Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fattal's falafel, Corrado's 2-for-$10 wines, wild salmon medley and more

One of my favorite dishes growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., was my Syrian Jewish mother's okra, which she prepared with tomatoes and a tamarind sauce. Okra was the meal of the day on Thursday in the cafe at Fattal's in Paterson.   

Syrian butcher, baker, grocer, jeweler and falafel maker -- Fattal's in the South Paterson section of Paterson is all of that and more. One big plus is that the store is set back in a spacious parking lot.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The quickest way to get into an argument with the head cook in the Syrian cafe at Fattal's is to ask whether he ever makes his falafel only with fava beans.

"That's how the Egyptians make it," I said on Thursday, referring to the wonderful  ta'amia (falafel) I enjoyed many years ago on a trip to Cairo.

"And that's how my mother, who was from Aleppo, used to make it."

"I'm from Aleppo, too," the cook said firmly, adding that using only fava beans produces a falafel that is too dark inside.

So, I ordered nine falafels to go, and looking at the takeout menu later, I saw he grinds both chickpeas and fava beans with parsley, garlic and spices before frying them.

Fattal's falafel are sold in threes for a little over 40 cents each.

They are bigger, lighter and tastier than the falafel from Salah Edin, a Middle Eastern restaurant on the next block, where a bag of five falafel are only $1.

Fattal's falafel also reheats better at home.

The menu in Fatal's cafe resembles that of a full-service restaurant. 

Syrian-style pies with za'atar and other toppings, sandwiches, salads, soup, hot appetizers and a meal of the day are available for takeout or to eat there.

In Fattal's grocery section, I picked up 20 cans of Al Shark-brand Moroccan Sardines in Tomato Sauce (99 cents each), and a half-dozen large Spinach and Cheese Pies ($8.99).

From the spice counter, I got a small container of za'atar, a dried thyme mixture ($5.99 a pound), and a larger one of crushed Aleppo red pepper ($6.99 a pound). 


Crushed red Aleppo pepper from Fattal's ($6.99 a pound) provides a mildly spicy accent on egg and fish dishes, hummus and so much more.

On Friday, I threw together falafel sandwiches at home with Fatal's pocket bread and hummus from a can, adding garlic, lime juice, extra-virgin olive oil and ground cumin.

Details

Fattal's, 975 Main St., Paterson; 1-973-742-7125. Open 7 days, Syrian cafe, parking lot.

Corrado's Family Affair is a large, full-service ethnic supermarket near the Clifton-Paterson border once known for low prices.

Red, white and sparkling wines from Italy and France were 2 for $10 in Corrado's liquor store. I bought six bottles of red wine, including a ventoux from France.

Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli and Rigatoni from Italy were $1.69 each at Corrado's (16 ounces) -- 40 cents more than at ShopRite in Paramus.

That's a good price, but Corrado's Tomato Basil and Arrabiata Pasta Sauces both contain added sugar.

A pint of blueberries from Argentina was $3.99. I did find peaches for 99 cents a pound, my only purchase besides wine.

Among the non-food items at Corrado's are these rugs, which were displayed outside.

Details

Corrado's Family Affair, 1578 Main Ave., Clifton; 1-973-340-0628. Open 7 days. Website: Corrado's


A medley of fresh wild coho salmon I prepared at home with a fillet from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro ($9.99 a pound) includes chopped kale, cherry tomatoes, pitted black olives and grated cheese.

I grilled the salmon skin side down on the stove top for 4 minutes before placing the serving pieces in a large pan that held the other ingredients, a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lime juice and seasonings. The medley was ready after 7 minutes in a preheated 400-degree oven.

You can buy a ready-to-cook fish-and-vegetable medley, marinated Icelandic fish and prepared seafood at The Fish Dock, 219A Closter Dock Road in Closter (1-201-564-7939; closed Sundays and Mondays). Here, I had leftovers of my wild salmon medley with organic brown rice and oven-roasted sweet green peppers from our garden.
A 2-pound bag of pre-washed Chopped Kale was only $3.89 at the Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack.

This much kale with Costco's Organic No-Salt Seasoning (21 spices and other ingredients from around the world), sauteed in olive and sesame oils in a 10-inch nonstick pan ...

... produces this much kale as a side dish.

Also at the Costco Business Center, 80 S. River St. in Hackensack, I found a package of frozen Alaskan Pollock Burgers, which join a longtime favorite, Alsakan Salmon Burgers. The pollock burgers also are made from fillets of wild-caught fish, according to the Trident Seafood Corp. A dozen salmon burgers were $13.99 and a dozen pollock burgers were $11.49.

The ingredients of the Alaskan Pollock Burger includes 2% or less of sugar. I cooked one in the oven and slipped the burger into a warm Fattal's pocket bread with salad greens, tomato and Dijon mustard. Just wonderful.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Whenever you go food shopping, keep in mind GMOs are a big no-no

Look for this seal on packaging, if you want to avoid GMOs --genetically modified organisms -- in organic and non-organic food.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Millions of words have been written about genetically modified organisms in food, but many consumers still are in the dark about the dangers GMOs pose to them and the environment.

That's why it's important to buy organic or to look for the seal of the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit "committed to building and preserving sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers and providing verified non-GMO choices."

I've learned crops raised with genetically modified seeds involve the heavy use of pesticides and chemicals that are harmful to humans, as well as to farmland and the water supply.

Buying 100% organic, certified organic and USDA organic-labeled products is usually the easiest way to identify and avoid genetically modified ingredients. 

The U.S. and Canadian governments do not allow companies to label products "100%/ certified organic," if they contain genetically modified foods.

Still, the United States is not among the 61 countries that already have mandatory labeling of food with genetically engineered ingredients.




"The GMO Deception" is a book available online that promises to tell you "what you need to know about the food, corporations and government agencies putting our families and our environment at risk."

See the chart from the Non-GMO Project at the end of this post for other information on the battle against genetically modified seed and food.


Described as a GMO film thriller, "Consumed" is available on Netflix.

Dole 100% Pineapple Juice from the Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack is labeled "NON GMO" by the company. The metal cans also are BPA free.

Lundberg Organic Brown Long Grain Rice carries the seal of the Non-GMO Project. The California-grown rice is available on Amazon.com.

Organic baby spinach and organic spring mix, above and below, are sold at Costco Wholesale.


Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli or spirals and other shapes are available at ShopRite in Paramus.

Two dozen organic eggs from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro are only $6.99.



Monday, September 19, 2016

We play one little fishie, two little fishies at BCD Tofu House in Fort Lee

At BCD Tofu House in Fort Lee, my wife and me received complimentary side dishes and two battered and fried yellow croakers after we placed our order for beef and seafood soft-tofu soups.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Fans of soft-tofu soup with steamed rice and side dishes -- one of the most comforting Korean meals -- have no shortage of choices in Fort Lee and Palisades Park.

But BCD Tofu House stands out by offering organic tofu and a beautifully fried yellow croaker as one of the complimentary sides.

On Saturday night, we ordered soft-tofu soups and asked for two extra yellow croakers ($1 each).

A few minutes later, a server returned, placing six complimentary side dishes and two croakers between us.

Our last visit to BCD Tofu House was in May 2015, so we wondered whether these were the extra croakers or the complimentary ones served with our meal?

We asked a second server, and he brought us another croaker, but I still wasn't satisfied.

After we paid the bill, I asked the woman at the register, and she said one croaker is served with each tofu soup, so she gave us a fourth croaker in a takeout container.

Pay more, get more

BCD Tofu House charges $12.99 for a complete organic soft-tofu dinner, compared to $9.99 at So Gong Dong in Palisades Park, our go-to place for many years.

Still, besides organic tofu, you get more side dishes at BCD Tofu House -- cabbage kimchi, pickled cucumber slices, seaweed, green peppers with shredded beef, boiled greens, spicy raw squid and a delectable whole little fish.

You can get seconds of all the side dishes but the fish just be asking.

My wife especially liked BCD's soft tofu or soondubu because it wasn't as salty as the version served at So Gong Dong.


My delicious Seafood Soondubu was brought to the table with a rolling boil that poached fresh eggs provided with the meal. My soup contained oysters, shrimp, small clams and a large mussel. The soft-boiled yolks were wonderful when broken and eaten over steamed white rice. Servers will put hot tea into the second stone bowl to loosen the crunchy rice crust, unless you tell them otherwise.

We finished two plates of the complimentary cabbage kimchi.

Spicy raw squid.

Shredded beef with green peppers.

A flat-screen TV in the front dining room allows parents to keep an eye on their children in a playroom, but the screams of those who misbehave come through loud and clear to other customers.

BCD Tofu House offers 11 versions of soft-tofu soup.

The easy to miss entrance in the Fort Lee Towne Center mall.

Details

BCD Tofu House, 1640 Schlosser St., Fort Lee; 201-944-2340. Serves alcohol, open 7 days, free parking in lot and garage. Go early to avoid lines.

Photo of Seafood Soondubu on Website doesn't match what's served in Fort Lee. Branches are in New York, Los Angeles area, Seoul and Tokyo.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A late-summer bounty of wild salmon, tomatoes, peaches and more

Grilled fresh wild sockeye salmon from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro ($9.99 a pound), in a thick sauce of Salsa Roja from Whole Foods Market, Costco's organic diced tomatoes and fresh lime juice. A 2.3-pound fillet fed four with leftovers at a cost of less than $6 a person.

Using spray oil on a grill pan that straddles two burners on the top of our stove, I cooked seven serving pieces of the wild salmon over medium-high heat for 6 minutes to 8 minutes,  turning them once.

I plated all of the salmon, added the sauce and ate mine with leftover organic quinoa prepared in an electric cooker with cherry tomatoes from our garden, organic black beans and peeled garlic cloves.
We pick the cherry tomatoes when they are still green and let them ripen on the kitchen counter.

A box of large mangoes from Brazil was $8.99 last Sunday at H Mart in Little Ferry.

This morning, I made a simple 10-inch frittata with egg whites, plenty of grated cheese, cherry tomatoes, store-bought Romana Tomatoes, red-pepper flakes, Costco's Organic No-Salt Seasoning and dried mint.

Large South Jersey peaches from Costco (6 pounds for $7.99) started rotting on the kitchen counter two days after my wife brought them home, so I refrigerated them overnight, then trimmed and grilled them on the stove top to eat with eggs or fish.
Red snappers weighing 3 pounds to 4 pounds were on sale for $6.99 a pound last Sunday at H Mart in Little Ferry. My wife seasoned the cleaned whole fish, stuffed it with fresh okra, wrapped it in aluminum foil and baked it in the oven at 375 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

A breakfast of Eggs in a Bowl, fried sweet plantains and a Spinach Empanada from Fusion Empanada, 838 Main St., Hackensack (1-201-880-9800).

For Eggs in a Bowl, my wife broke two whole organic eggs into an oven-proof bowl, seasoned them and added sweet pepper, onion and cherry tomatoes before baking them until the mixture browned on top.

My wife reheated two baked Shrimp Empanadas, one Lobster Empanada and one Spinach Empanada she picked up the day before ($3 for spinach, $3.50 for lobster or shrimp, including dipping sauces).

For a great side dish at any meal, I saute Earthbound Farm's Deep Green Blend of Organic Baby Kale, Chard and Spinach in olive and sesame oils, a little cheap sake and Costco's Organic No-Salt Seasoning, a blend of 21 spices and other ingredients. 

A 1.5-pound bag of the Deep Green Blend was $4.99 at the Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack.

-- VICTOR E. SASSON

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Big plates of food, early bird discount for cash at Giovanni's Restaurant

Filet of Sole alla Tagame at Giovanni's Restaurant in Elmwood Park is made with black olives, tomatoes, garlic, marsala wine and balsamic vinegar, and served with pasta or potatoes and vegetables, above.

Gamberi alla Scampi are large shrimp sauteed in a sherry garlic sauce over linguine or capellini.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

New Jersey may have more Italian-American restaurants than any other kind, but that doesn't make it any easier to find a good one.

Our last favorite BYO for moderately priced salads, pasta and fish, Bocconi Restaurant in Hackensack, closed suddenly last October.

On Saturday, in our search for a replacement, we returned to Giovanni's Restaurant, a storefront in Elmwood Park, where we ate twice before many years ago.

I noticed the long, rectangular dining room had been renovated and, when we got the menu, a three-course early bird dinner special at a discounted cash price of $14.95 per person.

You have a choice of eight appetizers (plus a salad) and 23 entrees (with pasta or potato and vegetable), and you also get coffee or tea and dessert.

That sounds like a great deal for a lot of food, but we decided to order one of the moderately priced a la carte entrees, which come with a side salad (all but one under $20). 

Enough for 2

Filet of Sole is available francese or broiled, but I asked whether the kitchen could prepare the fillets alla Tagame, the style listed for broiled salmon ($19.50 each).

There was enough white, flaky fish for two in marsala wine and balsamic vinegar, plus potatoes and mixed vegetables -- a perfect one-dish meal.

My mother-in-law ordered the Filleto di Salmon alla Tagame, and my wife had Gamberi alla Scampi, large shrimp in a rich sherry garlic sauce over linguine ($18.50).

She couldn't finish the al dente pasta, which I sampled, but I'd like to see this dish made with less sauce.

I loved my food, and we plan to return to Giovanni's when we're in the mood for Italian again.


When you ask for anchovies with the Cesare Romana side salad, you actually get anchovies.

Sweet green pepper sections cooked in balsamic vinegar come with the warm, crusty bread.

The Early Dinner Menu is served from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The dining room at Giovanni's in Elmwood Park.

Details

Giovanni's Restaurant, 430 Market St., in Marketplace of Elmwood Park, Elmwood Park; 201-791-3000. BYO, parking lot, closed Mondays.

Open from 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays to Fridays, and from 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations recommended for dinner.