Trader Joe's Pantry Essential: Red Pepper Spread

I am a die hard make-it-from-scratch cook for dinner parties. I'll take the extra step to make even the most basic foods myself -- hand-rolled tortillas, homemade caramel, pie crusts, and everything in between. Although these details make a difference to me, I've learned that cutting a few corners never breaks a party. Tip number one: Trader Joe's red pepper spread.I discovered this spread while browsing the aisles at Trader Joe's and was drawn to its neon bright shade of orange-red. It looked similar to the romesco sauce I had made to accompany lamb burgers at a recent dinner party. The sauce I thought would take five minutes to create, and which actually took me much longer due to my insistence on roasting my own peppers.

I walked a few laps around the store before deciding to spend the $1.99 to taste it. Opening the jar I had reservations; would using this spread diminish the effort I put into my meal? Not at all.

The spread is so complete it feels a little like cheating, but more like getting a free hour on your parking meter than speeding through a stop sign. More spicy than the romesco sauce I had used on my lamb burgers, it could easily sit in for the real thing in a pinch. The chunks of roasted red pepper are only the beginning; the eggplant and garlic round out the spread and the spicy kick adds another level of flavor. It's great as an appetizer with goat cheese or as a base for a mozzarella and basil pannini.

What's your favorite culinary shortcut? Have you tried Trader Joe's red pepper spread?

Related: Trader Joe's Pantry Staples: What Are Your Favorites?

(Image: Stephanie Barlow

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