Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One-stop food shopping -- some day

CostcoImage via Wikipedia

I buy a great deal of food at Costco in Hackensack, but it still has a way to go to become the only store I visit.

This morning, I picked up three half-gallons of 1% organic milk ($8.99), but I have to go to ShopRite for lactose-free milk.

Five pounds of lemons from Chile were $5.99. Three pounds of wild-salmon burgers  were $12.99, and Costco also stocks fresh and frozen wild sockeye salmon, wild-caught flounder and haddock, whole red snapper and other seafood, including prawns and crab, so I don't really have to buy fish anywhere else.

Sunset-brand Roma tomatoes were two pounds for $2.99, lower than they were at the beginning of the summer; and three, large burpless cucumbers, also from Sunset, were $3.49. All Sunset-brand vegetables are grown without herbicides. Earthbound Farm organic salad mix was $4.49 the last time I bought it, a price you can't beat elsewhere.

Three pounds of conventional bananas were $1.32. A pound of organic spinach was $3.99 -- great sauteed, in a salad or piled on top of a pizza or foccacia.

We're not eating poultry or meat now. If we were, I'd have to go elsewhere for antibiotic-free turkey and dark-meat chicken and Australian free-range beef. Costco only carries grass-fed ground beef and organic breast meat or whole chickens. 

Drug-free chicken sausage, organic ravioli, and fresh and frozen pizza are just the tip of Costco's food iceberg.

The selection of bread and rolls is terrific, including two loaves of 100% whole-grain, sliced bread for $3.99. Ditto for spices, juice, cheese, vegetables and fruit, though some of the large sizes are not suitable for a family of three. Ketchup, mustard, diced tomatoes, pasta sauces, dried pasta, maple syrup -- it's all there -- plus everything you need for the clean-up.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Food gifts from Jamaica

Illustrative pic of Jamaican Blue Mountain CoffeeImage via Wikipedia

My wife returned from Jamaica on Saturday night with island specialties in her suitcase.

She unpacked a container of fried parrot fish, four plastic bags of fresh ackee from trees in the yard, breadfruit wrapped in aluminum foil, large avocados and two, 12-ounce bags of roasted Blue Mountain coffee beans ($19 for 12 ounces). 
But it wasn't Jamaican food she wanted before we drove home. With our son, we stopped at Wondee's Thai restaurant on Main Street in Hackensack for a wonderful dinner of vegetarian duck salad (made with tofu, not poultry), spicy Panang curry with large shrimp, a special of Chinese watercress and rice.

This morning, she prepared Jamaica's national dish: ackee and salt fish with sweet and hot peppers -- the bland fruit serving as a foil for salted codfish. On the side, she served the roasted breadfruit, which had been sliced and fried in canola oil. A great breakfast.

Why buy any other beef?

ShopRite has another sale on Nature's Reserve-brand beef, a product of Australia that is free range and grass fed. There is a minimum purchase of four pounds at $4.99 a pound with a Price Plus store card. 

The cut is whole beef tenderloin for filet mignon, which I've sliced thin for Korean barbecue or served as small steaks. When I bought this in the past, it required some trimming of fat.

The sale starts today and runs through Sept. 4. With such a low price for Australian beef , it doesn't make sense to buy beef raised conventionally with antibiotics and growth hormones, and fed who knows what.
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Six months without meat

Parmigiano reggiano 8Image via Wikipedia

I'm not sure what I expected, but going without meat for six months hasn't resulted in anything dramatic -- except a sense of relief from not always having to worry how the poultry, beef, pork and lamb were raised before I got to them in stores.

My overall cholesterol dropped only four points -- to 176 -- probably because I started eating much more full-fat cheese than before. In the last month or so, I've switched to low-fat cheese and plan to resume eating aged Parmigiano Reggiano (photo), which is made with skim milk.  

I don't think I saved money, because the seafood I substituted for meat often cost more, including Costco's wild sockeye salmon and farm-raised prawns from Vietnam that weigh about two ounces each (eight to a pound) and cost a small fortune.

Do I feel better? Yes. But I can't separate the effects of going to a gym five mornings a week for the past two months or so, and the lighter feeling of not being weighed down by meat.

I've always loved salads and grilled vegetables, and I've been eating them more frequently and incorporating greens and vegetables into sandwiches and frittatas or just eating them on their own.

Last Sunday, I picked up fresh mustard greens and two heads of arugula at the Tenafly farmers' market.

One morning, I quickly blanched the mustard greens, then poured some extra-virgin olive oil and Costco egg whites into a 10-inch, nonstick frying pan. When the eggs set on the bottom, I added the mustard greens, sliced beefsteak tomato and low-fat cheese; sprinkled on some salt and finished the frittata under the broiler. (Preparation tip: Chop greens into bite-size pieces to make frittata easy to portion and eat.)

Today, I made a breakfast sandwich with grilled eggplant and carrot, baked wild salmon with herbs straight from the fridge, cheese and fresh arugula, spreading toasted 100% whole-grain bread with Dijon mustard. Outrageously good.

A friend who is a faithful Costco food shopper invited me over for a lunch the other day and served me items from the warehouse store: A Greek salad with anchovies and crumbled cheese, and a fruit salad with mango, strawberries and other fruit. We had an appetizer of spicy hummus and  drank coffee and seltzer.

For the last few weeks, I've wanted to add antibiotic-free poultry back into my diet -- Readington Farms chicken from ShopRite and turkey parts and duck from Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff.

But I haven't done that yet, secure in the knowledge there are so many other good things to eat that don't involve meat.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Get out that indoor grill

Grilled EggplantImage by moria via Flickr

If you don't have an indoor, stove-top grill, you're missing out on simple dinners of fresh produce, moistened with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with a little salt.

My all-vegetable dinner tonight included grilled eggplant from a farmers' market, thinly sliced carrots and fingerling potatoes -- from the size of a large marble to a thumb -- and ended with two small ears of super-sweet corn.

My nonstick grill with ridges is from All-Clad and covers two gas burners on my stove. I turn up each burner to medium, spray on canola oil and go to town. I boiled the potatoes for five to 10 minutes before grilling, then used the same water to steam the corn, which was from Costco.

As I grilled and turned the vegetables, I added the olive oil and salt. The eggplant flesh turns into custard. The other vegetables feel good in your mouth, with a nice bite. I drank a couple of glasses of red wine with them. Clean-up was easy.

Tomorrow, I can warm up the leftovers for a sandwich with Dijon mustard, low-fat cheese and fresh arugula from a farm stand.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Eating out here and there

A fried egg, sunny side up.Image via Wikipedia

Three meals out in two days is unusual for me, but with my wife and son away, preparing food for one can get monotonous.

Breakfast at home: Sandwich of four canned fish salad -- light Italian tuna, red salmon, Moroccan sardines and anchovies, with chopped onion and garlic, cumin and Dijon mustard -- topped with cheese and fresh arugula. 

Dinner at home: A foccacia from Jerry's in Englewood, with a little grated cheese and a lot of fresh arugula or organic spinach on top with extra-virgin olive oil and salt. 

Snack at home: Forkfuls of canned fish salad or leftover foccacia.

Uncle Paulie's in Maywood

On Friday, I met two friends for lunch at Uncle Paulie's Puro Sabor, a Peruvian restaurant where we had the $7.50 lunch special, which includes soup or appetizer, entree and a soft drink. 

I chose boiled potatoes in a cream sauce for my appetizer and squash stew with fried fish and a big mound of white rice, a tasty, filling meal. Uncle Paulie's is popular for lunch and the waitress had a hard time keeping up with drink requests. My food, especially the rice, could have been hotter. 

Uncle Paulie's Puro Sabor, 109A W. Pleasant Ave., 
Maywood. 201-368-2400.

Man'na in Teaneck

Friday evening, I had dinner at a small Korean restaurant with traditional and fusion dishes, and counter service.

This is the home of the Korean value meal (small and large), which includes a main dish, salad, pasta salad, miso soup, kimchi or pickled radish, and water or soda. 

I chose the bibimbap large value meal ($7.99) -- a big steel bowl with rice and chopped vegetables topped with a fried egg. (I told the counter worker I didn't want  the usual ground beef with the dish.) You mix everything up and pour on hot red pepper sauce from a squeeze bottle. Lip-smacking good.

I also ordered a spicy kimchi taco ($1.50), but was surprised to find a little ground meat in it, because there is no indication of that on the menu. The Tex-Mex preparation included shredded lettuce and cheese.

Man'na Modern Asian Cuisine & Frozen Yogurt,
1168 Teaneck Road. 201-357-8782.

Iano's Rosticceria in Princeton

I drove down to Princeton on Saturday to sell old jazz LPs, and hoped to eat at Eno Terra, a restaurant in the neighboring hamlet of Kingston known for fresh, local food. I got there at noon, having skipped breakfast, and was told the enoteca that serves light fare wouldn't open until 2.

Back in Princeton, I briefly flirted with the idea of having an expensive lunch at Lahiere's, the well-known Contemporary American-French restaurant that has been there since 1919. Maybe a seafood risotto and a salad, I thought as I looked over the menu posted near the entrance. 

Instead, I found a pizzeria with a beautiful grilled eggplant and fresh mozzarella salad that came with tomato and olives and a couple of small rolls ($7.50). I drank freshly made, unsweetened ice tea. I sat in a booth and looked at a proverb in Italian and English that is hanging in a gold frame on the wall: "You never age at the dinner table." 

Next door at Twist, a self-service yogurt shop, I had some non-fat fruit yogurt topped with fresh berries (49 cents an ounce).

Iano's Rosticceria, 86 Nassau St., 
Princeton. 609-924-5515.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Record picks a new food editor

b/w line drawing of a cornucopiaImage via Wikipedia

The food and entertainment editor of (201) magazine will replace Bill Pitcher as food editor at The Record of Woodland Park.

Susan Leigh Sherrill of Montclair told other writers on Friday she is the daily newspaper's new food editor, according to the online edition of The Paramus Post.

"We had a nice chat with Susan and were pleased to learn that she had just been promoted to food editor of The Record," Mel Fabrikant reported on the weekly's site.  

Sherrill opened Village Green Café and Caterers in 1989 in Ridgewood. In 2000, she sold the restaurant and embarked on a second career in community newspapers, becoming editor of  The Ridgewood News in the fall of 2001.  She later joined (201) magazine as food editor. 

The Record, The Ridgewood News and (201) are publications of North Jersey Media Group, which is owned by the Borg family.

Sherrill hasn't been listed yet on Page 2 of the Better Living features section in The Record. 

But her photo is shown on a blog she writes for NJMG. The newspaper employs a full-time restaurant reviewer -- a good thing, because if restaurant owners know Sherrill and give her special attention, any review she might do would be of questionable value to readers.

Her work appears online in the Table Talk blog

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cheese maker: 'I'll take Manhattan'

valley shepherd creameryImage by exile in suburbia via Flickr

Valley Shepherd Creamery, a sheep dairy in lovely Long Valley that produces wonderful artisanal cheese, yogurt and all-natural lamb, will be opening a shop in SoHo, the chichi neighborhood in Lower Manhattan. 

Cheese maker Eran Wajswol, who is Israeli, said the shop at 79 Sullivan St. will open in about two weeks, next to Grand Daisy Bakery (formerly Sullivan Street Bakery). The permit took three months to get from the bureaucracy, he said. 

The shop will sell cheese, of course, but the cheese maker wants to be in closer touch with chefs in the city. "We ship so much to chefs now and it's fun working with foodies who understand and care about quality," he said in an e-mail to customers.

His cheeses are sold at farmers' markets in New York and New Jersey, including Sunday's Tenafly market, and served by North Jersey restaurants, too.

Here's a link to the farm's Web site.
Valley Shepherd Creamery
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Long trip, low price

Beef Cuts - Where They Come FromImage via Wikipedia

All-natural Australian beef is on sale again at ShopRite Supermarkets, and this time, it's boneless rib-eye steaks for $4.99 a pound or $3.99 with a store card. 

The beef, sold under the Nature's Reserve label, is described in the flier as free range and grass fed, but there is a limit of 5 pounds. The sale runs through Saturday (Aug. 21). 

Conventionally raised U.S. beef rib steak costs more, even on sale ($5.99 and $6.99 with the Price Plus Card).

Naturally raised Australian beef and lamb can be raised for less and sold here for less, even when factoring in transportation costs. Too bad we don't see Australian pork here. Pork reportedly is raised with more antibiotics than other animals. 

ShopRite sells Certified Angus Beef rib steak, which is raised with antibiotics and growth hormones, but not Certified Angus Beef Natural, which is raised without them. 

Nail-biting Chef Bobby Flay uses the former line of beef in the hamburgers he sells at his so-called palace in Paramus.  I guess his profits come before his customers.
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summer's bounty at the table

organic Heirloom tomatoes at Slow Food Nation'...Image via Wikipedia
The produce I bought at farmers' markets last week continues to pay dividends.

This morning, I warmed up grilled eggplant and squash left over from Sunday dinner, and assembled a sandwich on fresh, 100% whole-grain bread, with hummus, low-fat cheese, eggplant, squash, sliced heirloom tomato and arugula, and ate grilled green tomatoes and kimchi on the side. Magnificent. 

Last night, I made a salad of market arugula and red-leaf lettuce, adding cucumber from the garden. 

I managed to harvest a dozen ripe tomatoes from my garden, and many more cherry tomatoes, but others were eaten by squirrels or a rabbit I see in my yard. I've brought in green tomatoes and the ones that haven't ripened on the counter after a week to 10 days are grilled or breaded and fried.

I've been eating sweet, bicolor Jersey corn, too, right after they are steamed or right out of the fridge the next day. When they are good, they need nothing, not even a sprinkling of salt.

I wonder if a town near me has a farmers' market today?

More good food at Costco
I picked up a few things at Costco in Hackensack on Monday -- the same few things I buy consistently because of their quality and price.

Two 28-ounce loaves of 100% whole-grain bread -- wonderful fresh, great toasted -- are only $3.99.

Three quarts of pure, organic carrot juice are $6.99 -- or $2.33 each -- about 50 cents less than when this Bolthouse Farms item first appeared.

Delicious organic spring salad mix from Earthbound Farm contains U.S. lettuce, arugula, radicchio, frissee and other items. A pound is only $4.59, a price you can't beat elsewhere. You can use this in sandwiches or make a week's worth of salads.

I bought blueberries from Michigan for the first time, two pounds for $5.49 ($2.75 a pound). It's hard to compare them to Jersey blueberries in terms of price, because the Garden State fruit is sold by volume (pint, quart) for some reason. How much does a pint weigh? I saw South Jersey blues for $3 or more a pint at farmers' markets last week.

Post script: A pint of blueberries weighs about 12 ounces, according to the Internet research I did this afternoon.

Round-up of news about organic food

Official seal of the National Organic ProgramImage via Wikipedia

The Organic Valley e-mail newsletter I received today has news items about organic food and meat raised without antibiotics. More and more, I am reading about human resistance to antibiotics linked to the widespread use of antibiotics in poultry, pork, beef and lamb.

Here is the link:
Organics in the news 
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sampling the farmers' markets

Jersey Corn At Kerr Road & Route 94 (Blairstow...Image by takomabibelot via Flickr

The Hackensack farmers' market had undeniable appeal: farm-fresh food available within a mile of my home. But the market didn't start up in July, as usual, so I was buying some Jersey Fresh produce at Whole Foods Market and ShopRite.

I visited three other farmers' markets this week, partially at the urging of Alexis, one of my readers, who asked me to cut out the middle men and support farmers directly.

The Teaneck and Englewood farmers' markets were familiar to me from lunchtime visits to the former and weekly visits to the latter when I lived in Englewood. But today, I went to the Tenafly market for the first time, rubbing shoulders with the moneyed class.

With my wife and son away, I bought sparingly: two ears of bicolor Jersey corn (50 cents each) and a head of Boston lettuce ($1.25) Thursday in Teaneck, and three ears of bicolor corn and red-leaf lettuce Friday in Englewood. I steamed the corn for about five minutes, and it was sweet, needing only a sprinkling of salt. 

I used the lettuce to make salads with a head of Jersey romaine I found at the Hackensack ShopRite, adding cucumber and tomato from my garden.

Alstede Farms has a big stand in Englewood, with a variety of produce you rarely see, but on Friday, none of it looked very good to me. I had hoped to buy fresh fava beans, but none of the stands at the three markets had any.

The Teaneck and Englewood stands had Jersey blueberries, these from the southern part of the state, but at $3 or more for a pint, I passed. 

At the Tenafly market, the only corn offered was from Glebocki Farms of Goshen, N.Y. (I bought three at 40 cents an ear) and from a farm in Pennsylvania. I also bought a big head of fragrant arugula for my salad at the Glebocki stand ($2 v. $4 a pound for loose arugula).

A third stand was set up by Lani's Farm in Bordentown. Here I got one Italian and one neon eggplant ($3 a pound), an heirloom tomato ($4 a pound) and two Patty Pan squash ($2.50 a pound).

I'll grill the squash and eggplant with extra-virgin olive oil and salt, and steam the corn for dinner tonight, eating them with a small piece of wild salmon.

Valley Shepherd Creamery, a sheep farm in Long Valley that turns out superb cheese and yogurt, also was represented, but I have been trying to avoid full-fat cheese in an effort to loose weight.

At the Organic Farm stand in Tenafly, organic baby lettuce and arugula were being offered for $20 a pound, suggesting this might be the Rolls-Royce of farm stands.

The three Bergen County farmers' markets also offer cookies, cake, free-range ostrich, bread, pickles and lots of other stuff I have absolutely no interest in.

For people like Alexis, buying at these markets is all about supporting farmers. If the produce costs more, then that's the price you pay to make a statement on behalf of a dwindling number of farmers in New Jersey.

But you'll be making other sacrifices. Few farm stands accept credit cards, such as the one that gives me a 5% rebate on groceries. I can't recycle all the plastic bags and plastic food wrappers I accumulate, as I can at ShopRite. And this isn't close to a one-stop shopping experience, unless you plan to have an ostrich sandwich, salad and corn for dinner.

Of course, one of the most compelling reasons to buy at farmers' markets is taste and the freshness of the produce. Much of what you buy was picked that morning, and brought to the stand in that big truck parked behind the register. You can't get that at the supermarket.

So, I'll be making a farmers' market part of my weekly routine until the fall. Boy, that Jersey corn is terrific.

(Photo: Jersey corn growing in Blairstown.)
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

More on those ridiculous little signs

Espace Opéra MilkImage via Wikipedia

I must be a glutton for punishment. When I needed a half-gallon of lactose-free milk for my morning coffee, I drove over to ShopRite in Hackensack, the supermarket with hard-to-read or missing price signs, and found myself in front of the organic milk section again.

I stooped, I squinted, I bent at the waist, trying to make out the prices for several brands on the small signs. Another problem cropped up Friday: The brand of organic, low-fat, lactose-free milk I wanted had a use-by date of the next day, and there were no store employees anywhere nearby to see if there was more in the back. Plus its price sign was missing, as it was on my last visit.

So, I selected the Lactaid-brand, but its price sign also was missing. At the register, I learned it was $4.99 -- 80 cents more than the brand I wanted. 

On the way to the register, I stopped at the courtesy counter to report the missing price signs. We'll see what, if anything, happens.

Why go back to the same ShopRite? It's the closest one to my home, and I had seven or eight bags of plastic bags and food wrappers I wanted to recycle.
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Informal recipes for fava beans, wild salmon

Broad beans, shelled and lightly steamed for 3...Image via Wikipedia

Ful mudammas is an Egyptian breakfast of seasoned fava beans topped with a mashed, hard-boiled egg. 

Food writer Clifford A. Wright says: "'The rich man's breakfast, the shopkeeper's lunch, the poor man's supper.' This Arabic saying captures what fūl mudammas is." Ful is pronounced "fool," but my variation on this breakfast will make you feel anything but foolish.

I start with frozen fava beans from Portugal that are sold at Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood. 

The beans are actually inside the skin shown in the photo above. I boiled the whole thing for five to seven minutes or until tender (I eat skin and beans). Meanwhile, I chopped up half of a small to medium onion and fresh garlic to taste, and sauteed them in extra-virgin olive oil until they are translucent.

In goes the whole beans, with seasonings: salt, cumin, allspice and Aleppo red pepper. Then, after the beans, onions and garlic are combined, I pour in egg whites in equal proportion, add a little more salt and scramble. You can stuff the eggs and beans into warm pocket bread and add hummus or tahini sauce.

Thanks to Kano, author of Syrian Foodie in London, for inspiration. He is  listed in my Blog Roll.

Wild-salmon festival at home

I picked up a fillet of fresh, wild sockeye salmon at Costco in Hackensack on Monday, and prepared it Tuesday night, ensuring four or five meals that revolve around this wonderful fish ($8.99 a pound).

I cut the 1.55-pound fillet into six pieces, from about two ounces to six ounces each. I placed them in a pan I lined with aluminum foil (spray cooking oil on the foil so the skin won't stick.)

I splashed fresh lemon juice over the pieces, salted them a bit, then rubbed them with Aleppo red pepper and topped them with chopped herbs from the garden. I baked the fish in a 350-degree oven, and watched it carefully until it was medium rare (around 12 minutes for the bigger pieces, less for others.)

I ate the fish with organic spinach that I had blanched quickly, drained and returned to the same pan with olive oil, salt and garlic powder, and a warm pocket bread.

This morning, I made a beautiful wild-salmon sandwich with tomato slices sprinkled with za'atar thyme mixture, romaine lettuce, Dijon mustard and hummus. I could have added a slice of low-fat Swiss cheese. There's no need to heat up the fish. Kimchi makes a great side dish.

Leftovers will be eaten over salads or in other sandwiches.
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Monday, August 9, 2010

Blueberries done in by July heat

PathmarkImage via Wikipedia

I stopped at Pathmark in Hackensack this morning, hoping the supermarket I rarely patronize had some Jersey Fresh blueberries, but the sign in the produce section explained why I found only Canadian and Michigan berries.

In small type, the store apologized for featuring Jersey blueberries in its flier and explained July's heat brought a premature end to the season, which was to run until mid-August.

I bought a pint of blueberries from British Columbia for $1.97 with the store card. Except for one or two soft ones, these Driscoll's berries were fat and sweet.

The (nearly) $4 cantaloupe

When I checked out at Pathmark with one pint of berries and two cantaloupes, they rang up at  $2.99 and $3.99 for each melon. I applied for a store card, and that brought down the price for the California melons to 97 cents each.

Grilled-vegetable sandwich 

Blueberries may be long gone, but other Jersey produce is showing up in stores. I bought a Jersey beefsteak tomato at ShopRite, and Jersey eggplant, green pepper and zucchini at Whole Foods Market.

For dinner last night, I used a nonstick, stove-top grill to prepare the vegetables with extra-virgin olive oil and, after they were on a plate, a sprinkling of salt and more oil. They substituted for a salad with my Boca soy cheeseburger. The eggplant was like custard.

This morning, I toasted a roll, warmed the vegetables (including a grilled, non-Jersey red pepper) and layered them with low-fat cheese to make a sandwich. I used hummus as a spread, and ate kimchi on the side.
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Did meat make us smarter?

Public domain photograph of various meats. (Be...Image via Wikipedia

My wife and I haven't eaten meat since the end of February, relying on an abundance of seafood for our main source of protein. But a friend just sent me the following link to a piece on National Public Radio about the diet of our earliest ancestors. 

I am not going to quibble about all the points this report makes, but I will note the Neanderthals mentioned in the last sentence were easily superseded by smarter people who migrated to what is now Europe from the same region of Africa.

 Click on the link below:

Did meat makes us smarter?

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Dinner in a bowl

Ipomoea aquatica - Water Morning Glory, Swamp ...Image via Wikipedia

The bowl of Seafoood Soup Noodles at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack is enough to share, but why would you? Perfectly cooked shrimp, scallop, squid and sliced fish cake; water spinach and soft, mouth-filling noodles swim in a tasty broth -- good enough to lift the bowl to your lips for the last drop.

That was my dinner at the Chinese BYO on Saturday night, where I sipped tea and  my own Korean soju during the meal. I started with a vegetable roll in tofu skin ($2.10), which is served with a fork and steak knife, dipping the pieces in spicy mustard or hot-pepper sauce.

To find Seafood Soup Noodles ($11.95), go to the Lotus Noodle Kitchen section of the menu. There are a lot of other winners here, including Zar Jiang Mein ($7.95), an unusual noodle dish with meat sauce that is a Chinese version of spaghetti Bolognese.

The X.O. Seafood E-Mein ($14.95) sounds promising -- braised, Hong Kong-style noodles with seafood in a sauce made of anchovy, shrimp roe, dried scallop and herbs.

The menu compares the Seafood Soup Noodles to linguine, but in truth, they are thicker and, on Saturday night, they were cooked just a little past al dente -- soft and comforting. They are made in-house.

Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack 
(Home Depot Shopping Center); 
201-488-7070. Open seven days

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Where are the Jersey blues hiding?

BlueberriesImage by wallyg via Flickr

I'm not searching for bluefish, which are abundant in New Jersey. Ever heard the saying, The bluefish are running? That means these ferocious fish are lined up and pushing their next meal to shallower water and death.

My search is for the benign Jersey blueberry, cultivated on bushes in the Pine Barrens. The blueberry season is supposed to run until the middle of August, according to a June 15 news release from the state Department of Agriculture, but the firm, sweet berries disappeared from North Jersey markets about 10 days ago.

Blueberries from Michigan (No. 1 grower), Canada, Connecticut and other places are all I've seen in three supermarkets. With no Hackensack Farmers' Market this year, that source is eliminated. I'll have to try another town's market.

On Friday evening, I drove over to Whole Foods Market in Paramus to look over its blueberries. But I wasn't willing to pay $3 a pint for berries from Michigan and Connecticut, despite a friend's recommendation. I paid $1.99 a pint for firm, sweet Jersey blues about 10 days ago at ShopRite in Hackensack. I know Costco in Hackensack has blueberries, but I don't think they are from the Garden State.

The search continues.
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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Frustrating search for fresh fruit

Jackfruit, the national fruit of Bangladesh.Image via Wikipedia

After dinner Wednesday night, I went searching for fresh fruit. I started at H Mart, the Korean supermarket near the Little Ferry Circle, because I also needed hot pepper paste with vinegar, just the thing to spice up the firm tofu I have been cooking.

With my wife and son away, I passed on the watermelons, afraid I couldn't finish one by myself. Ditto for the huge jack fruit, which I have never eaten. California peaches were shrink-wrapped a dozen to the tray, too many for me. I couldn't find New Jersey peaches, and the only blueberries were from Canada and Michigan. In August? Where are the Jersey blues?

I left the Korean store for ShopRite, which is on the way back to my Hacensack home, certain I could find Jersey fruit. I did find hard Jersey peaches that need ripening on my counter (69 cents a pound), but the blueberries came from Michigan and were two pints for $5, which is high. I bought one, along with a half-dozen peaches, and went home.

I emptied half of the blueberries into a bowl, and washed and ate them, but too many were soft. At least they were sweet. This afternoon, I ate the rest out of the plastic package after washing them, and they were sweet and a lot firmer.

The peaches are still hard, so I still need fruit.

(Photo: Jack fruit, the national fruit of Bangladesh.)

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Small price signs are driving me crazy

1974–2000 ShopRite logo, still in use at some ...Image via Wikipedia

I needed a few things at ShopRite in Hackensack on Monday, but little did I know I'd be making two trips to the store because of a missing price sign.

I picked up two cans of ShopRite canola-oil spray, which were on sale, and noticed for the first time the olive-oil spray is in the same size can, yet contains two ounces less. I also got two half-gallons of Florida's Natural orange juice ($2.50 each). 

But I didn't notice until I got home the organic, low-fat, lactose-free milk I bought rang up at $4.19 for a half-gallon, not the usual price of $3.99, and I thought I had seen a $3.99 sign near it. Do I go back? Well, I left ShopRite's pure instant tea off my list, so the return trip was justified.

That afternoon, I tracked down two bottles of pure instant tea and then went looking for the price sign for the organic, lactose-free milk. I bent, I craned and I scanned the signs, squinting at the small letters describing each variety, but couldn't find one for that milk. The $3.99 sign above it was for a different brand.

A couple of weeks earlier, I bought one pound of organic spinach I thought was on sale, according to the price sign, but which rang up at $6.99, not $4.99, I realized when I got home. I do review my purchases before I leave the store, but often miss items. When I returned to the store with the receipt for the spinach, a produce guy pointed out the number "11" on the shelf sign, indicating the sale was on the 11-ounce size, not the one-pound package I selected.

But ShopRite's overall system puts shoppers at a disadvantage. If the sign is not missing, it's hard to read, with abbreviations and small type, especially on low shelves. Store workers need to look over shelves to make sure items are placed over the right signs and police customers who move items or change their minds and just drop an item wherever they are.

And sometimes, even if the sign is there and correct, the store's computer hasn't been updated and you get overcharged at the register.

I don't have the same problem at Costco, where price signs are large and displayed prominently, or other stores, including Fairway Market and Whole Foods Market, both in Paramus.

My second trip to ShopRite wasn't a total loss. I got a $2 discount on the two jars of instant tea by using a store coupon from my first shopping trip.

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Taking the easy way out with tofu

Dubu jorim, braised tofu in Korean cuisineImage via Wikipedia

I've been eating tofu for years at Asian restaurant in North Jersey and elsewhere, and buying prepared tofu at Korean supermarkets, but I've never tried to prepare it until now.

Since the mid-1990s, when I discovered Korean food, one of my favorite meals out has been soft-tofu stew, accompanied by steamed white rice, crunchy kimchi and bean-sprout side dishes, and a fresh egg to break into the furiously bubbling broth.

On every visit to H Mart, the Korean supermarket once known as Han Ah Reum, I try to pick up a package of prepared braised tofu (photo).

A favorite appetizer of mine at Japanese restaurants is Agedashi Tofu -- a big block of cooked tofu in a soy sauce-based broth.

But last week, I saw firm tofu for sale at Costco in Hackensack ($3.59), one of the new items designed to appeal to its many Asian customers, and brought home a package. 

Inside were three 19-ounce tubs of tofu in water, more than I expected. Firm and extra-firm tofu are best for cooking.

I did some research on the Internet, and went to work, setting out a plate of flour, a bowl with egg whites and a little water, and a second plate with large Japanese breadcrumbs called panko.

Meanwhile, I heated up a cup or so of extra-virgin olive oil in a 10-inch frying pan. I cut the tofu into sticks about two inches long and one inch high.

Then, I placed the tofu into flour, egg whites and panko before putting them into the hot oil. I turned them with two wooden utensils, but could have cooked them longer. Some were light brown, but the last few were dark brown. All were crunchy with a custard-like interior. 

I plated them, added Korean hot-pepper paste with vinegar from a squeeze bottle and went to town. You can add any hot sauce, even tomato sauce, to make the bland tofu palatable. 

I served the tofu with baked prawns in chili spices and organic spinach blanched quickly in boiling water, then sauteed in a little olive oil with salt and garlic powder.

Next, I plan to pour egg whites into a 10-inch pan with olive oil and when they set, add layers of sliced tomatoes, tofu and reduced fat cheese, plus spices. This frittata is finished under the broiler. I see no reason why you can't add spinach, too.

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