Thursday, May 30, 2013

No bread, no pizza, no meat, no problem

A frittata made with three reduced-fat cheeses, tomatoes and pesto, above and below, oozing like the deep-dish pizza I deny myself to maintain my weight loss.

Most of the ingredients are available at Costco Wholesale. To prepare a 10-inch frittata, see Do you know how to do 'The Frittata'?

Do I miss bread and pizza, which I gave up a couple of years ago to lose weight, at the suggestion of my trainer at the gym? Absolutely.

I no longer have a trainer, but I'm still on a no-bread, no-pizza diet.

What I don't miss is the 48 pounds I've lost, giving me -- someone who has been overweight for most of his adult life -- a feeling of being relatively light on my feet.

My weight recently hit a plateau in the 179-181 pound range, compared to a high of 228 pounds in 2010.

A wedge of the deep-dish frittata with Della-brand organic brown rice from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack and stewed tofu from H Mart in Englewood.

Go brown

I've substituted brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and mashed sweet potatoes for white rice, conventional pasta and white potatoes.

I've added organic quinoa to my diet, making 2 cups at a time to provide a side dish for 4 or 5 breakfasts and dinners. 

I finished the quinoa on Wednesday morning. So I made 2 cups of organic brown rice with diced organic tomatoes in an electric cooker for the next set of meals.

Fluffy organic quinoa has fewer carbohydrates than rice or pasta. Here, I ate the whole grain with Chinese cabbage and spicy tofu from a restaurant that didn't have brown rice.
Instead of having bread with these organic eggs accented with pesto, I filled my breakfast plate with squash, sweet potato and sauteed cabbage with sweet peppers.
Two fish are better than one, as in this dinner of fresh wild salmon from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack and pan-fried whole whiting, which were $3.49 a pound at H Mart in Englewood.

I also gave up meat and poultry more than 3 years ago out of concern over all the antibiotics and growth hormones used to raise animals on factory farms, and the lack of information on most restaurant menus.

I've switched to seafood, especially wild-caught whole fish and fillets.

I also favor anchovies, sardines, whiting and other small fish that contain very low levels of mercury.

Homemade Black Tiger garlic shrimp and whole-wheat spirals with sardines.

Food discounts

Jerry's Gourmet & More and H Mart, both in Englewood, discount prepared food after 4 p.m.

Jerry's knocks $2 off its restaurant-quality Meals To Go, cutting the price for a complete dinner of fish, chicken or pork with pasta and other sides to $5.99.

Jerry's added a sign to the refrigerated case to make its Meals To Go easier to find. The small yellow stickers on the cover indicate a price cut to $5.99 from the regular price of $7.99 after 4 p.m.

H Mart, the Korean supermarket, cuts the price of Jinga-brand prepared rolls (kimbap) and other food  by 50% after 4 p.m.

On Wednesday, I picked up a seaweed-wrapped roll with fish sausage and egg for $2.50 instead of $4.99.

I also found a box of 20 small, yellow, intensely sweet Ataulfo Mangoes for $9.99, a discount of $6.

But my wife said the Englewood H Mart was selling the 20-package Shin Ramyun box of spicy noodle soup at full price, forcing me to drive to the Little Ferry H Mart on Wednesday to buy it on sale for $14.99, a discount of $3.

Kimbap and Korean pickles from H Mart in Englewood.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Farmed seafood: Whole Foods Market v. Costco Wholesale

On Sunday, I roasted four pieces of fresh wild sockeye salmon fillet from the Copper River in Alaska in a 400-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes with lime juice, Aleppo red pepper and garden herbs, which were toasted. I bought the fillet at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.
On Monday, I had a second piece of the moist, fatty, skin-on salmon straight from the refrigerator, with just a splash of fresh lime juice.

Editor's note: Since I posted this in May 2013, Costco Wholesale has introduced farmed Atlantic salmon raised without antibiotics, sold for a couple of dollars more a pound than the conventional farmed salmon in the same refrigerated case. 


With the arrival of fresh wild sockeye fillets at Costco Wholesale, I no longer have to be tempted by the farmed Atlantic salmon available at my warehouse store year-round.

The wild Alaskan salmon is more expensive, but it is also deeper in color and far tastier than its farmed cousin.

And if I ever buy Atlantic salmon, I'll check for sales at Whole Foods Market, which has the strictest standards for farmed seafood, according to its official Whole Story blog:

Pardon our pride, but we really do have incredibly strong and thorough buying standards for farmed seafood—feel free to compare us to other markets! We are committed to these standards and to implementing them for farmed seafood throughout our stores. Here are a few highlights:
  • Our Quality Standards for Aquaculture prohibit the use of antibiotics, added growth hormones and poultry and mammalian by-products in feed.
  • We do not carry genetically modified or cloned seafood.
  • We partner with farmers who work hard to be the leaders in sustainable aquaculture.
  • Our standards require producers to minimize the impacts of fish farming on the environment by protecting sensitive habitats such as mangrove forests and wetlands, monitoring water quality to prevent pollution and sourcing feed ingredients responsibly.
  • Our seafood is free from added preservatives such as sodium bisulfite, sodium tri-polyphosphate (STP) and sodium metabisulfite.

Here are specifics about the antibiotic-free farmed salmon sold at Whole Foods:

Our salmon are raised in carefully monitored, low-density pens and tanks without antibiotics, pesticides or added growth hormones. Detailed protocols prevent escape of the salmon into the wild, and harmful and lethal methods are never used on predator birds and marine mammals.

Costco sells the season's first fresh wild salmon at a premium.

Costco's farmed salmon

I found the standards for Costco's farmed Atlantic salmon on its Web  site.

Wild salmon mature in the ocean, growing fat on a diet of shrimp and krill, which give them their distinctive orange-red color.

Costco's farmed salmon, on the other hand eat a far different diet, which includes a coloring agent, as described below:

Atlantic Salmon FAQ's

Please see below for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Kirkland Signature Atlantic Salmon.

Q. Where does your farmed salmon come from?

A. We currently purchase our Atlantic boneless skinless salmon fillet from Chile and Canada.  We have purchased from Norway, Scotland, and Ireland in the past.

Q. What do farmed salmon eat?

A. A farmed salmon’s diet contains the following ingredients:  Fish meals (herring, sardines, capelin), plant proteins (soybean meal, canola meal, wheat), fish oils (menhaden, herring or sardine), plant oils (soybean, canola, or corn), vitamins, minerals, carotenoid compound for red/orange color, binder (complex carbohydrates to hold diets together).

*GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) or steroids are never used for growth enhancements.

Q. Are antibiotics or tranquilizers used in salmon farming?

A. Antibiotics are used only under strict supervision of a licensed veterinarian and are subject to the same strict regulations for beef and poultry.  Our salmon farmers do not use tranquilizers.

Q. Do we test our salmon fillets and what do we test for?

A. Yes, we currently have testing in place.  We have the salmon tested at the processing plants in Canada and Chile.  Costco Wholesale also does monthly testing.  We test for pesticides and heavy metals (aluminum, lead, iron, silver, copper, zinc, mercury, titanium, arsenic, and magnesium).  Micro-biological testing is also done (bacteria counts, salmonella, listeria, mold, yeast, and TPC).  After all that, we do the physical testing (net weight, trim specification, color, bones, and skin).

Q. Do salmon farms spread disease?

A. Salmon farmers follow stringent fish health practices where brood-stock and eggs are rigorously tested and the salmon are raised in disease free water.  Records show that the only disease found in farmed salmon are those which occur naturally in the wild salmon population.

Q. What are the benefits to eating salmon?

A. Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.  Studies have found that people who eat salmon foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, have a reduced risk of heart disease.

Wild salmon until fall

Costco Wholesale will sell fresh wild salmon through early October, if past years are any guide.

After that, I'll return to eating fresh wild-caught haddock, flounder and cod from Costco.

If I want salmon, I can always buy frozen wild Alaskan fillets from Costco or try Whole Foods' farmed salmon when it is on sale.

Monday, May 27, 2013

At a Korean tofu house, ordering squid three ways

Raw squid in a fiery red-pepper sauce is one of the complimentary side dishes at So Gong Dong in Palisades Park, and one of three ways you can enjoy the mollusk at the popular Korean soft-tofu restaurant.

What do you do when your no-bread, no-pizza diet collides with one of your favorite meals -- a spicy Korean soft-tofu stew served with a fresh egg and a large bowl of white rice loaded with carbohydrates?

At So Gong Dong in Palisades Park, our favorite tofu house, I've been trying other dishes, but it's hard to avoid rice in one form or another.

Grilled squid and onions with gochujang, a red-pepper paste.

On Saturday night, I had squid three ways, including what's listed on the place-mat menu as Squid B.B.Q. with Spicy Sauce ($12.99).

The body of the squid had been sliced into rings, which were tender, and the tentacles had a pleasing firmness.

Raw squid appeared in one of the four free side dishes, and we shared Pajun, a grilled seafood-and-vegetable pancake that includes squid ($11.99).

Pajun is a grilled pancake made from rice flour.

The pajun, one of the non-spicy dishes available at So Gong Dong, came with a soy-based dipping sauce.

There are a dozen soft-tofu stews on the menu, some with noodles, but the basic Pork Soft Tofu is $9.99, including a fresh egg to poach in the bubbling broth, steamed white rice and side dishes.
You can order soft tofu four ways: "No spicy, little spicy, medium spicy and more spicy." 

Prices for soft tofu, squid, pancake and most other dishes end in .99 cents, but they include tax and are rounded up to the next dollar on your check.

So Gong Dong, 118 Broad Ave., Second Floor, Palisades Park; 201-313-5550. Open 7 days. Free parking on side streets.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I drove 100 miles for Chinese takeout

One of the outstanding dishes I picked up at Han Dynasty in Philadelphia, above, is Pickled Vegetable Soup with Flounder, which I heated up at home, below.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss takeout from a Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia, a restaurant bathroom with mouthwash and the first fresh wild salmon of the season to arrive at my Costco Wholesale.

Now that I've got your attention, I should explain the heading of this post:

I did drive 100 miles to Philadelphia on business, and I did stop for takeout from Han Dynasty, a Szechuan restaurant on Chesnut Street, before returning to North Jersey.

The food was still warm when I got home.

This is seriously spicy Chinese food, with the menu showing heat levels from 1 to 10. 

They also achieve a 10 on the Sasson Sniffle Scale:

It seems spicy food contains a chemical, capsaicin, which causes inflammation in the nerves and elevates the production of mucus, hence all that sniffling.

Most dishes listed on the Han Dynasty menu have a corresponding number to indicate spiciness.

I ordered Pickled Vegetable Soup with Flounder (4) for $9.95; Dan Dan Noodles (8) for $7.95; Home Style Tofu (3) for $12.95; and Chinese Cabbage with Dry Peppers (2) for $11.95.

Portions are generous and after my first meal the evening I arrived home, I have enough left for one or two more meals.

Han Dynasty's Chinese Cabbage, Dan Dan Noodles and Home Style Tofu.

I enjoyed all of them, especially the liberal use of fresh ginger, but the Dan Dan Noodles were topped with minced pork. As a non-meat eater, I had to remove the pork before sampling them.

I called the restaurant today, and was told the Dan Dan Noodles can be made without minced pork, though there is no indication on the menu the dish contains meat.

This branch of Han Dynasty, in Philadelphia's Old City, also doesn't have brown rice.

The terrific soup was crowded with many pieces of fresh flounder, and the homey Chinese cabbage dish included shells of red pepper without the spicy seeds.

I also liked the fried tofu dish, but there was much too much oily sauce.

The second bowl of Han Dynasty's Pickled Vegetable Soup with Flounder before I reheated it in the microwave.


Right after I wrote this, I had a second bowl of Pickled Vegetable Soup with Flounder, discovering that a lot of fish, pickled vegetables, ginger and hot peppers had settled to the bottom of the large plastic takeout container.

My mouth is on fire, but it was even better than the first bowl.

Han Dynasty, 108 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, Pa.; 1-215-922-1888.

Gyu-Kaku, a Japanese barbecue restaurant on Cooper Square in lower Manhattan, provides mouthwash in the men's bathroom.

Closer to home

Fresh wild sockeye salmon from the Copper River in Alaska arrived today at my Costco Wholesale in Hackensack -- 8 days after the first shipment to Seattle, Wash.

The price was $14.99 a pound, and I was able to find a fillet of 1.1 pounds, enough for two or three meals.

The season's first fresh wild salmon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fresh wild salmon is a couple of days away

I bought a seedless watermelon at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack today, and paid $6.99. My wife also bought a seedless watermelon, but she went to the ShopRite in Englewood, and although it was slightly smaller than the one from Costco, it was on sale for $3.99 or $3 off.

In 2012, fresh wild sockeye salmon from the Copper River in Alaska appeared in the refrigerated case at my Costco Wholesale in Hackensack on May 24.

I drove there today, only to be told by an employee putting out trays of wild-caught flounder the fresh salmon hasn't arrived yet.

I took home a little under 2 pounds of Canadian flounder as a consolation prize ($7.99 a pound). 

The first air shipment of 24,600 pounds of Copper River salmon arrived in Seattle on May 17, according to The Associated Press.

Does a healthy diet translate into good health?

Organic Spring Mix from Earthbound Farm is bursting with flavor, above. Wild-caught Icelandic haddock fillets cooked in Mexican Green Salsa are served over sweet potatoes mashed with extra-virgin olive oil, below.

Consumer Reports on Health says a 14-year review of more than 44,000 adults found that fewer than 2 percent achieved all of the following healthy habits:

Not smoking; staying physically fit; keeping blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol numbers in check; maintaining a healthy weight; and eating a healthy diet.

But researchers at the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which did the study, say those few people experience "a 76 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a decrease in death from all cancers, when compared with those meeting only one of those health parameters."

Fresh Icelandic haddock fillets are $8.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack. Bottled Mexican Green Salsa is available at Hackensack Market and at most ShopRite supermarkets.

"Fortunately, there's still time to experience the lifesaving effects of being healthy," according to the June 2013 edition of the Consumer Reports newsletter.

"Adopting a good-for-you-habit -- even past your seventh decade -- can add several quality years to your life," the newsletter says.

Hothouse-grown beefsteak tomatoes from Costco Wholesale.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Costco Wholesale supersizes Korean roasted seaweed

Kirkland Signature Roasted Seasoned Seaweed is made in Korea and sold at Costco Wholesale. Ten packages are wrapped in clear plastic, each weighing  .6 ounce. I paid $7.49 at my Hackensack Costco.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss a popular Korean snack now being sold under Costco Wholesale's Kirkland Signature label, and food-shopping frustration at the International Food Warehouse in Lodi and Corrado's in Clifton.

Those addictive sheets of roasted and  salted seaweed from Korea are now being sold under the Kirkland Signature label at Costco Wholesale.

Each package weighs .6 oz, and appears to contain many more sheets than the smaller packages I've purchased at Korean supermarkets and Trader Joe's.

On the Web site of H Mart, a chain of Korean supermarkets, packages of seaweed, also called laver, weigh only .15 oz and .17 oz -- less than a third of  Costco's version.

Costco sold a brand of Korean roasted seaweed in the traditionally sized package, but the Kirkland Signature version comes in a bigger package that can be shared by two.

This afternoon, I snacked on seaweed sheets wrapped around canned-fish salad with chickpeas.

The Costco package shows the sheets wrapped around rice, shredded over raw fish and as an ingredient in canapes.

Ingredients are seaweed, corn oil, grape seed oil, sesame oil and sea salt. The package is marked "Winter Harvest."

An expensive Bentley automobile was parked on Sunday in the lot of the International Food Warehouse in Lodi, which sells many ethnic foods at a discount.

A liter package of this 100% juice from Turkey was 88 cents.

Out of oil

I drove over to the International Food Warehouse in Lodi to pick up another 3-liter tin or two of Isle of Cyprus Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which a sales flier offered for $13.99 or a dollar less than before.

But the store had sold out. 

I use this thick, fruity olive oil for frying eggs, omelets and frittatas, and to dress salads. 

So, I took three 1-liter bottles of the same Greek extra-virgin olive oil to the register, but the manager wouldn't honor the $13.99 price. Each bottle was marked $6.99.

Consolation prizes

I picked up four 1-liter cartons of Aroma-brand 100% Pomegranate-Apple Juice from Turkey at 88 cents each; four 1-liter bottles of Vintage Lemon-Lime Seltzer at 59 cents each, and yams at 99 cents for 3 pounds.

The store also sells wine and beer, but nothing appeared to be a bargain.

Two organic brown eggs fried in Isle of Cyprus Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Kirkland Signature refrigerated pesto from Costco Wholesale. Instead of bread, I warmed up leftover organic brown rice for a delicious breakfast.

Out of salt fish

Stores like the International Food Warehouse can drive you crazy when you make a special trip for an item, only to find it was sold out or never came in.

On the way back from an errand in Morristown last week, I stopped at Corrado's Family Affair in Clifton to buy 1-pound bags of salted cod from Canada.

The previous time I drove to the store, there was a  sign at the fish counter listing the price for large pieces of dried cod fish, with and without bones, and for dried fish in plastic bags, but I couldn't find a single bag.

Ackee and salted cod fish with Valentina Mexican Hot Sauce.

On Thursday, the same sign was there, but still no bags of cod fish.

I went over to the customer service counter, only to find a line of shoppers checking out their purchases.

In frustration, I shouted out for help, and an employee said the store had ordered the bagged cod fish, but that it "never came in."

Stolen fish?

Imagine: A truckload of dried codfish hijacked somewhere between Canada and New Jersey. 

Next time, I'll call the store before going there.

On the way back to Route 80, I stopped at Food Basics on Getty Avenue in Paterson, and picked up three 1-pound bags of dried Alaskan pollock at $3.98 a bag.

Pollock is a wild-caught fish that tastes similar to cod, but my wife prefers the latter.

Another problem I encountered at Corrado's is missing price signs.

In the produce section, 16-ounce plastic tubs of Uncle Vinny's spring mix and other salads had no price stickers or price signs on the shelf, but a sheet of paper hanging from a shelf gave prices for smaller packages.

An employee I asked just shrugged, and said he didn't know the price of the larger package.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Nibbling around the edges in Asian Fort Lee

Ramen Setagaya, one of the newerJapanese restaurants in Fort Lee, has expanded its menu and begun offering discounts and free food to lure customers during the week, below.

I've been enjoying the wide array of Asian food in Fort Lee for more than a decade -- at both new and well-established restaurants.

The restaurant scene is constantly changing, reflecting the large infux of Korean immigrants, but new Japanese restaurants have opened to serve the borough's original Asian community.

The Cheap Beer Depot on Route 4 in Fort Lee is closed, above, but the no-luggage Courtesy Motel remains open to some of the worst reviews ever, below. One tourist compared his room to a jail cell. I enjoyed many great meals in the motel's Japanese restaurant, where the female servers wore traditional outfits, but it closed several years ago.
The Japanese restaurant was on the first floor. I got a kick out of  motel guests walking in, looking over the menu of sushi and other items, and asking if the restaurant served steak and a baked potato.

Ramen Setagaya opened on Main Street in Fort Lee, around the corner from the well-established Batten Ramen on Center Avenue.

Prices for ramen, the noodle soup that has achieved cult status in Japan, are similar at both restaurants, but Batten Ramen is cash only.

We had an early dinner on Saturday at Ramen Setagaya, which is a branch of a small restaurant chain in Manhattan and Japan. 

Spicy Miso Ramen at Ramen Setagaya, above, and Deep Fried Oyster, below.

My wife ordered the delicious Spicy Miso Ramen ($11), which also is available on the vegetarian menu with tofu instead of pork.

The spicy ramen is the closest thing to her favorite Korean soft-tofu stew, which she always order "more spicy."

I ordered Deep Fried Oyster ($5.50), and got 4 plump orbs with molten interiors and non-greasy exteriors.

We shared Seafood Goyza ($5) and Shumai ($5), steamed shrimp dumplings.

Gyoza are available with several fillings.

Shumai with a dipping sauce.

Tofu Salad with sesame dressing.

The one disappointment was the Tofu Salad ($4.50), which is made mostly with forgettable iceberg lettuce.

Pepper oil and hot pepper flakes at Ramen Setagaya.

Free parking for Batten Ramen is available in the claustrophobic basement parking garage around the corner from its Center Avenue entrance.

Ramen Setagaya, 243 Main St., Fort Lee; 201-585-0739. BYO, metered street parking, closed Sundays. American Express cards not accepted.

Batten Ramen, 2024 Center Ave., in the Oak Tree Center, Fort Lee; 201-461-5465. BYO, open 7 days, cash only.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

At an Argentinian grill restaurant, you can easily skip the meat

With the flash of a waiter's knife carving wood-fired meat at your table, Choripan Rodizio in Hackensack appears to be serious about bringing customers the experience of eating at an Argentinian grill restaurant.
However, my teenage son complained everything he tried was too chewy, too salty or too dry, and he left a lot of meat on his plate.


We loved the salads, pasta and steak on our first visit to Choripan Rodizio in Hackensack.

But when we returned to celebrate a birthday with the signature all-you-can-eat, Argentinian-style meat feast, all I heard was complaints.

I haven't eaten meat or poultry for more than 3 years. I'm perfectly happy with Choripan's wonderful soups and salads.

Estrachatella, a fantastic soup of spinach with beaten eggs in chicken broth.

My teenage son, on the other hand, is a dedicated carnivore, and I recall how much he wanted to try the all-you-can-eat rodizio we saw at Casa Nova Grill in Newark last year.

This past Tuesday, his birthday, we were among the first customers at Choripan, and I asked about the $15 rodizio special I had seen advertised in Premiere Savings magazine -- a 50% discount.

For $15 a person, we were planning to order the all-you-can eat meal, with two side dishes, for my son, wife and mother-in-law, but the waiter said no such special is offered on Tuesdays.

I should have brought the page from the Spring 2013 issue of the magazine with me.

Plan B was for my son to have the all-you-can-eat meal, and the rest of us to order a la carte.

Remolacha, Huevo y Chaucas is a salad of beets, string beans and boiled egg in the house vinaigrette dressing, above. Espinaca, Peras, Nueces y Roqueford is a fresh spinach salad with pears, walnuts and blue cheese in a balsamic dressing, below. 

We started with two wonderful salads to share -- one with beets and the other with fresh spinach as the main ingredients ($8.25 and $8.50, respectively).

I followed with a spinach-egg-drop soup, one of the great dishes Italians immigrants brought to Argentina ($6).

The waiter began coming over to the table with a long, sharp knife and skewers of chicken, sausage, beef, pork and turkey bacon that had been rotated over a wood fire in the open kitchen.

The aroma could take you back to the caveman era.

My son started eating, but didn't seem that enthusiastic. He certainly didn't seem intent on setting a new record for meat consumption at one meal.

Two side dishes come with the all-you-can-eat rodizio. My son finished the tasty rice and beans, and took home the crisp, skin-on french fries.

I asked him what was wrong, and he said the meat he tried was "too chewy." Then, he described the other portions as "too dry" or "too salty."

My wife ordered the same pasta dish she had the last time, Linguine A La Vodka with shrimp ($14.50), and my mother-in-law had Grilled Salmon served with sauteed spinach ($17.75).

They also ordered Chicken Noodle Soup ($5.50).

Linguine A La Vodka with jumbo shrimp, above, and Grilled Salmon, below.

The salmon had some sort of breading on top that wasn't described on the menu, and the fresh spinach appeared to have been sauteed in lots of butter, also not mentioned on the menu.

My mother-in-law complained the dish had "too much grease," referring to the butter and breading.

She would have preferred the fish without breading, and the spinach sauteed in olive oil.  

I plan to return to the restaurant with the $15 rodizio special ad, and ask for a credit or refund.

Choripan Rodizio, 72 Main St., Hackensack; 201-880-4832. BYO, metered street parking before 6 p.m., except Sundays. Closed Mondays.