Sunday, December 9, 2012

there was a little girl

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

That poem, composed by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow while trying to quiet a daughter for sleep, is a perfect narrative for my relationship with Trader Joe's.  Well, the Trader Joe's in Philadelphia, anyway.

I love Trader Joe's for a few reasons.  First (and possibly most importantly), they have an amazing 10-grain bread that makes amazing toast (it gets all crispy and chewy in the best possible way) and even Mister likes it.  I bought the multigrain bread at Whole Foods for years before he told me he didn't like it.  Second, and also important, is that I usually save a ton of money buying produce there, rather than Whole Foods.  Let's compare: $0.69 for a red bell pepper (when they're in season) versus $4.99/lb (meaning the average pepper is over $2).  $0.39 for a potato versus the seeming bargain of $1.99/lb.  You get the idea.  Finally, they have the most palatably store-brand soymilk.

So what's horrid?  Ever trying to shop quickly.  Which can be important to me.  Also, ever trying to shop between 5 and 6 pm.  It doesn't matter if it's a weekday or a weekend - trying to shop at that hour is maddening.  The lines literally run halfway down every aisle and I'll be in line longer than it takes to shop.  Also, since their low prices do rely on seasonal produce, they don't always have stock of what I want, where I know Whole Foods almost always will (even if it's $8 asparagus).  This is not a bad thing, per se, but when it's already inconvenient to go there (on the other side of town completely), I want to get as much as I can to make it worth the effort.

One thing they're hit and miss on is arugula.  This week, it was a miss, so I ended up with fresh baby spinach, even though I have two bags of frozen spinach in my freezer.  Why the hunt for arugula?

Pasta Della California from Veganomicon had cried out to be made one last time before I do a snow dance and hunker down with a wintery menu of stews and chilis and other impossibly hearty things to be cooked slowly and to warm my innards from head to toe (or... at least my belly).

When Mister and I were shopping at Superfresh last week, I saw a surprising thing for December - a sale on Haas Avocados!  So I gently poked a few, trying to find a ripe one.... then took one that looked a good size and let it ripen on my counter the last few days.  It is so rare to find avocados for less than a dollar here in Philadelphia (not exactly prime avocado-growing climate), I couldn't resist the urge for a flavor and texture that always brings me happy memories.

Failing to find arugula, I opted for a slightly easier-to-eat green and honestly, I may always make it this way now - it was really good with the baby spinach and its silkier texture.  It seemed a better match for the nice squishy, creamy avocado.  The arugula provides a bitter foil for that creaminess and it works, but this was so good even Mister commented on the flavor.

So, with this last delightful dish (before I continue pressuring my friend to go to El Vez for their unbelievable guacamole and delicious margaritas via facebook chat), I bid farewell to the last gasp of warm days in December and look forward to some snowy weather....

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