Thursday, March 15, 2012

A tale of one sauce and two dinners

Fresh fish at Costco Wholesale in South San Francisco, Calif. The warehouse store carries wild-caught fish from the Pacific that New Jersey shoppers never see at their Costco.

Editor's note: Today's bill of fare includes how to turn one sauce into two dinners, reduced-fat cheeses and a few sales items I found at Whole Foods Market and H Mart.

We love the wild-caught fish fillets available at Costco Wholesale, and cooking them with tomatoes ensures good eating for at least two home-cooked dinners.

No recipe is required. Anyone who can open cans and boil pasta can turn out two satisfying meals.

I started with fresh Pacific cod fillets from the Hackensack Costco for $7.99 a pound and two cans of tomatoes I had in the cupboard -- a large can of whole peeled tomatoes and a smaller can of diced organic tomatoes with sea salt.

I emptied the cans into a deep, 12-inch non-stick pan with a glass cover, added a few ounces of olive oil and seasonings, including powdered garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried Italian herbs, and the juice from two limes from the refrigerator.

I covered the pan and brought the tomatoes to a boil over a medium-high heat.

I cut the large, long fillets into pieces of roughly 4 ounces to 6 ounces, added a little salt and put them into the tomatoes, lowering the heat to medium and covering the pan.The flaky fish was ready in about 15 minutes.

Rice and pasta

I used a rice cooker to prepare organic long-grain brown rice with lentils. I started the rice first, because that took about 30 minutes. I spooned the fish with the tomatoes over the rice and added a salad, wine and seltzer for a wonderful dinner.

There was plenty of sauce left, so the next night, I heated it up in a smaller sautee pan with a cover and used a separate pan to boil about one-third of a pound of Colavita whole-wheat capellini, which took 4 minutes.

I drained the pasta, added it to the sauce, mixed them together, covered the pan and cooked the pasta for another 2 minutes, then turned off the heat to allow the pasta to soak up the sauce.

I ate this pasta in the fish-flavored sauce with leftover cod, another salad and grated cheese. 

Other fish

Fish and tomatoes go together well, so this preparation is terrific for any of the other fillets found at Costco, such as wild-caught flounder and haddock, and farmed catfish, or the many whole fish sold at H Mart, the Korean supermarket chain.

Alternately, you can use a 32-ounce bottle of pasta sauce, plus a small can of tomato sauce, to prepare the fish on the first night, yielding a thicker sauce for the pasta on the second night.

I also like to add a can of anchovies and their oil to the sauce for a more robust flavor, though I didn't do so this time. 

When boiling pasta, it's not necessary to use the 4 to 6 quarts of water called for on the package nor to salt the water, especially if your sauce and fish have added salt.

The capellini, which is like angel hairs, cooked in 2 to 3 inches of water.

Old cheese

Grana Padano from Italy once was called "caseus vetus" or "old cheese," according to the small print on the package I bought at the Hackensack Costco for $9.49 a pound.

The wedge of grainy cheese, made with part-skimmed cow's milk and aged over 18 months, is sold under Costco's Kirkland Signature label.

The cheese and fresh fruit make a great dessert.

Other reduced-fat cheeses available at Costco include thin-sliced Jarlsberg Swiss Cheese at $9.99 for 2 pounds and sliced Finlandia Swiss, Cheddar. Havarti and Colby Jack, also $9.99 for 2 pounds.

The Jarlsberg has 50% less fat than regular cheese, the Finlandia 25% less fat than full-fat cheese.

I use the Jalrsberg Swiss in omelets, eat it with fruit or roll it up with Kirkland Signature smoked wild salmon for a snack.

Sale items

On Monday at H Mart in Little Ferry, I picked up a box of 16 Champagne mangoes from Mexico for $9.99, a savings of $3.

Fresh collard greens were 99 cents a pound. Two prepared items -- stir-fried japchae or translucent yam-flour noodles and kimbap or a roll with seaweed, rice, vegetables and imitation crab -- were $4.99 each for a 1-pound package.

On Tuesday at Whole Foods Market in Paramus, 59-ounce bottles of Indian River Select 100% Florida Orange Juice (not from concentrate) were 2 for $5 -- about the same price per ounce as Tropicana in the 64-ounce cartons at Costco.

A wedge of fig cake with Marcona almonds from Valencia, Spain, was $7.99 a pound -- $2 a pound less than at Fairway Market in Paramus, the only other store where I've seen this product.


We had a terrific meal at Wondee's on Saturday evening, seated at a table near the front plate-glass windows, and we got the Thai soups and salad we ordered in only about 5 minutes.

I especially like the tofu salad with its sweet-sour-spicy dressing, fruit and lettuce leaves. We chose a whole fresh red snapper steamed with garlic and chili, and served on a fish-shaped metal plate over a burner ($18).

The rest of the family had won ton soup with pork, and steamed shrimp-and-pork dumplings. 

Wondee's, 296 Main St., Hackensack; 201-883-1700.
BYO. Free parking in rear lot.

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