Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wild shrimp in green salsa, lunch at Maggiano's

Wild-caught jumbo shrimp from Mexico splashing in green salsa over a bed of organic brown rice cooked with organic diced tomatoes.


Once you've tasted wild-caught shrimp, you'll never go back to farmed crustaceans from the other side of the world.

We've been buying frozen Black Tiger shrimp raised in Vietnam at Costco Wholesale for many years for around $10 a pound.

They come with the shell on, but deveined, so they are a snap to prepare, and cook in around 5 minutes.

But on Monday, I prepared a pound of wild jumbo shrimp from Mexico that I bought at H Mart in Englewood for $14.49 a pound.

I had to devein them myself, but I have a special knife and once I crossed that hurdle, I marinated them in fresh lime juice, black pepper, powdered garlic and red-pepper flakes.

For the Mexican shrimp, I opened a 16.7-ounce bottle of La Costena Green Salsa or Salsa Verde from Mexico, poured it into a pan and added fresh juice from one small lime.

The medium-spicy, preservative-free salsa serves as both a cooking medium and sauce for your side dish of rice, pasta or mashed potatoes.

When the salsa started to bubble, I add the dozen shrimp, turned up the heat and cooked them for about 5 minutes in a covered pan, flipping them once.

They came out plump, tender and crunchy -- everything a shrimp should be. 

They were more tender than any farmed shrimp I've had, and I don't have to worry about preservatives, antibiotics or other additives.

I have to wonder why Costco, with its worldwide reach and resources, doesn't offer wild-caught shrimp and even live lobsters to its customers.

Vintage photos, red checked tablecloths and other traditional decor at Maggiano's Little Italy in Hackensack.

Now that's Italian

It's true that New Jersey probably has more Italian-American restaurants than any other kind, especially if you include pizzerias.

It's also true that Maggiano's Little Italy is one of those chain restaurants you find in malls all over the country.

You wouldn't think the food at Maggiano's could compete with a family run Italian-American restaurant, but the chain restaurant bends over backwards to please and its special deals represent excellent value.

And you have the option of ordering from a family style menu of large portions meant for sharing.

No problem, the waitress said, Maggiano's wonderful Spinach Salad can be made without bacon.

No problem, the waitress said, when my friend asked for more sweet peppers for his Sausage and Peppers, returning with a small bowl filled with them.

Another friend ordered one of the Classic Pastas, Fettuccine Alfredo, and that entitled him to take home another pasta, Spaghetti & Meatball, at no extra charge.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup includes fresh basil.

Lots of food

I invited two friends to join me for lunch on Monday at Maggiano's Little Italy, the chain restaurant in Hackensack's upscale mall, The Shops at Riverside.

I wanted to take advantage of an American Express promotion that offered a $15 statement credit, if I spent $50 at Maggiano's and charged it on my card.

I ordered a wonderful Spinach Salad with luscious Gorgonzola cheese, pine nuts and fruit ($12.95), but didn't care for the sweet apple-cider vinaigrette dressing.

I started with a bowl of Creamy Tomato Basil Soup for $5.50, and qualified for a soup-salad combo special (I paid a total of $12.95).

I also ordered Grilled Salmon Lemon & Herb to go ($16.95 with orzo and spinach).

One of my friends had Sausage and Peppers ($7.95) and the other had Fettucine Alfredo ($12.95), with a free order of Spaghetti & Meatball to go (also $12.95).

Both friends took home leftovers.

Our waitress went above and beyond, bringing one friend a small bowl of extra sweet peppers for his sausage platter, as well as a separate paper bag for a basket full of rolls we didn't touch. 

I wanted to have a glass of wine, but refused to pay $9.50 for 6 ounces, when I could buy a terrific bottle for less at a retailer.

Maggiano's offer whole-wheat penne as a substitute in its pasta dishes, but why stop there when several other shapes -- linguine, spaghetti, shells, bowties and so forth -- are available? 


  1. The Shop-Rite in Hackensack frequently has fresh, wild shrimp. We had it for Christmas Eve. (Their fish counter is excellent. Thanks, George!) We switched to wild y ears ago--there's no comparison!.


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