Saturday, October 11, 2014

Trader Joe's Harvest Blend

I'm not sure that salads are really the best way to showcase pumpkins, but I was going to be buying some sort of packaged salad for a weekly dinner with Nina anyway, and this was the new and different one in the TJ's display, so I decided to give it a go.

I believe this stuff has more ingredients than any other salad I've ever bought. That list you see under "Harvest Blend" on the package is just getting started. The base is a spring mix of several lettuces, spinach, red and green chard, red and green mustard, and radicchio. Then they throw in some shredded carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. Separate packages inside the bag contain pumpkin seeds, dates and raisins, pumpkin cornbread croutons, and, finally, pumpkin vinaigrette dressing.

I was suspicious of the dressing, first because the very concept of a pumpkin vinaigrette seems dubious, and, second, because the package had a small leak. So I mixed together everything except the dressing, which I kept on the side, in case Nina decided to use her usual Newman's Own balsamic vinaigrette instead.

I decided to let the Trader Joe's people dictate the outcome for me all the way, and ventured ahead with the pumpkin dressing on mine, without taste-testing it first. Nina tasted it, definitively rejected it, and went with her usual.

In retrospect, I should have done the same. Without the dressing, the salad as a whole works well enough, though I remain unconvinced that the pumpkin flavor--in the form of seeds and the croutons--really enhances a salad. But the dressing was gawdawful. Nasty. Artificial. Overly sweetened. I doubt that its badness was attributable to the package having a small hole in it; my guess is that the sugar and salt content is high enough to retard any significant microbial growth.

I've subsequently had the salad with one of my usual dressings, and it's fine. Not one of the best ever, but solidly in the broad "average" zone of packaged salads.

Will I buy it again? 

As a novelty, I think once a year will be enough. I hope, though, that next year I remember to make the first step in preparation to throw away the packet of dressing before I do something foolish with it--like putting it on the salad.

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