Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Loving food too much

Pizza MargheritaImage by roboppy via Flickr

 "I love food."

"I know. Just love food a little less."

That pretty much sums up the exchange today between me and my doctor after my yearly physical. My weight -- 226 pounds, four more than in May 2009, but four pounds less than my recent peak -- prompted his advice that I'm eating too much, even though I go to the gym five days a week.

His words weren't exactly ringing in my ears when I drove to the other end of Englewood to see if I could pick up three fish dinners at Jerry's Gourmet & More. I was out of luck; I only found one dinner with fish among the restaurant-quality chicken and pork meals.

Jerry's was probably the wrong place to go after my physical. I had to fast for the examination and needed breakfast, and all the free samples of cheese, bread and olive oil were too hard to resist. I had a dozen or more small cubes of cheese, four or five pieces of bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil, crackers and yogurt, but didn't try the energy drink. 

I bought three of Jerry's small, chewy focaccias ($1.49 each) -- covered in marinara sauce and lots of chopped garlic (I had half of one to complete my breakfast at home). The Original Napoletana Pizza Margherita (like the one in photo above), with house-made fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, tomato, salt and extra-virgin olive oil, was $4.99, a bargain when compared to what a Neapolitan pizzeria charges.

For dinner tonight, I'll heat up Jerry's two-pound lasagna (meatless, $10.99) and steam a pound of French green beans from Costco.

Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St.,
Englewood; 201-871-7108

Web site:
Jerry's Homemade

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The perfect loaf of bread?

Balthazar BakeryImage by Shopping Diva via Flickr

My wife called today and said, "I'm in Englewood. Do you need anything?" She meant food.

Let's see. Should I ask her to pick up a few of Jerry's restaurant-quality dinners to go? How about cabbage kimchi from Gaboh Inc. or Korean dumplings from the place across the street from the firehouse? Or did I feel like having a few Colombian empanadas and hot sauce from the little bakery off Palisade Avenue?

Instead, I asked her to stop at Balthazar Bakery for its signature baguette -- still $2 nearly eight years after the place opened on South Dean Street.

Here is the short ingredients list: unbleached wheat flour, water, rye flour, sea salt, yeast and barley malt. That's it. The weight is 8 ounces and the taste is incomparable.

Balthazar Bakery,  214 S. Dean St., 
Englewood; 201-503-9717. Closed Sunday.

(Photo: Original Balthazar Bakery in Manhattan)
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Monday, June 28, 2010

A recipe overheard at the gym

TomatillosImage by chrismar via Flickr

I overheard two women at the gym discussing what they had served for dinner, and one mentioned a salsa that sounded intriguing. When I asked the women what kind of chicken they served their families, one said organic and the other said Perdue. 

The woman who serves organic chicken recommended a salsa made with tomatillos (photo) and watermelon, seasoned with cumin. That's all I remember, even though I asked her to repeat the recipe a couple of days later.

At Corrado's in Clifton, the tomatillos were rotten, but I found some nice ones at Compare Foods in Passaic. They also are available at Hackensack Market on Passaic Street in Hackensack. They are small, green tomatoes that come in a husk. The taste is unusual and pleasantly sour.

I chopped up four tomatillos (without the husk, stem or stem base) and a thick, half-slice of a large, seedless watermelon. I added two or three nice pinches of ground cumin, some fresh lemon juice, a little chopped jalapeno pepper without seeds, and chopped cilantro from the garden. I guess you could add ripe tomato or onion or both.

I had some with breakfast this morning, alongside my sardine, tomato and cheese sandwich. Wonderful. This salsa would be great with fish, too.
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Saturday, June 26, 2010

A filling meal of Peruvian specialties

Honey Glazed Rotisserie ChickenImage by Another Pint Please... via Flickr

What I love about Pollos El Chevere, a clean, well-run Peruvian restaurant in Passaic, is that even if you ignore its signature rotisserie chicken, there are so many other great dishes to indulge in -- some of them showing Japanese and Chinese influences.

My wife and I haven't eaten meat since the end of February, so on Friday evening, she ordered a tasty fish soup with a green broth (parsely?) and I started with ceviche, the Peruvian twist on sushi, this one with pollock marinated in lime juice and onions, and served with crunchy corn kernels and a small sweet potato. My son had a Chinese-Peruvian chicken soup with noodles.

We shared another appetizer -- papas la huancaina -- boiled potatoes in a light, mildly spicy cheese sauce, and tostones -- green plantains that are smashed twice and fried beautifully, perfect for dipping in the restaurant's milky hot sauce. We also shared an entree -- tallerin verde, a pesto-like spaghetti. I asked the waiter to substitute fish for steak, and he brought us a big, fried fillet of pollock.

We all drank chicha morada, a preservative-free soft drink made from purple corn extract, sugar cane, cinnamon, cloves, lemon and other natural flavors. The bill for three was $53 before the tip, and we took home leftovers.

We didn't miss the rotisserie chicken. One of the Japanese-Peruvian owners once confided the chickens he buys are nothing special before he marinates them in wine, garlic and other ingredients he wouldn't disclose, and roasts them in the special rotisserie cases that fill the front window. When we ordered chicken regularly, we stuck to moist dark meat over dry white meat.

After our meal, we drove a block or so to Compare Foods, a supermarket, and bought two, 64-ounce bottles of chicha morada for $2.28 each, normally $3.19.

Pollos El Chevere, 228 Washington Place, Passaic; 
973-249-6330. Open seven days, 
parking in municipal lot on same block.
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Friday, June 25, 2010

More on Aleppo red pepper

Aleppo pepper, a seasoning produced in Syria. ...Image via Wikipedia

The wonderful, crushed red pepper that enlivens Syrian food prepared in Aleppo, Syria, and at Aleppo Restaurant in Paterson can add a new dimension to dishes made in your own kitchen.

Click on the following link to learn more, then go buy some at Fattal's Bakery, two blocks from Aleppo Restaurant (Main and Thomas streets). At $3.96 a pound, it is a fourth of the price charged by this mail-order house.

I use it on eggs, hummus and wild salmon, but it's suitable whenever you want to elevate your food with a mildly spicy red pepper. I keep mine in the freezer.

Crushed Aleppo pepper

Fattal's Bakery, 975-77 Main St., Paterson;
open seven days.
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shopping notes

Fattal's Bakery (& Grocery (& Jewelry))Image by wka via Flickr

Rotten tomatillos, tired-looking red peppers and squid-ink pasta for about $12 a pound. You may be surprised that I found all of those at Corrado's, the large ethnic supermarket on the Clifton-Paterson border that has a reputation for low prices. 

I had an errand in Totowa, and decided to stop in Paterson to pick up Middle Eastern spices and bread at Fattal's Bakery. I also needed grated pecorino romano cheese, which Corrado's sells for $6.99 a pound. I keep it in the freezer, and use it on pasta and to sprinkle over salads and focaccia.

Corrado's is one of the few supermarkets I know that stocks squid-ink pasta, but today, the only package I found was 8.8 ounces and cost $5.99. I passed. One side of an entire aisle is devoted to pasta, including 24-inch long spaghetti from Italy.

I picked up two plastic bags of grated cheese, each one about a pound. Five pounds of carrots were $1.99, and jalapeno peppers were 2 pounds for $1. But I'll have to go elsewhere for tomatillos. Corrado's still has low prices, but in some cases, the quality is low, too. You get nothing back for bringing your own bags.

At Fattal's, I picked up two packages of Syrian bread ($1.50 for 12 loaves); a variety of green and black olives ($2.99 a pound), Aryan yogurt drink ($3.79) and a half-pound each of cumin and coarse Aleppo red pepper ($3.96 a pound).

The cumin and mildly spicy red pepper are my main spices for seasoning several dishes, including wild salmon, eggs and hummus.

I didn't need sardines on this visit to Fattal's, but noted Corrado's charges $1.49 for the same Moroccan sardines you can get at the bakery for 99 cents.

Fattal's Bakery, 975-77 Main St., 
Paterson; 973-742-7125.
Corrado's  Family Affair, 1578 Main Ave., 
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Copper River salmon now at a lower price

Sockeye salmonImage via Wikipedia

The first wild sockeye salmon fillets from the famed Copper River in Alaska appeared on June 12 at the Costco in Hackensack. The price: $14.99 a pound. A few days later, wild king salmon from Alaska showed up, also $14.99 a pound.

Today, I went looking for king salmon for dinner, but found only the sockeye (photo). The surprise was a lower price: $11.99 a pound. Last year, Copper River salmon was sold for $9.99 a pound at Costco.

I also picked up a pound of Earthbound Farms organic spring mix ($4.49) and two pounds of those beautiful, round Campari tomatoes on the vine ($4.59) that are hot-house grown without herbicides. Pasta Prima-brand lobster ravioli were $11.99, enough to feed three at two meals.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Cooking lobster is no fun

The American lobster was a staple of the colon...Image via Wikipedia

We love lobster, but prepare it at home only occasionally. It's one of the only times you have to kill something that is alive to eat it. So we substitute lobster ravioli or splurge and eat it out once in a while.

My wife and son wanted to take me out to a restaurant in the city for Father's Day, but the couple of places I was interested in were booked solid. So I asked my wife to buy lobsters at ShopRite in Englewood for dinner last night.

She came home with two lobsters weighing a total of nearly 8 pounds ($5.99 a pound with a PriceClub card). In the past, we have had trouble finding pots large enough for big lobsters, but I knew that for Thanksgiving last year, I bought a big, rectangular turkey roaster with a cover that would swallow the large crustaceans.

The lobsters had been packed in a plastic bag, which I had to cut open. They seemed to be rearing away from my rubber-gloved hand, and the big claws on each were nearly as big as my hand. I had to lift them out by their claws -- I couldn't get my hand in the thick rubber glove around the bodies.

I've seen lobsters dispatched with the thrust of a knife; I can't stomach that. The water in the roaster was boiling, but wasn't deep enough for me to plunge the lobsters in head first, as the instructions on the bag recommend. I placed them inside in opposite directions, and quickly put on the cover. Thrashing went on for a few minutes and then all I noticed was steam escaping. 

I cooked them for 20 minutes.

We ate our lobsters with linguine in oil and garlic and crushed red pepper, with fresh, chopped parsley from the garden. There was lots of delicious lobster meat that needed only a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. I also dipped some in the pasta's garlicky oil. I drank wine. My wife and son were delighted. The kitchen was a mess.
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

At Red Hen Bistro in Wood-Ridge

Golden Book version book cover
Image via Wikipedia

When I read in the paper that fish tacos were the most popular dish at the new Red Hen Bistro, I planned to have our one weekly dinner out there Saturday evening. The Wood-Ridge restaurant also offers fish and chips, a dish my son loves almost as much as the tacos.

Well, we were disappointed, and despite trying to eat a healthy meal, we ended up with a lot of fried food bordering on greasy. But Chef-Owner Carlos Valdez promised to make us soft fish tacos the next time, and comped us with a wonderful bread pudding and coffee.

Valdez says he is Mexican, yet his St. Helena fish tacos (3 for $9.95) were served in brittle, fried tortillas that fell apart as we tried to eat them. When we asked for a hot sauce, all the kitchen had to offer was a tepid chimichurri. He said the next time, we should specify that we want two soft corn tortillas for each taco, the way they are served in the Pueblan taco joints in Passaic city.

The fish and chips ($13.95) were another problem. One piece of haddock came in in too much fried batter and was accompanied by roasted, not fried, potatoes. Yet, the delicious roasted potatoes were a welcome break from all the greasy food. 

I started with a refreshing Little Bistro Salad, organic greens, croutons and champagne vinaigrette ($5.95), and we shared an order of excellent truffled frites ($4.95) with truffle oil, herbs and shaved cheese.

We are not dessert eaters, but the complimentary bread pudding with Bing cherries -- served in a puddle of white chocolate -- was delicious and not too sweet.

The menu is filled with comfort food, such as wild mushroom risotto and Croque Madam, a grilled ham, cheese and fried-egg sandwich. A special was cassoulet, the white-bean stew, with crispy duck leg, but we're not eating meat. More detailed menu descriptions would avoid confusion, such as with the fish tacos.

The storefront has a comfortable interior, and you can bring your own beer or wine. But there is only one off-street parking space, and street parking is limited. We parked on a street off Moonachie Avenue. An off-note in the dining room was the constant sound of dishes being washed.

Red Hen Bistro, 525 Moonachie Ave., Wood-Ridge; 
201-728-4501. Open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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When I really needed tomatoes

State fruit - TomatoImage via Wikipedia

I planned to have a Roma tomato with breakfast Saturday morning, but when I opened the clear-plastic container, I could see a black spot forming on one and another split open and oozing juice. I bought them at Costco last Monday -- two pounds of Sunset-brand, herbicide-free tomatoes for $3.99, so decided to take them back.

Costco in Hackensack appeared to be overrun, with a long line of cars waiting to turn into the parking lot. In the store, register lines were just as long. I got my refund, and spoke to a produce manager about customers who open packages and hand-inspect the contents. He said employees have been alerted to discourage that behavior. 

Not wanting to wait on a long register line, I left without replacement tomatoes and lemons I needed, figuring I could get them at Fairway Market in Paramus, while my wife was shopping for a summer dress on Saturday.

Tomato prices at Fairway stopped me cold. Vine-grown Canadian tomatoes were $1.99 a pound, the same price I pay for herbicide-free tomatoes at Costco. Herbicide-free Campari tomatoes were $2.99 a pound, compared with the Fairway sale price of 3 pounds for $5. One reason I like Costco is that prices fluctuate only slightly, and often go down.

So I bought loose Roma tomatoes for $1.49 a pound at Fairway, along with two lemons for $1. Two pounds of organic lemons (about four lemons) were $3.99 at Fairway. I also picked up four boxes of Barilla pasta for 80 cents each, and Kozy Shack rice pudding for $1.99 -- about half the price at ShopRite.
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Saturday, June 19, 2010

More free-range Australian beef on sale

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

The new ShopRite sales circular offers Nature's Reserve free-range, grass-fed boneless rib eye steak from Australia for $4.99 a pound with a PricePlus card, $6.99 a pound without. The sale starts Sunday, and there is a 5-pound limit.

Last week, ShopRite had a sale on Australian whole beef tenderloin for filet mignon, also $4.99 a pound with the card. That beef also was free range and grass fed. Generally, it is less fatty than conventionally raised beef, and care should be taken not to overcook it. That means you probably shouldn't cook it past medium.
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Keep your hands off the fruit, please

A row of shopping carts.Image via Wikipedia

Costco shoppers are by and large a weird bunch, and watching them during my once- or twice-a-week visits to the Hackensack warehouse store isn't amusing. Why does saving money bring out such bad behavior?

Their frenetic driving in the parking lot may be familiar to you, but they're lazy, too, leaving those big shopping carts up against parked cars rather than walking the carts a few steps to keep them  out of the way.

Now, their behavior inside the store is deteriorating. Never mind that fickle shoppers will abandon their selections almost anywhere except where they found the items, including under the checkout counter, perishable food or not. Just look over the carts employees fill with rejects near the first registers.

I've also started to notice that some shoppers open packages of produce and seem intent on examining every tomato, orange, strawberry and even blueberry. True, I hate to buy produce and discover soft or moldy pieces, but the store's return policy is so generous, you can always get your money back. The other day, my wife ate two imported tangerines she bought at Costco, said they weren't sweet and asked me to return them for a refund, which I did.

To me, opening produce and touching it is taboo. I plan to speak to the store managers next time I'm there.

Good buys at Fairway Market

The sales flier from Fairway Market in Paramus is heralding "club store pricing" on 8,000 grocery items every day. Here are examples: Florida Natural orange juice (64 ounces), two for $5; Kozy Shack rice pudding (six pack or 22-ounce tub), $1.99; and Barilla pasta, 80 cents. Among specialty items, a three-liter tin of Fairway extra-virgin olive oil is $14.99.

Punch up your pasta sauce 

I don't have the time or inclination to make my own pasta sauce, especially when there are such great bottled sauces available at Fairway Market and Costco at low prices. But I do add a few things to my bottled sauce to make it really special: olive oil, dried Italian seasoning, dried garlic and crushed red pepper. 

Still, my sauce isn't complete without adding a can of anchovies, including oil (and capers, if any), and boiling it until the fish and anchovy taste disappear, leaving behind a distinctive, robust flavor. I'm not sure why, but the sauce with anchovies is not salty at all (I don't salt my pasta water, and use as little water as possible).

Last night, I added a can of anchovies to a little more than half of a 32-ounce bottle of Fairway tomato-and-basil pasta sauce ($3.49), and added about half a package of al dente fusiloni (oversize corkscrews from Italy that I buy at ShopRite). Delicious. And  I love to have crusty bread to soak up the sauce left on the plate.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Turn your back on refrigerated hummus

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

If you love hummus, read this New York Times story (link below), then go out and buy canned hummus from Lebanon and make your own with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic powder. With all the money you'll save, you can buy some fresh Syrian bread to scoop up your tasty, homemade dip.

I buy my canned hummus at Fattal's Syrian Bakery in Paterson (975-77 Main St.), a one-stop shopping experience for fresh bread and everything you'd want to eat with it. Lebano Verde is the brand I favor, and a 15-ounce can was 99 cents the last time I was there 10 days ago. 

I garnish my hummus with more olive oil and cumin or Aleppo red pepper, and use it as a sandwich spread when I'm not scooping it up with bread. Here is the link to the story:

 Hummus with peanut butter?

(Photo: Hummus served in Haifa, Israel)
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wild salmon seen near Hackensack River

Shop Rite, Shopping CartsImage by The Consumerist via Flickr

At Costco in Hackensack today, the fresh seafood case was unusually crowded. There were big slabs of the usual farmed  salmon, and farmed steel-head trout and tilapia. But for the first time, I saw wild king salmon from Canada at $14.99 a pound. That is also the price for the fish next to it -- wild Copper River sockeye salmon from Alaska.

The wild king salmon appeared fattier, but didn't have the rich color of the stuff from Alaska I bought on Saturday. In addition to fish, Costco offered big scallops, Black Tiger prawns from Vietnam ($14.99 a pound, about eight prawns), Little Neck clams and big lobster tails (treated with preservative, unfortunately).

Thirty-five, half-liter bottles of Poland Spring water are now $4.35 -- about a dollar less than a few years ago.

Last week, we tried the vegetable souffle I bought at Costco, but one of the two sealed portions had large and small mold spores, and I threw it away. The one I heated tasted fine, but I don't think I'll be buying more any time soon.

How generous is Fairway?

I drove up to Fairway Market in Paramus on Monday to stock up on salted cod fish and buy a couple of other items, planning to use a coupon in the sales circular for 48 small bottles of imported mineral water -- free with a $75 purchase.

As I put my items on the belt, a well-groomed man in his late 60s or 70s who was ahead of me, and accompanied by his wife, asked the cashier for the bonus mineral water, but was told he had to have the coupon to claim it. 

When I looked at my receipt, I saw that the two cases of mineral water I received had a total retail value of $5.98. Couldn't the store employees just give the man the water? This is the kind of New York attitude that leaves a bad taste in people's mouth.

I also noticed small signs on Fairway's shelves: "Ask any New Yorker. High-end food, low-end prices." I thought, I'm in New Jersey, for crying out loud. Why would I have to ask a New Yorker? Can't they make separate signs for the Paramus store?

I do have to praise Fairway for offering coffee beans each week for $4.99 a pound. And I love the Spanish fig cake with nuts -- an item I have seen before only in the old King's store in Fort Lee.

Imported items at ShopRite

ShopRite in Hackensack has wonderful pasta made with bronze dies in Italy for $2.99. These are oversized pieces, such as the large corkscrews called fusiloni I bought on sale today for $2.49.

Another great imported item is sparking, 100% juice from Spain, on sale at $2.29 a bottle. I picked up red grape, white grape and apple cider. Sometimes, the store also has sparkling peach juice.

I also took a look at the packages of free-range, grass-fed Australian beef on sale this week for $4.99 a pound with a club card. Most of them were 5 pounds or more. Although the ShopRite label carries the Nature's Reserve name, another name was stamped on the plastic package.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Going wild over wild salmon

Sockeye salmonImage via Wikipedia

I combined fresh wild sockeye salmon and smoked wild sockeye in a superb breakfast sandwich this morning. 

The fresh fish was left over from dinner last night, when I baked the fillet I bought at Costco with a little salt, Aleppo red pepper, chopped herbs and lemon juice. At 350 degrees, I got rare pieces in about 7 minutes, medium in about 10 minutes.

I toasted whole-grain bread, spread one piece with homemade pesto, added the two kinds of wild salmon, tomato with za'atar thyme mixture, organic salad greens, a little parsley-and-red-onion salad and sliced cheese. Wow.

The bread, preservative-free smoked salmon, Campari tomato and organic salad greens also came from Costco.

(Photo: Sockeye salmon)
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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Kimchi service sets Gam Mee Ok apart

Gimchi, a very common side dish in Korea
The taste of the kimchi can make or break a restaurant.
Image via Wikipedia

When we walked into Gam Mee Ok in Fort Lee on Saturday night, it looked different and I saw the name of another restaurant on the place mat. 

But it's just an affiliated place in Queens called Tang, and Gam Mee Ok still is the only North Jersey place I know with kimchi service.

After you place your order, you are brought a vase-like bowl with cabbage and radish kimchis, tongs and scissors, and you are served both kinds. The server than pours on additional sauce.

When we first started going to Gam Mee Ok (pronounced GAM-yo) a couple of years ago, my wife insisted on ordering cabbage kimchi to take home. 

But there appears to be a new kimchi maker in the kitchen, because, as she noted Saturday night, the sauce is thicker and doesn't contain as much red pepper as before. The kimchi still is wonderful, though.

We ordered an appetizer called shrimp Jeon ($6.95) and three stone-bowl bibimbaps ($13.95 each) -- a hot Korean rice dish topped with julienne vegetables, meat and a raw egg. 

We asked the waiter to hold the meat and cook the egg. You're given red pepper paste or sauce to add, and then mix up all the ingredients before eating it with a spoon. It's one of my favorite Korean dishes.

The five shrimp were butterflied and dipped in egg before cooking, then served with sauces. Very nice. You also get a basket of fresh cabbage and hot, green peppers, in place of traditional side dishes.

Gam Mee Ok's architecture is modern. It's one of the few 24-hour Korean restaurants, and the young staff members were dressed in red T-shirts and bandannas for the World Cup (South Korea's winning match was being broadcast). 

We arrived around 5 p.m. for dinner and, with few people to serve, the Korean waiters and waitresses chatted and flirted with each other.

Gam Mee Ok, 485 Main St., Fort Lee; 201-242-1333.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fresh wild salmon swims into view

Copper RiverImage by Travis S. via Flickr

There it is. 

In the fresh-fish case at Costco in Hackensack, the first fresh, wild salmon from Alaska appeared Saturday, neatly shrink-wrapped in a foam tray.

The fish has the deep, red-orange color that farmed salmon never achieves, because it is artificially colored.

This wild sockeye salmon comes from the famed Copper River, and carries a price to match: $14.99 a pound. I found a tray for about $20, and plan to serve it for Sunday dinner, along with Black Tiger prawns  I picked up at Costco on Friday (U-8 or eight to a pound).

Last year, Costco in Hackensack had fresh Copper River sockeye salmon starting on June 2 for $9.99 a pound.

Costco has the Copper River salmon for a couple of weeks, if last year is any guide. Then, other wild Alaskan salmon is available at least until September, usually for $8.99 a pound. The fish cooks quickly in the oven with just a little seasoning and chopped, fresh herbs.

(Photo: Copper River in Alaska)
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Australian beef takes center stage

Tenderloin in the beef cut chart.
Tenderloin in the beef cut chart.
Image via Wikipedia

There is good news for meat eaters in the ShopRite sales flier: Free-range, grass-fed filet mignon from Australia for only $4.99 a pound with the PriceClub Card. The sale starts Sunday.

You'll have to buy the whole beef tenderloin sold under the Nature's Reserve label, probably a minimum of four pounds. And when you get it home, you'll need to trim it well. The last time I bought this beef, I sliced all of it thin and put it in freezer bags with marinade for Korean barbecue at home. But you can also cut it into small steaks.

The same cut of conventionally raised American beef also is on sale at ShopRite for $6.99 a pound with the card.

ShopRite can sell foreign beef for $4.99 a pound, compared with $10 or more a pound for American, grass-fed beef, because costs are so much lower in Australia. The same goes for naturally raised Australian lamb. Why Australian beef isn't served more in American steak houses is a big question.

Free-range, grass-fed beef has less fat than beef from cattle confined to pens and fed only grain; it cooks faster and probably shouldn't be prepared past medium.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Crab cakes that keep on giving

Two lemons, one whole and one sliced in halfImage via Wikipedia

Breakfast usually means an array of containers on my kitchen counter as I assemble a red-salmon-and-sardine salad sandwich for my son -- whole-grain toast spread with hummus and garnished with tomato, greens and cheese -- or plate leftovers for my own breakfast.

This morning, I continued to explore the seafood theme with leftover crab cakes from last night's dinner and a piece of beer-battered haddock from the night before. They just needed a few minutes in the microwave and a spritz or two of fresh lemon juice, plus tomato, organic salad greens and warm Syrian bread with more hummus to make a filling breakfast. 

The Maryland-style crab cakes are sold at Costco under the Phillips Seafood Restaurants name, and they are some of the best I have ever had. The first ingredient is crab meat, and the other components include sauce, white wine, Dijon mustard and egg whites. Surprisingly, the cakes contain high fructose corn syrup. Six crab cakes (3 ounces each) are $12.99, or about $2.15 a piece -- a bargain.

For dinner, I served the crab cakes with instant, red-skin mashed potatoes and steamed bok choy.

The wild-caught haddock came from a package of frozen Icelandic fish and chips I also found at Costco ($8.97 for two and a half pounds of fish and waffle fries, enough for three). Just add a salad to complete dinner.
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Grass-fed beef at Fairway Market

These are the common British cuts of beef. Bas...Image via Wikipedia

Naturally raised beef finally has found its way into the sales flier from Fairway Market in Paramus. The store carries a full line of Murray's antibiotic-free chicken, but its selection of naturally raised beef and pork has been extremely limited.

Now, 100% grass-fed beef is available in boneless rib-eye steaks for $14.99 a pound and 100% grass-fed beef burgers are $5.99 a pound. Those prices compare with a sale price of $9.99 a pound on grass-fed New Jersey beef I saw at Whole Foods Market in Paramus, and organic ground beef at Costco for around $4.99 a pound.

The Fairway flier says grass-fed beef is low in fat and high in Omega-3, but contains no information on the origin or USDA grade, both of which suggests it's foreign. If so, it's far more expensive than the free-range, grass-fed Australian filet mignon sold at ShopRite (you have to buy the whole tenderloin).

The Fairway sale starts Friday. 
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Guacamole, falafel and vegetable souffle

Tomato (Tamatar)Image via Wikipedia

We've tried two more of the prepared-food items I found at Costco as I widen our choice of non-meat dishes for the five or six meals we have at home every week

Last night, we started off with a 16-ounce container of  Wholly Guacamole, a brand made from Hass avocados and spices. I spooned the thick guacamole into a bowl and, to thin it, added two chopped, herbicide-free Campari tomatoes and fresh lemon juice. We made guacamole tacos with whole-grain tortillas, also from Costco. A terrific appetizer.

A few days ago, we also tried falafel balls from Meal Mart. They're vegan and kosher. You just heat up the falafel balls. They are tasty but dense. I served them with a chopped cucumber, tomato and onion salad dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and dried mint, along with warm Syrian pocket bread and a tahini sauce (falafel, sauce and salad are stuffed into the bread).

The fully cooked Classic Cooking-brand vegetable souffle looks like a winner. (I plan to serve it tonight with soy burgers or leftover pasta and  Mexican-flavored "sausage" made with wheat gluten and soy I bought at Whole Foods Market.) The ingredients include potato, eggs, carrot, zucchini, broccoli, red pepper and spinach.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

An unusual breakfast in South Paterson

View of AleppoImage via Wikipedia

I dashed out this morning for bread, sardines, canned hummus, spinach pie and Lebanese extra-virgin olive oil from Fattal's Syrian Bakery in Paterson, then went looking for breakfast.

I drove a few blocks to Luna Bakery & Sweets (1071 Main St.), and asked for a Turkish breakfast (thick bread, hard-boiled egg, cheese, tomato and cucumber, and strong tea). 

Not wanting to turn a customer away, the Syrian baker served me tea; strained yogurt with nuts, which I ate with a spoon; a round, thin, flat bread spread with the thyme-based za'atar mixture; dough and cheese baked into a boat shape, and a pizza made with Syrian and mozzarella cheeses that was dusted with mint and a little red pepper. 

There was enough food for two and I took a few items home. After I told the baker my parents were from Aleppo, he said he was a native and described the many changes he's witnessed. Change also was evident around his business in South Paterson, he said, but he believes the quality of his dough has kept him afloat.

Across the street, the shuttered Syrian bakery Mondial is getting a makeover and a stylish, brick restaurant called Grill House is expected to open soon. On Getty Avenue, near Main Street, a storefront that once claimed to have the best falafel sandwich in the world has closed.

At Fattal's (975-77 Main St.), the sardines from Morocco and canned Lebanese hummus can't be beat (99 cents a can). Three liters of La Ziza-brand Lebanese extra-virgin olive oil rang up at $17.49. Six of Fattal's long, sesame-seeded spinach pies are $8.99, and freeze beautifully.

I turned off Getty at East Railway Avenue to check out produce in the Farmers' Market. But I ended up buying a small dogwood tree at Brothers Produce for $10, and driving home. 

(Photo: Aleppo, Syria)
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Friday, June 4, 2010

Fish and greens for dinner tonight

japanese soy sauce, it contains more salt than...japanese soy sauce, it contains more salt than... Image via Wikipedia

Fairway Market in Paramus has been advertising fresh whiting and porgy for only $2.99 a pound. But today, I found a special at H Mart, the Korean supermarket in Little Ferry: a pile of king whiting on ice at $1.79 a pound.

I bought four -- each about eight or nine inches long -- and had them cleaned with the head and tail on. Whiting is a wonderful, wild-caught fish that is on the menu of many soul food restaurants, where fillets are fried. It is also appreciated by Koreans, who, in flush times, used to receive small whiting among the free side dishes that accompany every meal.

My wife likes to bread them and fry them whole. The pearly, white flesh breaks away from the bone easily. But we also eat the skin and tail.

Before I selected the fish, I stopped at H Mart's Green Room, where a wide variety of Korean, Chinese and other greens chill on ice. I took advantage of another special: baby mustard greens at 69 cents a pound. I'll blanch the leaves and thick stems quickly in boiling water, then steam them with oil, soy sauce and fish sauce.

Friday is the start of  free-sample weekend at H Mart. I tried a spicy soup with thick noodles and fresh watermelon, but passed on the pork-and-vegetable dumplings.
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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Can free samples make you sick?

Free Samples at the Old Farmers Almanac Genera...Image by iirraa via Flickr

After reading my previous post on free samples at Whole Foods Market in Paramus, a friend sent me an e-mail:

"Meaning to tell you, some weeks ago I stopped at Jerry's and had lots of samples, including bread in balsamic vinegar. I think that's what made me sick that night. Those little bowls of vinegar and oil must be bacteria hives."
Interesting. I have never had a problem after eating free samples at Jerry's in Englewood or any other store, or never linked how I felt to those samples or the possibility of bacteria. Jerry's is well-patronized and the samples go fast -- especially around lunch time. 

Neither balsamic vinegar nor olive oil require refrigeration. Would bacteria grow from their exposure to air?

Jerry's puts out a lot of different cheeses, so I have made it a habit to carry pills for lactose intolerance. I used one at Whole Foods yesterday to try an $11.99-a-pound selection.

I'd like to hear about other shoppers' experience with free samples.
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