Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Another great seafood lunch on Maywood's charming main street

Soft-shell crabs and fresh trout on ice, above and below, at Seafood Gourmet, the Maywood fish market and restaurant where you can order just about anything you see served to you in the dining room.


Maywood's downtown is not only pleasant to visit. 

The main street is called West Pleasant Avenue.

That's where you'll find Seafood Gourmet, the market and restaurant that keeps your fish or other selection fresh on ice until you order it for lunch or dinner.

On Monday, I met a friend for lunch there, then strolled along the main street, where parking is free, and stopped at Maywood's Marketplace, one of the best independent supermarkets around.

Grilled Wild Salmon Miso with Jasmine Rice and Bok Choy was one of the specials on Monday ($14.99).

My friend ordered another special, Southern Fried Catfish with Black Beans and Yellow Rice ($12.99), and picked up the check.

From simple to sophisticated

The kitchen at Seafood Gourmet can prepare your selection simply broiled with steamed vegetables, but also offers sophisticated specials, such as the wild salmon with a miso glaze I ordered.

I tasted my friend's catfish, which was coated in corn meal before frying, and it was moist and delicious.

The cook shows restraint in adding salt and other seasoning, a nod to the many older customers who patronize the restaurant.

The small dining room can get noisy when full, as it was on Monday afternoon.

Other specials on Monday were an entree of Crabmeat Stuffed Calamari, simmered in a Blue Crab tomato sauce ($13.99); and an appetizer of Prince Edward Island Mussels steamed with beer and jalapeno peppers ($9.99)

Twin Door Tavern at 122 W. Pleasant Ave. is offering an Oktoberfest menu.

Maywood's Marketplace is an independent supermarket that may remind you of Cafasso's Fairway Market in Fort Lee. I bought five ears of fresh sweet corn for $1.99.

At Maywood's Marketplace, there is plenty of opportunity to say "cheese."

The deli counter.

Seafood Gourmet, 103 W. Pleasant Ave., Maywood; 201-843-8558. Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Sundays. BYO, free street parking, Web site. 

With only 38 seats in the dining room, reservations are recommended for dinner.

Maywood's Marketplace, 78 W. Pleasant Ave., Maywood; 201-843-8361. Open 7 days from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Web site.

Monday, September 29, 2014

ShopRite makes you stoop for deals on 100% whole-wheat pasta

DeCecco 100% Whole Wheat Pasta from Italy is on sale this week at ShopRite in Englewood, but the boxes are only 13.25 ounces, not a full pound. They are displayed at eye level. A much better deal can be found on the bottom shelf -- 16-ounce bags of Luigi Vitelli-brand organic 100% whole-wheat pasta, also from Italy, for only $1.19, below. The better buy also is non-GMO.

The ShopRite in Paramus also displays this Luigi Vitelli-brand organic whole-wheat pasta on the bottom shelf. I've read that food companies pay supermarkets to place their products on higher shelves to better catch the attention of shoppers.

Editor's note: The best deals in the supermarket aren't always easy to find. Also today, I discuss ShopRite stores north of Trenton selling 100% grass-fed Australian beef at a hefty discount, only $5.99 a pound.


ShopRite in Englewood and other supermarkets may be inadvertently discriminating against seniors by placing better buys on hard-to-reach bottom shelves.

That certainly seemed to be the case today at the Englewood ShopRite, where I stopped for a few items after running an errand.

I've switched to 100% whole-wheat pasta, which has more fiber and less carbs than conventional pasta, but the only real bargains in Englewood are on ShopRite's bottom shelf.

Displayed prominently at eye level were 13.25-ounce boxes of DeCecco 100% Whole Wheat Fusilli and Penne Rigate from Italy, on sale for $1.99.

Compare that to Trader Joe's and Whole Food Markets, both of which sell organic versions of 100% whole-wheat pasta for $1.39 for a full pound.

There is no indication on the DeCecco box that these pastas are non-GMO. But when made from organic whole wheat, the resulting pasta is non-GMO. 

ShopRite also has an organic version from Luigi Vitelli, but you'll have to stoop to pick up the 1-pound package from off of the bottom shelf, where it is on sale this week for $1.19 -- 80 cents less than non-organic in a smaller box.

Non-organic Gia Russa-brand 100% Whole Wheat Spaghetti is no bargain, when compared to organic versions sold for $1.39 at Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's

Smart Balance spreads are also on sale with the store card at the Englewood ShopRite this week, and all versions are non-GMO. For the lowest total fat and saturated fat, go for the 15-ounce Smart Balance Light with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, above center.

Beef from Australia
A couple of weeks ago, I bought a Nature's Reserve 100% Grass Fed Whole Beef Tenderloin for Filet Mignon from Australia on sale for $8.99 a pound, and reported that ShopRite's deep discounts were no more.

But the ShopRite flier that came with the Sunday newspaper has the same beef on sale this week for only $5.99 a pound with the store card.

I plan to go to my Paramus ShopRite to take advantage of the rare deep discount.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

After years of pleasing diners, Lotus Cafe's congenial host retires

Leafy, crunchy and bright green, Chinese Broccoli with Fresh Garlic at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack may be the perfect vegetable dish.


Philip Su, who greeted us, seated us and satisfied us with wonderful Chinese dishes at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack for more than 15 years, has retired.

Mr. Su, who was born in Taiwan, and wife Tracy opened Lotus Cafe in a Hackensack Avenue shopping center in 1993.

On Saturday night, we had dinner at the restaurant, and I expected to see the congenial, well-dressed host in his usual place, standing at the front counter to welcome us. 

We had a nice meal of soup, noodles, shrimp and a vegetable, and on the way out, I asked about him, only to learn he had retired on Aug. 31.

Prawns in Chili Sauce is marked on the menu as spicy ($16.95), but don't expect the fire of Korean or Thai dishes.

Instead of white or brown rice, we ordered Chow Fun with Vegetables ($8.95), a dish made with broad rice noodles.

Make it 'light'

Chinese food can be very salty, because of the heavy reliance on soy sauce.

We return repeatedly to Lotus Cafe, where we know the owners and most of the waiters, who suggest dishes new to us and customize our order.

I ordered Chinese Broccoli with "fresh garlic" to avoid the sodium in oyster sauce, and our waiter agreed to ask the kitchen to make us a "light" version of Prawns in Chili Sauce.

We had plenty to eat, and took home leftover shrimp, broccoli and noodles.

Price-fixed and banquet menu

In addition to an extensive a la carte menu, Lotus Cafe serves price-fixed dinner for four to eight people, and banquets for 10 to 12 diners -- all excellent values.

On Saturday night, I saw four Japanese couples with two six-packs of beer ordering Dinner for Eight, a 10-course meal for $160, plus tax and tip.

The meal includes soup; beef, pork, chicken and seafood entrees; a vegetable, noodles and dessert.

Seafood Soup for Two has tender squid, scallop, shrimp, fish cake and crisp vegetables swimming in a tasty broth ($7.50), above and below.

The tastefully furnished dining room of the BYO, above and below.

Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., Home Depot Shopping Center, Hackensack; 201-488-7070. Open 7 days, BYO, large parking lot.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Here is why you should never, ever put salt in your pasta water

There is plenty of sodium in my organic whole-wheat shells with canned sardines and anchovies -- in the bottled sauce and canned fish I use, and in the grated sheep's milk cheese I sprinkle on before I eat it. So, there is absolutely no reason to add salt to the water I boil to cook the pasta, above. Nor do I use gallons of water; enough water to cover the dried pasta works fine.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss making pasta without salting the water and the appeal of comfort foods at every meal, and provide an update on a shortage of Christopher Ranch garlic at Costco Wholesale. 


I'm here to ignore decades of advice from Italy, instructions on the box and American chefs on adding salt to the water I boil for cooking dried pasta.

And while I'm at it, don't waste water. You don't need the several gallons of water called for on the package when you are making spaghetti or other pasta.

Usually, as with the pound of shells I prepared on Thursday night, water to cover the dried pasta is enough.

Adam Weiss, a 37-year-old Ridgewood chef who thinks he will live forever, was quoted in the paper the other day on his "simplest tip for improving home cooking."

"When a box of pasta tells you to put one teaspoon in for a gallon of water, no! It has to be salted like the ocean because ... you want the salt to adhere to the pasta," Weiss claims.

"I use a quarter to half a cup."


Take sodium out

I certainly don't want to add salt, because every time I prepare shells with canned sardines, anchovies and capers in bottled pasta sauce, I try to reduce the sodium of the dish.

I drain the anchovies and rinse them under the faucet. 

The two to three cans of Moroccan Sardines with Tomato Sauce that go into the sauce I use have the lowest amount of sodium of the three varieties sold at Fattal's in Paterson (99 cents a can).

I also rinse the capers under the faucet.

Bottled pasta sauce contains a lot of sodium. 

I use Kirkland Signature Marinara, sold in 32-ounce bottles at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, adding several ounces of red wine and extra-virgin olive oil, plus red-pepper flakes, dried Italian seasoning, powdered or fresh garlic and black pepper.

There is more sodium in Pecorino Romano, a grated sheep's milk cheese from Italy sold at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, where I get most of the ingredients for the dish.

The organic whole-wheat shells from Italy are sold at Whole Food Market in Paramus for $1.39 (1-pound box).

Adjust cooking time

If you buy the 365 Everyday Value Organic Whole Wheat Shells from Whole Foods, be sure to adjust the recommended cooking time (14-15 minutes) to 10-11 minutes.

The box recommends five quarts of water and "a pinch of salt," if you use the entire pound.

Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Capellini also recommends using five quarts of water, but calls for one tablespoon of salt and a cooking time of 3 minutes. 

I usually drain the pasta a little early, add it to the sauce, which I prepare in a large, non-stick pan; combine them well and cook them with the cover on for a couple of minutes to combine flavors.

Other sauces

I've followed the no-salt rule even when I don't use sodium-laden bottled pasta sauce.

When I made my own pesto sauce, using a blender recipe from the late Marcella Hazan, I eliminated the teaspoons of salt she called for, knowing there was plenty of sodium in a chief ingredient -- a half-cup plus two tablespoons of grated Pecorino Romano Cheese.

I also eliminated the butter she used.

Now, I buy Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco Wholesale and add nothing but the sauce to whole-wheat pappardelle or other pasta.

Costco's pesto contains 26% of your recommended intake of sodium in a quarter-cup serving, so adding salt to the pasta water would be foolhardy.

Organic Whole-Wheat Shells with Sardines, Anchovies, Capers and Pine Nuts is a comforting dish for dinner, above, or for breakfast with an egg-white omelet stuffed with reduced-fat sliced Swiss cheese and Mexican green salsa, below.

After plating and heating up the leftover shells in the microwave, I drizzle on extra-virgin olive oil.

Another comfort dish, mashed sweet potatoes and kabocha squash with extra-virgin olive oil, is a great foundation for two organic eggs sunny side up with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese from Costco, and Aleppo pepper and za'atar thyme mixture from Fattal's in Paterson.

Grilled wild Canadian sockeye salmon, $8.99 a pound at Costco, and mashed sweet potatoes and squash are delicious accented with bottled Mexican green salsa, above and below. Medium-hot green salsas are available at Hackensack Market, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, Target, ShopRite and other stores.

The salmon spends 8 minutes on a grill pan over medium to medium-high heat, turned once, for medium rare, and 10 minutes for cooked through, and continues to cook when the pan is taken off the heat.

Christopher Ranch garlic

I just got a return call from customer service at Christopher Ranch, which supplies garlic to Costco Wholesale.

On my last trip, the Hackensack warehouse store was out of the refrigerated 3-pound bag of peeled California garlic, which I use with pasta, rice, egg, mashed sweet potatoes and other dishes.

The woman says Christopher Ranch has been unable to keep up with the demand from Costco members, and also supply the other stores that sell its garlic.

The shortage at my Hackensack warehouse store isn't related to the drought in California.

A 3-pound bag of peeled Christopher Ranch Monviso Garlic is only $5.99 at Costco.

Peeled California garlic from Christopher Ranch makes it easy -- perhaps too easy -- to add this healthy ingredient to home-cooked meals, including boiling it with sweet potatoes before mashing, below. Better too much garlic than too much salt.