I don’t know who has been to Trader Joe’s yet on 14th street, just spitting distance from Whole Foods, but there is a miracle happening over there. Stuff is flying off the shelves so fast that it looked like there was either a massive weather system coming that nobody told me about, or a truck strike. It’s amazing the patience New Yorkers will muster up to stand in line when they want something. You can go out of business making somebody wait more than 26 seconds for a milked and sugared coffee and a bagel with cream cheese, but for good, cheap groceries, people didn’t seem bothered at all about possibly missing whatever was next on their schedule.
They don’t have everything, but they have a lot. I normally stand in front of the little tiny lettuce leaf section of a grocery store saying, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? $4.99 FOR TWELVE LEAVES OF LETTUCE?” At Trader Joe’s I was quiet as a mouse, throwing $1.99 bags of mixed field greens into my basket as fast as I could get them in there.
There is a definite avocado overtone to the place, which made me want to make one of my favorite sauces, avocado and tomatillos. Serve it with seared salmon and a warm salad of roasted corn, shallots, new potatoes, and toasted pumpkin seeds, with a lemony vinaigrette, and some cheap field greens.
The sauce couldn’t be easier. One part avocado to one part tomatillo. Put them in the blender with some salt and some lime juice. Taste for more lime or salt, and it’s done.
Heat up a heavy saute pan, drizzle with olive oil, add a piece of shallot and some parsley leaves, and then fillets of salmon that you have seasoned with a little salt on both sides. Not too much. Fish is delicate, and if you over season it, you miss the flavor. The most important thing is make sure the fish has been swimming recently. You want plenty of room between each piece of fish in the pan. Wait until the flesh goes a bit opaque around the bottom sides to touch it, and then flip. You cook salmon, until it is still a little pink in the center. Remove from the pan, and serve. These are fine rooom temperature, so it’s a good thing to make if you don’t know what time anyone is coming home for dinner, or if they just aren’t as dependable as they should be about sitting down at the table.
For the salad, roast the corn on sheet pan with a little olive oil and salt at 400 degrees, and the onions and potatoes on another sheet pan, with olive oil and salt. A little red pepper, chopped up and roasted with the corn, is nice as well. Toast the pepitas (pumpkin seeds) in a frying pan for a minute, and then when everything is ready, toss together with a little lemon, or lime juice, and some of the best olive oil you can find. Taste for salt and pepper.
We have no grocery stores, counting none, in my neighborhood. It got a little embarassing (for the other customers in line) when I wouldn’t let up to no one in particular about how Trader Joe’s could go one step further and remember the have nots in Queens by opening up a partner ranch in Long Island City. It’s hard enough to make dinner every night. To make dinner from what the deli has to offer can become a battle lost.