Sunday, May 31, 2009

The appeal of Korean BBQ at home

We love having so many Korean barbecue restaurants to choose from, but few places tell you much about the quality of the meat they serve. Preparing the meal at home solves that and other problems.

Today, I stovetop grilled strips of organic, grass-fed ribeye steak (Fairway) that had spent the night in the fridge in bulgogi marinade. I steamed two kinds of dumplings (Mandoo Inc.) I also had in the freezer: kimchi and chicken. I cooked white rice in our rice cooker and put out bowls of kimchi and spicy bean paste and a plate with red-leaf lettuce leaves. Luckily, I found a bottle of Asahi black beer in the back of the refrigerator.

Eating at home also allows my son to fill his lettuce leaf with as much meat, rice, bean paste and kimchi as he wants, then try the impossible and stuff it all into his mouth. And at most restaurants, you would have to buy two portions of meat ($50 and up) if you want to cook it on the table. Madangsui in Fort Lee offers prime beef for an extra charge, but few places tell you anything about the bulgogi and short ribs they offer.

We won't stop going to barbecue restaurants once in a whle, but we'll continue to refine the meal we prepare at home. For example, I plan to buy an electric grill for the table so we can cook our meat there. And next time, I'll remember to serve sliced garlic and a shredded scallion salad to include in the lettuce packages.

Friday, May 29, 2009

First day of new food shopping regimen

I had my annual physical in Englewood today and could only have water and black coffee before my blood was drawn. I didn't eat until about 12:30 and went straight home to heat up leftover spinach pie and part of a Greek bagel from Cafe Angelique in Tenafly.

I lived in Englewood for many years and it's a great food town. You should have seen me drive past Ashanti, which has outrageous jerk chicken; and Gaboh Inc., the kimchi factory that is just down the street from there. And with dozens of Korean dumplings in my freezer, I didn't detour to Mandoo Inc. On the way home, there was no stopping at Balthazar Bakery for its crusty $2 baguette or Jerry's Gourmet to sample all the cheese, salami and sweets that are put out every day.

The frugal friend who I all-you-can-eat lunched with yesterday read my last post and commented that anyone who visits nine food stores in 10 days is crazy. I couldn't agree more. This is part of my answer:

It's not entirely my wife's fault but she stopped going to ShopRite on a regular basis, doesn't make a list and often forgets stuff I want like seltzer. That necessitates another trip to ShopRite by me. We had already decided to go to Costco only once a week and I haven't been to Trader Joe's for weeks, meaning I have had to go without Greek-style yogurt and sliced yogurt cheese and St. Louis ribs from the Niman Ranch. Now my wife is going to go to ShopRite during the hour our son is getting his piano lesson in Englewood, where she still prefers to shop. But my pita bread is almost out so I'll have to go to Fattal's soon. I just wish there was one store that had all the stuff I like. I have hated food shopping for years, especially when I did it all. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Addicted to food shopping

I can barely close the doors of our upright refrigerator-freezer. I was looking for something this evening and what I found shocked me.

In the freezer, we have eight dozen Korean dumplings; bread from two or three bakeries, free-roaming chicken, grass-fed steak, frozen wild salmon, uncured beef hotdogs and other items I didn't bother cataloging. Still, when I was at Costco yesterday, I bought wild-caught flounder from Iceland for tonight's dinner, part of the $100 or so I spent on food. I just looked at recent activity on the credit card I use for food shopping and found that me or my wife visited food stores nine times in a 10-day period. Not good, even though I get a 5% credit card rebate at supermarkets, and that doesn't include restaurant visits.

We need to get more organized and make food purchases only once or twice a week. That means a weekly visit to Costco and ShopRite, and periodic visits to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Fattal's, wine stores and so forth. Tomorrow evening, my wife plans to make soup, but I will be eating leftovers: the vegetables from Jerry's $6.99 takeout dinners that we had Tuesday night; the okra and tomatoes I picked up at H Mart and Fairway in the past few days; the Murray's chicken coated with chili spices we had last night; the sweet corn I got at Costco yesterday...

With all this food around, you'd think I wouldn't eat out. But because I had a two-for-one coupon, I met a frugal friend at Angelina's in Hackensack for the $7.95 lunch buffet today and ate way too much, including three salads, mussels, chicken francese and rubbery rigatoni with vegetables. I should have skipped breakfast, but didn't, preparing hot 10-grain cereal with blueberries and a slice of toast with yogurt cheese and smoked wild salmon. And the cloudy weather gives me the blahs; when the sun doesn't come out, I can't drag myself out of the house for my daily 2.2 mile walk with weights.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A few bites out of the Big Apple

I love the major legal holidays, because you can park just about anywhere in Manhattan without feeding the meters, and so we drove into the city on Monday for lunch at Ipuddo NY, 65 Fourth Ave., a branch of a ramen chain in Japan that is widely known for its tonkotsu, or pork, broth.

We liked everything about Ippudo -- the shouted greetings from the staff, the reggae soundtrack and the food. We tried the shiomaru NY ramen, akamaru modern ramen (both $13), pork buns ($9) and black cod with miso ($12). The broth of the shiomaru ramen was rich but the akamaru ramen was even better with its splash of soy. Ippudo NY uses Berkshire pork, a breed raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. The two spicy pork buns, cut into four pieces, wowed us and compared favorably with those at Momofuku. The fish was moist and delicious.

This ramen was better than the noodle soup at our old standby, Batten Ramen in Fort Lee, but we missed the delicious gyoza we have on each visit there.

After our lunch, we drove over to Dirty Bird To Go on West 14th Street to pick up a rotisserie chicken ($13.95) and side dishes for dinner at home. The free-roaming chickens are raised in Pennsylvania Amish country without antibiotics and fed a vegetarian diet, according to the menu. 

After a long walk in Central Park, we stopped at Fairway Market in Harlem for three pounds of ground coffee and fresh Murray's free-roaming chicken. The prices are higher in the city than at the Fairway Market in Paramus. I don't buy Murray's wings in Paramus because they are priced higher than the leg quarters; in Manhattan, the wings were over $3 a pound, compared with $1.89 for leg quarters (20 cents a pound more than in New Jersey). I did pay $4.99 for a large can of Bumble Bee red salmon, compared to $5.99 at ShopRite, which no longer puts this item on sale. 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Flavors of the French Riviera

Watching the Formula 1 drivers race through the streets of Monaco this morning brought back a flood of memories -- food memories. I went to the principality to see the race two years in a row, 1971 and 1972. Today, I watched the race on TV.

I recall a wonderful lunch of Bresse chicken, white asparagus and strawberries at Troigros in Roanne, France, a restaurant with the top rating of three Michelin stars, as I mentioned in a previous post. A friend also introduced me to three great dishes I have continued to enjoy to this day: a salade Nicoise I ordered at an outdoor cafe near the Monte Carlo Casino; mussels mariner-style (moules mariniere), made with white wine and garlic; and pasta with pesto, which we had at a seaside place in Nice.

In those days, after the race, Princess Grace feted the drivers with a banquet at the Hotel de Paris. I saw her that evening through the broad plate-glass window of the hotel and thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Then a Mercedes roadster pulled up and the actor David Niven, in a white dinner jacket,  got out and walked up the steps to the hotel's front door. 

And the winner is ....

My friend Bruce said I didn't express a clear preference in the previous post about Bartolomeo's and Jerry's Gourmet in Englewood.
The only reason I can see for returning to Bartolomeo's is to have an espresso, try one of their pizzas, or to have someplace to eat; it has seating for about 20.  Jerry's has far more selection of just about everything and a much wider variety of items for sale, including bread, cheese, wine, sea salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
And Bartolomeo's vacant second floor gives me even less reason to go there.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bartolomeo's v. Jerry's Gourmet

My wife and me drove to Englewood today for a late breakfast at Bartolomeo's, the first serious challenger to the dominance of Jerry's Gourmet for Italian prepared food and groceries. What we found is a much smaller place with the quality but not the selection Jerry's has become known for.

Bartolomeo's is in an impressive new brick building at North Dean Street and West Demarest Avenue, less than a mile from Jerry's warehouse on South Dean in the shadow of an elevated section of Route 4. The former lags in the variety of cheeses and prepared foods, and doesn't sell any wine, but bakes pizza on the premises. Bartolomeo's also doesn't offer complete meals to go. Jerry's restaurant-quality meals, at $6.99, are among the best takeout values in North Jersey.

At Bartolomeo's, I struck up a conversation with an elderly Italian gentleman who said he was the owner. He said he had a successful business -- a store and adjacent pizzeria -- for more than a decade on Grand Avenue in Palisades Park, but that in recent years his revenues declined because the increasing number of Korean residents didn't eat a lot of Italian food.

The Englewood building has a vacant second floor, which is for rent. The man scoffed at my suggestion he open a pasta restaurant that serves a great bowl of spaghetti and meatballs or a Neapolitan pizza joint. Mentioning the wealthy residents of Englewood, Tenafly and nearby towns, he insisted only a high-end place that charged $200 a couple would be suitable for the space.

For our late breakfast, I had eggs, potatoes and peppers and my wife chose sausage, onions and peppers, both sold by the pound, $7.99 and $6.99, respectively. The hero roll we split was another 75 cents. You can get a cup of espresso at Bartolomeo's, and the store stocks a large selection of refrigerated and dry imported pasta, including dry pasta in crockery ($14.99).

And Bartolomeo's isn't nearly as generous with samples. I tried a couple of small, but delicious slivers of foccacia with olive and tomato there, in contrast to the half-dozen cheeses and salami I tasted the day before at Jerry's.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The market that often beats all others on price

For dinner tonight, we baked six small whiting and steamed two dozen Little Neck clams in sake and garlic. I bought them at H Mart in Little Ferry, the Korean supermarket formerly known as Han Ah Reum.

I also picked up five pounds of organic carrots ($4.99) and a box of 20 champagne mangoes from Mexico ($11.99). The whiting were $2.99 a pound and the clams $3.99 a dozen. I saw herbicide-free Campari tomatoes for $1.99 a pound, compared to $2.50 at Fairway in Paramus and $2.75 at Costco in Hackensack.

I shopped at the H-Mart in Englewood, when I lived there, and occasionally visited the Ridgefield store. Year in, year out, the prices for fresh fish and produce are often the lowest around and the quality, compared to ShopRite, for example, is far superior. The whiting I picked up this evening had the sweetest flesh and compared favorable to the larger whiting I bought at Fairway last week for $3.99 a pound (or was it $4.99?).

In case you are wondering ...

I received several e-mails with comments from nog66 and wanted to publish them on this blog. But I think I hit the wrong button and they weren't published, so I'm going to address some of his/her comments here.

I can buy some of the quantities I do at Costco because those foods are part of my daily diet. I have no trouble finishing a pound or more of wild smoked salmon in a week or so. I simply have a wild salmon sandwich every morning. The sandwich usually has a slice or two of Parmigiano-Reggiano in it and some organic salad greens. I can't wait for the fresh wild salmon to arrive at Costco. The pieces are usually two pounds or more and yield six or seven nice fillets. I'll also eat that every day until it's gone.

I buy a pound of the Earthbound Farms salad mix every week and eat a salad every night with dinner. I cut the wedge of Parmigiano into three and put each into plastic wrap (as the label recommends). The cheese is always moist and crumbly, even if it takes me a month to finish it.

To be sure, I have bought food at Costco that spoiled before my family of three finished it or was simply awful. I tried the four pounds of cut fruit recently and most of it was either over-ripe or hard and not ripe. And, yes, I do have nearly a dozen reusable grocery bags, but I often forget them in the car.

As for Paterson's Middle Eastern food bazaar, I have been shopping there for nearly 30 years and have my favorites, including Fattal's for bread, canned goods, sweet or savory pastries and spices, and Assayad, a Syrian restaurant on the Clifton side of Crooks Avenue, the border between Clifton and Paterson. I don't think I'll try the Halal Chinese place that has opened at Crooks and Getty avenues. (My previous favorite restaurant, Vine Valley Lebanese Restaurant, is long closed and a great Turkish place, Kafe Teria, closed recently.) Yes, I have been to the farmers' market near the tracks and the big Turkish bakery and just about every other pastry shop and restaurant. The problem I have found over the years is restaurant sanitation, which does not seem to be a priority in many places. (This post was revised.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

At $9.99, this meal remains a bargain

Sundubu jjigae(순두부찌개), a Korean stew made with...Image via Wikipedia
Soft -tofu stew.

I'm not sure how it happened, but Korean soft tofu has become my son's favorite meal to eat out. When he was asked where he wanted to go for his birthday last weekend, he immediately directed me to our favorite tofu house in Palisades Park, the second-floor restaurant called So Gong Dong.

I have been eating soft tofu for more than 10 years and like it spicy. The tofu stew, steamed rice and free side dishes are enough for me, but my son likes to order dumplings or beef barbecue, too. Three years ago, So Gong Dong charged $7.99 for the tofu stew and six side dishes. Today, the meal is $9.99 (including tax), but only four side dishes are served. Still, this meal gives us a feeling of well being and we consider it a bargain. Ten varieties are available, including plain, oyster, beef and pork.

It's a great introduction to Korean food, because you can order it four ways, from "no spice" to "more spicy." Koreans call it sundubu tchigae and it's healthy and filling. First, you get the side dishes: crunchy cabbage kimchi, cucumber kimchi, bean sprouts and raw squid in a spicy red sauce. They are replenished without prompting. The tofu stew arrives at the table in a stone bowl, bubbling furiously, hot enough to cook the raw egg you're given to break into it. A second hot stone bowl is filled with steamed white rice.

Some people spoon the rice into a smaller bowl and then cover it with tofu stew. Others dip a spoonful of rice into the reddish broth or alternate the bland rice with the spicy stew. You can empty the stone bowl with rice and loosen the stuff that sticks to the bottom with tea or you can empty the bowl and peel off the toasted remainder. There is no right or wrong way to eat the meal.

Look around. The other customers seem happy. You often see families or couples enjoying themselves.  You'll know the married couples when you see the man reading the newspaper during the meal. When you get the bill, the $9.99 is rounded up to $10, but no tax is added. The other prices, such as $7.99 for dumpings, also are rounded up a penny.

So Gong Dong, 118 Broad Ave.,
Second Floor, Palisades Park; 201-313-8900.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Will Emeril really be worth the detour?

The Sunday restaurant column in the local daily paper today brought the breathless news that Emeril Lagasse, the so-called celebrity chef, will be opening his first Northeast restaurant on Friday, LESS THAN TWO HOURS by car from North Jersey.

Did I run out to the garage to check my hybrid's gas gauge and tires? The column said Emeril's Chop House (I guess it's a steakhouse) in a new Bethlehem, Pa., casino will have a menu of local mushrooms and other farm produce, but is silent on the quality of the meat that will be served. 

Every time I read about a celebrity chef such as Emeril, I'm reminded of what one of them said: "People pay us to buy food and cook it for them." That puts it into perspective. I'm more interested in whether a restaurant serves wild fish and chicken that is drug-free and fed a vegetarian diet than I am in whose name is on it.

I did have a great seafood meal once at Nola, one of Lagasse's restaurants in New Orleans, when I was visiting the city for a music festival a couple of years ago. And in the early 1970s, in Europe to see a Formula One race, me and two friends drove from Paris to Monte Carlo, but took a few hours out to stop for a memorable lunch at Troigros, a restaurant in Roanne, France, with three Michelin stars, the top rating.

Thanks, but no thanks. Don't bust my chops. I won't be driving to Pennsylvania to eat in a celebrity chef's chophouse.  (This post was revised.)

An Omega-3 sandwich for any time of the day

When I saw that I didn't have enough sardine left for my breakfast sandwich today, I opened a pack of smoked wild Alaskan sockeye salmon from Costco and assembled a sandwich oozing with beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids.

I started with toasted, 100% whole grain bread (also from Costco) and a spread of baba ghanouj. I added organic spring mix, half of a fat Moroccan sardine, some prescliced wild salmon, sliced tomato sprinkled with za'artar and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The same ingredients would be terrific in Balthazar Bakery's baguette or stuffed into Fattal's pita.

My first bite hit the cumin I had sprinkled on the baba ghanouj, the salty cheese and the two layers of fish. My side dishes were ajvar, the Macedonian pepper-and-eggplant spread, and crunchy cabbage kimchi. After a 2.2-mile walk in chilly conditions, this sandwich was a warm welcome home.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Five days of good eating at home

Our first dinner Monday night was baked wild salmon (Costco) and snapper (Trader Joe's) from the freezer with baked potatoes, a salad of organic spring mix (Costco) and seltzer. We had fish the next night, too, this time five fresh whiting (Fairway) in panko bread crumbs I baked for about 20 minutes and served with a salad and rice, organic black beans (Whole Foods) and tomatoes prepared in our rice cooker. I drank sparkling 100% red grape juice from Spain (ShopRite).

On Wednesday morning, I filled a slow cooker with two pounds of organic, grass-fed beef chunks (Fairway), potatoes, carrots, onions, scallions, red wine and chicken stock, flavored it with cinnamon and allspice, salt and black pepper and let it cook for more than six hours until the meat was falling apart. I drank some of the Argentinean malbec I used in the stew and soaked up the gravy with toasted Italian bread.

Thursday night, my wife baked Murray's free-roaming, drug-free chicken quarters (Fairway) with a sweet and spicy sauce, and steamed white rice,  and I had New Zealand venison burgers (Whole Foods), rare, stuffed into pita halves with spring mix and a slice of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. My wife also prepared side dishes of okra with tomatoes and sauteed cabbage. 

Tonight, Friday, I had leftovers -- two pieces of chicken and the last venison burger, plus a salad with cucumber and herbicide-free tomatoes. My fresh bread was purchased at an Italian deli in Totowa. When I asked where the bread was baked, the man said it was from near "the New York tunnel."

Maybe you've been laid off. Or you put in for a  promotion and they gave it to a guy half your age who is about as qualified as a trained chimp. My advice is to call an employment lawyer and always try to eat well, because eating well is the best revenge.

Beating the prices at Fairway

My wife went to Costco for our weekly visit on Wednesday and bought Kirkland brand Real Eggs for $8.19. She got six small cartons, not four as I said in the previous post, for a total of 96 ounces of egg whites. That's three times the quantity of Original Egg Beaters I bought at Fairway for $5.89.

That dramatic difference is no surprise. Smoked wild salmon is $13.99 a pound at Costco, about half of what it would cost at Fairway. A pound of Earthbound Farms organic spring mix is $4.79 at the warehouse store, $6.99 at Fairway. On a previous visit, I saw chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at Fairway for $8.99 a pound, but there was no indication it had been aged 24 months like the same cheese at Costco for $9.99 a pound.

Where Costco lags is in the availability of drug-free chicken parts (it stocks only organic, skinless thighs) and drug- and hormone-free beef and pork.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Another so-so experience at Fairway

I returned to Fairway's new store in Paramus this morning armed with a $10 off coupon on a purchase of $100, but not with a calculator that could have helped me hit the bull's-eye.

Many people crow about Fairway's competitive pricing, but I have yet to see definitive proof of that. True, herbicide-free Campari tomatoes, at two pounds for $5, are 49 cents cheaper than Costco. Murray's free-roaming, drug-free chicken was $1.69 a pound for leg quarters with the skin on to $2.39 a pound for a whole chicken, but wings were still priced inexplicably at $2.69 a pound. I looked and looked and asked in vain at the meat counter for antibiotic- and hormone-free pork.

I bought three bottles of Fairway's marinara sauce for $2.99 each, a great price for a great bottled sauce, but noticed the ingredients were the same for Fairway spaghetti sauce. (By the way, I always added a can of anchovies with its oil to the Fairway sauce for some extra oomph without the taste of the fish, which dissolves completely.) And I got some beautiful whole whiting for $3.99 a pound that I plan to bake tonight. There's nothing like the sweet flesh of these little fish.

I usually buy egg beaters at Costco (four small cartons), but forgot to on my last trip. So I picked up a quart of the original Egg Beaters for $5.89, and have no idea if that is a good  price.

In the end, though, I got $10 off my total of $112.94, bringing it down to $102.94, and my cash rebate American Express Blue card will refund another 5 percent of the total. But the bottle of Fairway balsamic vinegar I bought for $3.19 broke on my granite counter top when I set the bag down, because the helpful but inept Fairway packer just put it into a flimsy plastic bag with the bottles of pasta sauce and no padding.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Eating green at Wondee's Fine Thai Food

I have always loved Wondee's Fine Thai Food & Noodles in Hackensack. The food is always fresh and a good value for the money. You can get a whole fish for about $15, compared with other places that charge twice as much or more. We had dinner there Saturday night and I noticed how just about every dish contained green -- deep green romaine lettuce or vegetables such as green beans. 

We started with a large wonton soup, enough for three, which had some of the leafy part of the bok choy. Our duck salad with fruit was served over broad romaine lettuce leaves. The steamed pork and shrimp dumplings were crowned with a tangle of fresh cilantro.

Our shared entree, free-range Australian lamb in a spicy Panang curry sauce, was filled with crunchy green beans. Each of us also had a bowl of steamed white rice, for a filling and satisfying meal. It is no wonder that Wondee's packs in the customers on the weekends.

Wondee's Fine Thai Food & Noodles, 
296 Main St., 201-883-1700;  parking in rear 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rise and fall of a good restaurant

I wasn't totally surprised to read in my local newspaper today that the health inspector had ordered the closing of Petite Soo Chow in Cliffside Park for "general unsanitary conditions."

We started going to the Shanghai-style restaurant a couple of years ago after our favorite Chinese restaurant, China 46, closed because of landlord-rent issues. Felix, the proprietor, always served great Shanghai-style food, such as pork shoulder with buns and crispy fried whole fish, and his all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch was unmatched.

The food at Petite Soo Chow, including the soup dumplings, was good but we soon noticed that the lone male waiter was less than meticulous in his personal habits. In other words, me, my wife and our 11-year-old son saw this waiter pick his nose repeatedly, then bring food from the kitchen to customers, including us. How do you handle something like this?

We stopped going there more than a year ago. Then the local paper gave Petite Soo Chow a rave review. But I guess the restaurant reviewer, who visits at least twice, didn't notice the waiter or maybe he no longer worked there. Today's health inspection notice was welcome news. Of course, we don't know the details of what the inspector found, but I hope the waiter, if he is still there, will be more careful. (This post has been revised.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

More light shed on Bobby Flay's burgers

If you look at the Web site for Bobby's Burger Palace, the grandiose name for the chef's hamburger restaurants, you'll find that the beef used is less than royal.

I checked out the online menu for the restaurant in Paramus and saw Certified Angus Beef listed. As I reported in the previous post, this is a lower grade than Certified Angus Beef Natural. I don't know what the wholesale price difference is, but can't imagine it would stand in the way of a chef who wants to serve the best to his customers.

Certified Angus Beef, unlike the Natural line, is raised with antibiotics and growth hormones, and the feed contains animal by-products. This is not a hamburger I would be interested in eating. And I guess the local newspaper erred in both the original article about the restaurant and the lavish spread published last month. All in all, lots of bull has been thrown around by the restaurant and the newspaper.

The Bobby Flay hamburger mystery

I just came across the article in the local newspaper reporting that Bobby Flay was building a hamburger restaurant in Paramus. This story was under a one-column headline on the local news pages, in contrast to the far-more-elaborate story and color photos that appeared last month in the feature pages. The stories had the same byline, both written by the paper's restaurant reviewer.

The mystery is why the first story specified that burgers would be made from Certified Black Angus beef and the second story, despite thousands of additional words, was silent on the kind of beef used beyond a few vague phrases such as "chef's quality." It turns out the first story was in error and should have referred to Certified Angus Beef. It's good, but Certified Angus Beef Natural is far better, because it is raised on vegetarian feed and without antibiotics and growth hormones, and each animal can be traced to its ranch of origin.

Is it possible that Flay, the celebrity chef who has a bad habit of biting his fingernails (you can see it in one of the photos), felt even the lower grade Certified Angus Beef would cut into his bottom line too much and went with something cheaper? Or did the restaurant reviewer screw up? Stay tuned. I will try to find out. (This post has been revised.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Another great breakfast

My wife surprised me Saturday morning by preparing one of my favorites, ackee and saltfish, the Jamaican breakfast we usually have on Sundays. I'll probably eat the leftovers today.

The dish mixes salty, spicy and bland flavors, and different textures, and gives you another opportunity to eat fish in the morning. We buy the ackee, a fruit, in a can, but many Jamaicans hide frozen fresh ackee in their luggage when they return from the island. I have seen ackee compared to scrambled eggs in appearance, but it actually looks like brain matter. The price for canned ackee skyrocketed a few years ago after a hurricane and today, a 19-ounce can costs more than $10.

The bland ackee and salty codfish bits are sauteed in vegetable oil with onion, sweet and hot peppers and tomato. They are served with green bananas that have been boiled to the point where you can easily mash them with a fork. I douse my food with Valentina, a Mexican hot sauce, and like to stuff warm pita halves with ackee, saltfish and banana. A great, stick-to-your ribs breakfast.

Later Sunday -- For breakfast today, I took some of the leftover ackee and saltfish and folded it into a plain omelet, plating it with boiled green bananas and half of a leftover baked potato.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Dashing out for a Turkish breakfast

I had a late-morning meeting in Totowa on Thursday, so I decided to set out early and stop in Paterson for breakfast at a Turkish restaurant and shopping at a Syrian bakery-grocery.

But when I arrived in the city's South Paterson section, the corner that had been occupied for years by Kafe Teria had a different awning and a different restaurant, Aleppo, a Syrian place, which hadn't opened for the day. Fortunately, the Turkish bakery next door was open and I ordered breakfast. The woman set down before me a plate with two kinds of cheeses (one like cream cheese, the other like feta), sliced cucumber and tomato, a hard-boiled egg, cured black olives and honey, which I added to strong tea. A large, round, challah-like bread came with the meal. After I had eaten, she asked for $8, but accepted my last $7 in cash.

A couple of blocks away, at Fattal's, I bought fresh-baked pita, 20 cans of Moroccan sardines (99 cents each), a quarter-pound of ground cumin and a little ground cardamom for the espresso I drink at home. I then went to an ATM, returned to my breakfast place, bought some bread with cheese, tomato and green pepper, and another with ground meat, and paid my $1 debt. At my meeting, I presented a package of pita bread to the woman and she was delighted.