Sunday, April 20, 2014

More fish tales from eating out and eating in

Lotus Cafe in Hackensack's Home Depot Shopping Center does a brisk takeout business. The Chinese BYO, which opened in 1993, offers free delivery within 3 miles, with a $12 minimum (450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack; 201-488-7070).

Seafood Soup for 2 is filled with tender shrimp, squid, fish cake and vegetables in a perfectly seasoned broth ($7.50).


On Saturday morning, I discussed with my wife eating out at either Wondee's or Lotus Cafe, two favorites near our home.

By mid-afternoon, my wife informed me that, on the one day we eat out, everyone had made other plans.

I flirted with the idea of driving to Fort Lee for sashimi -- which no one else in the family touches -- but decided it was time for a simple Chinese meal of soup, vegetable and rice.

I drove to Lotus Cafe, ordered Seafood Soup for 2, Chinese Broccoli Stir Fried with Fresh Garlic and brown rice.

Chinese Broccoli Stir Fried with Fresh Garlic is both deliciously leafy and crunchy ($9.95). Brown rice is available at no extra charge.

At Lotus Cafe, your order is written up in Chinese, and the takeout bag includes chocolate-flavored fortune cookies.

At home on Saturday morning, I prepared a smoked wild-salmon and Swiss cheese frittata with bottled Mexican green salsa and prepared pesto, above and below. The basic mixture included egg whites, whole organic eggs, shredded cheese, organic low-fat milk and sun-dried tomatoes, with most of the ingredients from Costco Wholesale, as was the salmon, reduced-fat Swiss cheese and pesto. 

Ackee and Salt Fish, the Jamaican national dish, can be made even spicier with Valentina Mexican Hot Sauce (Black Label). The bland ackee fruit and boiled green banana are foils for salted cod fish, and sweet and hot peppers, garlic, onion and scallions, below.

Seasoned and pan-fried fresh, wild haddock fillets from Costco Wholesale ($8.99 a pound) are especially good covered in sauteed sweet peppers and onions.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Why is a grain called quinoa so controversial?

Tru Roots Organic Quinoa is pre-washed and a snap to prepare in an electric rice cooker. Here, it serves as a bread substitute with a breakfast omelet of egg whites, reduced-fat Swiss cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and Aleppo pepper. You can find quinoa and most of the other ingredients at Costco Wholesale.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss organic quinoa, which tastes great and has fewer carbohydrates than organic brown rice or pasta; and other terrific ingredients from Costco Wholesale that make home-cooked meals easy to prepare and delicious.


The hardest part of buying, preparing and enjoying organic quinoa is learning how to pronounce it.

Say "KEEN-wah," not "kee-NO-ah."

Everything I know about organic quinoa can be found on the back of the 4-pound Tru Roots package I buy at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

And thanks to organic quinoa's relatively low carbohydrates, I've also been enjoying it for more than a year as part of a no-bread, no pizza diet.

I've heard some negatives about quinoa, which is grown by Andean farmers in Bolivia and Peru.

People warn that it has to be pre-washed or rinsed to remove "saponins," which supposedly give it a bitter taste.

Two readers commenting on a recent New York Times story about quinoa claimed eating the grain gave them stomach pains that lasted four to five hours.

But I have been buying organic quinoa exclusively, and Tru Roots says its product "is further cleaned and processed in the USA to ensure high quality."

The front of the package says the quinoa has been "pre-washed." Organic quinoa also is certified non-GMO, and it's gluten-free.

It also "provides all of the eight essential amino acids, creating a complete protein," Tru Roots says.

It's a substitute for bread, and organic brown rice and pasta, and can be used in salads, soups and stews. And I enjoy the nutty taste.

One-quarter cup of Tru Roots Organic Quinoa has 30 grams of carbohydrates, compared to 35 grams in Lundberg Organic Brown Long Grain Rice and 42 grams in 365 Everyday Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti from Whole Foods Market. 

Tru Roots recommends preparing 1 cup of its organic quinoa with 2 cups of water or broth.

But when I made it on Tuesday in an electric rice cooker (white-rice setting), I used a 1-to-1 one ratio, combining 4 cups of the grain with 4 cups of water or organic chicken stock from Costco.

I also added a can of Costco's Kirkland Signature Organic Diced Tomatoes, a little extra-virgin olive oil and salt. 

The only negative about delicious organic quinoa is the relatively high price (4 pounds for $18.99 at Costco).

This morning, I added bottled Mexican green salsa to leftover quinoa before reheating it for breakfast with an omelet, above. I did the same when I served it with pan-fried whole whiting for dinner on Wednesday, below. Pesto also can be added to quinoa after it is prepared or reheated.

More from Costco

In addition to organic quinoa, Costco's organic brown eggs, sweet potatoes, canned fish, organic spring mix, Alaskan salmon burgers and prepared pesto are some of the ingredients that allow me to prepare delicious meals.

Breaking organic yolks over mashed sweet potatoes, above, or organic quinoa is a great way to start the day. The brown eggs I prepare sunny side up with grated cheese and Aleppo pepper, below, are $6.99 for 2 dozen at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

Trident Alaskan Salmon Burgers are made from whole fillets of wild-caught fish. A 3-pound package was $13.99 at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack. Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix was $4.79 for a 1-pound tub.

Canned pink salmon, yellowfin tuna and skinless-and-boneless sardines, all from Costco Wholesale, make a great salad or sandwich when mixed with diced Pink Lady apple and half-sour pickle, and chopped scallions or onions. The dressing is Dijon mustard and fresh lime juice, both from Costco, and ground cumin.

A wedge of sweet-potato frittata topped with Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco after it comes out of the oven, served over mashed sweet potatoes with extra-virgin olive oil.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Automakers woo media with free food and drink

For press days at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, Infiniti, the luxury division of Nissan, set up a bar and lounge, above, and had servers circulating with hors d'oeuvres. Wine and beer were available.

Cadillac and many others provided an espresso bar, but the maker of luxury cars was alone in offering high-calorie cake and pastries, above.


Nissan caused a media stampede in Manhattan on Wednesday, but Japan's No. 2 automaker didn't unveil a revolutionary new car.

Instead, it offered a simple box lunch to the hundreds of hungry journalists, public relations people and others attending the first press day of the 2014 New York International Auto Show.

Starting with a free breakfast at 7:15 a.m. and ending with a reception at 4:10 p.m., members of the international media could avail themselves of light refreshments, liquor and food supplied by the carmakers they cover.

Thirteen press conferences, complete with food service, were scheduled on Wednesday at the displays of new cars that will open to the public with a sneak preview on Friday.

Porsche showed its new hybrid sports car and a smaller SUV, and offered cheese-and-grilled-vegetable sandwiches, biscotti and coffee from an espresso machine.

The night before, the German carmaker invited the media to The Standard in lower Manhattan, where the journalists enjoyed free beer, sausage and pretzels as they looked over three sports or race cars in the hotel's beer garden.

At the Javits Center on Wednesday, Jaguar offered a private lounge, where journalists could enjoy a wonderful assortment of fresh fruit -- in contrast to Cadillac's artery clogging desserts. 

Kia, unveiling a restyled minivan, had servers circulating with flutes of domestic champagne and glass spoons holding a crunchy winter berry salad with quinoa.

Do young women in short skirts sell cars? This model stood on a rotating platform with a new Jaguar, but didn't say a word.

Hundreds do lunch

Nissan quickly ran out of the Japanese-style box lunches it distributed at 12:25 p.m., but they contained two kinds of chicken, not the sushi many people expected.

At the bar set up by Infiniti, Nissan's luxury division, a woman circulated with a tray of short wooden skewers holding what she described as "tomato, cheese and presto."

She meant "pesto." 

The press day I attended on Wednesday was my first since I covered auto importers based in North Jersey for a daily newspaper in the 1990s.

The food at the auto show was better then.

Toyota unveiled the next-generation Camry, above and below.

Journalists packing up after one of the numerous press conferences on Wednesday.

Lots of free stuff

As a newspaper reporter in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I covered such importers as Jaguar, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, all headquartered in northern New Jersey. 

I spent a weekend in Montauk, N.Y., driving a new model from Peugeot, but it wasn't enough to keep the French automaker from pulling out of the United States.

And I was invited to lunch with a Ford Motor Co. analyst in a private room at Le Bernadin, one of Manhattan's best seafood restaurants.

Like many papers, the daily I worked for had rules prohibiting reporters from accepting free food or anything else of value.

But when I road tested a new car for a monthly column, the vehicle was supplied to me at no cost, I could keep it for a weekend or a week, and it was delivered to my home or office and picked up.

Except for Consumer Reports magazine, which buys the cars it evaluates from dealers, the vast majority of evaluations today continue to use free vehicles.

And spending up to a week with a car isn't anything like buying one and getting stuck with an unreliable model or receiving many recall notices.

Today, magazine writers, bloggers and others who write about cars go on all-expenses-paid trips to be the first to report on a new car model or tire.

I recall reading about one such trip to Sicily, where Pirelli unveiled a new tire and invited writers to tear up the roads in sports cars equipped with the high-performance rubber.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Manhattan is a nice place to visit, not to buy food

On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Fairway Market is offering wild salmon fillet for $39.99 a pound, two to three times what the fish will cost when it appears in a few weeks at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack. 

Organic garlic from Peru, left, and organic bananas are displayed on the second floor of the Manhattan store, along with many other organic items. The upper level also has a cafe and steakhouse, but the public bathrooms are on a hard-to-find third level.

On Saturday, conventional Calimyrna Figs were $6.99 for 12 ounces at Fairway Market, compared to a 40-ounce bag of organically grown Calimyrna Figs for $10.99 from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack. The Manhattan store is the first and smallest Fairway Market, which has an outpost in Paramus.

Red snapper from New Zealand ($11.99 a pound) trying to look cool at Citarella, the gourmet market next door to Fairway on Broadway in Manhattan. The two food stores occupy the entire block between 74th and 75th streets.

Part of the fish counter at Citarella, which had lower prices than Fairway for wild salmon ($34.99) and boned shad fillet ($6.49). Both stores offer far more variety in seafood than Costco Wholesale, and Fairway not only offers the Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix you'll find at Costco, but other salads from the California-based organic grower you won't find in the warehouse store, including baby arugula and kale. 

The Ansonia on Broadway is a former hotel that occupies the entire block between 73rd and 74th streets, above and below.

The ornate, 110-year-old building has both condominiums and apartments.

Caruso, Toscanini, Stravinsky and Ziegfeld lived there.