Thursday, December 8, 2016

Two lunches: Trip to the Middle East and exotic seafood close to home

Trip to the Middle East, a hot appetizer served in the cafe at Fattal's in Paterson, could feed two or three people for lunch.


After picking up a menu at Fattal's in September, a hot appetizer called Trip to the Middle East stuck in my mind.

Dips, stuffed grape leaves, kibbeh, falafel, pies, pickles and more -- this one dish has many of the great Syrian comfort foods I enjoyed growing up in Brooklyn.

On Tuesday, I finally ordered one to eat in the specialty food store's small cafe, but took home plenty of leftovers, because there was enough to feed two or three people ($14.99).

As I ate, I realized my hunger was driven in part by the anniversary the next day, Dec. 7, of the death of my mother, Grace Ashkenazi Sasson, who was born in Aleppo, Syria.  


I don't eat meat or poultry, and had to work out substitutions for the deep-fried kibbeh stuffed with ground beef, lamb, onions and walnuts; the grape leaves with meat and the meat pies.

Fattal's makes wonderful grape leaves stuffed with vegetables, and terrific pies with vegetables, including sweet pepper, and olives. 

I also got two more falafels (made with chick peas, fava beans and spices) in place of the two kibbeh.

I loved everything, but thought the tabbouleh could have used more bulgur, and at least one more Syrian pocket bread should be included.

Then, I went into Fattal's grocery aisles for a dozen cans of Al-Shark brand Sardines in Tomato Sauce to take home (99 cents each).  

My next stop was Costco Wholesale in Wayne, where I picked up eight bottles of red wine, including Kirkland Signature Malbec from Argentina ($7.99), and a boxed set of four Bordeauxs from France ($29.99 or about $7.50 per bottle).

Kirkland Signature Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy, is an easy to swallow $6.99; and at only $19.99, the house label Champagne (Brut) from France is less than half the price of some other brands.

You'll find the cafe at Fattal's in the back of the store, past the pastries, spices, gold jewelry and bread racks.

I ate sandwiches of grape leaves and falafel stuffed with tomato, pickles, hummus and baba ghanoush.

Three-liter bottles of California red wine at Costco Wholesale in Wayne.


Fattal's, 975-77 Main St., Paterson; 1-973-742-7125. Open 7 days. Large parking lot. Syrian bread, groceries, meat and poultry, gold jewelry, cafe.

Costco Wholesale, 149 Route 23, Wayne. Open 7 days. Members-only warehouse also sells wine, champagne and prosecco, including Costco's Kirkland Signature label.

A Seafood Trio --Char-Grilled Swordfish, Halibut and Octopus -- served over Stewed Lentils was one of the lunch specials on Monday at Seafood Gourmet, the fish market-restaurant in Maywood, below.

Exotic seafood

If you love seafood, don't miss the imaginative specials from Chef Dave Fuentes at Seafood Gourmet, the fish market-restaurant on Maywood's main street.

On Monday, I met a friend there for lunch and enjoyed two of the specials, a cup of Bahamian Conch Chowder ($3), and a Char-Grilled Seafood Trio swimming in a soupy stew of lentils and other vegetables ($16). 

The conch in the soup and the octopus in the Seafood Trio were unusually tender, and the latter was served with a spoon so I could enjoy all of the lentil-and-vegetable stew. 

After lunch, I stopped at Maywood's Marketplace for a large head of Romaine lettuce ($1.29) my wife wanted, and looked over the impressive selection of takeout food and wine.

Nearly all of the fresh fish in the market at Seafood Gourmet can be enjoyed in the small dining room or is prepared and available for takeout, below.

The produce section at Maywood's Marketplace, above, and takeout food, below.

Above the creamed spinach are mashed sweet potatoes.


Seafood Gourmet, 103 W. Pleasant Ave., Maywood; 201-843-8558. BYO, free street parking, closed Sundays.

Maywood's Marketplace, 78 W. Pleasant Ave., Maywood; 201-843-8361. Open 7 days.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Keeping it healthy: Seafood doesn't need butter, bacon or brown sugar

This month, The Costco Connection, a magazine sent to Costco Wholesale members, is recommending a totally unnecessary addition to a luxurious meal of Red King Crab Legs and Dungeness Crab -- a half-cup of butter.


Fresh lime or lemon juice is all I need to enjoy lobster, king crab or plump sea scallops.

In the past few years, I've made a wonderful Red King Crab Leg salad with Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, cumin and other seasonings.

But retailers like Costco Wholesale and Trader Joe's seem to think premium seafood shouldn't be served without butter, brown sugar or bacon.

Experts say lobster, crab and other shellfish contain levels of cholesterol comparable to land animals.

Where they have the edge is much lower levels of saturated fat, which is found in butter, bacon and other food.

Replacing saturated fats in your diet with sources of polyunsaturated fats -- such as ocean fish with omega-3 fatty acids -- can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.

When I emailed a photo of my Red King Crab Salad to Tim Talevich, editorial director of The Costco Connection, he replied the dish looked delicious and the magazine would consider "healthier options" next time.

Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer, which is sent to customers' homes, raves about Scallops Wrapped in Uncured Bacon with Brown Sugar Glaze.

The Costco Connection's Recipe for Shrimp Fettuccine (misspelled in the magazine with one "c") includes two tablespoons of butter.
Trader Joe's Crab Cakes, right, are made with both a Mayo Dressing and Worcestershire Sauce, according to the ingredients label, below. They also are more expensive than the Phillips Seafood Restaurants' 3-ounce crab cakes sold at Costco Wholesale.

A good buy at Trader Joe's in Paramus on Saturday was a large stalk of Brussels Sprouts for $3.99. Ignore the recipe on the tag for roasting the whole stalk with 3/4 cup of maple syrup. Another problem is the recommended wrapping of the stalk in plastic wrap, and heating it in a microwave on high for 4 minutes or 5 minutes. That could lead to the transfer of chemicals to the Brussels Sprouts from the cling wrap.

I found a recipe online for oven roasting the Brussels Sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper, though I used a lower temperature to avoid burning the outer leaves. I should have followed the recipe and trimmed the hard, fibrous stem after removing the sprouts from the stalk and washing them. I also recommend cutting the larger sprouts in half.

Trader Joe's most flavorful pasta sauce, Puttanesca, contains no added sugar. Ingredients include Italian tomatoes, capers, olives and anchovies.

I boost the flavor of skinless-and-boneless Icelandic Haddock ($8.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro) by coating serving pieces in Asian-Indian Spices from a box of Fish Masala, which you find in an Indian grocery.

I start with fresh spinach drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, above, then add spice-coated fish, chopped pitted olives, fresh tomato slices and reduced-fat grated cheese, below.

The haddock was ready after about 12 minutes in a preheated 400-degree oven.
On Thanksgiving, I served a Red King Crab Salad with chopped celery, carrot, onion, and sweet pepper dressed in Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, cumin and other spices.

Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco is as rich as butter, but made with extra-virgin olive oil and reduced-fat grated cheese. Pesto nicely complemented two Maryland-style jumbo lump crab cakes sold at Costco under the Phillips Seafood Restaurants label.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

At ShopRite: Spanish cider, organic pasta, grass-fed beef from Australia

SWEET DEAL: At the ShopRite in Englewood on Tuesday, I bought four 25.4-ounce bottles of Sparkling Cider from Spain at $1.88 each, the lowest sale price I've seen in the many years I've enjoyed this non-alcoholic beverage, which is made with 100% apple juice, but has no added sugar. There was a limit of four with store card.

PALE IMITATION: Not far away, but at a higher price, was Goya-brand Sparkling Cider, labeled as an authentic Spanish import, but a check of the label showed this non-alcoholic beverage contains only 35% apple juice. Other ingredients include sugar, apple vinegar, preservatives and caramel color.

ORGANIC IS BETTER: A 1-pound box of Gia Russa-brand 100% Whole Wheat Roman Rigatoni or Penne Rigate from Italy were reduced to $1.39 from $3.29, but at the same ShopRite you can buy Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti and other shapes for $1.29 a pound.

SEAFOOD SHELLS: Whole Foods Market in Paramus also carries imported Organic Whole Wheat Shells and other shapes for $1.49 a pound. Here, I prepared the shells with anchovies and sardines in Victoria Marinara, adding red wine and seasonings to the sauce. Victoria Marinara and Vodka Sauce also were on sale at ShopRite ($3.49 for a 40-ounce jar).

FROM AUSTRALIA: At ShopRites in Rochelle Park and Englewood last Friday and Saturday, Nature's Reserve Grass Fed Beef from Australia was on sale for $2.99 a pound with a $10 additional purchase and a store card. A roast or strip steaks were available with a limit of two packages.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Why the traditional turkey dinner every Thanksgiving is so last century

A generous salad of Red King Crab with diced celery, sweet pepper, onion and carrot -- dressed with Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, cumin and other spices -- was the starter at our non-traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner on Thursday.


Numerous news outlets report an estimated 46 million turkeys were killed for Thanksgiving, but no one has explained how Americans could possibly stomach all of that white meat.

The white or breast meat of the domesticated turkey is the least flavorful and the easiest to overcook.

Even before I stopped eating meat or poultry in favor of seafood, I always insisted on getting the drumstick, thigh or wing -- and preferably all three.

On Thursday, I prepared a luscious Red King Crab Salad for an appetizer, and my wife cooked turkey legs and thighs for herself and the other meat eaters in the family.

Like the Red King Crab, our second course came from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro -- Phillips Seafood Restaurants' Maryland-style Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes.

I served them with Costco's Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto.

After a big crab salad and two crab cakes, washed down with prosecco, a sparkling white wine from Italy, I was stuffed.

I didn't have room for sweet potatoes mashed with extra-virgin olive or an organic spring mix salad, as planned.

Later, I did have cheese, fruit, nuts, coffee and tea.

Pumpkin pie? Yuck!

My second course: Two golden crab cakes with pesto.

My wife prepared turkey parts from the Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff in barbecue sauce. She seasoned and roasted other thighs and legs in the oven, and prepared rice with peas.
Three Red King Crab Legs and Claws, on an 18-inch-long cutting board, produced a large bowl of crab meat, below. The joints were easy to cut through with a large chef's knife, as were the soft shells with a seafood scissor, but I missed several small pieces of cartilage.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tens of thousands are bitten by a pre-Thanksgiving food-shopping bug

About 20 minutes before the 10 a.m. opening today, Costco Wholesale members were crowding into the vestibule and jockeying for position outside the warehouse in the Teterboro Landing Shopping Center off of Route 46 in Teterboro, above and below.


In a mere two and a half hours this morning, I filled the gas tank of my wife's hybrid car at the Costco Wholesale gas station, had a repair made on one of the tires and bought more than $330 worth of food and flowers.

I've been stopping at my favorite food stores since last Friday. Usually, the pre-Thanksgiving crowds have been manageable, and at one or two places they were non-existent.

My major purchase at Costco today was $59.81 for Wild Cooked Red King Crab Legs at $21.99 a pound, about $2 more a pound than last year, according to the Costco employee who weighed and bagged them.

I'll cut the crab meat into large chunks for a cold salad dressed with Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, cumin and other spices -- a luxurious appetizer for our Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.

For crunch, I'll add diced celery and sweet peppers.

The rest of our Thanksgiving menu includes: 

Maryland-style jumbo lump crab cakes from Phillips Seafood Restaurants, sold frozen at Costco ($16.99 for six 3-ounce cakes).

We'll also roast turkey drumsticks and thighs from the Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff. See:

A trip to the turkey farm

And we'll have a side dish of sweet potatoes mashed with extra-virgin olive oil and a salad of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, also from Costco (1 pound is $4.79).

During the holidays, ShopRite supermarkets are selling 5-pound boxes of sweet potatoes for only $2.49.

We'll drink Kirkland Signature Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy sold at the Wayne Costco; and have fruit and cheese for dessert, including Lake Country Asiago, a hard, reduced-fat cheese from Wisconsin made with part-skimmed cow's milk ($5.69 a pound at Costco).

Mostly favorites

Most of the food I bought today were items we use year-round, including two dozen Kirkland Signature Organic Cage Free Eggs for $5.99 or $1 less than before.

A 22-ounce jar of Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto was $7.79, an 18-ounce package of fresh Blueberries from Peru was $6.99 and a pound of Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon was $14.89.

A dozen 10-ounce bottles of Naked 100% Juice Smoothies, with no added sugar, were $10.59 with an instant coupon; and a 64-ounce bottle of Naked Green Machine was $5.99.

A pound of fresh Organic Spinach was $3.99 and 3 pounds of Organic Bananas were $1.99.

Shopping tip

The Costco warehouse in Teterboro is too large for a shopper who makes a list and goes looking for individual items on it.

Instead, with list in hand, walk methodically up and down each aisle and when you see a item you need, grab it.

I leave produce, milk, eggs (moved to the cold room marked "Dairy") and fresh fish for last, then head for the checkout lanes.

Red King Crab Legs and Claws at Costco's Seafood Road Show.

I stopped buying Costco's farmed Black Tiger Shrimp from Vietnam, above and below, even though they are a good buy at about $10 a pound, compared to wild Gulf Shrimp from Whole Foods Market. Costco provides no information about how the farmed shrimp are raised.

Nor do I buy Costco's wildly popular but low-quality Seasoned Rotisserie Chickens, which are raised on antibiotics. See: Chicken makes good dog food.

Costco's pre-seasoned chickens arrive in boxes. They are fully cooked at the warehouse, although members complain about bloody and under-cooked birds. Ingredients include sodium phosphate, carrageenan, sugar and dextrose.

From Costco's small selection of hard cheeses, I chose Lake Country Asiago from Wisconsin.

Imagine-brand Organic Free Range Chicken Broth has less sodium than the Kirkland Signature Organic Cage Free Chicken Broth sold at Costco (1 cup contains 5% of the daily recommended intake of sodium compared to 18% in the Costco brand). Six liter containers were $11.49. Both brands have an easy to open screw top, below:

It doesn't happen often, but Costco's price for two 40-ounce jars of Victoria Marinara is a lot higher than the sale price I found at the ShopRite in Englewood on Monday, where each jar was $3.49. Victoria Vodka Sauce, which is free of artery clogging cream, also was $3.49 for a 40-ounce jar. 

I got a good deal at Costco on a 3-pound bag of medium-to-dark-roast coffee beans from Guatemala ($5.26 a pound), but grinding them in a coffee mill near the food court took a lot longer than I expected, below. 

All 3 pounds of beans wouldn't fit into one coffee mill, and they were oily so I had to keep pushing them down with a plastic spoon from the food court. I chose a Turkish grind to expose as much of the coffee to hot water during the brewing process at home.

Regular gasoline for my wife's Toyota Prius was $2.04.9 today, and a friendly Costco employee did the pumping. New Jersey recently raised the gas tax by 23 cents a gallon.

There was only one car ahead of me. The Costco gas station and tire store open before the warehouse.
The fish counter at the Super H Mart at 321 Broad Ave. in Ridgefield offers too much choice. This supermarket is the biggest Bergen County store in the Korean chain. On Thursday, I bought whole wild-caught Porgy for $2.99 a pound.
Tonight, my wife prepared the Porgies in a Fish Masala, a mixture of spices sold at Asian-Indian groceries, and made a sauce using organic chicken broth. I ate mine over organic brown rice prepared in an electric cooker with black-eyed peas and organic diced tomatoes.

Last week, I used the Fish Masala spices to coat pieces of fresh wild-caught Haddock fillet from Iceland ($8.99 a pound at Costco), and prepared a medley with organic spinach, pitted olives, organic diced tomatoes, grated cheese, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh lime juice. My side dish was mashed sweet potatoes.
Once you assemble all of the ingredients in a foil-lined pan, the haddock cooks in about 12 minutes in a pre-heated 400-degree oven.

A 5-pound box of Bagu Clementines from Spain were $5.99 at the Super H Mart, compared to $7.99 for the same clementines I bought at the H Mart in Little Ferry on Nov. 6.

Two 5-ounce containers of Olivia's Organic Spring Mix were $3.99.

The Super H Mart has one of the biggest selection of prepared Korean food, including pancakes, below.

A package of Pan-Fried Seafood and Chive Pancakes was $5.99.

The Super H Mart was a pleasure to shop in on Monday afternoon around 2:15.

At the Englewood ShopRite, 40 Nathaniel Place in the Palisades Court shopping center, where I went later Monday afternoon to fill a prescription, three 15.5-ounce cans of Goya Blackeye Peas, marked non-GMO, were $2. I also bought organic and conventional whole-wheat pasta and two 40-ounce jars of Victoria Vodka Sauce ($3.49 each). The store was mobbed.

Around lunchtime on Friday, Jerry's Gourmet & More at 410 S. Dean St. in Englewood was busier than usual. On the way there, I braved the crowd jammed into the small retail store at Balthazar Bakery, 214 S. Dean St., for a pair of $2 baguettes.

Jerry's complete restaurant-quality Meals To Go are $7.99 and $5.99 after 4 p.m. I bought one fish and two chicken dinners.

I gladly paid full price for my Tilapia Marechiaro Dinner with Linguine in White Clam Sauce, Roasted Potatoes, Broccoli with Garlic and Zucchini Stuffed with Vegetable, above and below.

Dinner was complete with a glass of red wine and an organic spring mix salad.

Ignore the overpriced wine and beer at the International Food Warehouse at 370 Essex St. in Lodi. I only bought a couple of items, including a 3-liter tin of Artemis-brand Extra-Virgin Olive Oil from Greece ($20.99).

Sasoon Lavash, a thin, chewy, addictive Armenian bread, comes all the way from Glendale, Calif., but contains only flour, filtered water and salt. I like to make lavash roll-ups with Greek yogurt, a dried-thyme mixture called za'atar and extra-virgin olive oil. 

Also at the International Food Warehouse, a Whole Wheat Lavash from Damascus Bakeries is labeled "natural," but has a long list of ingredients, including sugar and corn starch, below.