Monday, April 19, 2010

Shopping, dining and cooking notes

Udon Noodles in BrothImage by myovencanbeabitch via Flickr

I expected the Korean supermarket in Little Ferry to be busier than it was when I visited Sunday afternoon in search of tofu, soy protein and other meat substitutes. There were a half-dozen stations set up to provide free samples of fat udon noodles in broth (photo), Chilean sea bass, cold green tea with ginseng, dumplings, rice-and-pork sausage and mochi ice cream.

I found three kinds of soft or firm fried tofu ideal for stir fries ($1.29 to $1.49), two heads of fresh spinach (79 cents each), 20 pounds of California-grown rice ($17.99), and prepared Alaskan pollack with hot and sweet peppers ($4.99).

For dinner last night, I blanched a head of the spinach from H Mart and cooked it briefly in extra-virgin olive oil with garlic powder, black pepper, and salt. Our main dish was pasta -- big shells from Italy I get at ShopRite with spaghetti sauce from Fairway and added soy meatballs and Tofurky-brand Italian sausage, both from Whole Foods Market. I liked the meatballs better than the sausage, but guests were fooled altogether -- two thought they were eating meat.

On Saturday night, I took my wife and son to La Ziza, the new Lebanese restaurant on Crooks Avenue in Clifton (Crooks divides that city from South Paterson). I had eaten there alone a few weeks ago, and liked the food, despite the presence of hookah smokers in the dining room.

We ordered appetizers and one entree, fried whole whiting with rice. On March 28, my first visit, I received four whole fish for $12.95. The price has stayed the same, but this time, there were only three fish on the platter

We enjoyed the warm grape leaves stuffed with rice, fatoush salad, warm whole and mashed fava beans (ful), arayes (melted cheese in pocket bread)  and curlicue La Ziza french fries. But the muhammara was coarse and bland, missing the essential, zingy Aleppo red pepper. The fruity smoke from water pipes was noticeable but not a problem. The restaurant allows the use of hookahs in an upstairs dining room as well.

I just got off the phone with Tony, an inspector at the Clifton Health Department. He explained La Ziza has a license that allows hookah smoking, because the same owner operated the restaurant  before 2004 (as Al Assayad) -- when a smoking ban went into effect. Tony also noted smoking is allowed if it brings in 15% or more of a restaurant's revenue, as the water pipes evidently do.

This morning, I warned the leftover fava beans, prepared an egg-white omelet with Aleppo pepper and ate them with warm Lebanese pocket bread and hummus. Delicious.
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