them for dinner only to find us dumping them in the compost because they weren't up to par. But, after sampling a falafel sandwich on a walking food tour in Montreal the other weekend, I finally got the nerve to pull them out of the freezer. The sandwich was only a sample, and it spurred a craving for more. The falafel was perfect. Crisp and flavorful, the pickles salty and briny, the sauces bright, the vegetables fresh and crunchy, the wrap pillowy.
So when I got home from my trip, the frozen falafel called to me—it was time. I pulled out a baking sheet, generously coated it with cooking spray, arranged the falafel on it and coated the tops with more cooking spray and popped them in the oven. While they baked, I made some tzatziki, prepped some veggies and warmed up some pita. We each assembled our sandwich to our liking and sat down at the table.
I took a tentative bite. The falafel was crunchy and well seasoned. Dare I say it was delicious? I looked around the table and everyone agreed—not the same as my homemade falafel, but very good and worth buying again. So if you need me this weekend, it’s possible you’ll run into me at Trader Joe’s.
Read the original article on Eating Well.