Thursday, April 26, 2012

A $5 lunch comes with a catch

Bowl of Sushi (Painting by Hiroshige)
Bowl of Sushi by Hiroshige. (Credit: Wikipedia)

Editor's note: Today's buffet includes a visit to a restaurant in Hazlet, the Jamaican national dish, how to make an open-face omelet, shopping at Trader Joe's, another Korean meal and a brief discussion of 'road food.'

Around midday at Park East, a restaurant and sushi bar in Hazlet, you'll be handed a card listing more than a dozen $5 lunches.

But if you don't eat meat, you'll be disappointed that most of them include beef, pork or chicken. All come with a side of potato chips.

Fish and chips

I asked the waiter to name the "catch" in one non-meat offering, Corona Battered Fish Sandwich, and whether I could substitute something for the potato chips.

He said the fish was cod, but that if I wanted salad, coleslaw or anything else, I would have to pay a $3 supplement, as listed on the back of the card.  

I go vegetarian

I then asked about the a la carte vegetables ($4 each), and whether the kitchen used butter -- another artery clogger I try to avoid. He said he believed they were steamed.

I ordered the Chef's Vegetables and Sauteed Spinach, a cup of black coffee and water (a total of $10.34 -- $2.34 for coffee).

An acquaintance came in 10 minutes later, sat down at my table and ordered the Chicken Parmigiana Sandwich with potato chips ($5). The hero was the standard size.

Is that butter?

The sauteed spinach tasted wonderful. Was that "buttery taste" from butter?

At the bottom of my small bowl of zucchini, carrots and string beans was a puddle of ... butter? 

However, the place seems serious about sushi. I saw an employee ducking into the back of the sushi bar with a plastic tub holding two or three whole fish.

Park East, 3352 Route 35, Hazlet; 1-732-739-2002.

In my home, a pan of Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish goes quickly.
When we said we would buy 24 cans, ShopRite cut the price further.
We used salted Alaskan pollock from Costco Wholesale, instead of more expensive cod.

Many Jamaican-Americans rely on visiting relatives to bring them an odd tree fruit called ackee.

Though it is called a fruit, ackee isn't sweet. 

But its blandness is a perfect foil to the salted fish and sweet and hot peppers in Ackee and Saltfish, a Jamaican breakfast served with boiled, soft green bananas.

We usually buy our ackee in a can, but quality varies and so does the price -- $8.99 to $14.99 for 19 ounces of the fruit in salt water, what you'd use to make a pan of Ackee and Saltfish, the national dish.

We got a discount on a case of 24 cans at Hackensack Market on Passaic Street, but recently, my wife was told the discount is no longer available.

Ackee on sale

The other day, she called from the Rochelle Park  ShopRite and said 19-ounce cans of Grace-brand Ackees were on sale for $9.99 each. 

She saw the same brand for more than $14 a can at Hackensack Market.

I suggested she ask ShopRite's manager if she could get a discount on 24 cans, and he agreed. We paid $9 a can -- a savings of $59.76 on the case, according to the receipt.

(Originally, I wrote she got the deal at the Englewood store, where she shops most of the time.)

Open-face omelet

Heat up a couple of ounces of extra-virgin olive oil and add liquid egg whites.
Add slices of smoked wild Alaskan sockeye salmon.
Add a slice of cheese, such as yogurt cheese with jalapenos.
Tip pan if liquid egg remains on top of omelet and cook it on the sides of the hot pan.

Making an open-face omelet allows you to add more ingredients than if you tried to make a folded omelet, and you never have to turn it over and risk ruining it.

Use a non-stick pan and a high flame to heat up a couple of ounces of extra-virgin olive oil, then turn down the heat to finish the omelet and produce a nicely browned bottom.

I use a generous pinch of Aleppo red pepper from Fattal's Syrian Bakery in Paterson on all of my egg dishes.

The liquid egg whites and smoked wild salmon, both from Costco Wholesale, already contain salt.

Trader Joe's

I bought sliced Yogurt Cheese with Jalapenos at Trader Joe's in Paramus ($4.79 for 12 ounces).

On the same trip, I picked up five 1-pound packages of Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli (spirals), Penne and Spaghetti ($1.39 each).

Liters of 100% Italian Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and 100% Spanish Extra-Virgin Olive Oil were $5.99 each.

I also bought antibiotic- and preservative-free bacon and hot dogs for $3.99 and $4.29, respectively.

A 64-ounce bottle of Organic Lemonade was $2.99, compared to two 96-ounce bottles of Organic Lemonade for $7.69 at Costco Wholesale.

Costco Wholesale Corporate Logo
Costco Wholesale Logo ( Wikipedia)

Food notes

We had another good meal at Muk Eun Ji, a Korean restaurant that matches or beats competitors' prices for barbecue, soft-tofu stew and other traditional dishes.

Barbecue portions are 8 ounces. The restaurant also is known for serving tangy, 1-year-old imported  kimchi ($3.99). 

My wife and son selected two meats for their barbecue meal -- sliced pork belly in wine ($12.99) and bulgogi or  marinated, thinly sliced beef ($16.99) -- and cooked them on a table-top grill.

They preferred the beef to the pork, which they said was dry.

I had tofu stew ($9.99) and we shared a stone-bowl vegetarian bibimbap, a rice-based dish ($11.99) that allows you to adjust spiciness with gojuchang, a red-pepper paste in a squeeze bottle.

We especially liked the soundtrack of American rock-and-roll songs.

Muk Eun Ji, 217 Broad Ave., Palisades Park; 

Organic chicken feet

Although I've stopped eating meat, I've been trying to get my wife to buy naturally raised pork, beef and other items from Whole Food Market in Paramus.

For years, she bought mystery chicken feet from ShopRite for one of the soups she makes.

Earlier this month, she found organic chicken feet at Whole Foods for $2.99 a pound and organic chicken necks for $3.99 a pound.

In the store's freezer, I've also found organic beef bones with marrow and organic goat meat on the bone.

'Road food' 

Recently, in the truck lanes of the New Jersey Turnpike, I saw a Costco Wholesale tractor-trailer being passed by a ShopRite 18-wheeler.

A tractor-trailer from Perdue lagged -- just as the antibiotic-filled chicken does in quality.

On Cedar Lane in Teaneck, I saw the driver of a red Coca-Cola truck lean out of his cab's open window and spit onto the pavement below.

A couple of blocks later, stopped in traffic again, he pinched his nostrils between his fingers and expelled the contents of his nose.

I'm glad I stopped drinking the teeth-rotting beverage in 1975.

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  1. You wrote: "Heat up a couple of ounces of extra-virgin olive oil and add liquid egg whites."

    Is it OK if I use 2 teaspoons of olive oil instead of 1/4 cup? I don't want to have a day's worth of fat consumed by breakfast.

    Please advise.

  2. If you look at the first photo, you can see the extra-virgin olive oil on top of the egg whites.

    Did I actually use 2 ounces? I didn't measure it, but I use olive oil liberally, especially in this case to prevent the omelet from sticking.

    It certainly isn't a "day's worth of fat."

    Numerous sources praise olive oil for its ability to cut bad cholesterol. The more the merrier.

    This is from

    "Many human clinical trials have shown that replacement of high saturated fat diets for diets high in monounsaturated fats, mostly from olive oil, have resulted in a significant decrease in both total cholesterol (TC) and particularly LDL “bad” cholesterol; the type of cholesterol known to build up in the arteries and cause atherosclerosis; the hardening and narrowing of the arteries that may lead to blockages and coronary heart disease (CHD) or stroke. These results have been confirmed in studies involving both men and women of varying ages."

    I just had some leftover whole-wheat pasta and sardines, and drizzled them with olive oil before eating.

  3. Mr. Sasson, there are about 60 grams of fat in 2 ounces of olive oil, including about 10 grams of saturated fat.

    I cannot believe you would advocate using a quarter cup of fat to make omelets. And I doubt your doctor would either.

    Despite all of its heart-healthy qualities, it's still fat.

  4. It's still fat? Then, it's the fat I love to eat, and I'll eat as much as I want, despite your scolding attitude.

    My standard salad dressing is extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and I drizzle the oil on pasta after adding several ounces of the stuff to the bottled sauce, along with the oil from a can of anchovies and the oil from sardine cans (when I make spaghetti with sardines).

    And I continue to lose weight. LOL.

    Sadly, few doctors ever talk to patients about their diets.

    What do you weigh, 250 or 300?

  5. Good luck to you on your blog, Mr. Sasson.


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