With basket in hand, I walked into the Hollywood Trader Joe’s in NE Portland. I took a deep breath and looked around at my surroundings. To be over-dramatic, I would say it was like Mecca, a pilgrimage for my poor, provincial palatte. To be sincere, it was just nice to have more options.
There were rows upon rows of packaged goods — sauces to my delight of every imaginable flavor for tofu: curry? peanut sauce? even barbeque?, boxes of cereal, varieties of granola, and whole bean coffee. “Crew Members” handed out free samples. Guess who immediately bought a jar of “Green Juice”? Yep. I was sold. And, the produce. Basil, spinach, tomatoes: ah lovely, fragrant and flavorful. As I walked down the aisle of nuts and dried fruit, I threw bags and bags in my basket — golden raisins, figs, dried plums (Okay, prunes), cashews, walnuts, almonds. They were all there, and they were waiting for me.
One of the delights of TJ’s is that you get stuff, good stuff, cheap stuff. Of course, when you can only get to a TJ’s once every three months, you don’t really notice the deals. Such was the case for me, but it was all worth. On that Sunday morning, I wandered through the aisle, with a purpose, but not too much of a focus.
Another objective, aside from stocking my pantry, was to get food for a late brunch before heading south — in the rain. J, D, and I had been out late celebrating J’s entry into her third decade, and let’s just say we weren’t exactly on the top of our game. J is an exceptional sleeper, prizewinning, I daresay.
As a result, we’d had a late start in our quest for a Portlandia brunch and rather than wait in lines at various breakfasty hotspots(in the rain), we decided to dash through TJ’s for food and prepare in their new home.
Sad to say, by the time we made it home, I did not have desire to cook up a vegan omlette and had, instead, peanut butter toast with honey and bananas to accompany my 32 oz of coffee (I wish I were exaggerating…and I wonder why I can’t beat this cold!) As a result, that means I made it home with a lot of fresh spinach and basil. It would be a shame to see those bright colorful leaves lose their festive color and vibrance, so I decided I would try to make my own version of pesto.
I’ve never made pesto, but I’ve seen it prepped several times on the food network. It looks easy enough.
Spinach & Basil Pesto: In a food processor, combine until smooth, 4 oz of fresh basil, 3 handfuls of fresh baby spinach, 4-5 cloves of garlic, and 1 cup of walnuts. Actually, I added them one at a time, rather than all at once. Once that was fully combined, I then added 1/3 cup of olive oil as the food processor was, well, processing. I next salted it to my liking. I have to admit, I’m quite proud of this concoction, and also being honest, I don’t miss the Parmesan!
Because this pesto packs a lot of healthy “superfoods” but not a lot of protein, I decided to use a little tofu to up the nutritional content. Preparing tofu is a little tricky, but I’ve found that it’s best to boil it for 10-12 minutes to release the excess water. Without the water, it can absorb more of the flavors — one of the hallmarks of tofu afterall!
I had boiled the tofu earlier, so I had some hanging around — ready to be added to marinara sauce or a stir-fry at a moment’s notice. Because I had some fresh tomatoes on hand and had bought some mini french bread bagettes, I had a spark of inspiration. The spinach, basil, tomato, tofu sandwich was born.