Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jersey peaches, mystery EVOO, H Mart specials and more

At the ShopRite in Paramus last week, I found two kinds of peaches in a box under a sign for Jersey grown fruit, above and below. The peach on top was labeled "Jersey Fruit," but the one underneath said, "Yellow Peach," "Sunny Slope" and "USA."


Will the real Jersey Fresh peach please stand up?

New Jersey peaches, labeled "Jersey Fruit," finally arrived at the ShopRite in Paramus last week, but they didn't look that good, and they were mixed with other peaches whose origin was unclear.

I passed.

New Jersey blueberries I bought at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack also carried the "Jersey Fruit" designation on the label, supplementing the traditional phrase, "Jersey Fresh." 

The label on a 3-liter Al Defah bottle doesn't say where the extra-virgin olive oil comes from, at least not in English. I plan to call importer Mediterranean Expo LLC to find out.

Is this a stylized flag of the country where the oil was produced?

Mystery EVOO

Fattal's in Paterson has always been a reliable source for extra-virgin olive oils from Lebanon, Syria and other countries at good prices.

On Friday, I found a 3-liter bottle of Al Defah Extra Virgin Olive Oil for only $13.99 -- or about $4.66 a liter -- compared to $20 or more for 3 liters of EVOO from other sources.

The cashier said the price had recently gone up from $12.99.

The label describes it as "aromatic and extra smooth, first cold pressed."

The store, at 975-77 Main St. in Paterson, is open 7 days, and parking is free in its own lot.

The retail price of a 15-pound bag of California-grown  Kokuho Yellow Label Rice is $16.99, according to the sign I saw on Saturday at the H Mart in Fort Lee.

Retail price of rice is moving target

Depending on which H Mart you shop in, the retail price of Kokuho Yellow Label Rice from California is $14.99 to $16.99.

Why does that matter when this rice is always on sale at most of the Bergen County stores in the Korean supermarket chain?

The sales price has gone up a couple of dollars, attributed to a drought in California, and now the savings claimed is greater or smaller, depending on whether you buy the rice in Englewood, Little Ferry or Fort Lee.

Dinner leftovers for breakfast: Grilled wild sockeye salmon and whole-wheat pappardelle, both with pesto from Costco Wholesale, and Chinese broccoli from H Mart in Little Ferry.

I cooked the wild salmon from Costco Wholesale on a stove-top grill pan for 10 minutes, and it came out medium ($9.99 a pound). It only needs 2 minutes of reheating in a microwave.

Cooking ahead is the way to go

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but if you are in a rush, it's great to have plenty of leftovers in the refrigerator that can be plated and reheated quickly.

I cook large quantities for just this reason: 

Six pieces of grilled wild sockeye salmon, a pound of organic whole-wheat spaghetti, and a pound of greens, quickly blanched in boiling water and seasoned.

Another filling breakfast: An egg-white frittata with salted fish, sweet peppers and chopped garlic; whole-wheat spaghetti in a sauce made with garlic, diced tomatoes, salad greens, tomato sauce, red wine and chicken stock; and Chinese broccoli.

A 10-inch frittata made with egg whites, whole eggs, Campari tomatoes, two kinds of reduced-fat cheese and pesto. Most of the ingredients come from Costco Wholesale.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

You won't find any white knights at Al Cavaliere Ristorante

Al Cavaliere Ristorante in Clifton promises "Italian Gastronomy," but you might get a big helping of agita instead.


I had my heart set on hearing the Heath Brothers Quintet at William Paterson University on Friday night.

And on the way to Wayne, dinner at a fine-dining Italian restaurant sounded like the perfect appetizer for a jazz concert.

In June, I had purchased an Amazon Local voucher for $15 that entitled me to spend $30 on food and drink at Al Cavaliere Ristorante on Piaget Avenue in Clifton ("The Knight" in English).

Sorry, Charlie

But when I arrived at the restaurant on Friday evening, I got an argument instead of the house salad and grilled fish I had planned to order. 

The waiter who greeted me saw the voucher in my hand, and when I said, "One for dinner," he quickly informed me that to use the discount, I would have to order "two entrees."

He said that was "restaurant policy," even though it isn't one of the conditions listed on the voucher.

When I asked to speak to the manager -- a potential white knight-- the waiter said he was on vacation, and a second server backed him up.

Only two of the tables in the dining room, which seats 65, were occupied.

I call Amazon Local

I sat down in the waiting area and called Amazon Local Customer Service, where Kim said that if she couldn't talk to the manager, she could offer me a refund, which I accepted.

I called back this morning, and Fez, another Customer Service representative, said merchants approach Amazon and voluntarily issue vouchers in an effort to increase their business.

Merchants are "vetted" to see if they are appropriate to advertise on Amazon Local.

He added Al Cavaliere Ristorante won't be "allowed to get away" with how I was treated.

On Friday evening, when I was turned away, I asked the waiters at Al Cavaliere if there was another restaurant nearby, and one of them suggested a White Castle.

The simple but filling meal I was served at Aleppo Restaurant in Paterson, above and below, after I was turned away by Al Cavaliere Ristorante in Clifton. The salad dressing included dried mint.

South Paterson

Instead, I took Main Avenue in Clifton to the South Paterson section of Paterson, where I stopped at Fattal's (975-77 Main St.) for 18 cans of Moroccan sardines at 99 cents each and a 3-liter bottle of extra-virgin olive oil for $13.99.

A couple of blocks away, I found owner Mohamed K. Jello in the dining room of Aleppo Restaurant at Main and Thomas streets, where he was fasting for the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

He served me hummus, salad, water and strong Turkish coffee while we caught up.

Summer Jazz Room

I got to the WPU jazz concert in plenty of time, and bought a ticket for $8 (with a senior discount).

Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath led his group with a guest trumpet player in his own compositions as well as on "'Round Midnight" and other classics.

It was a rousing concert, and the group got a standing ovation. 

So the evening wasn't a total loss despite the rude and inconsiderate behavior of the staff at Al Cavaliere Ristorante.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stovetop-grilled wild salmon with pesto, lime and fresh herbs

Fresh wild sockeye salmon from Costco Wholesale grills on the stove top skin side down in about 10 minutes. After I took the fish off the heat, I added Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto and chopped fresh herbs -- mint, oregano and basil. 


The price of fresh wild salmon continues to fall at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, making this wonderful fish even easier to enjoy.

I bought a 1.62-pound fillet of sockeye salmon for $9.99 a pound, enough for six serving pieces and plenty of leftovers.

On Wednesday night, I used a large All-Clad stove-top grill pan that covers two burners of my gas stove, spraying on canola oil and turning the heat to medium high to preheat it.

After a few minutes, I put three serving pieces on the grill over each burner -- skin side down. They sizzled.

The other side had been seasoned with Himalayan Pink Salt from Costco.

While the fish is cooking, I squeeze fresh lime juice over the serving pieces, which were lightly salted before they went on the grill. You won't find this vibrant color in artificially colored farmed salmon nor will it have the robust flavor of wild-caught fish. You can see the veins of heart-healthy fat.

I flip the serving pieces over to cook on the other side for a few minutes. They come out juicy, good enough to eat cold the next day over a salad.

Pesto, Aleppo pepper and herbs

After I took the fish off the heat, I season the skin side with optional Aleppo pepper, spooned on a little Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco and added chopped fresh herbs.

I ate two of the six pieces, and followed them with leafy Chinese broccoli I blanched in boiling water for a few minutes, and seasoned with a little salt, garlic powder and sesame oil.

This fresh, wild, delicious and more affordable sockeye salmon has become a weekly treat, and there are a few months left to the season.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

H Mart bargain hunting, Costco-inspired dishes, a new salad

Jun's Tofu is made with non-GMO soybeans and sold at H&Y Marketplace, a Korean supermarket at 1 Remsen Place in Ridgefield. I like the tofu with wild sesame and sea salt, eaten hot or cold. A 28-ounce package is $5.


H Mart is the biggest chain of Korean supermarkets in New Jersey, but the North Jersey stores don't seem to be run by the same owner.

Last week at the H Mart in Englewood, a 15-pound bag of California-grown Kokuho Yellow Label White Rice was on sale for $9.99, a savings of $5.

The catch: You need the store's Smart Card coupon and must buy more than $30, excluding coupon items.

The next day, I stopped at the H Mart in Little Ferry and found the same 15-pound bag of rice for $10.88, with no strings attached.

This H Mart put the regular price at $15.99 -- not the $14.99 quoted in Englewood -- and my receipt showed a savings of $5.11.

I also found a large seedless watermelon in the Little Ferry store for $4.99, compared to $7.99 in Englewood.

The Englewood store did have Chinese broccoli on sale for 98 cents a pound.

Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon from Costco Wholesale in an open-face omelet of 100% Egg Whites, also from Costco, served with mashed sweet potatoes from Trader Joe's. 

Good ingredients from Costco

Cold-smoked wild sockeye salmon from Alaska, refrigerated basil pesto, salted pollock, pignoli nuts, organic quinoa -- the list of quality ingredients from Costco Wholesale is long.

Supplement them with a few key items from other stores, such as whole-wheat pasta, and meal preparation is a snap.

Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco Wholesale is a wonderful dressing for whole-wheat pappardelle, mouth-filling pasta ribbons from Italy, with added pignoli nuts and fresh basil, two of the ingredients in pesto.

An egg-white frittata made with sweet peppers, garlic, shredded cheese and salted Alaskan pollock, a cousin of the cod. I served it with a mixture of organic brown rice and quinoa with salsa verde.

A salad of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix with organic beets, Campari tomato and pignoli nuts -- all from Costco -- dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

New salad from Earthbound Farm

I picked up a new organic salad from Earthbound Farm at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

The blend of tender baby kale, chard and spinach -- called "POWER" -- can be used in salads, smoothies and as a pizza topping.

A 1-pound bag is $5.99, compared to $4.49 for a 1-pound tub of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix.

The resealable plastic bag is similar to the one the spring mix was sold in at one time, and it is easier to store in the refrigerator than the bulky plastic tub.

I tried the assertive greens in a salad with spring mix, reduced-fat Jarlsberg Swiss Cheese, Jersey blueberries and Campari tomatoes, all from Costco (photo below).