Thursday, April 23, 2015

Wild catfish from Whole Foods, farmed branzino from Costco

Wild-caught catfish fillets poached in sweet-and-savory 365 Everyday Value Al Pastor Salsa, both from Whole Foods Market in Paramus. I served them with organic brown rice prepared with organic diced tomatoes and chopped garlic in an electric cooker.

Editor's note: Cooking fresh fish at home is a snap, whether it is wild-caught or farmed. And fresh spinach is a nice addition to homemade pasta or egg dishes. 


Whole Foods Market in Paramus has the biggest and best seafood counter in North Jersey so I shouldn't have been surprised to find wild-caught catfish there the other day.

And the boneless and skinless fillets were on sale for $7.99 a pound. Most other stores offer only farmed catfish.

On Monday afternoon, once I had my fillet, I walked over to the store's selection of 365 Every Day Value-brand medium-hot salsas and picked out a 16-ounce jar of Al Pastor, which blends mildly spicy peppers with sweet pineapple ($2.99).

At home, I poured about three-quarters of the salsa into a non-stick pan, squeezed some fresh lime juice into it and brought it to a boil.

Then, I placed five lightly salted serving pieces of the catfish into the salsa and covered the pan. They were ready in under 10 minutes.

This branzino is dynamite

Fishing with dynamite or blast fishing has been common in Greece for decades, and that is probably why a farmed Mediterranean sea bass started showing up on U.S. menus in the past decade.

In 2006, the restaurant reviewer for The Times complained farmed branzino, also called sea bass or loup de mer, was so common on Manhattan menus "it's the fish that ate New York."

A few years after that, the fish started appearing on North Jersey menus, especially in upscale Greek fish houses that sell fresh wild fish displayed on ice in their dining rooms for $30 to $40 a pound.

When Costco Wholesale in Hackensack started offering farmed whole branzino from Greece, the fish was sold with the scales still on it.

Now, farmed branzino comes scaled and ready to cook.

At Costco a week ago, I paid $8.99 a pound or $32.27 for three whole fish shrink wrapped on a tray.

At home, my wife cut each fish into two pieces and seasoned them.

I cooked them with olive oil, white wine, organic chicken stock and fresh lime juice in a covered non-stick pan.

I sauteed them in the oil, then added the other ingredients. The whole fish took about 15 minutes to cook through with the cover on.

Branzino is a great eating fish that flakes beautifully and doesn't have too many bones.

I prepared 1 pound of Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli in bottled Victoria Marinara Sauce with added anchovies, red wine, extra-virgin olive oil, dried Italian herbs and fresh spinach. The dried pasta is available at ShopRite for $1.25 a pound; the sauce in 40-ounce bottles and most of the other ingredients are from Costco.

A two-colander pasta dish

I used one colander when two would have been better in preparing organic whole-wheat pasta with spinach.

Pouring hot pasta water over fresh spinach in its own colander would have allowed me to press out excess moisture before adding pasta and spinach to the sauce.

Then, I could have drained the pasta and the remaining water in a second colander.

I put the fresh spinach in the colander I used to drain the hot water and fusilli or corkscrews, which I cooked for 8 minutes, 1 minute less than the cooking time listed on the package. Then, I transferred the pasta and spinach to the pan with the heated sauce, mixed them well and added shredded Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese from Costco. 
This morning, I used leftover Victoria Marinara Sauce from the pasta-and-spinach dish to poach two organic eggs from Costco and wilt more fresh spinach. I wanted soft yolks, but I covered the pan and they cooked through, below. 

For a filling breakfast, I ate the two eggs with leftover whole wheat fusilli and spinach. Wonderful.

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