Sunday, February 28, 2010

We take the meatless pledge at Wondee's

One of the many meatless dishes at Wondee's in Hackensack.

Arrayed before us at Wondee's in Hackensack last night were bowls of wonton soup with pork, a wonderfully crispy duck-and-fruit salad and red pork cooked two ways with bok choy.

We've been wanting to cut down on how much meat we eat -- chicken, pork, beef and our favorite, Australian lamb -- and this meat-heavy Thai meal seemed like the right time to pledge to do it. My wife and son had ordered the wonton, but I chose a tofu soup.

Along with the duck salad, I also ordered grilled tofu with a peanut sauce and a small salad. The waitress noted Wondee's vegetarian menu offers a tofu version of the duck salad, which we choose often. We also could always have the crunchy green-papaya salad.

We agreed that starting today, we would eat only meatless meals, but we wouldn't give up heart-healthy seafood. (We ate three fish dinners last week, and my breakfast usually is canned fish salad, sardines or smoked wild salmon.) Eggs also are allowed. My weight is getting out of hand, and I hope eliminating animal fats will help me lose some.

On Saturday afternoon, I bought two pounds of wild-caught shrimp at Fairway Market in Paramus for our dinner tonight. But we are out of chicken, lamb and beef, though we do have two opened packages of Applegate Farm preservative- and drug-free sliced ham and turkey my wife takes to school in sandwiches.

This morning, I had two eggs with Aleppo red pepper -- fried sunny side up in extra-virgin olive oil -- and served them over Colombian corn cakes with cheese (arepas) that I picked up at Hackensack Market. Stewed Korean tofu (H Mart) and a quartered tomato with za'atar thyme mixture were on the side.

For Monday night, we have a vegetarian dinner imported from India in the cupboard (from Target's new store in Paramus) that we've enjoyed many times. Tuesday? We'll see. Maybe I can find those terrific haddock fillets at Costco that we fried up last week.

Wondee's Fine Thai Food & Noodles, 
296 Main St., 201-883-1700;  parking in rear
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Friday, February 26, 2010

Cooking to music

A cup of Turkish coffee served on a terrace in...Image via Wikipedia

Kano, author of "Syrian Foodie in London," a food blog you'll find listed at right, recommends an unusual site with Arabic music accompanying video recipes.

Here is the link to one recipe:

Here is the link to the cooking video site itself: 7aki7aki

OK. The site is in French and Arabic, neither of which I read, but I love it it because it reminds me of when Grace Sasson, my mother, used to play Arabic music in our Brooklyn home, where she would entertain guests, serving them Turkish coffee (photo) and her homemade pastries,  or prepare her Sephardic specialties for dinner.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

A rare visit to Corrado's Family Affair

At Corrado's, Wayne NJImage by Kurt Wagner via Flickr

I once shopped regularly at Corrado's Family Affair, the large ethnic supermarket near the Clifton-Paterson border. I loved the aisle with bread from two dozen or more ethnic bakeries and the bottles of imported wine -- three for $10.

The store sold many Italian specialties under its own label, including extra-virgin olive oil and pastas. It always stocked pasta with squid ink, one of my favorites. Corrado's also opened food and non-food stores across Getty Avenue.

But the inexpensive imported wine became scarcer and prices for some items seemed better elsewhere, such as sardines at Fattal's Bakery on Main Street in Paterson. And I didn't like how the store sometimes pasted price labels over the expiration dates for Earthbound Farm salad mixes. So I went back to Corrado's less frequently, and visited the new Wayne supermarket only a couple of times (photo).

On the way back from Morristown yesterday, I stopped at Fattal's for bread, canned hummus, yogurt drink and a few other items, then headed over to Corrado's for the lemons I needed to prepare hummus. It had really big lemons at six for $1.99. I bought four, plus a red pepper at 99 cents a pound and a seedless cucumber for 75 cents. A 1-liter bottle of black currant syrup was $4.89 (to pour over plain yogurt).

The interior was renovated a couple of months ago and painted, an employee said. But you still won't find any signs in the crowded aisles, and shopping there is something of a treasure hunt. Customers are friendly and talkative -- unlike the snobs that frequent Fairway Market in Paramus.

At Corrado's, I noticed that a lot of the produce seem wilted, despite the almost constant stocking of bins. For example, I saw loose romaine lettuce with brown bottoms -- not a good sign. And I didn't even look at the bread aisle.

On the way home, I went to Crooks and East Railway avenues, where the Paterson Farmers' Market has set up shop year-round. Looking over produce at several stores, the prices here seemed even better than at Corrado's, but I was disappointed in not being able to find the dozen containers of organic, Greek-style yogurt that I bought Feb. 6 for only $2. "Probably Friday," the woman said.

 Corrado's Family Affair, 1578 Main Ave., 
Clifton; 973-340-0628. Web site:  Corrado's

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shopping and tasting notes

Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) at the New ...Image via Wikipedia

Say hello to haddock

I never know what I'll find in the seafood cases at Costco in Hackensack, where I shop weekly on Mondays or Tuesdays. Tonight, my wife coated thick, meaty wild-caught haddock fillets from Canada in Indian spices and flour, and fried them. Me and my son loved them. (Photo: haddock.)

On Tuesday, I first looked at and rejected lobster tails that had been treated with a preservative ($16.99 a pound). I also walked past the many trays of artificially colored farmed salmon and found the haddock among trays of wild-caught flounder (from Canada or Iceland). I bought a pound and a half or so of haddock at $7.49 a pound.

I also picked up a pound of preservative-free smoked wild sockeye salmon ($14.79). Costco also carries frozen Alaskan wild sockeye salmon fillets (about $8.50 a pound) , which we steamed for dinner Monday night.

Korean barbecue without the guilt

On Sunday morning, I pulled out two freezer bags with thin-sliced Australian beef in Korean bulgogi marinade. This was the free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic-free whole tenderloin sold at ShopRite under the Nature's Reserve label for as little as $3.99 a pound with a store card.

While the beef was defrosting, I went to H Mart in Little Ferry for two heads of red-leaf lettuce (two for $1), but couldn't find the scallion salad usually served with Korean barbecue. I cooked the beef on a stove-top grill with scallions and garlic, and served it with steamed Korean dumplings, white rice and kimchi -- we wrapped beef, garlic, kimchi and rice in lettuce and went to town.

Mexican dinner from a can

We eat a lot of Readington Farms chicken -- at least once or twice a week -- and in the freezer, I found a tray of wings and another of leg quarters I bought at ShopRite. The chickens are raised on vegetarian feed and without antibiotics. Unfortunately, rarely are they on sale.

We breaded the wings in chili spices and baked them at 375 degrees, but I pan roasted the leg quarters and then let them finish cooking in mildly spicy chipotle sauce and peppers. The sauce came in a 7-ounce can under the La Morena label; the peppers in adobo sauce in a similar can under the La Costena label. I found both at Hackensack Market.

I plated the chicken and plenty of sauce on top of yellow rice, and served them with a salad of organic sprinx mix.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do you wash salad from a bag?

EarthboundImage by UnholyKnight via Flickr

Consumer Reports has an article in the March 2010 issue that gives me pause: Tests found pre-washed salad in bags or plastic containers -- including organic -- weren't always squeaky clean.

That worried me, because I am a big fan of Earthbound Farm organic spring mix, which I buy at Costco for $4.49 a pound (the price of the container I bought today). I don't wash this delicious mix of red and green baby lettuce, arugula, radicchio, chard and mizuna before stuffing it into a sandwich or making a dinner salad.

The article said contaminated salad usually contained spinach, and my Earthbound Farm mix doesn't have spinach. But I do sometimes buy another bagged salad at Costco -- a non-organic product complete with dressing, nuts and cheese. I don't believe that one has spinach, either, but I'll be looking more closely at my pre-washed salads in the future -- and maybe even washing them.

Here is the link to the Consumer Reports article: How clean is bagged salad? 

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Homung Nangmyun Restaurant in Closter

beebeam nangmyunImage by stu_spivack via Flickr
Koreans eat traditional buckwheat noodles in cold broth year-round, but I wanted something a bit warmer when I stopped for lunch today at Homung Nangmyun in Closter
Despite the chill outside, the small restaurant in Closter Commons shopping center filled up quickly. This past summer, when I had the noodles in a hot and spicy cold house sauce,  I had to wait 15 minutes for a shared table. (Photo: Generic nangmyun with beef.)

Each table holds a thermos of hot, milky beef-bone broth and a cup. You are supposed to down a couple of cups to warm up your stomach against the shock of the cold noodles. I drank some anyway and really enjoyed it, even though I planned to order steamed mandoo, or Korean dumplings ($7.95).

In addition to the small salad the waitress gave me when I arrived, my side dishes were broad ribbons of  radish kimchi and stewed potatoes. I also got hot tea and, when I asked, a small dish of cabbage kimchi. Since the dish I ordered was considered an appetizer, I didn't get the full number of side dishes served to other customers.

The 10 shrimp and vegetable dumplings, which came in a steamer basket, were beautifully made, plump and delicious. The restaurant serves several other hot dishes, including short ribs and soft-tofu stew with seafood.

Homung Nangmyun,570 Piermont Road, Closter,
in Closter Commons Shopping Center; 
201-750-1010. Closed Wednesdays.
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Huong Viet Restaurant in Nutley

A photo of a cup of coffee.Image via Wikipedia

Go for the food, not the service.

We had a wonderful meal last night at Huong Viet, a Vietnamese restaurant in Nutley that is worth the detour, but we could have done without the delays in bringing a drink or a bottle opener for our beer, and uncleared dishes, even though we were the first of the dinner crowd to arrive.

This is a family run place and that is why the food is so good. But the young staff of relatives, though well-meaning, do a poor job of waiting on tables.

The menu is far more extensive than at our two favorite Vietnamese restaurants -- Saigon R. in Englewood and Mo' Pho' in Fort Lee, both from chef-owner K.T. Tran. The Nutley restaurant is in an old storefront with a bright street-level room and an upper level with an uneven floor, where we sat against the wall at a table for four that sloped downward.

Now, to the food. We started with three soups -- wonton with pork, house special egg-drop with crab and asparagus, and anise-flavored pho with noodles and crunchy fish cakes. All were terrific, but my son objected to the wontons' excessive skins, which were overcooked and unpleasantly soft.

Our entrees were fried catfish fillets with a fresh-ginger sauce and pork meatballs with lettuce and fresh mint leaves for wrapping, plus sauteed mustard greens and garlic. We got two big fish fillets, with a small salad and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, and 10 meatballs on wood skewers, with some vermicelli noodles and fish sauce for dipping. We loved all three dishes and took home leftovers.

We usually don't eat dessert, but the waiter said his aunt had prepared her special "flan." I said did he mean creme caramel, recalling the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine. No, he said, it's flan, so we ordered one. I also ordered black coffee and got a small, silver-colored, French-press pot on top of a cup, and I wasn't sure what to do with it.

So I pushed down on the press and after a few minutes poured the coffee into the cup, adding two small packets of sugar. This was the thickest, most delicious black coffee I have ever had. The "flan" was excellent.

I didn't note the prices of individual dishes, but this BYO represents good value. Our meal cost about $75 for three, including a $9 tip. My thanks to Jason Perlow of Off The Brolier for letting us know about Huong Viet.

Huong Viet Restaurant, 358 Passaic Ave., Nutley, Essex County; 
973-667-0827. Parking in rear. No Web site.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Times review of Aleppo Restaurant in Paterson

The Citadel of Aleppo, Syria.Image via Wikipedia

Here is David Corcoran's review of Aleppo Restaurant, my favorite place in Paterson, that appears online and on Sunday in The New York Times. It will make your mouth water. (Photo: The Citadel of Aleppo, Syria.) Click on the following link:

A gentle introduction to Syrian cuisine
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Friday, February 19, 2010

An anniversary sale I couldn't miss

Mitsuwa Marketplace ミツワマーケットプレイスImage via Wikipedia

I was out of the inexpensive sake I use for cooking, so the anniversary sale at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater came just in time. Prices are good through Feb. 28. This sale is not to be confused with the Decemeber sale, when just about everything in the Japanese supermarket is 20% off.

You will find some items at 25% off, such as the California sake I use to steam clams and frozen wild salmon or to add to an Asian-inspired noodle sauce. Dry Yaegaki sake is $5.99 for a 1.5 liter bottle -- $2 off. I bought two yesterday. I also bought Hakushika-brand Japanese sake for drinking, $7.99 for a 720 milliliter bottle -- also $2 off.

Unfortunately, sale items are scattered throughout the store and many were gone by noon, when I got there. Three non-sale items: instant ramen with the lowest salt content I could find -- Shirakiku Miso Ramen, five packages for $4.99; three packages of miso soup mix with tofu ($1.99), grilled eel ($5.25) and whole wheat soba noddles ($3.49).

Mitsuwa has one of the best food courts around, and tables have a terrific view of Manhattan and Riverside Church. You can enjoy ramen, Berkshire pork cutlets, sushi and even spaghetti and meatballs. At St. Honore Bakery, where I bought a cup of black coffee, you can get a pan-fried noodle hero sandwich for $1.80, said to be a popular item.

I don't think you can find higher prices than you'll see on kobe beef, raw blue-fin tuna belly, produce and some other items at Mitsuwa. I saw one young man selecting two, small Washington State-raised kobe steaks -- each about a third of a pound -- for about $26 a pound.

On the way home, I always stop at the Trader Joe's just down the road for uncured, preservative-free hot dogs and bacon ($3.99), and drug- and preservative-free Applegate Farms cold cuts, $3.59 for ham and $3.69 for herbed turkey breast. (Fairway Market in Paramus offers Applegate Frams products by the pound, as well as pre-sliced.) I also picked up organic, free-range chicken drumsticks for $1.99 a pound.

Trader Giotto's hand-made, frozen, mostly organic vegetarian pizza from Italy ($4.29) sounded promising, having been cooked in a wood-burning oven. I heated in up for dinner (13 minutes in a 400-degree oven), and it was filling but bland. When I served it to my wife, her reaction made me feel like a waiter in a lousy pizzeria.

Mitsuwa Marketplace, 595 River Road, Edgewater;
201-941-9113. American Express cards not accepted.

Trader Joe's, 715 River Road, Edgewater;
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Donate a recipe for a good cause

The American Littoral Society -- the folks who protect the shore -- is trying to raise funds by soliciting recipes for a cookbook. Proceeds from sale of the book also will go to a nearby child-care center. Find details at the society's Web site:

Cookin' for the Coast

I'm a member, and look forward to Members' Day, when you can explore the national park at Sandy Hook and eat your fill of freshly shucked clams washed down with beer.
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New life for an old market

Various styles of Chinese calligraphy.Image via Wikipedia

I used to be a big fan of King Fung, the Chinese supermarket on Kinderkamack Road in River Edge, drawn by its live fish and Dungeness crabs, fresh greens and a nice selection of inexpensive Japanese bowls. I even wrote it up several years ago when I was doing the Marketplace column at The Record.

But as the years passed, the store became increasingly shabby. I gauged the decline by the filthy floor in the produce section and, eventually, I stopped going.Yesterday, I went back, looking for more Japanese bowls, and discovered the New King Fung Supermarket, which has been refurbished and rearranged.

The worn, dirty linoleum floor has been replaced and there is a new fish case and new signs. The drop ceiling also may be new. The store seems brighter. The same courteous cashiers are on duty. There's no need to go to Flushing or Chinatown for ingredients: It's all here.

Shelves are filled with a wide selection of dried noodles; small jam-filled cakes and mochi; bottled cooking wine, sauces and oils; and canned eel and fish. I saw more than 20 kinds of whole fresh fish on a bed of ice, a tub of live frogs and tanks of live fish and crabs.

The produce section is full of fresh-looking greens and Chinese vegetables. There are cases of frozen dumplings and other food. Meat, chicken and herbal remedies are also available, as are bags of California-grown rice. Take-out Chinese food is inexpensive, but it doesn't look too appetizing.

I bought four medium-size Japanese bowls at $4.99 each (great for cereal, soup or rice); Shanghai bok choy, Chinese cooking wine and small fruit mochi and mango cakes, and put New King Fung back on my list of great places to shop for food.

For dinner last night, I blanched six to eight whole bok choy in boiling water for a few minutes, then transferred them to a pan with heated cooking wine and soy sauce, seasoned them with black pepper and covered the pan, allowing them to cook for about five minutes. We had them with wild-caught fried flounder from Costco and spaghetti in marinara sauce. A nice dinner.

New King Fung Supermarket, 625 Kinderkamack Road,
River Edge; 201-262-8558. No Web site.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Clueless employees at Costco

Costco beef....oh so AmericanImage by Melosh via Flickr

Yes, the man on the customer side of the meat case said yesterday, I work for Costco. I said I'd like to see more meats without antibiotics sold at the warehouse store in Hackensack. I explained that antibiotic-free pork was especially important, because hogs reportedly receive more drugs than any other animal raised for food.

I'm not sure if he understood me. "The big thing now is kosher," he said, referring to the cases of kosher food that have appeared in the past few months. I replied that even kosher poultry and meat often are raised with antibiotics, which prevent illness in close quarters and speed the growth of animals.

The problem with consuming animals raised with antibiotics is that humans are becoming more resistant to antibiotics prescribed by doctors.

I'm grateful that Costco carries organic ground beef, some organic chicken and free-range, drug-free Australian lamb, but they are far outweighed by the enormous, conventionally raised steaks, slabs of ribs and  large cuts of beef (photo). The source of its 3-pound rotisserie chickens, with many added flavors, is a mystery.

Last night, I enjoyed three of those grass-fed Australian lamb chops, cooked rare in about 12 minutes, with a couple of glasses of under-$4 shiraz from the liquor store next to Costco. Tonight, we're frying fresh, wild-caught Canadian flounder fillets I picked up yesterday at Costco for $8.49 a pound. I also picked up herbicide-free Sunset tomatoes, organic milk, organic salad greens and a new item, organic diced tomatoes, all at low prices.

My trip yesterday had been postponed from Monday, a holiday when lines were unusually long. Yesterday, the snow was still falling when I arrived at 4 in the afternoon. I could park anywhere and the store was relatively empty, with hardly any waiting at check-out. Hooray.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Free pound of shrimp*

Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950-1960Image via Wikipedia

I didn't find many bargains at Whole Foods Market in Paramus on Friday, when I picked up that great rotisserie chicken for dinner, but at check-out, I received a coupon for a free pound of frozen, cooked shrimp.

*I have to spend $30 on another visit. The coupon is good through Feb. 21 and the shrimp are valued at $9.99. I did return on Sunday, Valentine's Day, for two dozen pink roses for my wife -- a good deal at $19.99. They actually have some fragrance and they are opening beautifully.
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Shopping adventure in Hackensack

Celebrate the New Year (2008-12-31 DSC00880)Image by Willscrlt via Flickr

 I had to postpone my weekly trip to Costco in Hackensack yesterday after walking into the store and seeing long lines of shoppers with overflowing carts. North Jersey residents get the day off and what do they do? Shop. But I was hungry, so I abandoned my cart and went  looking for free samples.

There wasn't much: What were those small, dark chocolate things? I had six, then a couple of rice crackers, but the guy with the chips and salsa was trying to sell three bottles of the stuff to another customer and had no samples out.

I headed for the wine and liquor store, next door and not affiliated with Costco. Anyone can shop there. I picked up four bottles of red wine for under $4 each: Crane Lake cabernet from California and Avia shiraz from Chile, not Australia. A fifth bottle,  a Montepulciano D'Abruzzo was $5.99.

When it came time to pay, I pulled out my wallet and saw my Blue Cash Card from American Express was missing. I gave the wine store employee my True Earnings Card, and told him I was going to look for my other card, but as I stepped away, the handle of one of my reusable bags caught the neck of a bottle of $7.99 wine on a display near the register and it went crashing to the floor, splashing our shoes.

I headed back to Costco, first to customer service, then to lost and found, then to the case of Empire kosher chicken parts where I had spoken to a woman, telling her the "all natural" on the package is meaningless and what she wants to look for is poultry without antibiotics. I pulled out my wallet to give her my business card and apparently, the Blue Cash Card went flying to the floor, which is where I found it (it's mostly clear plastic and hard to see unless you're looking for it).

Without further drama, I returned to the wine store, paid and packed my five bottles of wine in another reusable bag, using the first to separate them. The clerk didn't charge me for the broken bottle.

I then drove to H Mart in Little Ferry, about a mile from Costco, and found the Korean supermarket had few customers. It was a pleasure to shop there: 25 cents for a bunch of scallions; $1.29 each for hot house cucumbers 16 inches and 17 inches long from Sunset, which means no herbicides; collard greens that rung up at 79 cents a pound, not the 99 cents on the sign; spicy Korean ramen, 5 packages for $4.99; and two one-pound packages of prepared food -- stir-fried noodles called japchae and seasoned, stewed tofu, $3.99 each.

So my first stop and last stop of the day went smoothly. Before Costco, I went to the Wicker Warehouse, opposite the county jail, to buy a bookshelf.

The woman was nice enough to charge me $149, the price in my catalog at home, and not $169, the higher price effective yesterday with the arrival of a new catalog. The store recently repaired a broken wheel on my wicker armchair for free, replacing the bottom half and all the wheels with an improved design.

For dinner last night, we warmed up the Korean noodles from H Mart, quickly blanched and sauteed the collard greens and enjoyed a roasted-vegetable lasagna from Costco I had in the freezer. It was a satisfying vegetarian meal.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

A big bonus for eating out

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 13:  People shop inside of...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I just received a rebate check for more than $270 from my True Earnings American Express Card, the same one I use at Costco. When I visit the warehouse store in Hackensack today, I'll use the check to pay for my purchases -- likely under $100 -- and will receive the balance in cash. (Photo shows new Costco in Manhattan).

The True Earnings card returns 3% when you use it to pay for a restaurant meal and 2% for travel expenses, such as airline tickets. There is no annual fee.

About half of my $270 is from restaurant meals and take-out. I would also get an additional 1% for Costco purchases, but usually use the Blue Cash Card from American Express because it returns another quarter of a percent, plus 5% back on supermarket (ShopRite, not Costco) , gasoline and pharmacy purchases after you've charged $6,500 with that card.

My Costco Executive Membership costs $100 a year, but a 2% Costco rebate on purchases easily covers the fee every year. Good, often great, food at decent prices, plus cash back. What more could you want?

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Looking for bargains at Whole Foods

45/365 - Cilantro in blueImage by Matt Stratton via Flickr

Before I picked up a rotisserie chicken at Whole Foods Market in Paramus on Friday, I walked through the store looking for sale items. (See earlier post, "A beautiful rotisserie chicken").

There are some incredibly high-priced items, such as one liter of extra-virgin olive oil from Sicily for $27.99. sold under the label of a restaurant, Frankies 457 in Brooklyn. I asked a couple of employees how much of that goes to organized crime. A 32-ounce bottle of Rao's marinara sauce was on sale for $7.99 -- you save $3. I passed on both.

Did you know artisinal pasta is made in New Jersey? Two pounds of dried pasta from Westmont, N.J., was on sale for $6. Whole Foods' wonderful dried organic pasta from Italy wasn't on sale, unfortunately. It was $1.99 a pound.

I needed cilantro (photo) for tacos (my wife found none at ShopRite in Englewood). An organic bunch was $1.69, which seemed reasonable. When I got home, I chopped it up immediately and put it it a container with chopped white onion -- the classic taco garnish used in Mexico. I have found cilantro lasts far longer when combined with onion. (See earlier post, "Lamb tacos in 45 seconds").
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At Chung Dam Dong Restaurant

Image by xoundbox via Flickr
Broad Avenue is the main street in Palisades Park, home to dozens of Korean restaurants and coffee shops.

If you love to see your meal cooked on the table at a Korean restaurant and if you're a big fan of octopus and squid in a seriously spicy sauce, head over to Chung Dam Dong in Palisades Park.

We had dinner there last night after negotiating with the waitress and the kitchen over what we wanted in our seafood stir fry instead of those invertebrates, which I love but which my wife and son abhor. 

The meal came with eight panchan, or side dishes, including a delightful salad of greens, two kinds of terrific kimchi, stewed radish and fish, steamed egg, and potato salad with mayo and raisins. Another was scallion, green pepper, carrot and Spam on a toothpick, battered and fried.

So we agreed on pork and shell- and head-on shrimp in our stir fry, which was cooked with vegetables and a half-dozen mussels in the kitchen and brought to our table in a wok that was placed over a gas grill to keep it bubbling. 

The mussels never opened, so I didn't eat them. A stone bowl of coarse, bland bean curd -- or was it tofu? -- was the perfect counterpoint to this spicy dish.

After we put a serious dent in the entree and several dishes of salad and kimchi, which were replenished when empty, the waitress brought out fresh bean sprouts and a medium-size bowl of steamed white rice and dumped them into the wok, stirring them into the remaining sauce and flattening the rice against the bottom and sides of the blackened wok -- for sort of a Korean paella. We tried, but couldn't finish the rice.

I don't know the name of this entree, but you can find it on the menu by its lofty price -- $42.99. The waitress told us it served only two and urged us to order soup, in addition to the fried vegetable dumplings we wanted ($11.99). We declined. 

This is one restaurant where the quality of the "free side dishes" make some of the pricier entrees palatable. The only beer available is Coors Light, and a small bottle of soju is about $12.

Chung Dam Dong also offers Korean barbecue, but I didn't pay too much attention to those selections, because we have long ago decided to buy our own free-range, grass-fed Australian beef and prepare barbecue at home, after consuming so much "mystery meat" at restaurants.

You'll find this second-floor restaurant in the same building on Broad Avenue that houses So Gong Dong, our favorite soft-tofu place. At the top of the stairs, you turn right for tofu stews, left for spicy stir fries and great side dishes.

Chung Dam Dong Restaurant, 118 Broad Ave.,
Palisades Park, 201-313-8900. No Web site. 

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

A beautiful rotisserie chicken

Whole Foods MarketImage via Wikipedia

Our dinner last night was a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods Market in Paramus and it was a revelation. This bird was raised in Pennsylvania on vegetarian feed and without antibiotics, and it's moist throughout, simply the best I've tasted in North Jersey.

A whole chicken yields at least two meals in our house. We eat all of the dark meat for dinner, plus the back, and use the leftover white meat for baguette sandwiches or quick tacos. Last night, we served the chicken  with quick-baked sweet potatoes, organic salad greens and a Whole Foods organic baguette ($1.79 on sale, cheaper than Balthazar Bakery's $2  baguette, but not as good).

The bird weighs only 1.75 pounds after cooking and costs $7.99 -- 50 cents more than when the store opened in March. But it's well worth it. The leg and thigh pulled easily away, as did the wings, and the white meat remained moist even after three minutes in the microwave.

Our bird was prepared with an herb rub, which includes rosemary, thyme, parsley, sea salt and paprika. The seasoning was perfect. And a glass or two of Chateau Bellevue bordeaux made it even more enjoyable. I want to thank my frugal friend Jay, who recommended this chicken. He's tasted them all.
Here is the Web Site:  Whole Foods Market

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Spicing up our breakfast

A dish of hummus with pine nuts at the Maxim r...Image via Wikipedia

"That was a great breakfast," my 12-year-old son said as he got up from the table today after polishing off two pocket-bread halves stuffed with organic greens, hummus and fava beans. (Photo: Hummus at Maxim Restaurant in Haifa, Israel.)

My breakfast sandwiches also held greens and hummus, but I added a fat Moroccan sardine and a slice or two of plum tomato sprinkled with the thyme-based mixture called za'atar. We both ate some taboule salad, the last from the container I bought at Costco in Hackensack. Everything else but the greens came from Fattal's Bakery (and market) in Paterson.

This breakfast was fragrant with Middle eastern spices -- cumin, coarse Aleppo red pepper, allspice -- and lemon, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil in the hummus with tahini I made from a can (Lebano Verde brand).

As we ate, we discussed how my son's bean, bean and bread sandwich made such a great vegetarian meal and how I would be happy giving up meat as long as I could eat sardines and other seafood. After I finished, I put another half of Fattal's Syrian bread into the toaster to warm and assembled a hummus and fava bean sandwich. Absolutely wonderful.

Fattal's Bakery, 975 Main St.; (973) 742-7125;
Paterson; open seven days.
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hearty meals for winter days

A Well-Stocked FreezerImage by gsbright via Flickr

Some of my friends say I shop for food too often, but that gives depth to what I have in my freezer and refrigerator -- just what you need when a snowstorm keeps you in. (Photo: Not my freezer, but you get the idea.)

Our dinner last night came from the freezer -- drug-free turkey from Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff. My wife covered the thighs and wings with jerk marinade, we roasted them for about an hour and served them with instant mashed potatoes and salads of Earthbound Farm organic spring mix.

There are leftovers -- perfect for quick turkey tacos with hand-formed tortillas from Trader Joe's and Goya Salsa Taquera.

Breakfast yesterday was sauteed cabbage, mustard greens and salted codfish, served with fritters my wife made from a few sweet bananas that had turned black on the counter.

This morning, my son made a tasty frittata with onion, tomato and leftover chicken sausage. I ate mine with Fattal's pocket bread, Costco taboule salad, kimchi and some wild salmon -- smoked and steamed.

I'll probably have a couple of turkey tacos for lunch, then check the freezer for what we'll be having for dinner tonight.
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Letter rejected by AARP The Magazine

Bill Novelli, AARPImage by Civil Rights via Flickr

Here is the letter that was rejected by AARP The Magazine about two food articles in the January & February 2010 issue (the benefits of fish and saving money at the supermarket):

"The article on saving at the supermarket could have alerted shoppers to the use of antibiotics in chickens that can affect human health, and advised them to watch for the occasional sale on birds raised on vegetarian feed and without antibiotics, priced between conventional and organic poultry.

"Australian lamb and beef are free range and grass fed, contain no antibiotics or growth hormones, and are usually priced below U.S. cuts.

"Your article on the safety of fish omitted the mighty little sardine, which is low in mercury and versatile. It's equally at home in a sandwich or with pasta. Just add two to three cans of sardines for each 32 ounce jar of sauce, enough for one pound of pasta."

Victor E. Sasson
Hackensack, N.J. 07601

Author of  http://doyoureallyknowwhatyoureeating/

The magazine, which calls itself the world's largest, responded by saying "space limitations restrict us from printing all of the comments we receive."

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Whose supermarket guru?

A commercial meat chicken production house in ...Image via Wikipedia

All of us want to save money when we shop for food, but we also want to avoid poultry and meat from factory farms, some farmed seafood and produce treated with a lot of pesticides.

However, none of this is discussed in "Save at the Supermarket," an article in the January & February 2010 issue of AARP The Magazine. The author is Phil Lempert, identified as the Supermarket Guru, who appears regularly on the Today Show and The View.

Lempert doesn't mention the antibiotics, hormones or animal by-products used to rush the growth of chickens, cattle, pigs and other animals; he doesn't discuss the merits of wild v. farmed seafood, which could be artificially colored or carry contaminants; and he doesn't recommend Australian beef and lamb, free-range, grass-fed products that are usually cheaper than their conventionally raised U.S. cousins

So whose Supermarket Guru is he?

I wrote a letter pointing out some of these omissions, and AARP The Magazine informed me it did not have room to publish it.

This is the same issue with an article on fish that omits the benefits of sardines.

Whole Foods Market discusses the use of antibiotics in animals on its blog: No antibiotics -- ever
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Dog: 'Food is the least of our worries'

WARRINGTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04:  A seven wee...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

"Off The Broiler," the food blog written by my friend Jason Perlow, received a brief but telling comment on my blog -- "Do You Really Know What You're Eating?"-- from one of his readers, identified only as "dog."

Dog's thoughts on food
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Contradictons at Costco

Salmon farm in the archipelago of Finland
A salmon farm in Finland.
Image via Wikipedia

For about six months every year, Costco sells wild salmon and artificially colored farm salmon side by side. You'll also notice this in the chicken and meat sections -- organic poultry and organic or grass-fed meat mixed in with a much larger selection of their conventionally raised counterparts.

Yestersday, on my weekly visit to the Hackensack warehouse store, I saw a woman put a large tray of farmed salmon in her cart, and I asked her if she knew it is artificially colored. She thought the farmed salmon at Costco might be different, but it isn't. I told her she could find wild Alaskan sockeye salmon fillets in the freezer case and I have found that steaming them yields a fish that would fool many people into thinking it is fresh.

She also had one of the store's rotisserie chickens, which also are raised conventionally. The one time I asked the employee tending the rotisserie, he couldn't tell me anything about the chickens, inlcuding the brand. My frugal friend Jay, who has tried almost every rotisserie chicken in North Jersey, says the antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed bird from Whole Foods Market in Paramus gets the crown.

Yesterday, I saw Coleman-brand organic skinless and boneless thighs at Costco, but they were in pouches -- not one of those foam trays -- and when I picked them up, the feel of the formless meat was unpleasant and I didn't buy any.

The contradictions continue throughout the store. At Christmas,  I was all set to buy the first Costco ham raised without antibiotics or growth hormones, but when I looked at the label, it listed harmful preservatives used in curing. I would have bought an uncured ham. Most of the cold cuts offered also have sodium nitrates or nitrites as preservatives, though I have noticed expensive imported prosciutto without them.

Though they are pricier, wild fish and organic poultry taste better.This morning, I used part of a frozen wild salmon fillet I had steamed for dinner last night in my breakfast sandwich, stacking it with Costco's smoked wild salmon, herbicide-free tomato slices and organic lettuce. I also used Dijon mustard, though pesto or hummus would have tasted good, too, as would have a slice of Swiss or shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. (Sockeye salmon is shown).

Sockeye salmon
A sockeye salmon.
Image via Wikipedia


With the sandwich, I had some lemony, Hannah-brand taboule salad from Costco ($4.99 for 21 ounces), a relatively new item, and Arirang kimchi, an MSG-free brand made and sold in Englewood. Costco recently put out jars of kimchi, but unfortunately, they are made with monosodium glutamate, and it's not worth the couple of dollars I would save.

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