Thursday, December 30, 2010

At Sanducci's Trattoria in River Edge

Olives in olive oilImage via Wikipedia

We finally had dinner at Sanducci's Trattoria, which was forced by the blizzard to close Sunday and Monday, though there was no change in the recorded message I got when I called.

We arrived around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and the bi-level dining room filled up fast. Dark-wood furniture, columns and booths, and black-and-white family photos dominate the pleasant decor.

My son wasn't feeling well, and me and my wife felt like pasta with seafood, so we ordered only three dishes. I brought a bottle of Italian wine and we munched on crunchy bread and focaccia squares, which were served with a small cup of olive oil, wine, garlic and pulverized sun-dried tomato.

My son ordered soup, a large bowl of pasta e fagioli, also called pasta fazool ($4.50). I wanted to have the squid-ink pasta I enjoyed so much on my first visit to Sanducci's a few years ago, and selected the homemade black fettuccine with lobster ($18.95). My wife ordered capellini  with crab meat, but asked the kitchen to hold the light butter sauce ($17.50).

Because nearly all the other tables were occupied, we had to wait for our food. I drank my wine and nibbled on a slice or two of the bread, which I dipped into the oil-wine-tomato sauce.

When our pasta entrees arrived, they looked as if they had been sitting under a heat lamp for a few minutes. Still, they were delicious and the restaurant is generous with both tender lobster and crab. Next time, I'll order my black pasta with a tomato sauce, instead of the rich pink sauce I got.

My son loved his soup, and my wife brought home the angel-hair pasta she couldn't finish.

Sanducci's moved to a new location in November, a few blocks from its old building. In 2008, readers of The Record voted it one of the Top 5 Italian restaurants in the region, in a poll taken by the advertising department. 

We'll return for the table-side pasta night, which the waitress was describing to people at the next table: Caesar's salad, antipasto and unlimited pasta ($16.95) on Wednesday and Thursday nights. An all-you-can eat dinner buffet is served Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays (also $16.95). Check the hours for both offers.

Sanducci's Trattoria, 620 Kinderkamack Road, River Edge; 201-599-0600.
BYO, open seven days, parking in front and rear lots. Web site:

The new Sanducci's Trattoria 

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dinner out is snowed out

Snowstorm in HelsinkiImage by taivasalla via Flickr

There were only a few inches of snow on the ground when we set out around 4 this afternoon for Sanducci's Trattoria, which has moved to a new location in River Edge. There were lights out front, but when I drove down into the rear parking lot and took an elevator up one floor, the place was dark.

We wanted to try the new Sanducci's, because it is a BYO that offers lots of choice: an all-you-can eat dinner buffet for $16.95, a three-course, early bird special, with tea or coffee, also for $16.95; a long a la carte menu and pizza. 

We ate at the original location a few years ago and I was impressed with a wonderful squid-ink pasta.

Costco to the rescue

Rather than try to find a restaurant that was open, we returned home and I dove into the freezer, unearthing frozen mahi-mahi loins and Dr. Praeger's spinach-and-potato cakes, both from Costco in Hackensack.

I steamed the meaty fish with sake, sesame oil, citrus marinade and soy sauce, and put the spinach cakes in the oven for 20 minutes. It was a quick, filling dinner.

More frozen seafood

I was delighted with the king crab legs, farmed prawns and sea scallops I picked up at Costco on Friday and served for Christmas dinner the next day. All were previously frozen, but they were as tender as could be after we prepared them.

I cut up the crab legs, which are cooked and more than a foot long, and steamed them for less than 10 minutes. My wife shelled the shrimp, which are deveined, and I cooked them quickly with stewed tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil and Italian seasoning. I just sauteed the scallops in olive oil and seasoned them. 

Sanducci's Trattoria, 620 Kinderkamack Road, 
River Edge; 201-599-0600.  Web site:

Sanducci's Trattoria

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Hunting and gathering for Christmas

Belarmino Rico, left, master of the Cuban sandwich, and son Joseph at La Pola, their shop in West New York. The elder Rico is widely known as "King of the Cuban Sandwich."

The plan was to hit the gym at 9 a.m. and be among the first customers at Costco in Hackensack for its 10 a.m. opening today, but the store opened an hour early and the parking lot was half full when I got there, with traffic backed up in the turn lane and beyond at Kansas and South River streets.

My first stop was to get my Costco-bought eyeglasses adjusted and my second was the Seafood Road Show. 

There were about a half-dozen customers ahead of me, and I discussed the large lobster tails from Colombia with the man behind me, because they are the only seafood sold at Costco treated with a preservative, sodium bisulfite. I have never bought them because of the preservative.

Wikipedia says sodium bisulfite is used in wine and on leafy greens.

"In the case of wine making, sodium bisulfite releases sulfur dioxide gas when added to water or products containing water. The sulfur dioxide kills yeasts, fungi, and bacteria in the grape juice before fermentation.
"Sodium bisulfite is also added to leafy green vegetables in salad bars and elsewhere, to preserve apparent freshness, under names like LeafGreen. The concentration is sometimes high enough to cause severe allergic reactions.

 "In the 1980s, sodium bisulfite was banned from use on raw fruits and vegetables in the United States following the deaths of 13 people who unknowingly consumed produce treated with excessive amounts of the substance. "

I did buy three red king crab legs ($19.99 a pound), seven sea scallops ($12.99 a pound) and a pound and a half of U-15 farmed prawns ($9.99 a pound). 

I picked up a box of clementines from Spain for $4.99, a dollar less than when they appeared initially; five pounds of lemons, $6.79; and two pounds of Sunset-brand, herbicide-free Roma tomatoes, $4.99.

Cuban interlude

Around noon, we made our annual trek to La Pola, a Cuban sandwich shop in West New York, where the proprietor, his wife, sons Tony and Joseph, and employees greet a steady stream of customers who had placed orders for whole roasted pigs, pork shoulders, hams and ribs -- plus traditional side dishes -- for their Christmas dinners.

The atmosphere is always warm and welcoming. Belarmino Rico, who moved from his native La Pola in Spain to Havana, Cuba, is known far and wide as "King of the Cuban Sandwich."

His son Joseph feeds the heated press, or plancha, with sandwiches as the elder Rico and his helpers package pork and side dishes for customers.

We took home a small section of pork ribs; congris or white rice cooked with black beans; yuca, a garlic sauce for the meat and addictive, store-made plantain chips that have far less salt than commercial ones. Last year, we enjoyed a tortilla espanola, a Spanish potato omelet.

My wife and son ordered Cuban sandwiches -- roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and garlic sauce. The heated press had melted the cheese and crisped the foot-long pan de agua or water bread.

For Christmas dinner on Saturday, I'll serve them appetizers of crab and prawns, then Cuban-style ribs with side dishes. My dinner will be all Costco seafood: crab leg, prawns and sea scallops.

La Pola, Palisade Avenue and 54th Street, West New York; 201-867-6028.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Organic produce at my door

my mom's organic carrotsImage by hotdiggitydogs via Flickr

I bought a small box of organic produce from Suburban Organics and it was delivered to my door about 10 days ago. I took advantage of a Groupon, paying $19 for produce that normally sells for $39.

So far, I've enjoyed all the organic fruits and veggies I've tried. But I do live a couple of miles from the Whole Foods Market in Paramus, where I have total control over the organic produce I buy.

With Suburban Organics, you get a "menu" of what will be in your box when it is delivered the following week, and you can make up to five substitutions. If you're a repeat customer, you can set your preferences for what you like and don't like.

I used a head of organic spinach in a frittata and an omelet. Red-leaf lettuce made a fine salad. I baked a large butternut squash, cut into four sections, and sprinkled it with cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg, but it took more than two hours. My wife used organic Roma tomatoes in her cooking.

A variety of organic pears and apples were terrific eaten with sheep's milk cheese from a farm. We also got five organic bananas, button mushrooms and Satsuma tangerines, which were delightfully sweet and tart at the same time. I still have most of the mushrooms and a bag of cut and peeled small carrots.

Here is the link to Suburban Organics:

We deliver organic produce

Here is the link to Groupon:

North Jersey discounts

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A big week for seafood

FishImage by malias via Flickr

The H Mart in Little Ferry wasn't crowded when I dropped in on Monday, but a woman was ahead of me at the fish counter and her appetite seemed insatiable.

She already had the Korean fish monger weigh one of the whole cod fish and slice it into pieces for soup or stew. Now, she was discussing whether to buy two more, each about 3 pounds and buried in ice. I left in frustration.

The fish counter was my last stop in the Korean supermarket. I had a bunch of collard greens and prepared tofu and other food in my cart. I saw whole fluke on ice, but the price sign was missing. Then, I was told it was $2.99 a pound.

Fluke is relatively flat fish that is prized for sashimi -- slices of raw fish without rice. I like to have it cut into four or five cross-section slices, including the head and tail, and cook it with diced tomatoes, olive oil and Italian seasoning or with sake, fish and soy sauces, and sesame oil.

Instead of fluke for dinner Monday night, I prepared frozen cod and mahi-mahi in pasta sauce and served it with spinach penne and a salad. 

Casting a net at Costco

On the way home from H Mart, I stopped at Costco in Hackensack, where the fish case had lots of wild-caught haddock fillets and a whole red snapper that weighed 3 to 4 pounds.

As I wandered around, I discovered the Seafood Road Show, which usually arrives on Fridays, was already set up.

Again, other customers were ahead of me and I just didn't feel like waiting, but I plan to return on Friday and buy king crab legs, dry scallops and farmed prawns or shrimp for our Christmas dinner.

Costco sells large lobster tails at the Seafood Road Show, but they are treated with a preservative and I've never tried them.

For Christmas dinner, my wife and son will be having Cuban-style pork ribs, which we'll pick up on Friday in West New York, along with rice cooked with black beans, yuca and other typical dishes.

I plan to serve them Costco prawns and crab legs as an appetizer, and the seafood, along with the scallops, will be my dinner. I'll also be able to have yuca in garlic sauce and rice with black beans.

Seven-fish dinner

I've heard some Italian families have seven fish or seafood dishes for Christmas dinner, but I've never been invited to what I'd consider the perfect meal.

Seafood Road Show at Costco in Hackensack will be open all this week at
80 S. River Street, Hackensack; 201-487-5471.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

At I Gemelli Ristorante in South Hackensack

Gemelli pasta close up.Image via Wikipedia
Gemelli, or twins, has two strands of pasta that are braided together.


I Gemelli means "The Twins" in Italian, and there's a good chance that when you visit this terrific South Hackensack restaurant, you'll be greeted by one of the twin brothers who own the place, Luigi and Saverio.

The brothers, who have an Italian mother and Spanish father, took over the venerable Aldo and Gianni Restaurant about four years ago, and operated the BYO under that name for two years. 

This is not an inexpensive restaurant, but entrees are served on oversized plates and are ideal for sharing. We loved everything we tried and even brought home a small container of leftovers. The wonderfully crusty bread is from Clemente Bakery, also in South Hackensack.

The price for the whole bronzino has remained $30, but the fish served to us in November 2013, above, is about half the size of the one we enjoyed in December 2010, as described below.

My wife really enjoyed her stracciatella a la Romana, a spinach-and-egg soup made with chicken broth, and my son didn't leave a drop of the broth in his meat tortellini soup ($5.95 each). My tri-color salad of arugula, radicchio and Belgian endive had a nice, creamy dressing ($6.95).

We ordered only two entree, not knowing the portion size, and were pleasantly surprised there was more than enough food for three. We had to wait a bit for our entrees, which were made to order.

A creamy risotto with seafood and white wine ($17.95) had jumbo shrimp, mussels, clams and extremely tender squid rings. Next time, I'll order it made with red wine.

We love a whole fish, because we don't fight over it. My son eats a nice section of the tail, my wife gets the head and part of the body, and I take the middle section.

Our whole bronzino (Mediterranean sea bass) was prepared in a white wine-lemon sauce and weighed at least 2 pounds before cleaning ($30). We demolished it. 

We also ordered a side of bitter broccoli rabe, which was sauteed with plenty of garlic ($7.95).

We arrived around 5 p.m. Saturday, and the restaurant soon filled up. Reservations are taken for six or more. The surroundings are simple, with light sconces and framed paintings.

Our bill for three was $82.12 with tax but not tip.

I Gemelli Ristorante Italiano, 268 Huyler St., South Hackensack; 201-487-4220. BYO. Open seven days. 

Web site:

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New cut of free-range beef goes on sale

uploaded for an infoboxImage via Wikipedia

Grass-fed, free-range, Australian boneless rib-eye roast is on sale for $4.99 a pound with a ShopRite Price Plus Club Card. The sale started today and runs through Friday, the day before Christmas.

The roasts, which weigh 3 to 4 pounds, are a departure from the larger whole beef tenderloin for filet mignon from Australia that ShopRite sells under the same Nature's Reserve label.

Two conventionally raised rib roasts are on sale for $6.99 a pound (Certified Angus Beef) and $4.99 a pound (USDA Choice). This is one time when the best beef is the best buy.

ShopRite also has 5 pounds of clementines from Morocco on sale for $4.99 (limit 1), and 1-liter bottles of 100% sparkling red-grape and white-grape juice from Spain for $1.99 each. "Imported sweet cherries" are $2.99 a pound.

Not made in China

On the way to the checkout counter today at ShopRite in Hackensack, I saw Star Ware-brand plastic food storage containers, on sale at two for 77 cents. At home, I looked to see where they were made and was surprised that this is one product not made in China.

The containers are made in Afula, Israel, where I once saw a falafel stand frying chickpea balls by loading them into the top bin of a miniature Ferris wheel, which would turn slowly and pass them through hot oil to cook them.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

A fragrant slice of Italy in the Bronx

"Arthur Ave Cheese. Bronx, New York. 2005...Image via Wikipedia

The Bronx is the only one of the five boroughs preceded by the word "the" and Arthur Avenue probably is one of the few parts of the city where you hear Italian spoken in stores and restaurants.

I spent a couple of hours there on Thursday having a light lunch and then ducking into food stores, a public market and a bakery.

My first stop was Emilia's Restaurant, where most of the tables were full and many in the lunchtime crowd were sharing bottles of red wine to wash down their $11.95 specials, such as two grilled pork chops piazzaiola, in a tomato-pepper-mushroom sauce, with a side of zucchini and carrots.

I wanted something lighter and chose the baccala salad, which I haven't seen on this side of the Hudson. 

The pieces of codfish, tomato, capers and parsely were dressed with olive oil and lemon ($9.95). The portion, served in an appetizer plate, seemed small for the price when compared with the specials, which came on dinner plates.

The bread, from the Madonia Bros. Bakery across the street (2348 Arthur Ave.), had a crust that shattered when you bit into it and a soft, doughy interior -- perfect for soaking up the dressing on the tomato sections and bits of cheese that came with the bread basket.

Before heading home, I dropped into a cheese store, pork store, fish market, public market and the Madonia Bakery.

Calandra Cheese's interior was hung with smoked mozzarella, and the fragrance was strong, even though the door was open. "They're cooking in the back," the man at the counter said. (2314 Arthur Ave.)

At the Calabria Pork Store, I couldn't see the ceiling for all the salami, sausage and other meats hanging above my head. The pungent smell could be a turn-off if you stay inside too long. (2338 Arthur Ave.)

I didn't catch the name of the fish market, but noticed a lot of dried codfish on sale, as well as fresh fish, such as small whiting for a low $2.99 a pound.

In the public market, I saw more than a dozen men tucking into plates of Italian food. They said they get together every Thursday for lunch. One of the men insisted he flew up from Florida that morning.

Emilia's Restaurant, 2331 Arthur Ave., The Bronx, N.Y.; 1-718-367-5915. 
Open seven days. Web site:

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

All-you-can-eat sushi and BBQ for $9.95

Sushi Nigiri FutomakiImage by ombrelle via Flickr

All the sushi, barbecued meat and salad you can eat are only $9.95 for lunch at Green Grill Rodizio, a Korean-owned Brazilian barbecue restaurant in Hackensack.

Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, an employee said Tuesday. The price includes sushi, hot food, salad bar and barbecue, he said, but he was unable to give the total number of items.

The dinner price is $20.95. Green Grill is the largest restaurant in Hackensack.

Green Grill Rodizio, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack, in the Home Depot Shopping Center; 201-488-2885.

Great noodle dish

The noodle dish I had for lunch Tuesday at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack was $9.95, but I wouldn't trade it for all the sushi I could eat at Green Grill, which is opposite the Chinese restaurant.

Noodles in Abalone Sauce is made with soft, house-made egg noodles sauteed with spinach, black mushrooms and leeks -- simple but delicious. The portion is enough for two.
$4.99 clementines

We found 5 pounds of clementines for $4.99 at ShopRite in Rochelle Park with a store card, but these are from Morocco. They are bigger than the Spanish ones I bought for $5.99 at Costco in Hackensack, easy to peel and, so far, all but one of them has been sweet.

Smoked wild salmon

Now, Costco is offering its Kirkland-brand of smoked, wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon in two 8-ounce packages for the same price as the pound package -- $14.99. This smoked salmon has no preservatives, and it's available year-round.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Good food, good behavior

Image representing Whole Foods Market as depic...Image via CrunchBase

I stopped at Whole Foods Market in Paramus for a cup of black coffee this afternoon, and had two brief -- but interesting -- conversations about food.

I sat at a table, and the tall, thin man on my left was beautifully dressed in a long overcoat, suit and tie, and polished black shoes. His hair was silver, and I complimented him on his outfit, noting, "You look prosperous."

A few feet away, a young Korean woman was dressing her two small children in their winter coats as they prepared to leave after having a bite to eat. The man on my left complimented her on how well-behaved her children were.

When they left, he said you don't see children misbehave in Whole Foods because of the high quality of the food. He added the children appreciate the good food their mothers buy for them.

"Are you saying that in a fast-food restaurant, children are out of control?" He said, yes, they are, then got up to leave.

I turned to the Asian woman on my right, and repeated what he had said. 

We talked about naturally raised food, and she mentioned her daughter is a vegetarian who eats only dairy and eggs. But she doesn't eat seafood, and will reject chocolate if the milk comes from a cow fed animal by-products (bits of dead animals) or another non-meat item if it has gelatin from an animal.

The woman said her relatives don't know what to serve her daughter. So she told them, "I don't eat anything with a face."
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

At Teggiano Ristorante in South Hackensack

chiantiImage by JonathanCohen via Flickr

Teggiano Ristorante will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, but I won't be there raising a glass of chianti to its future health.

Oh, there was nothing wrong with the food we had Saturday evening and the service was good, though a bit slow. But this long-established Italian restaurant misses being a place you want to return to time and again to tuck into a great plate of pasta and a glass of red wine.

The restaurant is named after the hometown of Chef-Owner Luigi Bruno, who offers a menu of standard appetizers, pastas and entrees.

We ordered a salad for two, two entrees, a side dish of sauteed spinach, a glass of chianti and soft drinks, and the bill totaled more than $90. Luckily, I had a coupon for a 20% discount I received by joining the restaurant's e-mail club.

I had hoped the salad of baby greens, goat cheese and dried cranberries ($12.50) wouldn't have too much dressing, but it had too little, with nothing left on the plate to sop up with the half a piece of rather ordinary Italian bread I ate. My son loved the toasted garlic-bread slices in the same basket.

My wife and I shared a broiled seafood combination that came with a small portion of ziti in a plain tomato sauce ($28.95). The red snapper fillet, shrimp, scallops, king crab leg and claw, lobster tail and baked and stuffed clams were moist.

Our son enjoyed but couldn't finish his broiled filet mignon (hold the mushrooms), served with big chunks of roasted potato and ziti ($24.95). The spinach in the side dish we ordered was fresh, but the portion was tiny -- just about three forkfuls ($5).

I didn't notice the price of the chianti, but the glass was full. I expected the food to fly out of the kitchen, because only two others tables were occupied during most of our visit, but we had to wait, first for the salad and then for the rest of the meal.

Teggiano Ristorante,  310 Huyler St., South Hackensack; 
201-487-3884. Web site: Established 1986

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Our first and last visit to Smashburger at the mall in Hackensack

Smashburger interiorImage by Average Jane via Flickr
The interior of a Smashburger.


I won't let my wife take our teenage son to Burger King or McDonald's, and I pride myself on never having eaten one of their low-quality hamburgers.

So, on Friday night, I offered to take them to a new Smashburger outlet in Hackensack's former Riverside Square mall.

Is the quality of the beef at Smashburger any better than at the low-rent places? It's hard to tell, because the word "beef" doesn't appear anywhere on the wall menu, just the lower-case smashburger repeated numerous times. 

But on the soft-drink cups, you'll read:
"Smash means we literally smash 100% Angus beef at a high temperature to sear in all the juicy burger goodness, and our seasoning blend and fresh toppings take our burgers over the top."
Is Smashburger saying it uses Certified Angus Beef, a brand from cattle that are raised conventionally on grain, antibiotics and growth hormones? That's the same beef used by Chef Bobby Flay at his so-called Burger Palace in Paramus.

Both my wife and son ordered a one-third pound "Classic Smashburger," with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and "smash sauce," on an egg bun, and they loved it ($4.99). 

My 13-year-old son said it was the best burger he's ever had. Fries and drinks were extra.

A friend's child had a Kids Smash Dog, a Best's beef hot dog ($3.99). 

If you don't eat meat

I don't eat meat, so I could have ordered a Caesar Salad, the only one on the menu without chicken or bacon. But I decided to try the Veggie Frites ($2.99) and Sweet Potato Fries ($1.99), which supposedly are seasoned with rosemary, garlic and olive oil.

I got some fried asparagus and carrot sticks, but none of the green beans listed on the menu, and the portion seemed small for the price. 

The paper they were served on was slicked with frying oil. The sweet potato fries were delicious, but the rosemary and garlic eluded me.

(I got two comments on this post, saying the potatoes and veggies are fried with beef tallow. Here is one: "All their fried veggies and fries are fried in beef tallow. They really should say on menu. So, in fact, you'll be eating beef like it or not.")

You have to wait in a corral to give your order to a cashier -- called a host -- and after you pay, you place a numbered sign on your table, so a waiter can bring you your food. It isn't a long wait.

You don't get plastic utensils unless you ask for them. When I went to get my no-charge seltzer from the drink machine, I could see into the kitchen, but no one was smashing anything against the grill.

When you are waiting in line, there is a lot on the menu to digest. I don't know if my wife and son saw that they could add many items to their burgers, including a fried egg or chili or potato, pepper and onion.

I paid with a credit card, and was surprised to see a tip line on my receipt. There was also a tip receptacle with dollar bills on the counter near the register where Anthony took my order. The entire meal cost about $25. I didn't leave a tip. 

And there is no place for your coat or hat, so I sat in a booth with mine on while I ate.


I once loved going to Fuddruckers in Paramus for a naturally raised ostrich burger or a fish sandwich, both offered in place of conventional beef burgers. 

I loved the sliced jalapenos I could pile on my sandwich, and the wine and beer I could order. They even once offered baked potatoes in place of fries. To me, that is a great cook-to-order hamburger place.

Next time my wife and son want a hamburger, we'll try Five Guys in Hackensack, unless they insist on going back to Smashburger.

Smashburger, Store No. 1101, 390 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack, in The Shops at Riverside; 201-343-1488.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Costco almonds, dry espresso beans and more

Shelled (right) and unshelled (left) almondsImage via Wikipedia
Shelled, left, and unshelled almonds.

Costco has improved the package for its Marcona almonds from Spain. These blanched, shelled almonds are seasoned with sea salt, and cost $7.69 for just over a pound of nuts (500 grams) in a plastic bottle with a screw top.

The old container was a canister with a loose-fitting plastic top. Costco also sells roasted, unshelled California almonds with sea salt, but I don't have the price.

Earthbound Farm's restaurant-quality, organic spring mix, which I buy at Costco in Hackensack,  seemed to be rotting before its expiration date, but in the last three or four weeks, I haven't had that problem.

I look carefully at the salad in its clear-plastic tub, to make sure it looks dry. If there is a more delicious salad mix, I haven't found it. It cost only $4.49 a pound, and it's pre-washed, so you can just grab some and put it on a plate or into a sandwich. 

Lately, I have been trying to cut down on bread, so I've been enjoying this salad for breakfast with smoked wild salmon, reduced fat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes in oil from Costco.

Espresso-bean dilemma

My built-in Bosch coffee machine seems unable to handle oily coffee beans, which get hung up in the chute of the grinder, prompting an "add beans" message and necessitating my sliding out the chassis and "stirring" the beans with my fingers.

I found some non-oily beans from Brazil at Fairway Market in Paramus and others from The 2.2 pounds of Lavazza Super Crema espresso beans cost less than $7 a pound, with discounts and free shipping, if you agree to have them sent to you periodically.

I'm trying the Lavazza beans from Italy first.

Black figs and tofu

I picked up two dozen black figs from California for $6.99 at H Mart in Fort Lee on Wednesday, as well as a new prepared-food item -- sweet-and-sour tofu balls with red pepper ($4.99).

I tried the tofu balls at room temperature, but I like them better after heating them in the microwave for about a minute and a half. The microwave also lends a new dimension to small blocks of stewed tofu with scallion and red pepper ($3.49).

For dinner Wednesday night, I cooked three small, wild-caught croakers ($1.99 a pound) on my stove-top grill, and ate them with a salad. What a mess.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When life gives you parsley ...

ParsleyImage via Wikipedia

I don't know why parsley keeps on growing in the boxes on my deck, despite temperatures that have dipped into the 30s overnight. But it's a nice, fresh addition to ingredients I buy for home-cooked meals.

Last week, I made a tabbouleh salad with flat-leaf parsley. On Monday, I made a frittata with lots of flat-leaf and curly parsley. This is what you'll need:
  • About two cups or more of chopped parsley.
  • Five eggs or the equivalent in egg whites.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Salt, allspice and cumin to taste.
I mixed the chopped parsley and raw eggs with a little low-fat milk, and seasoned them with salt, allspice and cumin. I poured the mixture into a 10-inch, non-stick pan that I had heated up over medium heat with enough olive oil to coat the bottom.

When the bottom was set, I put the pan under the broiler for about 10 minutes, but I would suggest you watch it until the top sets. My frittata was runny, so next time I would cook it longer on the stove before moving it to the oven. 

I also added chunks of Swiss cheese to the egg mixture and, after I poured it into the pan, I put about 10 sun-dried tomatoes on top. I might make it without these additions next time or just use some cheese to give the frittata a little creaminess. 

My mother used to make small parsley or ground-meat omelets, fried in oil, to eat in pocket bread (each omelet contained about two tablespoons of egg mixture). 

In the summer, a sandwich of the small meat omelet, called egge (pronounced edge-eh), tasted especially good with a fat slice of Jersey beefsteak tomato.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

PBS discovers Korean food

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 06:  Actor Heather ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

In January, PBS plans to air a television series called "Kimchi Chronicles" to acquaint viewers with Korean food, or hansik, according to The Korea Times.

Actress Heather Graham, above, travels in South Korea, sampling the food, apparently for the first time, despite a large number of Korean restaurants in Los Angeles. 

Will the PBS station based in Newark air the 13 half-hour programs for New York and North Jersey residents who have enjoyed Korean food for many years?

Click on the following link for a story on the making of the series:

The Korea Times on "Kimchi Chronicles"
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$5.99 clementines make their debut

Clementines citrus are very sweet, easy to pee...Image via Wikipedia

The chink in the armor of $8.99 clementines appeared Monday at Costco in Hackensack, where 5 pounds of the Spanish citrus cost only $5.99.

Clementines started appearing a few weeks ago, but they were selling for $8.99 at Stop & Shop, H Mart and other stores.

Clementines from Morocco and other countries have shown up in the past, but the ones from Spain are consistently the best. They're easy to peel and sweet.

Will the price go any lower? Last year, ShopRite offered them for $4.99 with a store card. Stay tuned. 

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

At Seafood Gourmet in Maywood

Great fish market, Oil on panel, Alte Pinakoth...Image via Wikipedia
The Great Fish Market, an oil painting by Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625).

Enter Seafood Gourmet's market and restaurant in Maywood, walk past the fresh fish in the refrigerated cases and take a seat in the small dining room in the rear. When you're handed the menu of specials, it's likely the fish you just saw will be on it.

The Maywood restaurant was our fall-back. We tried to have dinner late Saturday afternoon at Grand Lux Cafe, next to the AMC movie theaters in Paramus, but the mall parking lot was packed and we tired of looking for a space. 

Grand Lux is described as an "upsacle casual restaurant" from the creator of The Cheesecake Factory, with food inspired by the menus of Italian trattorias, French bistros and Viennese pastry shops. Next time.

Looking around the 36-seat dining room at Seafood Gourmet, which we haven't visited for about a year, I thought, This place could be called a 'joint,' in a good way. But when I asked about the mismatched wall covering and paint, the waitress said a small expansion was under way to add a few more seats.

Wild salmon and Florida grouper were two of the choices on the specials menu, so I picked Salmon Oscar, with crab risotto and asparagus ($21.99). My wife and son shared a Seafood Festival -- angel-hair pasta with lots of crab, lobster and shrimp ($24.99).

Each of them had a cup of delicious lobster bisque and I enjoyed the cream of fresh mushroom soup. We were charged for one bisque ($2.95), so the others must come with the entrees. There are free refills when you order the excellent lemonade and plain seltzer ($1.95 each).

I asked for my salmon medium-rare, but it came cooked through. Still, it was moist, and the fish, risotto and three crunchy asparagus added up to a beautifully balanced meal. My wife found her pasta dish too rich, saying it was made with butter and cheese, but she took home the leftovers.

We have always liked the food and service at Seafood Gourmet, and plan return visits. I can't think of another fish market-restaurant. It reminds me of the old DiSalvo's in Hackensack, but the cooking at the Maywood restaurant is more sophisticated.

Seafood Gourmet, 103 W. Pleasant Ave.,
Maywood; 201-843-8558.

BYOB, free street parking, reservations recommended on weekends.

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Restaurant-quality meals -- no need to tip

DSC00387Image by Topdog1 via Flickr

I was surprised to see an unusual assortment of Jerry's Meals To Go around noon Friday, when I walked into the Italian specialty food store in Englewood.

I had stopped at Jerry's Gourmet & More around lunchtime a couple of days earlier, just for free food samples, and there were only three of the $6.99, restaurant-quality dinners available: grouper, stuffed flank steak and barbecue chicken. But on Friday, there were three fish entrees in the case: red snapper and tilapia, in addition to grouper.

At home that evening, I made a small organic spring-mix salad, plated the food from the plastic container and heated it up in the microwave. 

My entree was breaded grouper oreganato with side dishes of cavatelli and broccoli, eggplant caponata and grilled eggplant and zucchini.The pasta needed a little grated cheese from my freezer.

My wife and son shared their dinners: entrees of red snapper in a roasted pepper sauce and roast pork with grilled shrimp. Their side dishes were meat lasagna, eggplant rollatini, grilled vegetables, rigatoni pasta salad, cauliflower and stuffed mushrooms with sausage and cheese.

I love these dinners for their sensible portions (a total of 12 ounces), their quality and their low price. You have to go early for the best selection.

After choosing my dinners from among about a dozen or more in the case Friday, I sampled about 10 cheeses and, waiting on the check-out line, a pinot noir wine from Argentina.

Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St., Englewood; 201-871-7108.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

You can always find dinner at H Mart

Fish Packed in IceImage via Wikipedia

I walked into the H Mart in Fort Lee this afternoon with no idea of what was for dinner, and I walked out with fresh, wild-caught fish and a couple of Korean appetizers.

All I need to do for dinner is to cook my trio of whole porgy in bottled Mexican green or red sauce, boil rice in my electric cooker and make a salad. Stewed Alaskan pollock and tofu in red-pepper sauce would make good appetizers.

I could also steam the fish with sake, sesame oil, soy and fish sauces.

The fresh porgy were $3.95 ($1.49 a pound, usually $2.99), and I asked the fish monger to clean them and leave on the heads and tails. The tofu was $3.49 and the prepared pollock was $5.99.

I also bought three pounds of organic, Granny Smith apples for $3.99. A pound of Campari, herbicide-free tomatoes were $1.99.

The fish were displayed on plenty of ice among maybe 20 different selections. Three men were working behind the counter, cleaning fish for customers. 

This is a meal I can prepare in about 30 minutes. 

I also noticed that this H Mart carries Coleman organic chicken and another brand of antibiotic-free chicken, but I don't think it sells naturally raised beef.

H Mart, 112-130 Linwood Plaza, Fort Lee; 201-947-7800.
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Storm-tossed tabbouleh salad

Downtown PatersonImage via Wikipedia
Paterson has a few Lebanese restaurants that serve tabbouleh salad.

The other day, I saw a big shock of flat-leaf parsley growing out of one of the boxes on my deck, and immediately thought tabbouleh salad.

I'll always remember the small mountain of tabbouleh served at Vine Valley, the Lebanese restaurant in Paterson that closed several years ago. It was mostly parsley, with just a little bulgur wheat, chopped onion and tomato, and other ingredients. 

Today -- as wind and rain lashed my house and trees swayed like so many drunken sailors -- I raced outside with scissors and cut as much parsley as I could find.

I checked online for recipes, but didn't have all the ingredients on hand, so I winged it.

I washed and chopped the parsley and a few leaves of peppermint that was growing next to it. I'd say I had about two or three cups of loose parsley. I also chopped half of a small onion and a large beefsteak tomato, removing the seeds and putting everything in a bowl.

I boiled a cup of water with a dash of salt and added a half-cup of bulgur, simmering it until most of the liquid was absorbed. I put the small pot in the refrigerator until the bulgur cooled a little.

After I added the bulgur to the parsely, onion and tomato, I poured on Lebanese extra-virgin olive oil until everything was moist, then squeezed about two lemons over the salad. I was looking for a tart salad, and combined everything well.

I liked the way it came out. Of course, it wasn't Vine Valley's salad, but it was lemony and crunchy, and tasted good.
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