Image by skeggy via Flickr
|Fish counter at a Whole Foods Market (not Paramus).|
It's been fairly easy to keep eating at the level I did in Italy. There is plenty of fresh seafood available in North Jersey -- at Costco, Whole Foods Market and Fairway Market -- organic salad mix and decent produce.
Last week, I picked up two pounds of what was labeled Pacific true cod at Costco in Hackensack for $5.99 a pound. I cut the fillet into pieces, coated them in bread crumbs and chili spices and baked them at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, until they gave up their liquid and started to flake.
Two days later, I bought two dozen farmed prawns from Vietnam at Costco for $9.99 a pound (vein removed). I shelled them, marinated them in the juice of three lemons and seasoned them with red-pepper flakes, garlic powder, black pepper and a little salt. Meanwhile, I cut up sweet peppers and garlic, opened a can of diced tomatoes and boiled a half pound of organic pasta bowties from Whole Foods in Paramus.
I sauteed the peppers and garlic in olive oil, added the diced tomatoes and then the shrimp with all its marinade. When they were cooked, the pasta went in. I mixed it well and put the pot on the table with a slotted spoon. Next time, I'll drain the diced tomatoes.
When Italians eat pasta, the sauce coats the spaghetti, tagliatelle or whatever they use, and doesn't pool in the bottom of the plate. Of course, there is always just a little sauce left over to be wiped up with bread.
Some of the large sizes at Costco make me wonder if the store expects customers to do clam bakes at this time of the year. Little Neck clams and mussels were in the fish case, but only in 5-pound packages.
Having recently returned from Italy, I couldn't pass up a wedge of Kirkland's imported Grana Padano at $8.99 a pound, a grainy, skim-milk cheese from cows that are grazing on the same grass their predecessors did in Roman times, according to the package.
There is a great fish counter at Whole Foods in Paramus, with fresh seafood arriving seven days a week. I usually buy what's on sale, such as large, whole whiting for $4.99 a pound. My wife cut these in half to fit in the pan, coated them in flour and fried them.
My wife found farmed whole branzino for $5.99 a pound (usually $9.99 a pound). Two branzini that weighed just under two pounds made a great dinner for three, seasoned, stuffed with herbs and lemon slices and baked in the oven.
I also love the fish counter at Fairway Market in Paramus, but I'm often put off by high prices, as I was on a visit to the store Saturday morning. I did buy four, one-pound packages of salted cod fish ($8.99) and one of salted pollack ($5.99) to compare with the cod.
I needed tomatoes, but one-pound packages of small, round Campari tomatoes were $2.99 -- too high even if they're herbicide free. Sometimes, Fairway sells three packages for $5. Why not on my visit?
I wanted to try Polar lemon-flavored seltzer at 12 cans for $1.99, but inadvertently purchased Polar Dry Orange, which contains 6% orange juice, according to big lettering on the package. To my horror, I read the small lettering of the ingredient list when I got home, only to discover it also contains high fructose corn syrup, the first time I've seen a seltzer with it.
I picked up Marco Polo red-pepper spread (spicy) from Turkey for $2.99, compared with a similar product from Macedonia on the shelf above for $4.99.
The ShopRite sales circular that came with the paper is offering Nature's Reserve, grass-fed, free-range beef from Australia for $3.99 a pound with a store card, through Saturday, Oct. 9. You have to buy several pounds of it -- the whole beef tenderloin for filet mignon -- and trim it before cutting it into small steaks or thin slices for Korean barbecue.
Here is a link to the U.S. federal trademark registration of Nature's Reserve beef in 2003. The producers say the cattle are never confined and no additives are used: Nature's Reserve Australian Beef
Last month, the Coles supermarket chain in Australia announced it would not sell beef containing hormone growth promotants. That has upset beef industry groups, including the Australian Beef Association and the Cattle Council of Australia, because smaller cattle will sell for less.
At lunch one day in Italy, I met two Australian women who were traveling without their husbands and children. I asked them about Australian beef. They were not familiar with the Nature's Reserve brand, which apparently is sold only in the United States.
But one said beef producers are now confining cattle in feed lots and feeding them grain for the kosher and halal markets in the U.S.
Chef Ji's Moon Jar in Fort Lee
Chef Ji Cha, who competed on Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen" TV reality show a few years ago, has revised the menu of her Korean fusion restaurant and is preparing to open for lunch starting Oct. 15. I had dinner there Saturday night, and will report on the meal in my next post.