Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Syrian lunch brings back warm memories

A spicy dip of sweet and hot peppers at Aleppo Restaurant in Paterson.

The Arabic Salad is dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and mint.

We stopped for a tasty lunch of dips, salad and fried fish at my favorite South Paterson restaurant before heading over to see the Great Falls, now part of the National Park system.

Aleppo Restaurant, at Main and Thomas streets, was quiet before the start of Ramadan on Thursday night.

We ordered muhammara, a spicy dip made from sweet red peppers and crushed hot Aleppo pepper ($4); arayes, meat-filled, grilled pocket bread ($6); hummus with tahini ($4), and a large chopped Arabic salad dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and mint ($8).

Four of us also shared an entree of beautifully fried, meaty whiting fillets with fluffy white rice ($10). 

My son's favorite dish is grilled pocket bread stuffed with seasoned meat.

Two meaty whiting fillets came with fluffy white rice.

As I was cutting into the fried fish, I was flooded with memories of my Syrian-born mother's Sephardic Jewish kitchen in Brooklyn, where she fried fish for lunch on Friday afternoons. 

Occasionally, she would ask me to go to the fish market on Kings Highway, a few blocks from our home, and bring back fresh flounder or sole fillets, which were wrapped in white paper and placed in a brown paper bag.

One of my strongest food-shopping memories is going with my mother to buy chicken at a live-poultry market on McDonald Avenue, but I didn't like the strong smell and never returned.

Our Friday night dinner always included a whole chicken with potatoes, a platter of white rice and a bowl of sour sauce with small meatballs, which were eaten over the rice.

Aleppo Restaurant's creamy hummus is made with plenty of tahini.

The meal starts with fresh, chewy pocket bread, pickles and hot peppers.

At our lunch on Thursday, I broke my no-bread diet to scoop up hummus and muhammara with thin, chewy pocket bread, even to wrap and eat a pickle or two.

I finished the meal with a cup of thick, medium-sweet Turkish coffee (939 Main St., Paterson; 973-977-2244).

Don't forget Fattal's

I don't leave South Paterson without visiting Fattal's Bakery on Main Street.

You'll find string cheese at Fattal's, bottom. I recall seeing my mother braiding fresh cheese near the stove in our Brooklyn kitchen after she softened it in hot water. 

Fattal's Bakery is about 2 blocks away from Aleppo Restaurant, and it has its own parking lot, so we drove over for cans of Moroccan sardines and a pack of crushed Aleppo pepper (975-77 Main St., Paterson; 973-742-7125). 

Fattal's also has a butcher, spices by the pound, a pastry counter and a small lunch area.

Aleppo pepper is $6.99 a pound. 

Al Shark sardines still are 99 cents a can.

Does size matter?

Both of these bottles of extra-virgin olive oil at ShopRite are marked 1 liter.

 On Wednesday, I went to the Englewood ShopRite for more Summer Can Can Sale items, including 1-liter bottles of ShopRite extra-virgin olive oil from Italy for $4.99 each and Classico Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce at two bottles for $4.

I also picked up two pints of Jersey Blueberries for $4 after seeing them for $3.49 a pint earlier in the day at the Paramus ShopRite. 

$5.99 takeout dinner

Red snapper with pasta, vegetables and stuffed mushroom.

I've been pleasantly surprised when stopping at Jerry's Gourmet and More in Englewood in the late afternoon on Wednesdays to find several Meals To Go -- restaurant-quality takeout dinners for $7.99.

After 4 p.m., they are marked down to $5.99. I picked up four dinners -- Red Snapper Marechiaro (2), Shrimp Fra Diavolo and Pork Loin.

You can see the size of the meaty red snapper fillet in the photo above -- about one-third of a dinner plate. Wonderful.

The woman at the register said she believes Jerry's is preparing more Meals To Go than in the past, when they would be gone by early afternoon. Bravo (410 S. Dean St., Englewood; 201-871-7108).

Seeing red

I always try to have a bottle of Arirang Cabbage Kimchi in the fridge.

Korean-style side dishes: H Mart's stewed tofu and seasoned bean sprouts, Arirang kimchi from Englewood and Italian olives, $3.99 a pound at Jerry's Gourmet & More.

Two organic eggs with Aleppo pepper and leftovers from New Zen Kitchen in Teaneck.

Scenes from Costco

The canned fish aisle at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

$5.99 watermelons as far as you can see.

Her oversized shopping cart runneth over.

I went to Costco Wholesale in Hackensack today for more fresh wild sockeye salmon fillets ($8.99 a pound).

I plan to prepare them with ripe peaches, and will let you know how it turns out.

I also splurged on four 6-ounce cans of Bumble Bee Fancy Lump Crab Meat from Indonesia ($14.69).

The crab meat will go into my canned-fish salad with pink salmon and yellow-fin light tuna, also from Costco, along with Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, cumin and chopped red onion or celery.

Cereal with sugar

Jersey Blueberries over Trader Joe's Bran Flakes.

I bought a second box of Trader Joe's Raisin Bran, and looked more closely at the label ($2.79 for 20 ounces).

I was surprised to see "sugar" listed as one of the ingredients. Sugar also is used in Trader Joe's Bran Flakes cereal ($1.99 for 17.3 ounces).

At least, they aren't sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

A welcome sight at Trader Joe's in Paramus were small sweet potatoes, which I haven't seen at Costco for several weeks.

I bought two 2-pound net bags of these North Carolina-grown beauties for $1.69 each.


  1. Victor, what part of Brooklyn did you grow up in?

  2. I lived first on West 12th Street in Bensonhurst, then East 2nd Steeet in Gravesend -- inthe heart of the Sephardic neighborhood.

  3. Oh OK. I was in Brighton Beach a few weeks ago and felt very out of place being that I do not speak Russian. Are there any Syrian shops in Bensonhurst?

  4. Bensonhurst is heavily Chinese now. The Syrian places are on Kings Highway between McDonald and Ocean Parkway.


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