Saturday, May 31, 2014

Costco salmon slicers go wild, no easy Target deals

Torn pieces of Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon from Costco Wholesale with two organic eggs, also from Costco.


You should have heard me cursing out loud the other day when I tried to fry two eggs sunny side up and add a few slices of Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon from Costco Wholesale.

In the years I have been buying this wonderful product, the salmon came sliced beautifully, and I could easily separate the pieces with a fork or my fingers.

Once in a while, the smoked salmon was sliced, but placed wrong side down on the tray inside the sealed pouch.

But this time, the salmon appeared to have been packaged unsliced, and there was a tough, dark-colored section that made it even harder to use only part of the half-pound fillet in my egg dish.

What the smoked salmon looks like when it is sliced properly.

Big price hike

The smoked salmon comes in two, linked half-pound pouches for $18.89, a significant price hike, though still cheaper than 1 pound of any other smoked wild salmon I've seen elsewhere.

In March 2013, the price was $15.59.

On Friday, my wife picked up another package of smoked wild salmon at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

She also bought 10 pounds of Earthbound Farm Organic Carrots for $8.99, four half-gallons of Tropicana Premium Orange Juice for $11.59, three half-gallons of Kirkland Signature Organic 1% Milk for $9.69 and three pounds of bananas for $1.39.

The last of the smoked wild salmon I had to tear to separate in a breakfast omelet today. Below, a new package my wife picked up Friday at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

Hard-to-get Target deal

I returned to Target in Hackensack on Friday to take advantage of promotions on frozen pizzas and Mexican-style green salsa.

Frozen pizzas from Archer Farms, a store brand, were on sale for $4.49 each, and a second pizza was free.

I bought two, Fennel Sausage & Roasted Peppers and Mediterranean Arugula & Tomato, both with "wood-fired crusts."

At the register, the promotion was automatic, but a second promotion, for 16-ounce jars of Archer Farms Roasted Salsa Verde, caused a big problem, because the data in the store's computer and the shelf sign didn't match.

The sign said, Buy three and get one free, but the computer had another promotion, requiring the purchase of tortillas.

I had to find a supervisor, walk to the grocery section in the back of the store and show her the sign before I got the three jars of salsa for the price of two, $6.04.

The salsa is perfect for poaching fish or adding to egg dishes, as well as eating with chips.

I also used my Target credit card for an additional 5% discount on the pizzas and salsa (52 cents), and got 5 cents back for a reusable bag.

On an earlier visit, a half-gallon of Market Pantry Lactose Free Milk rang up for $3.39, but I pointed out the shelf sign said $3.14, and the price was immediately adjusted.

Still, a customer should not have to jump through hoops to get Target promotions.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Roasted wild salmon with ripe mango and peaches

Fresh, wild-caught sockeye salmon from the Copper River in Alaska -- $14.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack -- roasted with ripe fruit and fresh garden herbs. An off note was a side dish of excessively oily Quinoa with Basil Pesto, left.


When I finally found fresh wild Alaskan sockeye salmon at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack this week, we had one ripe mango and several ripe peaches left.

Roasting this wonderful salmon with ripe fruit, fresh herbs and lime juice is easy and yields a sweet-and-savory dinner.

I started by slicing the fruit, placing it on parchment paper in a large roasting pan, adding fresh lime juice and dusting the mango and peach sections with Ground Saigon Cinnamon from Costco.

The fruit roasted for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees while I prepared the 1.74-pound salmon fillet.

I cut the deep red-orange fish into five pieces, seasoning them with salt, lime juice, Aleppo pepper and chopped fresh mint and oregano from my garden.

I took the pan out of the oven, added the salmon and roasted the fish for 10 to 12 minutes.

The Costco label recommends cooking wild salmon to an internal temperature of 145 degrees, and I may try that next time after pulling out one of the five pieces early and finding it too rare in the center.

Unfortunately, I ruined my first wild sockeye salmon dinner of the season by eating several spoonfuls of Del Destino-brand Quinoa with Basil Pesto from Peru as a side dish.

I liked the way the quinoa-pesto blend tasted, but was turned off by an excessive amount of oil.

I continued to taste the quinoa and pesto long after I finished my meal.

A cheap import at Costco Wholesale doesn't go down easy

At Costco Wholesale in Hackensack on Tuesday, large jars of Del Destino-brand Quinoa with Basil Pesto from Peru were so cheap (see price below) I couldn't pass up buying one.

Ingredients include quinoa, basil (listed third), Grana Padano Cheese, virgin olive oil and garlic. This product is not to be confused with refrigerated Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto for dressing pasta.


I blinked a couple of times, but the price for a 34.5-ounce jar of Quinoa with Basil Pesto at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack didn't appear to be a typo.

The product combines two of my favorite foods --quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) and pesto -- but probably is best eaten as a salad right out of the jar or warmed up for a side dish.

A recipe on the label for Pesto and Shrimp Quinoa Bowl calls for Quinoa with Basil Pesto to be added to the pan after the shrimp are cooked and heated for 5 minutes.

I opened the jar, tried several unheated spoonfuls with dinner and liked how it tasted, but noticed a lot of oil on my plate.

I discovered it didn't agree with me after I went to bed, and plan to return it to Costco for a refund.

At Costco, a full liter of Kirkland Signature Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is $10.99, compared to $1.99 for a half-liter of Ponti Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, below right, from Jerry's Gourmet & More on South Dean Street in Englewood. Both have similar ingredients, an acidity of 6% and no added caramel color. 
I was served Ponti Balsamic Vinegar in almost every restaurant I patronized during a 2010 trip to Milan, Venice and Lake Maggiore in Italy.

Costco's 100% Egg Whites and whole Organic Eggs, plus shredded cheese, went into the mixture for this frittata, which took advantage of a sale on scallions I came across at a Korean supermarket. I started the frittata on top of the stove until it set, covered the scallions with slices of reduced-fat Jarlsberg Swiss, also from Costco, and finished the frittata under the broiler.

Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto was used to garnish the frittata after it was removed from the oven, where it finished cooking and browned.

Costco prices

A 32-ounce package of Georgia blueberries was $6.49 on Tuesday at the Hackensack warehouse store, 50 cents less than a week before, but they are not the sweetest I've bought recently.

Costco first carried blueberries from Chile -- for as much as $9.99 for 18 ounces -- and ShopRite offered Florida berries.

Fresh wild sockeye salmon from the Copper River in Alaska was $14.99 a pound at Costco, but I found only two packages amid the artificially colored farmed salmon and steel-head trout, and they had been packed on Sunday.

Three 32-ounce jars of Classico Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce were $2 off ($4.79), and a new label says fresh basil, onion and garlic are used.

Two 40-ounce jars of Kirkland Signature Natural Peanut Butter -- made only from Valencia Peanuts and salt -- were $10.99, and when I got them home, I put them in the refrigerator to prevent separation.

A 1-pound tub of pre-washed Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix was $4.99.

Target in Hackensack has good prices for the store brand of lactose-free milk. A half-gallon of Lactose Free 1% Reduced Fat Milk was on sale on Tuesday for $3.14. The regular price is $3.39. I also saw a half-gallon of fat-free Horizon Organic Lactose Free Milk for only $3.99. 

Groceries at Target

There aren't many grocery bargains at Target, but the Hackensack store is having a promotion through May 31.

I picked up two frozen Newman's Own  Thin & Crusty Pizzas with Uncured Pepperoni for $5.99, usually the price for one.

I also saw a promotion for 16-ounce jars of Salsa Verde at $2.99 each. If you buy three, you get one free (three for less than $6).

An employee said I could "mix and match" the different types of salsa available, but when I got to the register, one of my choices was $3.02 and I couldn't get the deal with two jars of salsa verde at $2.99 each.

Target is one of the few stores left that gives you money back for a reusable bag (5 cents). And if I had brought and used my Target credit card, I would have gotten 5% off my grocery purchases. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lunching out in Englewood for $6 and up

Sweet potato soup, above, and quiche, below, are among the choices when you order the fixed-price, two-course lunch at Patisserie Florentine, 10 S. Dean Street, just steps from the main shopping street in Englewood (201-408-4890).

The quiche was made with broccoli, asparagus and mozzarella cheese, and served on a long platter with salad, below. With a soft drink, bottled spring water or Perrier, the lunch is $11.75. Instead of quiche, you can choose a half-sandwich with ratatouille.

Cafe au Lait is served with a complimentary cookie ($2.80).

The young waiter and waitress at Patisserie Florentine mean well, but service is casual and my table didn't have a napkin or silverware. When I asked whether the tasty sweet potato soup contained cumin, the young woman went into the kitchen and returned with a small portion of the fragrant ground spice, which I sprinkled over the soup.

A whole branzino is deboned, beautifully grilled and served with artichokes, olives and tomatoes at Solaia, a fine-dining Italian restaurant at 22 N. Van Brunt St. in Englewood (201-871-7155). The fish is $25 at lunch, but can be shared by two along with a Caesar Salad ($10), below.

A half-portion of Caesar Salad at Solaia.
Skip Blue Moon Mexican Cafe and cross the tracks to Taqueria Los Gueros for an order of Tacos de Pescado -- corn tortillas topped with grilled tilapia, fresh salsa and avocado. Four filling tacos are $8.

Tacos al Pastor include pork roasted on a vertical spit and topped with fresh pineapple (four for $6).

Mexican soda is made with sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup ($2).

Taqueria Los Gueros is at 46 W. Palisade Ave. in Englewood (201-408-5924).

Two other lunch spots in Englewood I haven't tried yet are The Kitchen at 21 E. Palisade Ave. (201-568-4570), where a $12 lunch is served Mondays to Fridays; and Baumgart's Cafe, where Chinese and American food is served at 45 E. Palisade Ave. (201-569-6267), below.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Garlic lovers are flocking to Wondee's in Hackensack

Ocean of Garlic is an apt description for this wonderful seafood entree at Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles in Hackensack, above and below.

Minced fresh garlic and black pepper clinging to shrimp, scallops, squid and mussels. I didn't eat the rice that came with the dish, but still took home leftovers.


In more than 15 years of loyalty to the wonderful Thai food at Wondee's in Hackensack, I got into a rut.

I always ordered Thome Yum Koong, a spicy soup with lemon, shrimp and mushrooms, and Som Thum, the refreshingly fresh green-papaya salad.

They were followed by Pla Ma Now, a steamed whole fish with chili pepper, garlic and lemon juice, served on a fish-shaped, heated metal dish.

Branching out

Now, I'm exploring the extensive menu and, on Saturday night, I hit the garlic lover's jackpot:

Ocean of Garlic, a delightful platter of fried seafood, with a salad of pickled cabbage and carrots on the side, and a small bowl of white rice ($18). 

The shrimp, scallops, squid and mussels were beautifully fried and grease-free; piled on top of romaine lettuce leaves and garnished with cilantro. 

Our server said Chef Wandee Suwangbutra uses minced fresh garlic for the dish.

I've noticed this dish before, but never ordered it, because other family members don't eat squid, scallops or mussels.

An appetizer of Satay BBQ ($6). Four skewers of chicken or pork are served with a peanut sauce and a cucumber salad in a sweet dressing.

I never tire of Som Thum, a salad of crunchy fresh green papaya dressed in lemon juice, chili, peanuts, green beans, tomato and ground dried shrimp ($8) -- a dish that is savory, sweet and spicy. The salad also can be eaten wrapped in romaine lettuce leaves lining the plate.

Thome Yum Seafood adds squid, mussels and scallops to the shrimp-only soup I once ordered on every visit. A small bowl is $4 and a large bowl is $12.

Meat eaters in the family are loyal to Geuw Nam, a wonton soup with lots of roast pork ($3.50 and $9).

Thai Fried Rice includes shrimp, pork, egg, onion and sweet pepper ($10.50).

Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, 296 Main St., Hackensack; 201-883-1700. BYO, metered street parking until 6 p.m., except Sundays, and rear parking lot off of Camden Street. Closed Mondays.

A corner of the L-shaped dining room. Go for the food, not the dated decor. Cloth napkins are put out after 5 p.m.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cooking with arugula, pasta shells and whole whiting

Organic whole-wheat pasta shells from Whole Foods Market in bottled marinara with added white wine, extra-virgin olive oil, anchovies, capers, organic diced tomatoes, baby spinach and arugula.


The peppery flavor of arugula -- one of my favorite greens -- was immediately evident when it started showing up in Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix a few weeks ago.

I have fond memories of a white pizza with arugula -- also called rocket -- and prosciutto I enjoyed more than once at Trattoria La Sorrentina in North Bergen, but that was before I stopped eating meat. 

So, when I saw a 5-ounce package of arugula at the International Food Warehouse in Lodi this week, I decided to add it a cooked pasta dish and my usual salad of spring mix, cucumber and tomato.

In making the pasta dish, I put about a half-pound of organic baby spinach in a large colander and poured the hot water and pasta over them, then added drained pasta, spinach and fresh arugula to another pot with the sauce I had prepared. 

The imported whole-wheat pasta shells took less time to cook al dente than what is listed on the package. 

I used a half-pound of shells and half of a 32-ounce bottle of Kirkland Signature Marinara.

The 5-ounce package of pre-washed arugula was $1.99. At Costco Wholesale, 1-pound plastic tubs of pre-washed organic spring mix and organic baby spinach were $4.99 and $4.29, respectively.

I added peppery arugula, Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese and fresh blueberries to an organic spring mix salad with cucumbers and tomato wedges, all dressed in extra-virgin olive oil and Ponti Balsamic Vinegar, which is free of caramel color.
Coastal Valley Farms Organic Spring Mix was available on Tuesday at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack for the same price as Earthbound Farm's organic salad, but I couldn't find a use-by date on the package of the new product. Both are $4.99 for 16 ounces.

Whole whiting

One of our favorite whole fish is fresh, wild-caught whiting, which is flaky, sweet and has a minimum of bones.

They're inexpensive, too, usually $3.99 a pound at H Mart, the Korean supermarket chain.

Whiting also is a relatively small fish that has potentially much less mercury than larger fish.

On Friday, my wife seasoned, floured and pan-fried whiting she had cut in half. 

I had a leftover piece of wild king salmon for dinner, but got to the whiting this morning.

An egg-free breakfast of pan-fried whiting, upper right; fried plantains, and spicy Korean stewed tofu and Alaskan pollock, both from H Mart in Englewood.

Pan-fried whole whiting are sweet and easy to eat.

Leftover wild king salmon with pesto, Aleppo pepper and fresh lime juice.

A new pesto?

The price, jar size and ingredients list are the same, but the refrigerated Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto I brought home from Costco Wholesale on May 6 seems different ($7.99).

The great taste is still there, but it has lost the bright-green color of the Italian-grown basil that is one of the main ingredients.

Basil Pesto still makes a great sandwich spread and pasta sauce, with no heating required, and can be added as a garnish to frittatas, baked sweet potatoes and soup.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

It's big, it's wild, it's fresh and it's finally here

Wild-caught king salmon from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack with Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto, Aleppo pepper and fresh lime juice.


I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of fresh wild salmon at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack since last Saturday, when I saw a newspaper photo of two Alaskan Airlines pilots carrying a 48-pound Copper River king salmon off of their plane in Seatac, Wash.

Usually, the first wild salmon that arrives at my Hackensack Costco is Copper River sockeye from Alaska.

But on Thursday, my wife called me from the warehouse store to say the refrigerated case held, not sockeye, but fresh wild king salmon labeled "Product of USA" for $16.99 a pound.

Veins of heart-healthy fat in one of three portions from a fresh wild king salmon fillet. The fish glistens with fresh lime juice.

King v. sockeye

King salmon are the biggest wild salmon, but their color is not as deep as sockeye, and after cooking, their flavor is not as robust.

The fillet my wife brought home weighed just under a pound, and was thinner at the pointed end.

I cut it into three portions, squeezed fresh lime juice over them and added small pinches of Aleppo pepper.

I roasted them at 475 degrees for eight minutes and, after removing them from the oven, added refrigerated Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto.

The thinner piece I ate was cooked through, but the thicker ones were medium rare. I had two portions with a big salad and a glass of dry white wine.

Wonderful, but I can't wait until the sockeye fillets show up at Costco.

After eating the king salmon, I had a salad of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix with Sunset-brand Campari Tomatoes, cucumbers, extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cooking with organic eggs, pesto and Mixed 7 Grains

Three organic eggs from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack fried sunny side up with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, also from Costco, and Aleppo pepper. I served them with leftover Chinese broccoli and Mixed 7 Grains, a yummy Korean blend of brown rices and beans that requires at least three hours of soaking.

Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco dressing fat, mouth-filling ribbons of Garofalo Whole Wheat Pappardelle from Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood. The refrigerated pesto requires no heating, but I return the drained pasta to the warm pot, add the pesto and mix them with a fork and spoon. The Italian pasta takes several minutes longer to cook al dente than what is listed on the package. I drank a red wine from Sicily with my meal and finished with a simply dressed salad of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix.

For a sweet, savory and spicy breakfast, I plated and reheated smoky mashed skin-on sweet potatoes; a frittata wedge with chopped garlic, cheese and Mexican green salsa, and store-bought Korean stewed tofu. The sweet potatoes were seasoned with Kirkland Signature Sweet Mesquite Seasoning, which has spices, sea salt, sugar and "natural mesquite smoke flavoring." 

A few ounces of bottled Mexican green salsa, available in supermarkets and at Trader Joe's, went into the egg mixture and was spooned over the top of the frittata after it was removed from the oven. 

For breakfast today, I plated and reheated more sweet potatoes, sauteed baby spinach, store-bought Korean stewed pollock, top left, and mackerel with ackee, a Jamaican fruit, all leftovers.

During cooking, I grabbed for the Kirkland Signature Crushed Red Pepper, right, but added Sweet Mesquite Seasoning instead, giving mashed sweet potatoes and Chinese broccoli a pleasant, smoky taste. The first ingredient listed on the label of the Sweet Mesquite Seasoning is sea salt; a little goes a long way.

Monday, May 19, 2014

From Dos Cubanos to no Cubanos in Paramus

Dos Cubanos, a moderately priced Cuban restaurant, opened in May 2012 in the space on Route 4 in Paramus once occupied by Fuddruckers, which served hamburgers, beer and wine.


I fell in love with Cuban food on seven trips to the biggest island in the Caribbean, but never ate at Dos Cubanos in Paramus.

When I want my fix of whole red snapper with white rice and black beans, I drive a short distance to Casual Habana Cafe, a BYO at 125 Main St. in Hackensack.

For a Cuban sandwich made with my own smoked wild salmon instead of ham and roast pork, I go to La Pola at 54th Street and Palisade Avenue in West New York, a cafe also known as "The King of the Cuban Sandwich."

Today, I noticed Dos Cubanos is closed and its name was removed from the sign in front of 282 Route 4 east in Paramus.

The owners called it the biggest Cuban restaurant in Bergen County.

A permit for a temporary sign offering restaurant space is taped to the glass next to the front door.

Before Fuddruckers, the hamburger restaurant, Le Peep, which served breakfast and lunch, occupied the half of the building that housed Dos Cubanos, which opened in 2012 after extensive renovations.

Popeyes continues to operate next to the shuttered Cuban restaurant.