If my shopping cart can be counted as a case study, I think it’s safe to say that Trader Joe’s makes most of their money on impulse purchases. “Yes, I did need some new kitchen towels,” “I wonder what this would taste like on popcorn,” and “I deserve a mood odyssey!” are all pretty standard examples of what goes through my little head while I stroll their aisles. I usually end up buying at least three things I did not intend to, which is how I recently ended up with a jar of their Sweet & Savory Tomato Spread.
I wish I could say I was delighted with it. The spread—which is basically tomato jam—is advertised as a “tasty savory counterpoint to cheese and cold cuts or to accompany roasted meats & vegetables,” but it’s not savory at all. It is sweet, almost cloyingly so, with no discernible salt and not nearly enough acid. It’s jammy, but not in a good way, and the overwhelming amount of sugar obscures any brightness you might hope to find in a tomato-based product.
That does not mean it is completely useless—it’s not bad when paired with an aggressively sharp cheese or a charred piece of super salty meat—but it’s best when combined with lots of acid, pungent mustard, and/or ethanol. These ingredients subdue the syrupy sweetness, letting the tomato breathe and shine. Here are my three favorite ways to use TJ’s tomato spread, particularly if—like me—you don’t like it all that much.
Make a cocktail
I am no stranger to jam cocktails, but my usual ratio of 2 ounces booze, 3 tablespoons of jam, and 1/2 an ounce of lemon juice didn’t hit quite right with this particular spread. The cocktail I made with those measurements was—much like myself—far too thick and sweet. Luckily, this was easily fixed: I decreased the jam and increased the vodka and lemon to make a fresh, sweet, tangy cocktail that tasted like it came from the garden. To make it, you will need:
- 2 1/2 ounces vodka
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Trader Joe’s Sweet & Tangy Tomato Spread
- 3/4 ounces fresh lemon juice
Add everything to an empty cocktail shaker and shake to dissolve the jam. Add ice, and shake again to chill. Double strain through a sieve into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry tomato if you have it.
Whip up a vinaigrette
Though the spread is not as “sweet & tangy” as it claims to be, you can fix that with a bunch of apple cider vinegar. This dressing is cheerful, zippy, and absolutely perfect on a crunchy, carrot-heavy slaw. To make it, you will need:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons Trader Joe’s Sweet & Tangy Tomato Spread
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Add everything to a jar, close the lid, and shake until the dressing is emulsified. Pour on top of a pile of raw plant bits.
Glaze some meat
Mixing half a cup of jam with a quarter cup of mustard makes a really excellent glaze for roasted meat—this is one instance where this spread’s candy-like flavor is a benefit. Just mix the two ingredients together— (I would use a very pungent mustard here) and brush on some chicken, pork, or lamb before roasting. I’m particularly fond of it on chicken.