Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It pays to comparison shop

Whole Foods MarketImage via Wikipedia
You'll find some of the freshest seafood at Whole Foods Market in Paramus -- and some of the highest prices, too.

I was looking over the wonderful fish display on Tuesday and noticed wild-caught Gulf of Mexico shrimp for $16.99 a pound.

I just happened to be carrying the sales flier from Fairway Market in Paramus and pulled it out to show the Whole Foods fishmonger.

Fairway has wild-caught Gulf of Mexico shrimp on sale for $7.99 a pound through Sept. 5. 

Fairway calls its shrimp "jumbo," while Whole Foods says there are 16 to 20 shrimp in a pound. They could very well be the same shrimp.

Whole Foods does have wild bay scallops from Mexico on sale for $7.99 a pound, a discount of $4 a pound -- as part of a "Madness Sale" that ends today.

Wild-caught, meaty hake fillets from the U.S.A. are $5.99 a pound, a savings of $3 a pound. I've tried these and they are terrific eating.

Whole Foods also has a sale on Jersey Fresh peaches at $1.19 a pound -- about what I paid on Monday at Costco for large peaches that were distributed by a New Jersey company, but appear to be from South Carolina.

Fairway MarketImage via Wikipedia
I also noticed Whole Foods' naturally raised rotisserie chickens now are $8.99 each -- up a dollar -- but you can save $3 by buying two for $14.98. I rate this chicken tops in North Jersey.

On the coffee line at Whole Foods, I said to the woman in front of me, "This store should give out more free samples."

She agreed, and said that's why she likes shopping at Costco. I told her she'd find great free samples, especially cheese, at Jerry's Gourmet and More on South Dean Street in Englewood, and not to miss Balthazar Bakery on that same street.

This morning at H Mart in Little Ferry, I picked up two dozen black figs from California for $7.99, and the ripe one I ate after breakfast was like sugar.

I had a cheese omelet filled with pesto, accompanied by the Korean supermarket's stewed tofu in red-pepper sauce, and cabbage and radish kimchis.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Spicing up a trip to the Great Falls

Great Falls of the Passaic River in Paterson, ...Image via Wikipedia
There was even more water at the Great Falls today than in this March 2010 photo.

There's usually only one place I want to be after a major storm soaks and floods North Jersey -- and that's the Great Falls on the Passaic River in Paterson.

But the Silk City has other attractions, including Middle Eastern markets, bakeries and restaurants, and a large Farmer's Market in its south end.

On Monday, I drove to Paterson and stopped first at Fattal's Syrian Bakery at 975-77 Main St. The street has been repaved through South Paterson, to the delight of drivers.

I picked up a pound of crushed Aleppo red pepper, which I use to spice up fried eggs, omelets, fish and hummus. At $6.99 a pound, it is almost twice the price of a few years ago.

Two pounds of pitted dates from Algeria were $4.99. Fragrant ground cumin was $4.99 a pound. Cans of Libano Verde-brand hummus from Lebanon were 99 cents each, and need only extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice and garlic powder to turn into a dip.

A gallon of Merve Ayran yogurt drink was $7.79.

In early afternoon, police blocked access to the parking lots at the falls, which were swollen by Tropical Storm Irene's 8-plus inches of rain over the weekend.

But I managed to leave my car in a restaurant lot nearby and visit both the overlook and the main viewing area below.

The river was already spilling over Spruce Street. 

The dark-brown, silt-filled water threw up a spray and created a rainbow over the falls. Beautiful.

More food shopping

This morning, the street to my gym in Hackensack was covered by flood water, so I turned around and drove to Costco Wholesale a couple of miles away. It's always a pleasure shopping there after the doors first open just before 10 a.m.

I picked up fresh wild-caught sockeye salmon fillet from the U.S.A. at $8.99 a pound; 6 pounds of white-flesh peaches for $7.99; 1 pound of Earthbound Farm organic spring mix at $4.99; 2 pounds of hothouse-grown Roma tomatoes for $3.29; and 1 pound of organic spinach for $3.99. 

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Here comes the rain

This is a photo I took myself of the Church On...Image via Wikipedia
Can the historic Church on The Green in
Hackensack survive Tropical Storm Irene?

It's been raining on and off in Hackensack -- mostly off -- since about 11:30 this morning and now, around 5:15 in the afternoon, rain is falling again as all of us in North Jersey await the arrival of Hurricane Irene.

I was watching New York's Channel 2 a little awhile ago, and heard a bit of good news. Irene will be downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm when it hits the metro area.

I left the house twice today -- once to pick up milk and eggs at Target, which is less than a mile away, and again around 4:30 this afternoon for a comforting bowl of seafood soup at Lotus Cafe, my favorite Chinese restaurant, where the kitchen closed early at 5.

Target was busy and not everyone was there for food. I found plenty of 2% lactose-free milk ($2.89 for a half-gallon) and a dozen cage-free brown eggs ($2.60).

At Lotus Cafe, a BYO in the Home Depot Shopping Center, I asked the waiter to hold the noodles and add water spinach to the soup, which had unusually tender shrimp, squid and scallop, in addition to fish cakes. I drank two glass of my own red wine from Argentina.

Here's to you, Irene. Be a lady tonight and tomorrow.

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Enjoying a good meal before the storm hits

Full course dinnerImage via Wikipedia

Route 4 is a stone's throw from Dinallo's Restaurant, but inside the tastefully decorated dining room, all I could hear were whoops from the noisy bar crowd and the Frankie Valli sound track.

The real worry Friday evening was the river on the other side of the parking lot, and everybody was talking about Hurricane Irene and the storm that hit the River Edge restaurant four years ago, leaving waist-high water in the bar area and damage everywhere else.

As I ate dinner, the owners and staff discussed moving tables, chairs, beer and liquor upstairs to avoid water damage this time. 

The dining room has heavy wood paneling on the lower half of the wall, and above that, there are nostalgic wedding and family photos that strike a familiar cord if your parents were married in the early 1930s, as mine were.

I started with Dinallo's Salad ($8) -- bell peppers, beefsteak tomato wedges, cucumber slices and pitted olives in a house dressing, topped with a slab of cheese.

From the specials, I chose an entree of two meaty soft-shell crabs, perfectly fried and served with a mound of mashed potatoes and one of the most generous portions of sauteed fresh spinach I've ever encountered ($26).

The kitchen occasionally strays from strictly Italian-American food, as with the feta cheese served over my salad and the spicy chipotle sauce that came with my crabs, though there wasn't enough of it. 

I loved all that spinach, but the cook left two bitter, nearly raw cloves of garlic on the dish -- and I ate them.

I finished with a small pot of  strong black coffee ($2.75), and declined complimentary cookies.

I bought a discount coupon for Dinallo's from LivingSocial -- for $15, I was entitled to $30 in food and drink. But as a sweetener for my first purchase from the site, I paid only $5 for the coupon.

My food cost $36.75 and tax was $2.57, for a total of $39.32. The coupon reduced that to $9.32 and I left a $6 tip. So I paid only $20.32 -- close to a 50% discount.

When I left, I saw a group enjoying dinner and drinks at a table set up under a tent in the parking lot. The late-day sun was shining. Irene was far away.

Dinallo's Restaurant, 259 Johnson Ave.,River Edge; 201-342-1233. 

Web sites:

 Dinallo's Restaurant


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Thursday, August 25, 2011

What does that sales flier say?

Sale In A Sale Shop Selling Sale SignsImage by the justified sinner via Flickr
Take those supermarket sales fliers with a grain of salt.

Does "USA caught" mean the seafood is wild-caught? 

Does "We source the salmon and smoke it to perfection" mean the fish was wild-caught or farmed and raised with harmful additives, including artificial color?

Those questions are raised by the latest sales flier from Fairway Market in Paramus.

On the cover, Fairway urges shoppers: "Catch spectacular savings!"

Just below that, "USA CAUGHT JUMBO WHITE SHRIMP" are offered for $7.99 a pound.

I called the fish department in Paramus and was told the shrimp are indeed wild-caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Fairway smoked salmon is $6.99 for one-quarter pound or about $28 a pound -- compared to $15 and change for a pound of smoked wild salmon from Costco Wholesale.

Fairway's smoked salmon must be farmed or the store would say otherwise. It's too bad the New York-based chain -- unlike Whole Foods Market -- doesn't tell us more about its farmed fish.

The Fairway sale on wild-caught shrimp is a much better deal than the smoked salmon -- about $2 a pound under what Costco charges for farmed shrimp from Vietnam.

But Fairway's sale on conventionally raised whole beef filet mignon at $6.99 a pound is at least $2 over ShopRite's sales price for free-range, grass-fed filet mignon from Australia.

Unfortunately, Fairway also has a sale on mercury laden swordfish steaks caught off Montauk, L.I., at $9.99 a pound

Fairway's sale starts Friday and runs until Sept. 1, but the shrimp and filet mignon are discounted through Sept. 5.

The flier is available online at www.fairwaymarket.com. The store is in the Fashion Center Mall.

Food warehouse

The sale at the International Food Wine and Liquor Warehouse runs through Sept. 6.

The Lodi store is offering two 16.9-ounce bottles of organic extra-virgin olive oil from Chile for $4. That works out to $4 a liter, an excellent price for organic olive oil.

The store is at 370 Essex St. You can submit your e-mail address to receive coupons and special offers at internationalfoodwarehouse.com

Corrado's Family Affair

Corrado's in Clifton, Wayne and Fairfield is offering whole watermelons at 19 cents a pound. The sale starts today and runs through Sept. 21.

Web site: www.corradosmarket.com

Greek yogurt

On Aug. 10, I bought two 32-ounce containers of thick, creamy non-fat Greek-yogurt at Costco in Hackensack for $6.49, or about $3.25 each, compared to $4.99 for a 32-ounce container at Trader Joe's.

When I returned to Costco for more on Wednesday, the price was two containers for $6.99 -- about $3.50 each.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Can you top this $14 three-course dinner?

Eggplants-9902Image by graibeard via Flickr

I expected a line, but there was none. The menu said "no substitutions," but a server didn't hesitate when I asked for a piece of fruit instead of the day's dessert.

Davia Restaurant in Fair Lawn has been serving a three-course dinner with a small salad for $13.95 since it opened in 2009. Now, the early bird dinner is $14, though it is still listed at the old price on Davia's Web site.

The special menu offers a choice of 12 appetizers and 17 entrees, a house salad, a dessert du jour and coffee or tea, and you're asked to pay in cash. Service is excellent.

Appetizers included a cocktail of four large shrimp or mussels marinara, but I ordered eggplant rollatini. 

My entree late this afternoon was wild-caught lemon sole francese with vegetables, and I asked the waitress to hold the pasta, rice or potato I was offered and to ask the kitchen to prepare it without butter.

I'm cutting down on bread, too -- a good thing, because the sliced section of a round loaf  wasn't anything special.

The salad was one of the smallest I've seen in a restaurant, but it had romaine, a cherry tomato, a cucumber slice, carrot and red cabbage in a house vinaigrette.

My appetizer had thinly sliced, breaded and fried eggplant wrapped around ricotta cheese, with melted cheese on top, all of it a puddle of light tomato sauce. It was pleasantly gooey, but I couldn't taste the vegetable.

My entree had two pieces of moist fish fillet swimming in a sauce that could have used more lemon, and there were cooked fresh green beans and sliced carrot on the side.

I got a free refill of the cup of strong coffee that came with the meal, but the melon wasn't ripe. Never mind; it was far better for me than a piece of cake or whatever else Davia was serving for dessert.

The check showed the restaurant rounds up the 7% tax to $1, from 98 cents. I left a $3 tip on the cost of the meal ($14) -- more than 20% -- spending a total of $18.

I started my meal at 4:30 and by the time I left 45 minutes later, the place was half full.

The servers at this neighborhood restaurant knew many of the customers and asked if they wanted their usual drinks. 

Davia serves the early bird menu every day: Mondays to Fridays, from 4:30 to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m; and Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m. Reservations are taken for five or more.

Davia Restaurant, 6-09 Fair Lawn Ave., Fair Lawn; 
201-797-6767. Small parking lot in the rear.

Web site: www.daviarest.com

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Wild salmon with pesto and Jersey peaches

Sockeye salmonImage via Wikipedia
The fresh sockeye salmon fillets at Costco in Hackensack are from Canada.

Editor's note: When I initially published this recipe, I forgot to mention I sprayed cooking oil on the non-stick grill.

After a break, fresh wild salmon fillets are back on the menu at my house.

The skin-on sockeye salmon I bought today at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack was $8.99 a pound and from Canada, compared to $7.99 a pound for its American cousins.

In another departure, I cooked the salmon on a non-stick, All-Clad grill sprayed with cooking oil, instead of baking it in the oven.  

I cut a 1.36-pound fillet into five nice portions and left it on the cutting board, squeezing on fresh lemon juice, spreading pesto on each piece with a knife and topping them with roughly chopped herbs from my garden -- basil, oregano, rosemary and mint.

I preheated the grill, which covers two burners on the stove, over medium-high heat, then turned that down to medium before I slid the salmon pieces, skin side down, off the cutting board. They hit with a sizzle.

I took two fragrant Jersey peaches off the kitchen counter and cut them into about 12 sections, placing them on the grill with the fish and turning them after a few minutes, exposing grill marks.

I didn't turn the fish, but cooked it for about 10 minutes for rare. Next time, I'll cook the fish at a higher heat: medium-high.

I was in such a rush to try them, I only had time to throw some organic spring mix into a bowl for a simple side salad.

Pre-heating the grill meant the skin didn't stick, but took on a nice color and crunch, and the fish broke away cleanly on my fork.

The fatty fish, pesto, fresh herbs, and intensely sweet peach sections went together well, and I also liked the salty note from the Pecorino Romano sheep's-milk cheese I used in the thick, olive-oil-based sauce.

Sweet, savory and delicious. You can't ask for more than that.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

ShopRite or ShopWrong?

Premiere of “Kimchi Chronicles"Image by KOREA.NET - Official page of the Republic of Korea via Flickr
Marja Vongerichten, center, at the premiere of "Kimchi Chronicles."

Not all ShopRites are created equal and some are trying to get by on low prices alone.

Customer service varies at ShopRite supermarkets in North Jersey -- from responsive to indifferent.

The ShopRite in Hackensack is closest to my home, and the one I often go to when I need to pick up a few things I can't  find at Costco Wholesale, where I buy most of my food.

On Friday, I stopped in for lactose-free milk, coffee filters and ShopRite Pure Instant Tea.

As usual, the store was out of organic lactose-free milk, not that it's a bargain at $4.99 for a half-gallon. Nearby, I found Lactaid 100% lactose-free 2% milk under a sign that said $4.19.

It rang up at $4.09, plus another 60 cents off, compared to $3.19 for Target's store brand of conventional lactose-free milk.

I found three displays of ShopRite No. 2 cone coffee filters, but all three price signs were missing, meaning I had to take one to the customer service counter to scan it. 

It was $2.99 for 100 filters, so I bought 100 Melita No. 2 brown filters, on sale for $3.

Treasure hunt

The woman at customer service had never heard of ShopRite's Pure Instant Tea, a black-tea powder that makes great iced tea with cold water ($2.49).

She called someone, and he told her I would find it in Aisle 5 (coffee, tea, filters), where I had already looked.

After more searching, I found the jar in Aisle 4, but when I went back to customer service to tell her, I was told she was on a break. From what, giving customers the wrong information? 

On Friday night, I drove to Palisades Park for a Korean soft-tofu-stew dinner and on the way home, stopped at the ShopRite, looking for Jersey peaches.

All the store carried were peaches from South Carolina. Some of the apples looked bruised and unappetizing. I bought bananas for 49 cents a pound and beat a hasty retreat.

Jersey peaches and corn

The next day, I went to a Jersey wine festival at Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, but after less than an hour, gave up fighting others for a sip or two of wine from each of 10 wineries, and went into the farm store.

I found my Jersey peaches, which turned fragrant after a night on my kitchen counter ($3.59 for a quart), and fat, heavy ears of farm-grown bi-color corn (three for $1.59).

I steamed the corn for about 4 minutes, and ate the first two with a sprinkling of salt and the last one with nothing. They were sweet and wonderful, one of my favorite summer flavors.

Marja at H Mart

Korean-American Marja Vongerichten, star of the continuing PBS series "Kimchi Chronicles" and wife of Chef Jean-Georges, signed their book and greeted shoppers this afternoon at H Mart in Ridgefield.

After I said hello to her and praised the series, I walked around the biggest of the Korean chain's supermarkets in Bergen County, sampling tofu, cold noodles, rice in curry sauce and flavored yogurt drink. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Here are a few ways of enjoying pesto without going near pasta

Homemade pesto, above, was made in a blender from a recipe that appears below.


I never get tired of pesto -- made with plenty of fragrant basil, pine nuts, garlic and cheese. Simply put, it says summer.

But now that I'm on a diet and cutting down drastically on pasta and bread, I've had to enjoy it in new ways -- folded into a cheese omelet, spooned onto grilled tomatoes or added to hot tomato soup.

I've even used a spoonful on top of two eggs fried sunny side up -- it tastes great eaten with the creamy yolk and egg white. (Blender pesto recipe below.)

I'm out of the smoked wild-caught salmon and sliced, low-fat Swiss cheese I get at Costco Wholesale, but I can see spreading some pesto on a slice of cheese, adding a slice of salmon and rolling them up for a mini-sandwich without bread.

Pesto with wild salmon

I might try it with the fresh wild sockeye salmon that has filled the fish case at Costco this summer, spooning some on top of hot fillets already covered with chopped, fresh basil and other herbs.

Before my diet, I loved to use pesto as a spread with toasted bread, stuffing the sandwich with smoked salmon, sardines or canned fish salad; sliced cheese and tomato, and lettuce or organic spring mix.

And when I was eating pasta, I found pesto went best with penne, shells or bowties -- which caught the thick, dark green mixture -- rather than with spaghetti or linguine.

With the last two, much of the pesto seemed to end up at the bottom of the bowl.

I also found cleaning plates covered with the remains of a pesto dinner difficult to do in a dishwasher. 

The plates don't come out clean, and the olive-oil-based pesto goes all over the place.

I've memorized a blender pesto recipe from Italian kitchen master Marcella Hazan that I've been using for 20 or more years, but reproduce it here from another food blog, Stove Top Reading. 

Here's the link:

Homage to Marcella Hazan

The original recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of softened butter, but I eliminated that many years ago. A little extra olive oil wouldn't be out of order.

I also don't add salt, relying on the salty grated cheese added at the end.

I have basil plants growing in my garden and I've made three portions recently. This recipe gives you a thick sauce grainy with cheese that really coats penne and other small pasta, and is incredible as a sandwich spread.

In Genoa, where pesto originates, it is often made with sliced potatoes that cook with the pasta in boiling water.


Enough for one pound or 6 servings of pasta

2 cups fresh basil leaves 
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed with a heavy knife handle and peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Roman pecorino cheese

1. Put the pine nuts, garlic cloves, basil and extra-virgin olive oil in the blender and mix at high speed.  Stop from time to time and scrape the ingredients down toward the bottom of the blender cup with a rubber spatula.  

2.  When the ingredients are evenly blended, pour into a bowl and beat in the two grated cheeses by hand. (This is not much work, and it results in more interesting texture and better flavor than you get when you mix in the cheese in the blender.)  If you do not want to use the pesto immediately, put it into a closed container and freeze it before you add the cheese.

3. Before spooning the pesto over the pasta, add to it a tablespoon or so of the hot water in which the pasta has boiled.  Do not heat the pesto before you add it to the pasta.

Editor's note: The best pesto has a great deal of basil in it. I use leaves and stems, and pack a 2-cup measuring cup with it. The more basil, the better. I've also added mint, rosemary, arugula, parsley and other herbs, but think basil makes the best pesto.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Officials close Petite Soo Chow again

crab and pork soup dumplingsImage by roboppy via Flickr
Crab and pork soup dumplings.

The Cliffside Park Health Department has closed Petite Soo Chow again.

As reported in The Record today, the Shanghai-style Chinese restaurant on Gorge Road was closed for unspecified gross violations of the health code.

Petite Soo Chow received a rave review from Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung.

The first closure was in May 2009, when health inspectors cited "general unsanitary conditions." It reopened later with a "satisfactory" rating.

My family patronized Petite Soo Chow several times and enjoyed its soup dumplings, but we stopped eating there in 2008 after seeing a male waiter picking his nose in the dining room on each visit.

See previous post on fish farming

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Shrimp, prawns and fish farming

OBAN, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 13:  Gerry Carney, ch...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
A salmon farm in Scotland.

I always look for wild-caught seafood and try to avoid fish fillets from large species that contain a lot of harmful mercury, such as swordfish and Chilean sea bass.

But not all farmed fish is bad.

Whole Foods Market pledges all of the farmed fish it sells is raised on feed that doesn't contain antibiotics, added growth hormones, or "poultry and mammalian by-products."

I buy wild-caught salmon, haddock and flounder fillets at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, but this merchant doesn't tell you much about how its farmed fish is raised.

Both Whole Foods and Costco sell farmed salmon that is artificially colored by chemicals in the feed, because the confined fish don't eat their wild cousin's natural, colorful diet of shrimp and krill.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch usually recommends fish farmed in the United States, but not imports.

Farmed shrimp

Costco sells Black Tiger EZ Peel shrimp imported by the Mazzetta Co. of Highland Park under the trade name SEAMAZZ.

In an exchange of e-mails, Mazzetta's Jeff Goldberg said Costco had mislabeled U-15 prawns sold in a SEAMAZZ bag as having been raised in Bangladesh.

All of the farmed shrimp supplied to Costco are raised in Indonesia and Vietnam without harmful additives, he said.

Large, head-on U-4 prawns I bought at Costco were treated with a preservative to prevent the heads from turning black, Goldberg said, but all others are sold without heads and are not preserved in any way.

"We do not use any preservatives or antibiotics in the production of the shrimp we sell Costco," he said, "[and] the only additive used during production is salt."

Costco often labels SEAMAZZ shrimp as "prawns."

Goldberg said: "The term prawn is very misleading, but is generally used in Europe or by some restaurants in the U.S. to make shrimp sound 'sexier.'

"We stick to the term shrimp, which is very clear."

Seafood Watch recommends consumers avoid imported Black Tiger shrimp, whether farmed in "open systems" or wild-caught.

Although Costco and other food stores are required to tell consumers where seafood comes from and whether it is wild-caught or farmed, restaurants are under no such obligation, and few restaurant reviewers include that information in their appraisals.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

No waiting for $11.95 dinner

A bottle of Aceto Balsamico di Modena, aged fo...Image via Wikipedia
If you go for the early bird dinner at Amici Family Restaurant in Bergenfield, you might find yourself sharing the dining room with the Family in the restaurant's name -- three generations speaking in English and Italian.

For $11.95, you get a chicken, veal, eggplant or fish entree with pasta or vegetables; a cup of soup or a side salad; a soft drink, coffee or tea, and bread.

I dropped in Wednesday about 4:30 in the afternoon and ordered a salad and tilapia in a garlic-and-white wine sauce. 

My diet limits bread or pasta, so I was happy when the waitress offered vegetables with my fish, but the restaurant doesn't have canned seltzer or club soda.

I also liked bringing my own wine to this BYO, and enjoying a couple of glasses with dinner.

The salad was served in a soup bowl -- romaine and iceberg lettuce with tomato, cucumber, red onion and a stuffed olive -- which I dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The fish was wonderful in a garlicky, light-red tomato sauce with chopped fresh tomato. On the side were bright-green, crunchy cooked broccoli and yellow squash.

I finished with two cups of strong black coffee from a fresh pot. Only one other table was occupied by customers while I was there.

Even without bread and pasta, this was a satisfying meal. My total was $14.78 with tax and tip.

The early bird special is served Mondays to Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dine-in only.

Amici Family Restaurant, 127 S. Washington Ave., 
Bergenfield; 201-374-1996. BYO.

Web site: All in the family

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An invasion of giant prawns

Vietnam PortraitImage by laurent KB via Flickr
Costco Wholesale sells farmed prawns from Vietnam.

I stopped at Costco Wholesale on Sunday afternoon to pick up a few items -- raw almonds, organic spring mix, hothouse-grown beefsteak tomatoes and Japanese green tea -- and drifted over to the fish case.

I had taken a break from wild salmon and looked for more. I noticed the fillets from the Northwest went up a dollar, to $8.99 a pound, still a good deal.

Then I saw the biggest prawns I've ever seen in the Hackensack store. 

The farmed Black Tiger Prawns from Vietnam were designated U-4 -- four to a pound -- and unlike the smaller ones I've been buying for a couple of years, they are sold with the heads on.

They measured 6 inches or more, and between the head and tail, each had about three inches of meat under the shell. They were $12.99 a pound, compared to $9.99 or $9.50 a pound for the smaller prawns.

I marinated them in fresh lemon juice and spices in their shells for a few hours before pan frying them in olive oil for about 5 minutes on each side, until the shells turned pink, then put them under the broiler for a few minutes more.

Next time, I'll remove the shells before marinating and cooking the prawns, because the delicious meat needed a squeeze of lemon juice before I ate it.

Shelling them was incredibly messy, with the spices getting all over my fingers, but the prawns were succulent, the best I've ever had.

All I needed to complete the meal was a glass or two of wine, a small bowl of gazpacho I made earlier in the day, and a big salad of Earthbound Farm spring mix with cucumber, tomato, extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The five giant prawns I bought had been packaged by Costco, but in the past,  I've brought home smaller prawns labeled "SeaMazz," the trade name of the Mazzetta Co. in Highland Park.

The U-4 prawns were treated with a preservative, sodium bisulfite, but the Seamazz U-15 farmed prawns from Bangladesh I have in the freezer weren't.

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