TJ Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce

It’s summer time, also known as grill season. The time of year where we Americans like taking our kitchens outdoors and spending some serious time in front of the grill. Eventually when we get talking about grilling, the topic of barbeque sauce is naturally going to arise. Who has the best? What style do you prefer. To kick off this season right, we here at Eat Like No One Else are committing to studying barbeque sauces – lot of great content to come. One of the best things about this sauce is that is it different based on where you are on the map. For a foodie with a Geography degree this is super exciting stuff. I am going to taking you on a tour across this country looking at different styles of sauces, reviews of what you can buy in the store, as well as my very own recipes. Get ready to come along for the ride as we start off with the inspiration for this exploration into barbeque sauce – Trader Joe’s Carolina Gold.

Many months ago as I was looking in the condiment section at my local Trader Joe’s, I spotted this gold colored sauce – called Carolina Gold. Not having much knowledge of sauces at the time I was intrigued by a barbeque sauce that is gold in color. Grabbed the bottle and went to reading – the bottle says “Every pat of the U.S. has its own special way of preparing barbecue. In some parts of the country, you might even find multiple styles of barbecue in the same town! We’re fans of all kinds of barbecue and Trader Joe’s Carolina Gold Barbecue Sauce is a blend that reminds us of some of the best grilled meats we’ve enjoyed in the Carolinas. It’s a golden-hue mustard-based sauce that’s sweet and smoky with a hint of molasses and just the right blend of spices. Use it as a glaze near the end of barbeucing, as a sauce for burgers and sandwiches , or as a dipping sauce for chicken or veggies.” Mustard base you say. This is my first time hearing of a mustard based barbeque sauce. I always associate barbeque with ketchup. Why not mustard? I love mustard. I was really intrigued by this sauce, and noticed it on several visits without buying it. Finally when I decided to write some features on barbeque sauce I knew the first sauce I needed to try.

What is all in this sauce:
Cane sugar, Yellow mustard (distilled vinegar, water, mustard seed), distilled vinegar, tomato puree (water, tomato past), sea salt, corn starch, Worcestershire sauce (distilled vinegar, molasses, sea salt, sugar, spices, tamarind), molasses, spices, garlic, onion, natural smoke flavor, xanthan gum

My first thought as I open the bottle, even though it doesn’t look like barbeque sauce I am use to, it sure does smell like it. It has a distinct smoky smell. It’s sweet, maybe a little more than it needs to be. That is the first thing that hits you. Then I get a smokey flavor. What I have left with is some spice on the tongue. It has a nice warmth to it that leaves a little something but not super hot where you need to down a gallon of milk afterward. All along I am tasting mustard, yet I still feel like this is barbeque. I love it. Nice work Carolina!

Other thoughts: The texture of the sauce is perfect, not too thick and too runny – thanks in part to the added corn starch and xanthan gum I am sure. Easy to pour.

If you like me looking to expand your barbeque horizons you can do well for yourself buying Trader Joe’s Carolina Gold. I am going to attempt to re-create this sauce from scratch myself, since I can improve upon with homemade mustard, fresh from the garden tomatoes, carmelized onions, and roasted garlic to add more natural sweet flavors so I can use less sugar. The TJ’s sauce is a good one when you can’t make your own.

Why Buying Small Fruit Can Save California Farms Suffering from Drought

in Fruit & Vegetables

Harrow Diamond Peaches

I see ads from grocery stores advertising their JUMBO peaches or claiming they have the LARGEST apples, larger than their competition. Not only is that really meaningless to the consumer, it is exactly hurting the grower. As everyone knows by now California is suffering from a historical drought and one of the biggest suffers is the fruit growers. We as consumers have been taught that big, nice looking fruit is the best fruit. Growers have to use more water for larger fruit. Most of the time I have found that larger fruit doesn’t taste as good. All this extra water is going into making fruit that make look “better” but is inferior in flavor. I say it’s time to start, buying with our tastebuds instead of with our eyes. Our eyes have deceived us and it’s hurting our country’s farmers.

Red Haven Peaches

I recently read a story on Yahoo about a California peach grower – Masumoto family farm. They used 20% to 30% less water this year for their Gold dust peach variety. The fruit was smaller as a result, however the flavor was improved. Despite the better taste, the fruit is not selling in stores. People are passing the smaller fruit by leading to the farm to question whether they should continue growing peaches. People don’t see what they are missing. How unfortunate. The blame lies on both the consumer and the retailer.

What Consumers We Do?
Change our habits. Don’t dismiss a piece of fruit because it doesn’t look that way you think it should. I sadly watched people drool over packages of large strawberries grown on the other side of the country, while they pass by the smaller, much richer tasting strawberries grown less than an hour away. You hear “Wow, how good do those look”. I don’t want to hear that. Let’s eliminate that from our thoughts. Let’s shop for the best tasting fruit. It starts by breaking habits and not just going for the familiar. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sample before you buy – any store worth your time shopping at should be more than willing to oblige.

What Retailers Can Do?
First stop using words that describe the size of the fruit in your ads. Jumbo, large, extra large, mammoth, etc. For me when I see large premium apricots advertised, I can almost be sure the apricots are going to suck. They are going to be low on flavor and mealy. All the large apricots I find have always been bad. The best apricots I have ever had have been the ones I find at farmer’s markets and they are usually have the size of ones found at the grocery store.

Retailers also need to spend more time promoting fruit. Often fruit is left on the shelf because people aren’t familiar with it or it doesn’t look right, but it could be the tasty thing in the store. If you offer customers a sample of great tasting fruit, especially stone fruit, then they will buy, buy, and buy some more. Some effort needs to be put forth.

Cotton Candy Grapes from Mexico

in Fruit & Vegetables

Cotton Candy Grapes from Mexico

Despite our expectation that nowadays we can go to the local supermarket and buy anything no matter what time of year it is, that simply is not true. While bananas, broccoli, apples, lemons, limes, etc. may be available 24/365 that are many things that have a very short window. Some of my favorite fruits are only available a small portion of the year. Such as Cotton Candy grapes. The growers of Cotton Candy grapes, Grapery estimates their availability to be August 10 to September 20 – a small portion of the year. However that window could be widening. Grapery has licensed out some of their varieties to be grown in other countries. That is why here I am on June 25th, with a bag of Cotton Candy grapes in my fridge. These grapes are Mexico, grown by the Molina Group.

Cotton Candy Grapes from Mexico

How Do Mexican Cotton Candy Grapes Compare?
A lot of people have a negative viewpoint when it comes to Mexican grown produce. The most shocking thing is that people even reject organically grown Mexican produce that was certified organic by the USDA, the same people who certify US grown produce. I think Mexico is given a bad rap. There are a lot of things done in our country with growing produce that may be just as bad or worse than what people think is going on in Mexico (don’t forget the United States is home to Monsanto and their GMO seeds). Without Mexican produce our grocery store shelves would look a lot emptier especially in the winter months. Whatever thoughts you have about Mexican produce, let’s put them aside and just talk about these Cotton Candy grapes. This is the first season that Molina group has a commercial crop to sell. Since the vines are young and they are new to growing the variety we have to have reasonable expectations. When I tried the Mexican Cotton Candy grapes for the first time, I did have a bit of a letdown. Yes they still had that Cotton Candy flavor, but it was not consistent throughout the bag. Some grapes were even sour. Grapery CEO Jim Beagle said that this inconsistency is expected in young vines, they experienced the same when they were starting out and that he is hopeful that we will see dramatic improvements in the future. Their breeder has worked for years to establish relationship with quality growers in other countries, so Jim trusted that the Molina group will produce a quality product. If you bought the grapes and felt they weren’t as good as you remember, don’t let it change your opinion on the variety. Make sure to give the Mexican ones a chance again next year. And rest assure come early August, Grapery will have their offering ready for you!

Organic Grown Mexican Cotton Candy Grapes
Divine Flavor is also growing Cotton Candy grapes and they are certified organic by the USDA. Look out for them as well where you buy organic grapes. I have heard they were spotted at a Sprouts Farmers Market store in Huntington Beach, CA.

Cotton Candy Grapes from Other Countries
Besides Mexico several other countries will be producing Cotton Candy grapes. The following countries will produce grapes that will likely end up in the US : Chile, Peru, Mexico, and Brazil. A few other countries will produce grapes but they won’t likely end up on U.S. soil : Spain, Italy, Australia, and South Africa.

Cotton Candy Grapes from Mexico

Where To Find Mexican Cotton Candy Grapes?
They are very limited in supply right now and I don’t have any current listings of stores. It’s good to check the normal places that you have found them in year’s past as I would assume they would be more likely to carry the Mexican grown ones. I found mine at Nino Salvaggio’s in Troy, Michigan. Through facebook I have heard they were seen in Chicago, at the previously mentioned Sprouts in Huntington Beach, California

Cotton Candy Grapes From Vine to Your Store

Gnocchi with Green Garlic Pesto & Roasted Garlic Scapes

in Pasta

Green Garlic Pesto Gnocchi with Roasted Garlic Scapes

Are you a real garlic lover? The kind that can’t help but toss a clove or two any almost anything you cook. If you are, your going to love what I have in store for you today. Now, most of us when we think of garlic we either think of some light brown powder or a white papery head containing cloves of deliciousness. But there is another color that I think of when I think of garlic – and that is green! In this household we like to eat our garlic green. What am I talking about? Where they are two forms we enjoy our garlic green and it just so happens we were able to combine these two forms into the delicious recipe you will find below. What are these two forms?

Green Garlic

Green Garlic
Everyone knows what a green onion or scallion is. What about green garlic? Well this is the same principle. It is immature garlic with the greens still attached. It looks like green onions, except the greens are flat where as green onions are round and hollow in the middle. Green garlic is normally only found in the spring time when garlic growers thin out their plantings, so that they can have bigger bulbs. However this veggie can be grown just for green garlic. In fact that is what I have done this year. I planted some store bought garlic in the ground and watched it grow. Once it got to a good height – about 10 inches, I dug it up to enjoy – (you can read more about growing Green Garlic on my gardening blog, the pea project).

Garlic Scape

Garlic Scapes

Certain varieties of garlic will begin growing a flower. The flower is cut off before it can open, so the plant puts it’s energy into forming the bulb. This unopened flower is the garlic scape and it is probably the most delicious thing you can roast in your oven. It’s like eating a green bean that is packed with roasty, sweet garlic flavor inside. Check out my previous post on How to Roast Garlic Scapes. I picked up my first garlic scapes on the season at my local farmer’s market yesterday.

Roasted Garlic Scapes

Roasted Garlic Scapes

Making Green Garlic Pesto
As I was pondering what to do with my scapes and green garlic, I remembered I had some gnocchi on hand that I bought just in case I needed a quick dinner. I thought it would be fun to make pesto, but I love the scapes so much roasted, I didn’t want to “waste” them. Why not turn the green garlic I had outside into the pesto and then add in the roasted garlic scapes. Couldn’t wait to make dinner once I came up with that idea. The pesto is made up for green garlic, cilantro (also from my garden), sunflower seeds, olive oil, and salt & pepper.

Break Out the Gnocchi
I thought the perfect thing to go with the roasted scapes and garlic pesto would be gnocchi. Sure you can use any type of pasta, but potatoes and garlic are meant for each other. Plus the pillow like texture of gnocchi is a nice contrast to the caramelized scapes and smooth pesto. You can buy gnocchi already made in the store or you can make it yourself (like I did when I made my Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi).

Green Garlic Pesto Gnocchi with Roasted Garlic Scapes

 

Gnocchi with Green Garlic Pesto & Roasted Garlic Scapes
 
Ingredients
For the pesto
  • 5 stalks green or spring garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • ¼ cup to ½ cup olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
For the roasted garlic scapes
  • 10 to 15 garlic scapes
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the gnocchi
  • 2 lbs of gnocchi
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the garlic scapes on a sheet pan. Toss with oil and salt. Roast until they are brown, turning half way through, about 15 to 20 minutes.
To make the pesto
  1. While the scapes are cooking make the pesto. Roughly chop the green garlic and add to your food processor. Add the cilantro. Process until garlic and cilantro was chopped into small pieces. Add the sunflower seeds and Parmesan cheese. Process until combined, about 30 seconds. While the machine is running drizzle in ¼ cup of olive oil. If it seems too dry or lumpy, you can add a little bit more, but no more than a ¼ cup of oil more. Add in the lemon juice and process for 10 seconds to combine. Set the pesto aside.
To make the gnocchi
  1. Add gnocchi to salted boiling water. As the gnocchi rises to the surface, remove from the pot. Do this until all of the gnocchi has risen about 3 to 4 minutes. To fry the gnocchi (optional step) melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan over medium high heat. Add the gnocchi and cook until it has browned on each side. Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over top. Remove from the frying pan.
To put the final dish together
  1. Cut the garlic scapes into bite size pieces. Mix into the gnocchi. Serve with the pesto. It can be on the hot side so use sparely. Leftover pesto can be saved in the fridge.

 

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