Sunday, March 31, 2013

For breakfast: Seafood, pasta and sweet potatoes

Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli Pasta continues to be a reliable substitute for bread at breakfast as I try to maintain a 45-pound weight loss on a no-bread, no pizza diet. I made the pasta with Classico bottled pasta sauce and Black Tiger shrimp from Costco Wholesale.
The fusilli pasta and shrimp with a fluffy smoked wild salmon breakfast frittata.
To a mixture of whole organic eggs, egg whites, shredded cheese, low-fat milk and Costco's Organic No-Salt Seasoning, poured into a non-stick pan over medium heat, I add slices of beefsteak tomato, smoked wild salmon and Costco's refrigerated Basil Pesto. I then finished the frittata for about 15 minutes under a low broiler setting until the top was browned and the pesto was sizzling.

Cut-up Costco sweet potatoes with their skin are boiled, then mashed with extra-virgin olive oil, a little salt, powdered garlic and other seasoning for use as another bread substitute at breakfast, above left. I ate them with a section of leftover frittata and Valentina Mexican Hot Sauce.
Leftover pan-fried wild cod fillet from Costco Wholesale, plated with chopped collaloo, a collard-like green, and drizzled with Valentina Mexican Hot Sauce (Extra Hot).

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Enjoying the crunch of fresh vegetables

Three out of four dishes we enjoyed last weekend at Wondee's Fine Thia Food and Noodles in Hackensack came from its Vegetarian Menu, including sauteed tofu with fresh basil leaves, onions, scallions and fresh chili (Kraprow Tofu, $11), above.

Crispy tofu goes into a refreshing salad with shredded carrot and fruit, all dressed with lime juice and chili paste (Yum Rod Pedt, $10), above. You can wrap the salad in lettuce leaves.

Steamed jumbo shrimp with crunchy broccoli in a sweet-and-sour chili sauce comes from Wondee's regular menu. The dish is called Koong Lard Prig ($17).

This soup, filled with crunchy cabbage and other vegetables, is a vegetarian version of a spicy shrimp-and-mushroom soup on the regular menu. Thome Yum Vegetable is $3.50.

We have been ordering almost all of our takeout dishes from Zen Kitchen in Teaneck made with fresh garlic, avoiding the ubiquitous brown sauce, which is filled with sodium. Here, Sauteed Mixed Vegetables with Fresh Garlic ($7.95) is served over brown rice, which is provided at no extra charge. Wondee's charges $2.50 for a small bowl of brown rice.

Bean Curd with Vegetable Country Style from Zen Kitchen ($7.95).

Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, 296 Main St., Hackensack; 201-883-1700. BYO, free parking in rear lot. No delivery. Closed Mondays.

Zen Kitchen, 1443 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck; 201-837-7322. Delivery charge is $1.50.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Update: Coffee with free parking in Manhattan

A mug of strong coffee is only $1.50 before 11 a.m. at the Market Diner in Manhattan.

A breakfast bowl of minestrone.

The Market Diner on 11th Avenue and 43rd Street is probably the only Greek diner in Manhattan with free parking.

A mug of strong black coffee costs $1.50, with at least one free refill. The brew is made from beans roasted in Brooklyn.

Before 10 a.m. today, I was able to order a large bowl of minestrone soup with far more vegetables than elbow macaroni ($4.25).

The diner also serves wine and beer.

The entrance to the parking lot, which accommodates six vehicles, is on 43rd Street. The diner is open 24 hours.

The lot was closed on Tuesday, when a TV production crew for "Elementary" was using the diner.

The 11th Avenue view from the Market Diner.


The day after I posted this, I returned for another bowl of soup, this time a thick, vegetarian split-pea soup ($4.25), and another cup of coffee.

When the check came, I saw I was charged $2 for the mug of coffee and refill, and asked about it at the register.

The woman said coffee is $1.50 before 11 a.m. and $2 after.  

I also received a comment that a McDonald's at 34th Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan is open 24 hours and also has free parking.

Of course, you can't compare the quality of the food to the diner. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cucumber kimchi, Cypriot olive oil, wild lox and more

Cucumber kimchi, with onion and sweet pepper, came from Jeon-Ju Jan Chi Jip, a small Korean catering shop at 200 Broad Ave, in Palisades Park (201-944-0471). I also found tofu and a half-dozen small, shrink-wrapped fish, below. The three dishes made for a nice, no-fuss dinner.

Taking into account portion size and price, the shop gives good value, with many items costing $5.99 and $6.99.

Three-liter tins of 100% Greek extra-virgin olive oil are on sale again for $14.99 at the International Food Warehouse, 370 Essex St., Lodi. On Saturday, I bought two more tins of this unusually thick and fruity olive oil from Cyprus that works out to about $5 a liter.

Costco Wholesale provides a terrific way to end a meal with Parmigiano Reggiano and reduced-fat Swiss cheeses, left; organic unsulfured, sun-dried Calimyrna Figs, top; and sodium-free almonds I roast at home and dust with Vietnamese cinnamon.
Costco Wholesale's Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon costs $15.59 for 1 pound (packaged in two half-pound pouches), the first price adjustment I have seen in well over a year. The old price was $15.39.

Costco Wholesale still has the best price on smoked wild salmon, even with a 20-cent price increase my wife encountered last week.

The sockeye salmon is sliced and preservative free: Ingredients are salmon, salt, brown sugar and natural wood smoke.

Compare the color of this wild salmon to the artificially colored farmed fish used in the vast majority of smoked salmon, and the choice is clear.

My wife also brought home a 10-pound bag of sweet potatoes for $5.99. Costco stocks them only for holidays.

That night, she boiled a few sweet potatoes with Kabocha squash, then mashed them with olive oil to accompany wild-caught sea bass from H Mart, the Korean supermarket in Englewood.

The mashed sweet potatoes are also wonderful for breakfast as a foundation for two organic eggs fried sunny side up.

Then, you can break the yolks over the sweet potatoes and eat them together. Who needs bread?

Sunset-brand Beefsteak Tomatoes at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack were looking a lot better at the end of last week, above. A 5-pound box was $6.99. I used them sliced in a frittata with whole eggs, egg whites, low-fat milk, shredded cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto and Organic No-Salt Seasoning, below.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

How to eat pasta without tomato sauce

Imported 100% whole-wheat farfalle in a sauce made with organic diced tomatoes, but no tomato sauce, above. The next morning, the whole-wheat pasta was the perfect foil for two organic brown eggs, below.

Oil and garlic, and a fragrant basil pesto are two ways to eat pasta without tomato sauce.

But don't stop there.

I emptied a can of organic diced tomatoes with its  juices into a large, non-stick pan; added two cans of drained sardines, rinsing them to reduce sodium; and a couple of ounces of salted cod fish that had been boiled twice to remove salt and broken into small pieces.

I followed with 3 or 4 ounces of extra-virgin olive oil from Cyprus, a few ounces of French red wine, lots of chopped fresh garlic and some red-pepper flakes, and I broke up the sardines with a spatula before covering the pan and turning on the heat to bring everything to a low boil.

Meanwhile, I boiled 1 pound of imported whole-wheat farfalle, drained the pasta and mixed it well with the sauce.

When I served the pasta, I made sure to sprinkle on grated sheep's milk Pecorino Romano cheese from Italy. Next time, I'll add pine nuts to the sauce.

I usually make 1 pound of pasta to provide leftovers for breakfast and dinner the next day.

Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco Wholesale has lots of uses beyond dressing pasta. It adds a spring-like zing to bland tofu in a takeout dinner salad, above, and to wild-caught Icelandic haddock fillets right out of the oven, below.

Another sauce for pasta -- cacio e pepe -- uses lots of grated cheese and ground black pepper, and a cup or more of reserved pasta water.

After the pasta is boiled and drained, add it to a non-stick pan and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil to prevent sticking.

Then, the hot pasta water goes in and the heat goes on, followed by lots of grated Pecorino Romano cheese and ground black pepper to taste. 

Add more hot pasta water, if necessary. Mix well. By the way, don't salt the water beforehand, and use just enough to cover the pasta.

Again, I make this with 1 pound of organic whole-wheat spaghetti from Trader Joe's to provide plenty of leftovers.  

I use organic diced tomatoes, Pecorino Romano cheese, fresh garlic, ground black pepper, red-pepper flakes, refrigerated pesto and wild-caught Icelandic haddock from Costco Wholesale.

The Garofalo whole-wheat Farfalle or Bow Ties I used in the first recipe had a cooking time of 15 minutes, one of the longest I have ever seen. I used Costco's Basil Pesto to dress artisanal egg noddles from Italy that I found at my warehouse store in Hackensack only once, below.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reading the signs at Fairway and Whole Foods

Who knew we are supposed to rinse olives, which are cured with a lot of salt, according to this sign at Fairway Market in Paramus, and then dress them? I guess Fairway saved money by using a sign that says "New Yorkers" instead of "New Jerseyans."
Is there any need for a sign like this? Were customers throwing up all over the floor? It's in the bathroom of the Blimpie next door to Fairway Market. Fairway coffee is served there and there is a door between them, making Blimpie an annex of the supermarket

Signs are one of the things that shape the food-shopping experience in North Jersey.

At Corrado's Family Affair in Clifton and the cavernous Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, you won't find any signs telling you what is in the aisles, making shopping at the two stores a treasure hunt.

At Fairway Market in Paramus, you're constantly lectured about how good the food is and how great the prices are -- and both are an exaggeration.

In the years since the New York chain opened its Paramus store at the out-of-the-way Fashion Center, I have simply been unable to warm up to it.

I'm from Brooklyn, but I'm sick of Fairway's New York attitude.

Good coffee beans

I go there every couple of months to buy whole-bean coffee, but on Tuesday, I was suckered by a coupon for $10 off of a $75 purchase that I got in the mail.

We once bought 1-pound packages of salted cod from Fairway for $8.99, but then switched to Corrado's, which charged $6.99 and now charges $7.99 a package.

On Tuesday, I found out Fairway has raised the price for a 1-pound package of salted cod to $9.99. 

So, I bought 7 packages (the cod freezes beautifully), a pound of custom-ground coffee beans for $6.99 and sweet potatoes for 69 cents a pound. 

With $10 off, I paid $68.66. 

Does the cod smell?

I loved the young, female cashier, who picked up each sealed plastic package of cod by a corner to scan them and place  them in my reusable bag as if they were so many dead rats. 

She said she didn't want to get the smell of the salted fish on her hands, but when I sniffed a package and my hand, I couldn't smell anything.

Whole Foods Market in Paramus charges $3 for a Balthazar Bakery baguette that costs $2 at the bakery's retail shop in Englewood.

Breaking bread

Later on Tuesday, I stopped at Whole Foods Market in Paramus for a container of orzo and vegetable soup, and medium-roast coffee, which I drank black to enjoy its complex flavor.

Walking around the store, the familiar bag for the baguette from Balthazar Bakery in Englewood caught my eye.

The sign said "LOCAL" and "From New York," but on the back of the bag were the words "Englewood, N.J.," where Balthazar's wholesale bakery and small retail shop have been operating since late 2002.

So, I guess Whole Foods doesn't know this terrific baguette is even more local than it thinks.

But what really surprised me is that Whole Foods charges $3 for a baguette that costs $2 at the source.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bowled over by quality ingredients from Costco

My dinner at home Friday was served in bowls: CedarLane Chopped Vegetable & Barley Soup, above, and below with grated Pecorino Romano Cheese; and an Earthbound Farm salad, bottom photo, all from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

You can sip or drink many soups, but the spoon isn't optional with this thick, chewy vegetarian soup in a light tomato broth. You'll find corn, carrot, barley, potato, onion and more in the soup. The container was in the freezer with a use-by date of 11/26/12.

Sunset-brand hothouse beefsteak tomato and gourmet cucumber top an Organic Spring Mix salad from Earthbound Farm in a dressing of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. All the produce is from Costco Wholesale.

Organic whole-wheat spaghetti with salted cod fish complements fresh, wild-caught Icelandic haddock coated with a Super Spice Mixture (a combination of every spice in your cupboard). Cod fish, haddock and the lime came from Costco. The pasta is from Trader Joe's.

A Jamaican specialty called ackee and salt fish was made with cod from Costco.

Above, two of the ingredients in a frittata with beefsteak tomato and homemade pesto that I finished under the broiler, below. I combined whole organic eggs, egg whites, grated cheese and low-fat milk to make the fluffy frittata, which I started on the stove. Everything but the pesto came from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

I added the sliced tomato and pesto while the 10-inch pan was on the stove and moved the frittata to the oven after the bottom was set.

Kirkland Signature Organic No-Salt Seasoning is a blend of 21 spices, dried herbs and other ingredients.

Neither the Sunset Campari Tomatoes, above, or Beefsteak Tomatoes, below, looked very good today at the Hackensack warehouse store. They varied in color and ripeness, and many looked like they had been handled by customers. The small tomatoes were $5.49 for 2 pounds and the bigger ones were $6.99 for 5 pounds. I bought a trio of Sunset Gourmet Cucumbers instead for $3.99. Sunset is based in Canada, but all of the tomatoes and cucumbers were grown in Mexico.

Costco instant coupons were available today on Kashi Trail Mix Chewy Granola Bars, above left, and 32-ounce jars of Classico Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce, below left. Thirty Kashi bars were $8.79 ($3 off) and the pasta sauce was $4.79 ($2 off) or about $1.60 a bottle.

I passed up a $6-off instant coupon on Kashi GoLean Crisp Variety Pack, because those bars have more calories, fat and sodium than Kashi Trail Mix bars, which help me skip lunch.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fat-free and cream-free pasta sauces, a $2 baguette and much more

You don't have to keep kosher to like these marinara sauces.

Editor's note: Today, I bring you further adventures in food shopping -- from kosher pasta sauces to imported whole-wheat pasta to a great $2 baguette.


This week, I found two pasta sauces that prove less is more.

Both are from a company named Gefen and both are kosher for Passover, but that's not why I bought them.

One of the marinara sauces contains no olive oil and is fat free. The other is a "Marinara Style Vodka Sauce" with vodka, but no artery clogging cream.

The cream-less sauce helps Jews observe the ban on eating meat and dairy at the same time, but also is perfect for people like me who are lactose intolerant.

Each 26-ounce bottle was $2.39 at ShopRite in Paramus.

Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood has a terrific selection of imported pasta, and three or four different brands of whole-wheat pasta from Italy, such as the two above.
Jerry's is on South Dean Street, near Route 4 in Englewood.

Jerry's in Englewood

I stopped at Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood on Wednesday for olives, balsamic vinegar, whole-wheat pasta and coffee beans from Italy, and nibbled on free samples of smoked mozzarella and other cheeses.

Jerry's has more varieties of 100% whole-wheat pasta than any other store I know, but prices are higher than the $1.39 I pay for a 16-ounce package of Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti, Fusilli or Penne.

Jerry's sells three or four brands of whole-wheat pasta and shapes include spaghetti, fusilli, farfale and pappardelle or wide, mouth-filling ribbons.

I bought a pound of Colavita Fusilli or spirals for $1.49 and a pound of Garofalo Farfalle or bowties for $1.99. 

Whole coffee beans from Italy are being sold at a new, lower price at Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood. I save about $5 or more a bag compared to my usual source.

Whole coffee beans

I have been buying Lavazza whole coffee beans from Italy at, but Jerry's often beats Amazon's prices.

On Wednesday, I found new, even lower prices, only $16.99 for a 2.2-pound bag of Lavazza Crema e Aroma beans, which I use in my built-in coffee machine.

That's about $5 less per bag than at Amazon.

Assorted Italian olives with whole garlic cloves were, as usual, $3.99 a pound, a great price.

Ponti Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, a brand served in many restaurants in Milan and Venice, was $1.99 for a 16.9-ounce bottle. 

The bottles are lableled "Primus" and "It matures in precious oak casks," and the vinegar is free of artificial color.

The mirror that helps customers exit the small parking lot at Balthazar Bakery in Englewood. The retail store opened in late November 2002.

 $2 baguette 

Balthazar Bakery in Englewood has repaired the convex mirror that gives customers driving out of the parking lot a view of traffic racing along one-way South Dean Street in Englewood.

In the photo above, the red car is leaving the lot and the black vehicle parked at the curb is blocking the driver's view of oncoming traffic.

So, even with the mirror, the driver has to nose his vehicle into traffic before getting a clear view of what's bearing down on him.

It's hair raising. Imagine what it was like in the years before the mirror was installed.

I stopped at Balthazar for two baguettes -- the best $2 loaf of bread in the metropolitan area. 

You can see the bakers at work through plate-glass windows in the retail store.

The mound of butter waiting to go into croissants was about the size of a Fiat 500.

The circular from Fairway Market in Paramus calls this tilapia "pretty darn perfect."
Pass on Chinese fish

Does any other country have a worse food-safety record than China?

So, I was surprised to see that Manhattan-based Fairway Market in Paramus is selling farmed tilapia from China for $3.99 a pound.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch labels tilapia from the United States and Equador as "Best Choice."

Tilapia from China and Taiwan are called a "Good Alternative," but shouldn't Fairway be selling the best, not the second best? 

Fairway also mailed three coupons, each good for $10 off a purchase of $75 at the Paramus store.

That's a 13.3% discount, and I'm not sure it's worth a trip to Paramus, and having to endure all that New York attitude.