Friday, October 9, 2015

After end of fresh wild salmon season, a consolation prize at Costco

Fresh Whole Farmed Sea Bass from Costco Wholesale, prepared with organic diced tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and red wine, were ready in only 15 minutes.


In the last few weeks, Costco Wholesale in Hackensack has received a small amount of fresh wild salmon fillets and sold out immediately.

I've missed getting any, and now the four-month season for this wonderful wild-caught fish from Alaska and other northwestern states is over (early June to late September or early October).

So, on Thursday afternoon, I picked up my consolation prize:

Three Fresh Whole Farmed Sea Bass from Greece ($8.99 a pound), and prepared them for dinner with olive oil, garlic, red wine and a few other ingredients.

Once the sauce was prepared, the fish, also called branzino or bronzino, cooked in a covered pot in only 15 minutes.

Dynamite fishing

Costco's label tells you nothing about how this farmed fish is raised in Greece, an island nation where dynamite has been used indiscriminately to catch wild fish for decades.

Of course, that led to over-fishing and high prices for wild fish that were evident when I ate in restaurants on a visit to Greece in the 1990s.

In 2006, farmed whole branzino from Greece or Italy was so common in upscale Manhattan restaurants, The New York Times called it "the fish that ate New York." 

In recent years, whole farmed fish from Europe has appeared on many menus in North Jersey, too.

The irony of dynamite fishing is that Greeks who came to the United States opened expensive restaurants they call fish houses, and started charging as much as $50 a pound for whole fish and more for lobster and other seafood.

A 2012 European Union article about branzino farming doesn't say whether antibiotics or preservatives are used in raising the fish.

But the article says fishing accounts for only about 10% of the sea bass production worldwide. Click on the following link:

Sea bass are voracious predators   

I scored the flesh in three places, and cut the fish in half. I used a little sea salt from a grinder on the fish, but none in the sauce: Olive oil, minced garlic, red wine, organic diced tomatoes, chopped scallions and fresh lime juice, boiled and reduced before I put the fish on top and covered the pot.

When I put the leftovers away, I remembered chopped fresh mint, rosemary and parsley from our garden that I had in the refrigerator, and added it to the fish. I finished my meal with a big Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix salad dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

At the Hackensack Costco, a sign reminds members the warehouse is closing on Oct. 13, but not that the store will reopen as a Costco Business Center. One employee said the warehouse, without a food court or pharmacy, is expected to reopen to members next March.

Costco prices

Costco's food prices remain low when compared to ShopRite and other traditional supermarkets in North Jersey.

A 1-pound package of prewashed organic baby spinach was $3.99 this week; a pound of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix was $4.49 or $4.59.

Three half-gallons of 2% lactose free milk were $7.99, and three liter bottles of organic carrot juice were $6.99.

Organic bananas are $1.99 for 3 pounds, and the same amount of conventional bananas are a low $1.39, beating every other store I know.

Before the fresh wild salmon season ended, the price for sockeye fillets was $8.99 a pound -- only a dollar more than artificially colored farmed salmon.

This week, ShopRite's sales price of $1.99 with a store card does beat Costco's regular price for a 59-ounce container of Tropicana Orange Juice (four for $10.99).

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