Thursday, July 31, 2014

NYC Restaurant Week lunch is a far better deal than dinner

Skate Wing with Chickpea Puree, Roasted Vegetables and Arugula at Fulton, a Manhattan restaurant owned by Citarella.


Fulton -- named after the famous fish market of the same name -- is a restaurant from Citarella, known for upscale markets selling pristine seafood, meat and produce.

The Upper East Side restaurant also is one of hundreds offering three-course lunches for $25 and three-course dinners for $38 during the city's semi-annual Restaurant Week, which ends Aug. 15.

Lunch is a far better value, as I discovered at dinner on Wednesday at Fulton, where the two fixed-price menus are virtually identical.

I enjoyed my meal: An appetizer of the tenderest octopus I have ever had, a generous portion of skate wing with roasted vegetables and two kinds of sorbet to finish.

The restaurant is just around the corner from a Citarella market on Third Avenue.

An appetizer of Grilled Octopus with Potato, Chermoula and Cured Lemon. The waiter said the octopus is tenderized for three hours in boiling water, and it showed. 

Moroccan marinade, stacked skate 

The octopus was marinated in chermoula, a Moroccan seafood sauce made with cilantro, parsley, garlic and other ingredients. 

Two pieces of local skate wing were stacked with chickpea puree and roasted vegetables.

Skate is normally tender, which this one was, but some of it was annoyingly chewy and stringy.

I left a 15% tip, and took advantage of an American Express promotion during Restaurant Week by registering my card and using it to pay for the meal, giving me a statement credit of $5.

That brought the cost of dinner down to $33, plus tip and tax. As I was leaving, the hostess handed me two cookies.

Still, I plan to stick with lunch during the rest of Summer Restaurant Week.

Mango and raspberry sorbet with fresh mint leaves. Fulton's Restaurant Week dinner menu offers tiramisu, but I asked the waiter for something lighter and to tell the kitchen not to cook my food with butter. 

Bread service: Crusty rolls and extra-virgin olive oil.

You can't tell from the dining room, but Fulton was busy on Wednesday evening, with most customers sitting at outside tables, enjoying $1 oysters and $6 glasses of prosecco during Happy Hour, below.

Happy Hour menu.

Fulton Restaurant, 205 E. 75th St., New York, N.Y.; 1-212-288-6600

Web site: Citarella's seafood restaurant

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mayo-less tuna salad, Love Beets and pasta with anchovies

A homemade salad of solid light tuna gets most of its flavor from Dijon mustard and fresh lime juice. Sharing the plate are organic beets, Campari Tomatoes and Earthbound Farm salad greens. Just about everything is available from Costco Wholesale.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss a tuna salad with Middle Eastern and Asian Indian spices, cooked organic beets from Costco Wholesale and the robust taste anchovies give to pasta sauce.


Why settle for a humdrum tuna salad dressed with mayo when you can have one flavored with Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice and exotic spices?

Add crunch with chopped sweet pepper, onion, carrot, celery or scallions.

This week, I used green pepper, onion and a little carrot; three cans of Genova Solid Light Tuna in Olive Oil; Dijon mustard to taste; three limes and ground cumin, sumac and garam masala.

If the salad isn't moist enough, add extra-virgin olive oil.

Six 7-ounce cans of Genova yellowfin tuna were $11.89 at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

If you are concerned about mercury, you can make this salad with one can of tuna, one of pink salmon and one or two cans of sardines.

Do you love beets?

If you love beets, you'll love refrigerated Love Beets, fully cooked organic beets sold in a 1-kilogram package at Costco Wholesale for $7.99.

There are four ready to eat 8.8-ounce portions in plastic shrink wrap that you cut open with a scissor over a colander to drain the juices.

I slice the beets and dress them with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

No fuss, no muss.

Organic whole-wheat pasta from Italy in a reduction of red wine, chicken stock, tomato sauce, organic diced tomatoes, chopped garlic and triple-washed greens. The dish looked and tasted good, but there was something missing.

I also used fresh herbs, but didn't have a can of anchovies to give the pasta sauce a robust flavor.

Pasta with anchovies

I felt like pasta and even wanted to assemble my own sauce, but didn't have the can of anchovies that has always lent the dish a distinctive flavor without a hint of the assertive little fish.

Recklessly, I went ahead, and the result was a good plate of pasta, but not a great one.

And I made an entire pound so spent the week being disappointed, shaking my head at several meals and using grated cheese to add flavor.

For one thing, the anchovies are all the sodium I need, even when I drain the oil and rinse them to reduce the salt content of the finished dish.

They go into the boiling sauce and completely disappear, but leave behind their flavor.

For 1 pound of spaghetti, I often open a 32-ounce bottle of one of Costco Wholesale's pasta sauces and add anchovy fillets, red-pepper flakes, dried Italian seasoning and a couple of ounces of extra-virgin olive oil.

Once the drained pasta is added and mixed with the sauce, you can sit down to eat.

Six 2-ounce cans of Season Fillets of Anchovies in Pure Olive Oil were $6.99 at Costco Wholesale.

Love Beets are non-GMO and grown organically in the European Union. They are fully cooked and ready to eat. Nothing is added to the beets.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jersey peaches, mystery EVOO, H Mart specials and more

At the ShopRite in Paramus last week, I found two kinds of peaches in a box under a sign for Jersey grown fruit, above and below. The peach on top was labeled "Jersey Fruit," but the one underneath said, "Yellow Peach," "Sunny Slope" and "USA."


Will the real Jersey Fresh peach please stand up?

New Jersey peaches, labeled "Jersey Fruit," finally arrived at the ShopRite in Paramus last week, but they didn't look that good, and they were mixed with other peaches whose origin was unclear.

I passed.

New Jersey blueberries I bought at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack also carried the "Jersey Fruit" designation on the label, supplementing the traditional phrase, "Jersey Fresh." 

The label on a 3-liter Al Defah bottle doesn't say where the extra-virgin olive oil comes from, at least not in English. I plan to call importer Mediterranean Expo LLC to find out.

Is this a stylized flag of the country where the oil was produced?

Mystery EVOO

Fattal's in Paterson has always been a reliable source for extra-virgin olive oils from Lebanon, Syria and other countries at good prices.

On Friday, I found a 3-liter bottle of Al Defah Extra Virgin Olive Oil for only $13.99 -- or about $4.66 a liter -- compared to $20 or more for 3 liters of EVOO from other sources.

The cashier said the price had recently gone up from $12.99.

The label describes it as "aromatic and extra smooth, first cold pressed."

The store, at 975-77 Main St. in Paterson, is open 7 days, and parking is free in its own lot.

The retail price of a 15-pound bag of California-grown  Kokuho Yellow Label Rice is $16.99, according to the sign I saw on Saturday at the H Mart in Fort Lee.

Retail price of rice is moving target

Depending on which H Mart you shop in, the retail price of Kokuho Yellow Label Rice from California is $14.99 to $16.99.

Why does that matter when this rice is always on sale at most of the Bergen County stores in the Korean supermarket chain?

The sales price has gone up a couple of dollars, attributed to a drought in California, and now the savings claimed is greater or smaller, depending on whether you buy the rice in Englewood, Little Ferry or Fort Lee.

Dinner leftovers for breakfast: Grilled wild sockeye salmon and whole-wheat pappardelle, both with pesto from Costco Wholesale, and Chinese broccoli from H Mart in Little Ferry.

I cooked the wild salmon from Costco Wholesale on a stove-top grill pan for 10 minutes, and it came out medium ($9.99 a pound). It only needs 2 minutes of reheating in a microwave.

Cooking ahead is the way to go

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but if you are in a rush, it's great to have plenty of leftovers in the refrigerator that can be plated and reheated quickly.

I cook large quantities for just this reason: 

Six pieces of grilled wild sockeye salmon, a pound of organic whole-wheat spaghetti, and a pound of greens, quickly blanched in boiling water and seasoned.

Another filling breakfast: An egg-white frittata with salted fish, sweet peppers and chopped garlic; whole-wheat spaghetti in a sauce made with garlic, diced tomatoes, salad greens, tomato sauce, red wine and chicken stock; and Chinese broccoli.

A 10-inch frittata made with egg whites, whole eggs, Campari tomatoes, two kinds of reduced-fat cheese and pesto. Most of the ingredients come from Costco Wholesale.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

You won't find any white knights at Al Cavaliere Ristorante

Al Cavaliere Ristorante in Clifton promises "Italian Gastronomy," but you might get a big helping of agita instead.


I had my heart set on hearing the Heath Brothers Quintet at William Paterson University on Friday night.

And on the way to Wayne, dinner at a fine-dining Italian restaurant sounded like the perfect appetizer for a jazz concert.

In June, I had purchased an Amazon Local voucher for $15 that entitled me to spend $30 on food and drink at Al Cavaliere Ristorante on Piaget Avenue in Clifton ("The Knight" in English).

Sorry, Charlie

But when I arrived at the restaurant on Friday evening, I got an argument instead of the house salad and grilled fish I had planned to order. 

The waiter who greeted me saw the voucher in my hand, and when I said, "One for dinner," he quickly informed me that to use the discount, I would have to order "two entrees."

He said that was "restaurant policy," even though it isn't one of the conditions listed on the voucher.

When I asked to speak to the manager -- a potential white knight-- the waiter said he was on vacation, and a second server backed him up.

Only two of the tables in the dining room, which seats 65, were occupied.

I call Amazon Local

I sat down in the waiting area and called Amazon Local Customer Service, where Kim said that if she couldn't talk to the manager, she could offer me a refund, which I accepted.

I called back this morning, and Fez, another Customer Service representative, said merchants approach Amazon and voluntarily issue vouchers in an effort to increase their business.

Merchants are "vetted" to see if they are appropriate to advertise on Amazon Local.

He added Al Cavaliere Ristorante won't be "allowed to get away" with how I was treated.

On Friday evening, when I was turned away, I asked the waiters at Al Cavaliere if there was another restaurant nearby, and one of them suggested a White Castle.

The simple but filling meal I was served at Aleppo Restaurant in Paterson, above and below, after I was turned away by Al Cavaliere Ristorante in Clifton. The salad dressing included dried mint.

South Paterson

Instead, I took Main Avenue in Clifton to the South Paterson section of Paterson, where I stopped at Fattal's (975-77 Main St.) for 18 cans of Moroccan sardines at 99 cents each and a 3-liter bottle of extra-virgin olive oil for $13.99.

A couple of blocks away, I found owner Mohamed K. Jello in the dining room of Aleppo Restaurant at Main and Thomas streets, where he was fasting for the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

He served me hummus, salad, water and strong Turkish coffee while we caught up.

Summer Jazz Room

I got to the WPU jazz concert in plenty of time, and bought a ticket for $8 (with a senior discount).

Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath led his group with a guest trumpet player in his own compositions as well as on "'Round Midnight" and other classics.

It was a rousing concert, and the group got a standing ovation. 

So the evening wasn't a total loss despite the rude and inconsiderate behavior of the staff at Al Cavaliere Ristorante.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stovetop-grilled wild salmon with pesto, lime and fresh herbs

Fresh wild sockeye salmon from Costco Wholesale grills on the stove top skin side down in about 10 minutes. After I took the fish off the heat, I added Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto and chopped fresh herbs -- mint, oregano and basil. 


The price of fresh wild salmon continues to fall at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, making this wonderful fish even easier to enjoy.

I bought a 1.62-pound fillet of sockeye salmon for $9.99 a pound, enough for six serving pieces and plenty of leftovers.

On Wednesday night, I used a large All-Clad stove-top grill pan that covers two burners of my gas stove, spraying on canola oil and turning the heat to medium high to preheat it.

After a few minutes, I put three serving pieces on the grill over each burner -- skin side down. They sizzled.

The other side had been seasoned with Himalayan Pink Salt from Costco.

While the fish is cooking, I squeeze fresh lime juice over the serving pieces, which were lightly salted before they went on the grill. You won't find this vibrant color in artificially colored farmed salmon nor will it have the robust flavor of wild-caught fish. You can see the veins of heart-healthy fat.

I flip the serving pieces over to cook on the other side for a few minutes. They come out juicy, good enough to eat cold the next day over a salad.

Pesto, Aleppo pepper and herbs

After I took the fish off the heat, I season the skin side with optional Aleppo pepper, spooned on a little Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco and added chopped fresh herbs.

I ate two of the six pieces, and followed them with leafy Chinese broccoli I blanched in boiling water for a few minutes, and seasoned with a little salt, garlic powder and sesame oil.

This fresh, wild, delicious and more affordable sockeye salmon has become a weekly treat, and there are a few months left to the season.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

H Mart bargain hunting, Costco-inspired dishes, a new salad

Jun's Tofu is made with non-GMO soybeans and sold at H&Y Marketplace, a Korean supermarket at 1 Remsen Place in Ridgefield. I like the tofu with wild sesame and sea salt, eaten hot or cold. A 28-ounce package is $5.


H Mart is the biggest chain of Korean supermarkets in New Jersey, but the North Jersey stores don't seem to be run by the same owner.

Last week at the H Mart in Englewood, a 15-pound bag of California-grown Kokuho Yellow Label White Rice was on sale for $9.99, a savings of $5.

The catch: You need the store's Smart Card coupon and must buy more than $30, excluding coupon items.

The next day, I stopped at the H Mart in Little Ferry and found the same 15-pound bag of rice for $10.88, with no strings attached.

This H Mart put the regular price at $15.99 -- not the $14.99 quoted in Englewood -- and my receipt showed a savings of $5.11.

I also found a large seedless watermelon in the Little Ferry store for $4.99, compared to $7.99 in Englewood.

The Englewood store did have Chinese broccoli on sale for 98 cents a pound.

Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon from Costco Wholesale in an open-face omelet of 100% Egg Whites, also from Costco, served with mashed sweet potatoes from Trader Joe's. 

Good ingredients from Costco

Cold-smoked wild sockeye salmon from Alaska, refrigerated basil pesto, salted pollock, pignoli nuts, organic quinoa -- the list of quality ingredients from Costco Wholesale is long.

Supplement them with a few key items from other stores, such as whole-wheat pasta, and meal preparation is a snap.

Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco Wholesale is a wonderful dressing for whole-wheat pappardelle, mouth-filling pasta ribbons from Italy, with added pignoli nuts and fresh basil, two of the ingredients in pesto.

An egg-white frittata made with sweet peppers, garlic, shredded cheese and salted Alaskan pollock, a cousin of the cod. I served it with a mixture of organic brown rice and quinoa with salsa verde.

A salad of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix with organic beets, Campari tomato and pignoli nuts -- all from Costco -- dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

New salad from Earthbound Farm

I picked up a new organic salad from Earthbound Farm at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

The blend of tender baby kale, chard and spinach -- called "POWER" -- can be used in salads, smoothies and as a pizza topping.

A 1-pound bag is $5.99, compared to $4.49 for a 1-pound tub of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix.

The resealable plastic bag is similar to the one the spring mix was sold in at one time, and it is easier to store in the refrigerator than the bulky plastic tub.

I tried the assertive greens in a salad with spring mix, reduced-fat Jarlsberg Swiss Cheese, Jersey blueberries and Campari tomatoes, all from Costco (photo below).

Friday, July 18, 2014

In every store, check the nutrition label for added sugar

These sardines from Thailand seemed like a good buy at ShopRite in Parmaus, but when I looked at the nutrition label on the ones with tomato sauce, sugar was listed as one of the ingredients.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss nutrition labels that list added sugar, and shopping at Costco Wholesale, Trader Joe's and ShopRite.


Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods -- in juice, raw in salads and in cooking -- but a lot of products made with them also contain added sugar.

Bottled pasta sauce with sugar is commonplace, as I discovered at Trader Joe's the other day. But what is sugar doing in sardines?

I've been buying 99-cents canned Moroccan sardines with tomato sauce at Fatal's in Paterson, because they have less sodium than the same fish in oil, and often use them with pasta.

At the ShopRite in Paramus, I saw 3.75-ounce of sardines in tomato sauce from Thailand for only 59 cents during the Summer Can Can Sale.

But the nutrition label listed sugar as one of the ingredients.

I bought three jars of Archer Farms Roasted Salsa Verde from Target, and liked its thick, chunky style.

When I tasted it and then looked at the label, I saw sugar is one of the ingredients. 

No sugar is used in green salsas made in Mexico, and sold by Goya, La Costena and others.

Two bottled pasta sauces at Trader Joe's in Paramus, above and below, contain added sugar. I buy Kirkland Signature Marinara and Classico Tomato & Basil at Costco Wholesale. Both are made without sugar.

The front label on Trader Joe's Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil says it is "imported from Italy and packed in U.S.A." But a label on the back notes the bottle contains a blend of oils from four countries.

The side or back label, left, lists an oil blend from Italy, Spain, Argentina and Greece. ShopRite sells a liter bottle of 100% extra-virgin olive oil from Italy for $7.99 and for $6.99 during the Summer Can Can Sale.

Trader Joe's

At Trader Joe's in Paramus, I looked at bottled pasta sauces with sugar, but bought a 25-ounce jar of Trader Giotto's Organic Tomato Basil Marinara, which is unsweetened ($2.29).

A package of Trader Joe's uncured, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef hot dogs was $4.99.

Applegate naturally raised sliced ham and roast beef come in 7-ounce packages for $3.99 each.

A 2-pound bag of small sweet potatoes was $1.69 or about 85 cents a pound.

Summer Can Can Sale

I took advantage of Summer Can Can Sale discounts at the ShopRite in Paramus. 

The sale continues next week, though different items may be discounted.

A 1-pound package of Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Pasta from Italy is $1, compared to $1.39 for a similar product at Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's.

I bought spaghetti, linguine, fusilli and capellini.

Liter bottles of Adirondack Lemon-Lime Seltzer were 40 cents each, and come in a 12 pack, a better value than the same seltzer in 12-ounce cans or 20-ounce bottles.

Bing Cherries were $1.99 a pound, reduced from $2.99.

Two-hundred Melitta basket filters for 4-cup coffee makers were 77 cents, reduced from $1.99.

Costco Wholesale calls this a "food court," but with only one counter, it's really just a food stand with tables. At the Montreal Costco, you can buy coffee and espresso drinks, but not in Hackensack.

A Melted Turkey and Provolone Sandwich is $3.99.

Costco Wholesale's $9.95 pizza

The slices on baked-to-order Costco Wholesale pizzas are so wide they are cut in two.

I ran out on Thursday to get an 18-inch pepperoni pizza at my Hackensack warehouse store for my wife and son ($9.95).

Before I went on a diet, I loved this pizza for all of the filling dough. And you can get a non-meat version with vegetables.

You can ask for it well done, but I'm not sure that is actually bakes longer in the conveyor-belt oven.

I used to bring it home and put the slices in the oven to bake even more.

The waiter said the Watermelon Salad at the Suburban Diner in Paramus comes with soup, such as this tasty vegetarian lentil, below. But when I got home, I noticed I was charged $4.10 for a small bowl.

The popular diner is cutting down trees to add more parking spaces.

A refreshing summer salad

I met a friend for lunch on Wednesday at the Suburban Diner in Paramus, and enjoyed a terrific Watermelon Salad with peppery arugula, diced cucumbers, feta cheese, salsa verde and a vinaigrette dressing with more cheese ($11.95).

I asked for the dressing on the side, and the waiter left it in the kitchen, but he brought it later when I asked for "more dressing."

He also told me a small bowl of soup came with the salad, but my check included a charge of $4.10.

I called the diner today and was told the soup is included. The next time I am there, a man said, the error will be fixed.

A cup of Mighty Leaf Organic Earl Grey Tea was $2.25.

Suburban Diner, 172 Route 17 north, Paramus; 201-261-2605.

At Maison Keyser on Third Avenue and 74th Street in Manhattan, a latte will set you back $4.50 plus tax, including a small pastry made in the artisan bakery. I couldn't find a Starbucks Coffee in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Butter is still bad for your heart, health experts say

When I compared Smart Balance Spread with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, above, to Original Smart Balance in June, I overlooked another reason to buy the former: Less saturated fat. Reducing saturated fat can be good for your heart, if you replace it with unsaturated fat, according to Consumer Reports On Health.


Headlines such as "Butter is Back" in The New York Times and "gleeful" news articles urging people to eat more bacon were premature, according to Consumer Reports On Health, a monthly newsletter.

Those reports were based on a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine that "suggests ... saturated fat, long thought to be a major contributor to heart disease by raising LDL (bad) cholesterol, isn't a dietary demon after all," the July 2014 newsletter states.

"The study got a lot of us hoping we could chow down on buttery croissants and fried chicken without any risk to our hearts," Consumer Reports said.

Not me. I never use artery clogging butter or cream, especially not in my cooking, which relies exclusively on heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil. 

And when I eat out, I ask the kitchen to use olive oil, not butter, to prepare my food. 

I looked at several brands of butter at ShopRite in Paramus the other day. Saturated fat in one tablespoon was 35% to 37% -- more than four times the saturated fat in Smart Balance Spread with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Many missed the 'correction'

British researchers looked at 72 previous studies "on the role of fat in heart disease and concluded that the evidence didn't support the advice to cut back on saturated fat, which comes primarily from animal sources [meat, poultry and cheese], and to eat more saturated fat, which comes mainly from vegetables, nuts and fish," the editors said.

"Well, not so fast. That report got a lot of attention, but less noticed was the authors' correction a week later.

"Turns out that when it came to unsaturated fats -- the kind in olive oil and fish -- they had goofed. Their correction shows that consuming that kind of fat does help protect against heart disease." 

Grilled wild sockeye salmon with a reduction of extra-virgin olive oil, chopped fresh garlic, diced organic tomatoes, red wine, organic chicken stock and fresh herbs. The fish was $10.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale, and most of the other ingredients also came from the Hackensack warehouse store.

Extra-virgin oil also forms the basis of a pasta sauce for organic whole-wheat fusilli with sardines. After reheating leftovers, you can drizzle more olive oil on the pasta at the table.

Two organic brown eggs fried sunny side up in extra-virgin olive oil with smoked wild salmon and Aleppo pepper. I served them with garlic mashed sweet potatoes, also made with extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings.

Eat more unsaturated fat

Consumer Reports says the study by British researchers "had other shortcomings to muddy the message about dietary fat."

"For example," the newsletter states, "our experts say that it left out research showing that the benefits of cutting back on saturated fat depend on what you replace it with.

"If you stop eating butter and cheese but start eating a lot of sugar or processed foods, you're unlikely to do your heart or your health in general much good," says Maxine Siegel, R.D., who heads Consumer Reports research on food and nutrition.

Considerable research shows that if saturated fat is replaced with unsaturated fats, the risk of heart disease goes down, Consumer Reports says, adding:

"It still pays to watch your intake of saturated fat, Siegel says. "Aim for no more than 7% to 10% of total calories from the stuff (about 140 to 200 calories, if you consume 2,000 calories per day).

A tablespoon of ShopRite butter contains 100 calories, all from fat.

"But equally important is to replace saturated fat with heart-healthy alternatives, such as unsaturated fats, fruit, vegetables and whole grains -- not refined carbs such as those in white bread, sugar and many snacks."

Drugs and tests

Consumer Reports on Health also discussed other research on preventing heart disease:

"Aggressive new guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology mean that 13 million more Americans -- including almost all men ages 60 to 75 and more than half of women in that age range -- should now take a cholesterol-lowering drug, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor and generic) or rosuvastatin (Crestor).

"A number of leading medical groups have questioned the usefulness of several heart-disease screening tests, including EKGs and exercise stress tests, long part of an annual checkup for millions of Americans, as well as newer and often heavily advertised tests, such as CT scans of the heart."