Friday, May 22, 2015

Sweet potatoes and pesticides, complaints about Clayton's beef

Natural sugar oozing from organic sweet potatoes I baked at home.


In the May 2015 issue of Consumer Reports, you can find a chart showing the risk of pesticide exposure from eating 48 fresh conventional fruits and vegetables from 14 different countries.

"We recommend buying organic for any produce-country combination in the medium or higher risk categories," the editors say.

"We found that all organic produce falls into the low- or very low-risk categories," the magazine reports.

Still, a footnote says, "Our analysis is based on the risk to a 3-and-a-half-year-old child, estimated to weigh 35.2 pounds."

Sweet potatoes -- one of the key bread substitutes I rely on to maintain my weight loss -- are listed in the high-risk category, and the magazine says:

"Beware of conventional," if the sweet potatoes are from the United States.

But I will continue to buy conventional and occasionally organic sweet potatoes, because Consumer Reports and other experts say their N0. 1 rule is to eat more produce.

"Getting plenty of fruits and vegetables -- even if you can't obtain organic -- takes precedence when it comes to your health," the magazine states.

Consumer Reports leads all general-interest publications, including newspapers, in reporting on pesticide use, antibiotics in meat and poultry, and other important food issues.

A 3-pound bag of organic sweet potatoes, top, at the ShopRite in Paramus goes on sale occasionally for $4.99. On Tuesday, I bought a bag at the regular price of $5.99, but it tipped the scale at nearly 4 pounds, below.

A 3-pound bag of conventional sweet potatoes at ShopRite is $2.99, but often weighs 3.5 pounds or more. Trader Joe's on Route 17 in Paramus sells organic and conventional sweet potatoes at lower prices than ShopRite.
A 3-pound bag of Southern's 10 in 1 Sweet Potatoes is a favorite purchase at the Paramus ShopRite. Even though these are conventionally grown, they are triple washed, which would reduce our exposure to any pesticide residue.

A large, seedless watermelon from Florida was $6.99 at the Paramus ShopRite, a discount of $1. No need to thump. Pick the biggest and heaviest you can find.

Clayton's Organic Ground Beef from Australia in the refrigerated case of the ShopRite, 224 Route 4 east, Paramus.

Clayton's Organic Beef

Here is a comment I received in February from a reader who buys Clayton's Organic Ground Beef from Australia at the ShopRite, at 668 Route 70, Brick, a town on the Jersey shore:

"I've been buying Clayton ground beef at Shop-Rite for several years now, at least one-pack per week and we love it. It's the best ground beef I've have ever had. 
"But, the past 2 months I've noticed the Clayton ground beef is not as lean as usual and I don't blame Clayton.
"Upon closer inspection I've noticed that it appears that Shop-Rite (Bricktown - Rt 70) is re-packing the date-stamped vacuum-sealed Clayton ground meat and adding filler if the meat is near the expiration date. I think maybe they are adding fresh ground beef of low quality. 
"All I know is that it looks like the packages are being tampered with and resealed by the Butcher Dept., at least at this particular Shop-Rite."

Then, on May 18, another reader said:
"I read the above post and agree the Clayton ground beef at the RT 70 Brick Town Shop-Rite does not taste the same as the the Clayton ground beef purchased at other Shop-Rite stores.
"Their steaks taste the same, they are consistent and don't vary from store to store, but imo [in my opinion], not the ground beef.
"Doesn't taste as fresh and doesn't have the WOW factor even though the expiration date is almost one month out.
"IMO, something's not right. 
"Maybe a SR Representative could investigate by comparing the ground beef from several different stores (visually inspect and compare & cook and taste test it) and see for themselves without informing the meat dept management or employees."

I called Wakefern Food Corp., a cooperative composed of 50 member companies that own and operate supermarkets under the ShopRite banner. 

A ShopRite spokeswoman said:
"All Clayton's Organic Beef is vacuum sealed - and is not resealable - to ensure freshness and to protect the integrity of the product. We take these complaints very seriously and would ask any customer who feels that they have purchased a product that does not meet their expectations to let us know via our Customer Care Center at 1-800-ShopRite. 
She also addressed the "distinctly different" taste of Clayton's Organic Ground Beef, compared to other beef, noting that Australian cattle are free range, grass fed and grain finished.

Depending on the time of year and "growth cycle of the grass," the taste of the beef can differ, she said.

If you buy three packages of Clayton's Organic Ground Beef at the Paramus ShopRite this week, you'll save $1.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Salad-bar spinach omelets, kimchi rice and fresh wild-caught fish

Fresh spinach from the cafe salad bar at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, where I volunteer one day a week, and reduced-fat Swiss Cheese from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack are terrific for stuffing egg-white omelets. Here, I served the omelet with sweet potatoes mashed with extra-virgin olive oil, cinnamon and other seasonings.
This morning, I used the last of the salad-bar spinach for another egg-white omelet, this one made with grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese from Costco Wholesale, za'atar thyme mixture and Aleppo red pepper, the last two from Fattal's, 975 Main St., Paterson.

An easy snack uses leftover organic brown rice, which I prepared in an electric cooker with organic diced tomatoes, and Arirang Kimchi, made and sold in a storefront at the H&Y Marketplace, 1 Remsen Place, Ridgefield.

My wife seasoned and pan-fried fresh whole croaker she bought on Sunday for $2.99 a pound at the H Mart, 28 Lafayette Ave., Englewood. Whole papaya, Kabocha squash, mustard greens and scallions also were on sale.

She also purchased two large wild-caught red snappers for $5.99 a pound at H Mart. She seasoned the fish and prepared it in a covered pot with fresh thyme, sweet peppers, onion and garlic. The light, flavorful sauce included extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lime juice and the liquid the fish gives up during cooking.

My wife cut up, seeded and boiled the Kabocha squash, including the dark-green skin, then mashed it with extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings. This morning, the mashed squash was a great bread substitute with two organic eggs from Costco with shredded Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese and Aleppo red pepper.


Monday, May 18, 2015

You're stuck in traffic in Fort Lee? Take a break at the Plaza Diner

A Tuscany Salad at the Plaza Diner on Lemoine Avenue in Fort Lee.


Even when Governor Christie isn't messing with traffic on the George Washington Bridge, Fort Lee can be a tough place to drive.

Construction on Main Street, a major thoroughfare with only two lanes, goes on and on, guaranteeing lots of police overtime, and several major highways terminate in the small borough.

If you need a break from watching brake lights, the Plaza Diner on Lemoine Avenue has reopened after a renovation and expansion, including a new kitchen.

In the last few years, I've become partial to the Suburban Diner on Route 17 in Paramus, where I like to order a delicious soup-salad combo when I meet friends for lunch there.

The Coach House on Route 4 in Hackenack is even closer to my home, and there, the soup and salad bar with a glass of wine is a terrific meal.

Parking a problem

On Friday, a friend wanted to have lunch at the Plaza Diner, but you can no longer self-park your car in the small lot.

The valet parking is free, according to a sign, but if you don't want to entrust your car to a valet, you might have a tough time finding one of the spaces in a large municipal lot behind the diner.

I gave up trying to find one of those spaces for my new car, and was headed back to the diner's lot when a woman got into her car at a Lemoine Avenue meter and pulled out.

Two quarters gets you an hour in a space at the curb.

Salad, pasta, dessert

I was happy with the Tuscany Salad -- grilled portobello mushroom, mozzarella cheese and roasted peppers over greens ($9.95), and a cup of coffee ($2.50 with free refills).

I dressed the salad with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar the server brought to our table.

My friend ordered Chicken Pasta Primavera ($20.35), and the portion was large enough for two. 

He took home about half. He also ordered Cheesecake ($4.50), and couldn't finish that either.

Plaza Diner's standard Cheesecake.

The back room at the Plaza Diner is filled with booths.

More booths and a counter can be found in the main room, above.
Prices at the Plaza Diner are what you'd find at a white-tablecloth restaurant, and so are some of the menu selections, such as Blackened Ahi Tuna Sushi Quality, served rare with Oriental vegetables ($25.15).


Plaza Diner, 2045 Lemoine Ave., Fort Lee; 201-944-8681.

Web site: Good in a Christie traffic jam

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Wild king salmon swims my way at Seafood Gourmet in Maywood

Wild King Salmon with a Strawberry-Lime Salsa and Couscous, above and below, at Seafood Gourmet in Maywood, where dinner reservations are a must.

A fat slab of wild-caught king salmon on ice was displayed in the market's refrigerated case. Each king, the biggest salmon, can weigh 50 pounds or more.


At Seafood Gourmet in Maywood, a popular fish market-restaurant, you can often find your dinner chilling on plenty of ice in a case you pass on the way to the 38-seat dining room.

And so it was on Thursday night, but I foolishly went there without a reservation to celebrate a special occasion with my son.

We were told the wait was an hour, but luckily, a man was just finishing his meal at a table with two stools in the market, and offered it to us.

I sat with my back to a tank of live lobsters ($14.99 a pound).

I ordered Wild King Salmon with Couscous ($28.99), and my son chose a pan-fried whole Red Snapper with rice and fresh spinach sauteed with garlic ($24.99).

I also asked for a side dish of spinach with garlic, and the generous portion was only $4.95. Seltzer and soda with refills were $1.80 each.

A cup of Manhattan Clam Chowder came with my meal. My son had a bowl of Lobster Bisque.

Salmon and strawberries?

I wasn't sure about the strawberry salsa listed with a special of wild king salmon, and thought it might be too sweet, so the waitress offered to serve it on the side.

Two cups of salsa were on the plate -- one pureed and one roughly chopped with scallions and cucumber -- and they worked beautifully to complement the richness of the fatty salmon.

I'm sorry to say I don't know the name of the chef who is responsible for the imaginatively prepared fish I've enjoyed at Seafood Gourmet in the past few years. 

The fish market opened in 1988, and the restaurant was added about a decade ago.

A large portion of fresh spinach with garlic.

Catches of the Day were listed on a board on the wall above our small, round table.

Seafood Gourmet is a BYO.

Fresh seafood salads for sale in the market.


Seafood Gourmet, 103 W. Pleasant Ave.; 201-843-8558. Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Sundays. Free street parking, BYO. With only 38 seats, reservations are recommended for dinner.

Web site: Your dinner is waiting on ice