Friday, April 30, 2010

Do food shoppers care about quality?

ShopRiteImage via Wikipedia

 My post on Thursday about the flier for Fairway Market in Paramus drew a comment from Anonymous:
"I put it to you that the majority of Fairway shoppers don't give a hoot about antibiotics or hormones and whatever byproducts their $8.99 ribeyes munch on, they mainly care about price and flavor."
I always get a kick out of comments such as this. It's another way of saying, I have the right to eat food that is bad for me as long as it tastes good and the price is right. I know such people are legion, and it's none of my business what you eat, but I also reserve the right to report how supermarkets publish fliers that deliberately obscure the quality of the food they sell.

When ShopRite sells better quality, naturally raised beef at lower prices than Fairway's conventional beef, then it might be a good idea if shoppers at that upscale market "give a hoot" about what they are buying there.

And if you care about quality and want to avoid antibiotics and growth hormones, there is really no way you can shop in a single store -- unless you can afford to spend all your food dollars at Whole Foods Market, just a few miles from Fairway in Paramus.

You won't find better fish and meat anywhere else in North Jersey, and if you shop carefully, Whole Foods can be rewarding. I stopped there this afternoon for meatless substitutes, which are no bargain, but also found California cabernet sauvignon and merlot at $4.99 a bottle; a bunch of conventional, Jersey-grown arugula for 99 cents; and bronze-cut, organic bow-tie pasta from Italy for $1.99.

Dover sole fillets were $5.99 a pound. Whole fish, nestled in ice, such as whiting, were $3.99 and $4.99 a pound. (Whole Foods says it gets fresh fish seven days a week.) 

But there is no way I can rely solely on Whole Foods or any other market. Each place has its strengths and weaknesses. Costco often beats everyone on quality and price, and its seafood selection is strong, including frozen wild salmon and mahi-mahi, but it can't match the variety of Whole Foods or H Mart, the Korean chain. 

The handmade tortillas at Trader Joe's are suberb, but you'll pay a premium. I used to rely on Trader Joe's for uncured, preservative-free bacon, hot dogs and cold cuts -- and incredible, fully cooked ribs from the Niman Ranch -- but don't go there much since we stopped eating meat about seven weeks ago.

So, I'll continue to shop at many food stores, taking advantage of their strengths, and continue reading their fliers with a critical eye.
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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fresh or frozen? And from where?

Fairway MarketImage via Wikipedia

The latest sales flier from Fairway Market in Paramus is filled with a lot of information -- some of it totally useless. And when the flier raises questions, it doesn't always answer them.

For example, the flier that came in the paper today offers wild-caught salmon for $9.99 a pound. However, shoppers can't tell where the fish is from and whether it is fresh or had been frozen, or even what kind of salmon it is (king, sockeye and so forth). The flier is silent on these questions.

This also is the case with the prime beef that is on sale frequently at the Paramus store (rib steak is $8.99 a pound). Prime is the highest of three USDA grades, but merely denotes the fattiest beef. There are no details in the flier on how the cattle were raised and what they were fed, so it's likely they were raised conventionally with antibiotics, growth hormones and animal byproducts while confined to feed pens.

One good buy is two pounds of Sunset-brand, herbicide-free Campari tomatoes for $4 -- about a dollar less than Costco's price for the same tomatoes. Another consistently good buy is the weekly, freshly roasted coffee selection for $4.99 a pound. The sale starts Friday.

Fairway's flier is filled with photos of the baker, butcher, cheese monger, coffee roaster, organics director and even the rabbi that certifies kosher meat. Two employees appear on the same page with their chins resting in their hands. How cute. What is the shopper to conclude? Do they stand behind the quality of the food they sell? Can you take any item back for a refund, as you can at Costco and Whole Foods Market? The flier doesn't say.

The flier trumpets: "The World's Greatest Food Store." I don't think so.
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Costco is catering to Korean customers

Shin Ramyun LunchImage by The Toad via Flickr

Costco has always been popular with the growing population of Korean-Americans in North Jersey (the discount merchant has warehouses in their native country). But now, the store in Hackensack is starting to stock kimchi and ramyun -- two staples of the Korean diet.

For a couple of years now, I've watched Korean customers load their carts with enormous packages of beef and farmed salmon (they don't seem to appreciate the benefits of wild fish and naturally raised beef and pork). 

But several weeks ago, there were samples of a new item -- cabbage kimchi -- being given out. I looked at the label and MSG was among the ingredients, so I continue to get my kimchi at Gaboh Inc. in Englewood, where the Arirang kimchi is made without that artificial flavor enhancer. And last week, I saw a woman with a big package of  instant ramyun bowls. I asked her if she thought the noodle soup was cheaper at Costco than at H Mart, the chain of Korean supermarkets in Bergen County, and she said yes.

This afternoon, my wife returned from Costco with 20 packages of Nong Shim-brand spicy instant ramyun that my son has been eating for a couple of years, because of the relatively low sodium content (photo). At $12.99, it works out to about 65 cents per serving, compared with $1 at H Mart for a package of five.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

My online grocer never misses a beat

Image representing Amazon as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

When you can't find it in stores, when you didn't know it existed or when you want to save time and money, you'll find some delightful food items at I've set up Subscribe & Save shipments for coconut water, green tea with mint, soy bars that taste like cake and other items, which arrive like clockwork. Shipping is free.

A couple of years ago, I ordered Stash Moroccan mint green tea, and it reminded me of the tea served in that North African country -- where the glass is stuffed with fresh mint leaves. Now, I receive six,  20-count boxes every three months. We have this tea after dinner almost every night.

My wife loves pure coconut water, and we've tried two brands --Zico and, lately, O.N.E. The latter is slightly larger and cheaper, and we receive 12 containers once a month.

We're trying a few new items: SOYJOY bars, organic goji berries and chia seeds.

We get 24 cake-like soy and berry bars once a month. They're just over 1-ounce for about 90 cents each. These bars make great snacks during family excursions or at home.

I've only ordered red goji berries and black-and-white chia seeds once, and have used them together to make a tasty and colorful oatmeal. The former -- called Himalayan super fruit -- are dry and bitter, but soften and taste better in hot cereal. The latter are labeled Aztec super food, and probably could be added to cold cereal and smoothies as well as oatmeal.

They are expensive -- $12 a pound. I was scheduled to receive them again in a week, but decided to skip that shipment. With Subscribe & Save, you have the freedom to skip the next shipment, speed up a shipment or end your subscription at any time.

In the past, I've tried and canceled organic blue corn tortilla chips and Bigelow green tea with mint, slightly cheaper but not the equal of the Stash version. And non-food items are available as well.

When I had trouble finding Breathe Right snore-relief throat strips consistently, I started a subscription every two months that keeps peace in the bedroom. 

I also turned to when ShopRite stopped selling Newman's Own organic black tea, but had to buy six, 100-count boxes.

These food and non-food items are special, and they're nice to have around. The one issue I have is all the packaging uses. The coconut water containers, for example, are in a box already, but they are put into a larger box and air-filled plastic bags are added for cushioning.  It's good that I'm fanatical about recycling.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

A culinary surprise in the Ironbound

NJ - Newark - Ironbound DistrictImage by wallyg via Flickr

I have a few favorites among the Spanish, Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants in Newark's Ironbound section that I've tried since the early 1970s, when I lived in neighboring Elizabeth. But I didn't expect to find one of North Jersey's best Italian restaurants there.

The nice, white-haired gentleman who had shown us to our seats late Friday afternoon said he opened Assaggini Di Roma about 13 years ago after a career in construction, but he lamented how it consumes all of his time. Having just finished a great meal, I praised the food and said he was tremendously successful as a first-time restaurateur.

Assaggini means "a little taste" as in A Little Taste of Rome.

Our meatless meal started with antipasto for two (hold the sausage) and two pasta dishes -- both  with wide, thick pappardelle noodles, made in-house. The antipasto platter ($13.75) held fresh mozzarella drizzled with a little pesto and a cubed hard cheese, sweet and hot peppers, sliced plumb tomato and perfectly dressed lettuce and greens -- all terrific with a basket of fresh, chewy bread.

One pasta dish was dressed with pesto and broccoli rabe, and the other with garlic, oil, small white beans and asparagus, plus a couple of tablespoons of red-pepper flakes and grated cheese we added at the table. The noodles filled our mouths and had us smacking our lips ($12.95 and $16.95). I drank a glass of thick, homemade red wine.

To finish, me, my wife and our son shared an entree of Chilean sea bass and a vegetable ($24.95). The fillet was about six or seven inches long and two inches thick, giving each of us a nice hunk of this gloriously fatty fish topped with breadcrumbs. The vegetable was fresh spinach -- cooked down into a soft, deep-green delight.

I only had room for an espresso.

When you walk in off the street, you enter a bar (as in many Ironbound restaurants), with the dining room behind it. A door at the rear leads to a sister restaurant, Mario's Pizzeria, on Delancey Street. The restaurant looks untouched since it opened, with mirrors framed in gold, tiles on the floor and part way up the walls, and one of those drop ceilings. There also is a small stage. Two bottles of wine and a bottle of sparking water are on each table.

Go for the food and bring an appetite.

Assaggini Di Roma, 134 Clifford St., Newark; 
973-466-3344; also 3253 Chelsea Place
(Route 35 north), Hazlet; 732-335-5900. 
Reservations recommended on weekends.
A Little Taste of Rome

Friday, April 23, 2010

What's wrong with these pictures?

Bergen County, New JerseyImage by dougtone via Flickr

I was leafing through (201) magazine at Hackensack Toyota, where my car was being serviced on Thursday, when I came across the main article on food: elaborate dishes by chefs at five of Bergen County's best restaurants.

What's the purpose of such an article, which had mouth-watering close-ups of the food? Is it to promote the restaurants? Is it to inspire readers to go and order the dish, or to attempt to duplicate it at home? Is the magazine saying, Maybe you can advertise with us? Or is it the magazine's way of saying thank you to advertisers?

So I took a closer look. Four of the dishes employed seafood, but two used deep-red tuna that was cooked rare. Seems like a lack of coordination there, and tuna is a fish very high in harmful mercury. A third dish used salmon, but it was likely farmed salmon, which is artificially colored and often contains contaminants. The fourth dish was lobster in a creamy sauce.

I won't be running out to try any of these dishes. I cook seafood at home, using wild-caught fish low in mercury. Thanks (201), but no thanks. (Photo: A road in Bergen County.)
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

More shopping notes

Cropped image of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes fro...Image via Wikipedia

I stopped at Costco in Hackensack to buy Earthbound Farms organic salad mix today ($4.49 for one pound), and was impressed by all the fresh, wild-caught fish fillets available.

There was wild ahi tuna from Micronesia, haddock from Canada, Pacific cod from the U.S. and flounder (from I'm not sure where). I bought the cod for $5.99 a pound, and we'll fry it up for dinner. Leftovers will make quick fish tacos.

'Cheap' wine

One of the comments I received on the ridiculous mail-in rebate for Turning Leaf wine (see Wednesday's post) claims it "served me right" for buying cheap wine. Of course, the comment was anonymous, and I rejected it.

If this person wants to spend $50 or more on a bottle of wine from a first-growth chateau in France, be my guest. But please stay out of my business.

I've purchased hundreds of bottles of wine for $5 to $10 that have been perfectly drinkable, and I'll continue to do so. Today, next to Costco, I bought a bottle of California cabernet sauvignon for $4.49, and I'm looking forward to drinking it. (Photo: Cabernet grapes.)

I'll be sure to toast the commentator's ignorance.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The mail-in rebate from hell

Image of two California wines.Image via Wikipedia

 I stopped at the ShopRite in Rochelle Park to pick up a few things on Tuesday, and on the way out, steered my cart into the liquor store in search of wine for $4.99 to $7.99 a bottle.

Among the California wine, I found Turning Leaf pinot noir for $6.99 a bottle -- and a rebate of $9 if you buy three, 750 milliliter bottles. That would bring the final cost down to $3.99 a bottle. Great deal, I thought. At the register, I was told it was a mail-in rebate and I had to send in the receipt, so went back to get the small form.

As I was loading my two reusable bags of groceries into the car, I stopped to read the rebate form's tiny type -- easier to do in the daylight than inside the store. It said Maryland and New Jersey residents weren't required to send in the original receipt, but had to return the UPC code from each bottle.

Then, it went on to describe how each bottle -- when empty -- had to be soaked in hot water for 10-15 minutes to lift off the UPC code. It even described the temperature of the water, and warned not to try this when the bottle was full. So it might be three weeks before I could mail in the form and UPC codes for a refund (I drink a glass of wine with dinner several times a week).

I went back and got a refund.

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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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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Going meatless: Hits and misses

Opened can of vegetarian "mock duck"...Image via Wikipedia

I've started to look for meat substitutes in nearly every food store I visit. Is this a sign we are wavering on our meatless pledge -- now more than six weeks old? Will we be going back to eating meat? Well, we've discussed it, but that's where it remains.

I was happy with some of the items I found at Whole Foods Market in Paramus, but not with Westoy vegetarian stir fry strips ($3.39), which turned out to be seitan. I thought seitan was made of soy, but these strips are made of wheat protein and provide "the same texture and mouth feel that a piece of chicken or beef would have with only half the calories and only 1.5 grams of fat," the box states.

I stir fried the strips with organic red Swiss chard. I didn't especially like the color, texture or taste, but when my wife ate the leftovers, she thought the strips tasted fine, and I won't be returning a second, 8-ounce box for a refund.

On Thursday, I visited New King Fung Supermarket on Kinderkamack Road in River Edge to return a Japanese bowl with an errant brush mark, and took a closer look at its prepared soy items, most of them shrink-wrapped and kept cold.

Another shopper showed me vegetarian chicken and vegetarian duck ($3.99 each), but the ingredients included MSG as well as soy and mushrooms so I passed. I bought sweet-and-spicy soy chunks, fried triangles of tofu, spicy soy discs and fried Japanese tofu ($2.49 or less), plus a vegetable with dark green leaves that resembles bok choy.

For dinner Friday night, we steamed white rice, and I heated up the sweet-and-spicy soy chunks. I blanched the vegetable and sauteed it with Chinese rice wine, soy sauce, mirin and sesame oil. The soy triangles were pan fried with a sauce of chilis and shrimp. A nice meal.

The jumbo Black Tiger Shrimp I bought at Costco were some of the best I have ever had. I marinated them in the juice of a big lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic powder, black pepper, no-salt organic seasoning and salt for an hour or so, then pan fried them in more olive oil until they curled up and turned white. 

I plated them and the sauce was thick with spices -- perfect for sopping up with crusty bread. My 12-year-old son was raving. We ate the shrimp with bow tie pasta in pesto sauce (Costco).
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Manna in Teaneck

Bibimbap, a Korean dishImage via Wikipedia

Tired of the usual choices near my Hackensack home, me and a friend stopped for lunch yesterday at Manna, a Korean fusion restaurant in Teaneck. Fusion? Think Korean dumplings served with french fries, a kimchi taco or a bulgogi burger. 

Manna, which serves "modern Asian cuisine and frozen yogurt," hews close to tradition with such basics as bibimbap (rice with vegetables, fried egg and ground beef) and gimbap or kimbap (rice and vegetables rolled in dried seaweed). Many items are served as a complete meal with miso soup, salad, side dishes and water or soda -- $5.99 to $8.99. (Photo: Bibimbap with a raw egg, not at Manna.) 

Manna is family friendly, offering a traditional American breakfast, including pancakes and bagel with cream cheese, and such sandwiches as fried whiting and PB&J.

The casual setting and menu invite both lovers of Korean food and people who have never tried dining on the spicy side. You order and pick up your meal on a tray at the counter, and sit where you like. Only the view is pedestrian -- traffic flying by on Teaneck Road.

 I ordered the bibimbap meal -- hold the ground beef ($7.99). Steamed rice, bean sprouts, vegetables, salad greens and a fried egg came in a steel bowl with a mildly spicy sauce on the side. I also got Korean pickles, more salad, noodles in mayo and seltzer. I asked for kimchi, and received a small dice of radish. With bibimbap, you squirt on the sauce, mix up everything with a spoon and dig in.

A terrific lunch, and I didn't miss the meat. 

Manna, 1168 Teaneck Road, Teaneck; 
201-357-8782. Closed Sundays. Parking in rear.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Big portions of Italian food in Nutley

Nutley looking north on Franklin Avenue past t...Image via Wikipedia

We had to take my wife's laptop to an authorized repair shop in Nutley (above) yesterday, so we timed it to arrive at American Bistro on Washington Avenue around 4:30, when it opens for dinner Tuesday through Sunday.

Despite the name, the strong suit here is seafood and traditional Italian dishes, served on large oval plates, easily enough for two to share. 

After me, my wife and son were seated, a waitress brought over a platter of free cold antipasto, which included some gorgeous, fatty slices of what I thought was salami. We were about to fall on it when I remembered we aren't eating meat. I picked it up and asked her if she could bring us a meatless version.

She returned soon with grilled vegetables, marinated red pepper, hot peppers, cheese and  mushrooms -- wonderful with fresh bread, crackers and toast. We ordered one lobster bisque to share ($9) and received two standard-size bowls of a rich and creamy soup

We didn't know about the big portions. We ordered trout fillets ($20), fillet of sole with a crust of potatoes ($24), and linguine in a spicy, fra diavolo sauce with lump crab meat ($22). We would have been satisfied by just two of the three dishes, and took home lots of leftovers.

My son's trout was encrusted in nuts and served with sauteed grapes, which were delicious; a parfait of thinly sliced sweet and white potatoes and green beans. My moist fish came with a big julienne of vegetables, and my wife's linguine was in a properly spicy sauce with lots of crab meat (diavolo is devil in Italian).

When the bill came, I noticed that big glasses of soda were $4 each, which I thought was a bit much. (A glass of wine is $7 and up). But everything else was fairly priced given the freshness, quality and portion size.

David Corcoran, who reviewed American Bistro in 2001 for The New York Times, sent me the name in response to an e-mail looking for an Italian restaurant in the Newark area. Thanks, David. American Bistro still is a reliable spot for great food and service. Click on the link below for its Web site:

American Bistro

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gamasot Restaurant in Fort Lee

Banchan, a small dish accompanied with a main ...Image via Wikipedia

One of our favorite meals is spicy Korean soft-tofu stew with steamed rice and side dishes. At $10 or less -- including tax -- soft tofu is not only delicious, it's good for you, too. And it's a welcome alternative during our meatless pledge.

On Saturday night, we tried the new kid on the block -- Gamasot (Korean for iron pot). The full price for a soft-tofu meal here is $9 -- $1 less than So Gong Dong, our favorite, in Palisades Park. When we've tried soft tofu elsewhere in the past, we couldn't get it as spicy as we wanted.

Gamasot offers a range of spiciness, as do most places, but didn't take us seriously and delivered three stews with seafood that fell a bit short on the heat scale. Yet, these stews were bubbling so furiously when brought to the table, the two fresh eggs I cracked into mine became hard boiled, rather than soft, which tastes great broken over the rice.

The stone bowl with the steamed rice seemed a little smaller than at So Gong Dong, but we liked the side dishes -- cabbage kimchi brought to the table in a special bowl and cut with scissors, and cucumber and radish kimchis, plus bean sprouts and sliced hot peppers in a sweetish sauce. The entire meal was terrific and we plan to return. (Photo: Typical Korean side dishes.)

Another specialty at Gamasot is milky ox-bone soup, which the greeter said is cooked for 24 hours and served a number of ways. Korean barbecue also is available. The restaurant is housed in an enclosed, two-level  shopping mall with parking underneath, but some stores are vacant, and Korean restaurants have come and gone over the years.

Gamasot Restaurant, 1550 Lemoine Ave., 
First Level, Fort Lee; 201-242-1155

So Gong Dong, 118 Broad Ave., Second Floor,
Palisades Park; 201-313-5550.
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Monday, April 12, 2010

More information about Costco seafood

:Original raster version: :Image:Food and Drug...Image via Wikipedia

Dear Victor:

"We appreciate you taking the time to e-mail Costco Wholesale.

"Our farmed seafood are only treated with antibiotics, if it's absolutely needed. If they need to be treated, we have to make sure that our suppliers follow strict FDA [Food and Drug Administration] guidelines.  We also test for antibiotics in our fish as well, to make sure that suppliers follow guidelines imposed."

Thank you,

Costco Wholesale Corp.

The farmed Black Tiger shrimp we had for dinner last night were sold at Costco under the SEAMAZZ label. Here is more information from the company's Web site:

"Mazzetta Co. is accredited by the Aquaculture Certification Council for best management practices in food safety and traceability. Mazzetta Co.’s shrimp is harvested without endangering the habitat of the sea turtle or other marine animals.

"Sweetly flavorful and firm textured, SEAMAZZ® raw shrimp is a delicious addition to a healthy diet. With no carbohydrates, saturated fat or trans fat, SEAMAZZ raw shrimp is a nutritious source of protein with fewer calories than chicken, turkey, or beef. SEAMAZZ raw shrimp is one of the most versatile additions to any menu. It can be broiled, grilled, stir fried, sautéed, or steamed and is ready to eat in minutes."

That sounds good, but there is no mention of whether antibiotics are used in the raising  of this shrimp.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wandering aimlessly through Whole Foods

Black Tiger ShrimpImage by Dine.TO via Flickr

It's a pleasure to shop at Whole Foods Market in Paramus on Sundays. Parking spaces are easy to come by and you can wander through the store at your own pace. There are even a few free samples available -- bread, cheese and the like.

I drove the short distance from my home in Hackensack today for the second week in a row, and spent under $10, looking for sale items and ingredients for dinner tonight and tomorrow. Earlier, my wife drove to Englewood, where we once lived, and visited ShopRite and H Mart.

I love the fish department at Whole Foods, which pledges that all of its farmed seafood is drug-, hormone- and preservative-free. Last week, I bought two pounds of mussels, but forgot they were in the fridge, and they spoiled (I was in court all week). Today, I saw beautiful, whole whiting for $4.99 a pound; a shame, because my wife already bought whiting for a Jamaican fish tea at the Korean market.

In produce, I picked up organic red Swiss chard for $1.79 (about nine-tenths of a pound) that I will stir-fry tomorrow with West Soy seasoned wheat protein strips ($3.39 for 8 ounces) I picked up at Whole Foods last week. This pre-cooked vegan item is often referred to as "the meat of the wheat," the package says.

For tonight's dinner of farmed U-15 Black Tiger shrimp (Costco), giant rigatoni with pesto and salad, I bought a wide, ciabatta-like bread for $2.49 called sperlonga. (Photo: Black Tiger shrimp.)

I spoke to three other shoppers while I was at Whole Foods. All were pleasant, and two wished me "a beautiful day." Contrast that with the grimly determined shoppers at Fairway Market, a few miles away in Paramus, who turn up their noses at you and would just as soon run you down with their carts as speak with you.
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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fishing for dinner at Costco

Sockeye salmonImage via Wikipedia

Most of the money I spent at Costco in Hackensack on Thursday was for seafood.

Wild haddock fillets made a great dinner cooked in Mexican green salsa, spooned over steamed yellow rice and served with a salad.

 For breakfast and lunch sandwiches, I got a pound of smoked and sliced wild sockeye salmon from Alasaka  (photo) at $14.79. I refer to this as wild lox.

From the Seafood Road Show, I finally broke down and bought four pounds of frozen Black Tiger shrimp from Vietnam. These big shrimp, which are deveined, come 13 to 15 to the pound at $8.60 or so per pound. I haven't bought them before because they are farmed and that method of raising them has led to habitat destruction.

Unfortunately, Costco, unlike Whole Foods Market, provides little information about the farmed shrimp or fish it sells (beyond saying farmed salmon is artificially colored). Whole Foods says all of the farmed seafood it sells is drug-, hormone- and preservative-free.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Meatless run to Whole Foods

Seitan with Eggplant, Spinach, and TomatoImage by moria via Flickr

I ran out on Sunday to Whole Food Market in Paramus to see what it had to offer in the way of meat substitutes -- five weeks into our pledge to avoid chicken, beef, pork and lamb. There were few shoppers and it was easy to get a parking spot.

For dinner last night, we enjoyed a vegetable-and-soy meatloaf smothered in our own barbecue sauce, with mashed potatoes, translucent Korean noodles and an organic green salad. The meatloaf weighed one pound and cost $7.49.

I also picked up strips of wheat protein called seitan for a stir fry ($3.39), Italian-flavored soy sausage ($2.99) and two bags of textured soy meatballs ($3.99 each). Normally, we buy chicken sausage and meatballs from Costco. Whole Foods also had two pounds of Blue Bay mussels from Canada for $5.99, so I grabbed a bag. (Photo: Seitan with eggplant, spinach and tomato).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Getting more fish in your diet

{{es|1=Marisco diverso - Langostinos }}Image via Wikipedia

Here is something my friend Sue brought to my attention from The New York Times. We've been eating fish and seafood non-stop since taking a meatless pledge weeks ago. 

Tonight, we had excellent lobster ravioli from Costco and the last of the fried fish my wife brought back from Jamaica, and Sunday night, I prepared spinach egg noodles from Corrado's with a homemade tomato sauce filled with anchovies and leftover red snapper and sardines (as in sardines with steamed rice).

Click on the following link for a sardine-and-Swiss chard recipe and other advice: Getting more fish in your diet
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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tito's Burritos and Beyzaleda Turkish Food

Jarritos LogoImage via Wikipedia

I had business in Morristown on Friday and a friend offered to buy me lunch at Tito's Burritos on Washington Street.

I ordered the swordfish taco ($4.25), hold the cabbage. This is a lot of money for one taco, compared with the Mexican joints I used to frequent in Passaic city, but you usually can't get fish of any kind there. However, Tito's does sell Jarritos, the Mexican soda made with sugar.

The swordfish came in a hard taco shell wrapped in a flour tortilla -- not the usual two corn tortillas -- and the chopped fish was in a cilantro-lime sauce. So this is more of a California or Hawaiin version. It was tasty, though.

On Saturday night, we dropped into Beyzaleda Turkish Food in Cliffside Park for dinner, but the vegetarian options were limited, so we ordered lentil soup; a salad of chopped tomato, cucumber and onions in a light dressing; and ezme, the coarse walnut-and-pepper salad. 

This was a properly spicy ezme salad, and the other items were wonderful. Still, the 16-seat, halal  restaurant was out of another salad and of the rice with beans pictured on the menu. The waitress kept pushing the hummus, but we declined.

The soup and chopped salad came with wedges of lemon, and we got small basket after small basket of homemade puffy bread. But the Turkish pizza we wanted isn't prepared on Saturdays and the potato or parsley omelet we asked for is made only in the morning. Our meatless pledge prevented us from trying a special kabob wrapped in bread.

Tito's Burritos, 26 Washington St., Morristown; 
973-267-8486. Open seven days. Second location in Summit.

BeyzaledaTurkish Food, 633 Anderson Ave., 
Cliffside Park;  201-840-1245. Open seven days.

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Let's talk about food

Whole Foods Headquarters.Image via Wikipedia

If you think about the food you eat, you'll probably enjoy the discussion on the Whole Foods Market Web site under the title, "Let's retake our plates." Although that sounds a little clunky to me, the site is filled with inspiring material. (Photo: Whole Foods headquarters.)

Just click on the link:

Let's retake our plates
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Friday, April 2, 2010

Who forgot to scale my red snapper?

Flounder have both eyes on one side of their head.Image via Wikipedia

I find my self buying more fish and related items at Costco in Hackensack. I used to drop into a Korean supermarket each week to browse among 20 or more different whole fish for our family meal, but I've been succumbing to the convenience of picking up lots of items at once in the warehouse store.

Costco usually has fillets of such wild fish as meaty haddock or the more delicate flounder (photo) that are great for frying. Starting in June, wild salmon will start showing up. Year round, you usually can find smoked wild salmon, lobster ravioli, king crab and corn chowder, and other items.

Costco also stages a Seafood Road Show, starting on Fridays, with enormous tiger shrimp, big crab legs, clams, mussels and other items, but we try to avoid farmed shrimp (because of habitat destruction).

On Thursday, I was checking out the fish fillets when I saw beautiful whole red snapper from Panama in shrink-wrapped foam trays that had been put out that day. Their eyes were clear. I bought a package of two that weighed a total of 2.2 pounds at $5.49 a pound. My wife loves the head, my son the tail and me the middle of the fish.

For dinner, I opened a can of diced tomatoes and another of tomato paste, emptied them into a large pan with a clear glass cover and added extra-virgin olive oil, Italian seasoning, red-pepper flakes, salt and garlic powder. I started to cut three slashes into the body of one fish when my wife noticed the red snapper had been gutted and cleaned but hadn't been scaled, and she grabbed a fork and went to work over the sink.

The two fish didn't fit into the pan, so I cut them in half  (nearer the tail), laid the pieces over the sauce, covered the pan and cooked them over medium heat until the exposed flesh turned white -- approximately 20 to 25 minutes. I served them with leftover yellow rice, crunchy French green beans I picked up on the same trip to Costco and warm pocket bread. If you use two cans of diced tomatoes and tomato paste, you can boil some pasta and cover it with the fish-flavored sauce.

The beans had been blanched in boiling water, then cooked for about five minutes in a covered pan with lemon-flavored olive oil, salt and Costco's organic no-salt seasoning. A wonderful meal, despite the need to scale the fish. But I plan to go to customer service today to register my complaint.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

My son screams for his corn cake

Traditional tapImage via Wikipedia

My 12-year-old son often decides what he is going to have for breakfast the night before, announces it and gets me or my wife to agree to prepare the meal. Last night, he said he wanted a corn cake topped with melted cheese and eggs.

He was referring to the Colombian arepas I bought recently at Hackensack Market. They are about 5 inches across and it's quick and easy to heat one up on our griddle, top it with a slice or two of cheese and, when the cheese melts, add an egg-white omelet with Aleppo red pepper made in a frying pan. My son likes to pour maple syrup over everything and drink orange juice with it. (Photo: Maple syrup tap.)

After I drove him to school this morning, I prepared a variation for myself, using three green tortillas instead of an arepa. You may recall my recent post asking why these tortillas are green. There is nothing on the bag, including no green ingredient, such as spinach, listed. Chuck, a reader, said he believes they are tortillas de nopales like the ones he saw in Southern California.

Today, I was able to reach the Puebla Foods factory in Passaic city where these tortillas were ostensibly made under the Mi Pueblito label. Edith, who is in sales, said Puebla Foods does not make a green tortilla with cactus, spinach or anything else. I asked her to call  La Batalla, the Mexican restaurant in Bergenfield where I bought the tortillas, and said I would call her back.
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