Sunday, January 31, 2016

We're loving Costco Wholesale more, but visiting the warehouse less

Triple-washed Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix is ready to go from the package to your plate, and Costco Wholesale's price is the best in northern New Jersey.


The price of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, the world's best store-bought salad, hit a low of $4.29 a pound last week at Costco Wholesale.

And the Teterboro warehouse has added more organic products under the Kirkland Signature house label, including marinara sauce and pignoli nuts.

Still, we're cutting our visits to once every two weeks from once weekly, because the Teterboro Costco, like the smaller Hackensack warehouse it replaced, is just too popular.

The Teterboro Costco opened in mid-October in a Route 46 shopping center that is a work in progress, and parking is always tight.

And the store itself is far larger than the Hackensack warehouse, so we're still familiarizing ourselves with where everything is.

But even with all that extra room, the warehouse always seems to be crowded, and that may be because Costco signed up more than 1,000 new members in the days after the Teterboro warehouse opened. 

The one salvation is that check-out seems faster and more efficient than it was in Hackensack, and the receipt checkers at the door don't hold you up when the warehouse is busy.

Costco Wholesale sells smoked wild Alaskan sockeye salmon two ways, including this fully cooked fillet made with brown sugar that doesn't require refrigeration before it is opened. 

The slow-smoked salmon fillet from Trident Seafoods lists only 1 gram of sugar for a 2-ounce serving. The 1.5-pound fillet I bought in December was $15.97, and carried a use-by date of 2021.

Smoked salmon 2X

One must be kept refrigerated, and tastes like salted slices of raw fish -- good in omelets, salads and eaten out of hand.

The other, with a shelf-life of more than 5 years, is both sweet and salty, and tastes great on its own or in salads.

The Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon from Kirkland Signature and Trident Seafoods both use the same heart-healthy fish, but the resulting product couldn't be more different.

The thicker, skin-on sockeye salmon fillet from Trident Seafoods tastes closer to canned fish. Add it to a salad for a light dinner with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil.
Pitted olives, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, Campari Tomatoes and cucumbers over Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, all dressed in extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

An organic spring-mix salad with organic pignoli or pine nuts.

Pine nuts are one of the ingredients in Costco's wonderful prepared Basil Pesto, so they make a terrific garnish for Organic Whole Wheat Shells with Pesto and Black Truffles. The small $10 bottle of truffles from the Teterboro warehouse didn't have much flavor, but that may because I didn't have enough for the pound of pasta I prepared. On a travel show I saw recently, a waiter in a restaurant in Italy shaved a couple of ounces of large black truffles over a single dish of pasta.

Snowy fillets of fresh wild-caught flounder after they were poached in pre-heated Roasted Poblano Salsa made creamy with no-fat Greek yogurt. The fish was $7.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale, and the salsa came from Whole Foods Market, where the 365 Everyday Value brand contains no added sugar.

Price checks

My wife made our last visit to the Teterboro Costco on Wednesday, about two weeks after her previous trip. 

She brought home: 2 pounds of Campari Tomatoes, the only way to get through a winter without Jersey tomatoes ($4.99); 10 pounds of California carrots ($6.49); 5.5 pounds of Gala Apples from Washington State ($9.99), and that 1-pound tub of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix ($4.29).

The price of the organic salad mix fluctuates throughout the year, but the highest I've seen at Costco is $4.99, compared to $6.99 at ShopRite supermarkets.

Three large, long hothouse cucumbers were $3.49. They carried a label with a weight of 2 pounds, but were fatter than usual and on my kitchen scale hit 3.3 pounds.

A 2-pound bag of Organic Green Beans -- washed, snipped and ready to use -- was $5.99.

Raw, sodium-free California Almonds were $17.99 for a 3-pound bag. We roast them and dust them with cinnamon for snacking. 

A 5-pound bag of large limes from Mexico was $5.79. Six Hass Avocados from Chile were $3.99.

Two 3-liter bottles of Pure Olive Oil, a cooking blend that includes extra-virgin olive oil, was $27.99 or about $4.67 a liter.

Olive oil doesn't contain genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), unlike many others for cooking, including soy, canola and corn oils.

Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli from Whole Foods Market dressed with no-added-sugar Botticelli Marinara Sauce from ShopRite, and sardines and anchovies from Costco Wholesale. I also added a few ounces of red wine, extra-virgin olive oil, red-pepper flakes, granulated garlic and other seasonings to the sauce before I heated it up.

Rebates on way

In the next few weeks, I'm anticipating the arrival of rebate checks from American Express and Costco that more than cover my annual executive membership fee of $110.

A regular membership is $55 a year.

The American Express rebate is 2% for purchases at Costco, and we also earn cash back at restaurants, gas stations and other stores.

On top of that, we get a 1% rebate from Costco on everything we buy in the Teterboro warehouse.

Friday, January 29, 2016

NYC Restaurant Week: At Aureole, farmed salmon fillet is no bargain

The highlight of my $25 three-course lunch at Aureole in Manhattan on Thursday was a starter of Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with Jicama, Bonito Cream, Cucumber and Purple Basil.


I've never met a farmed salmon fillet that packed the flavor and vibrant color of the wild-caught original.

So, you can imagine my disappointment at the pale-looking, artificially colored salmon I was served on Thursday, one of the three courses on the $25 Restaurant Week menu at Aureole in midtown Manhattan.

You'd expect more at a restaurant with the reputation of Aureole, which was fully booked for the bargain lunch on Thursday.

I was able to walk in and sit at a bar stool with a hard-leather seat, but there wasn't enough legroom to get as close as I wanted to the place setting and my food.

Unlucky 13

I counted the bar stools -- there were 13 -- and that didn't augur well. 

At least I enjoyed the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare starter, especially the pleasantly tart Bonito Cream and the contrast of the tender cubes of raw fish with crunchy jicama and cucumber.

With my main course, I liked the Herbed Couscous with Pomegranate seeds, but didn't touch a Citrus Hollandaise designed to give the bland salmon fillet some punch.

And the dessert, Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Mango Lime Sorbet, was tasty, but I needed a knife to cut the fruit.

Aureole serves a small wooden bowl holding three kinds of bread, and on request, extra-virgin olive oil for dipping. 

All in all, a filling meal, and you can't beat the price.

Poached Salmon with Pomegranate Herbed Couscous (hold the Citrus Hollandaise, below). I wanted the farmed salmon medium rare, so the bartender said he'd ask the kitchen to grill the fillet. But it was served poached and medium.

Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Coconut Macaroon and Mango Lime Sorbet.

Before lunch service started, the bartender cut lemons, above, and two servers methodically folded napkins, below.

Aureole is at 135 W. 42nd St., between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, Manhattan; 1-212-319-1660. Web site: 'Progressive American Cuisine'


The Winter Restaurant Week promotion at more than 350 places in Manhattan runs through Feb. 5, with three-course lunches for $25 and three-course dinners for $38, plus tax and tip.

Lunches are a better value. If you pay for your meal with a registered American Express card, you will get a $5 statement credit (up to four times), and that covers a 20% tip at lunch.

Web site: $25 lunch in Manhattan

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Consumer Reports: How dangerous bacteria travel from farm to table

This easy to understand graphic appears in the January 2016 issue of Consumer Reports, a magazine that has taken the lead on trying "to stop the antibiotic overuse in meat and poultry production that gives rise to dangerous bacteria."


You could say the story of how dangerous bacteria gets from the factory farm to your table is full of shit -- or manure, if you prefer a more polite word.

The story begins on farms where healthy animals "are routinely given antibiotics in their food and/or water," and "bacteria that's present in the animals' intestine react with the antibiotics," Consumer Reports says.

"Some of the bacteria are killed, but a few survive. Those resistant bacteria flourish."

In the final part of a three-part series, the magazine traces bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics as animals excrete it in manure, and how the bacteria can be spread to the community.

Many carriers

In the January 2016 issue, the magazine's editors note resistant bacteria or superbugs spread:

"Via soil, when animal waste is used to fertilize crops; via water, when waste seeps into groundwater; and via air, when bacteria are carried by the wind."

Also, "via farmworkers, who pick up the bacteria on their skin and transfer it when they come into contact with other people; and via flies, which carry bacteria they have picked up on the farm."

During slaughter

Even scarier, "resistant bacteria can also contaminate raw meat during slaughter or processing" in a number of ways.

"Plant workers can pick up bacteria on their skin and transfer it to the meat or to other people," and "raw meat sold in supermarkets may contain bacteria that may infect people who handle or eat it."

The bottom line is that people become ill with antibiotic-resistant infections, and some die.

See: The Rise of Superbugs

Factory farms

Nowhere are antibiotics "more inappropriately employed than in the meat and poultry industries," according to Consumer Reports.

"Abut 80 percent  of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are give to animals raised for food -- including hogs, cattle, chickens and turkeys.

"The most recent data from the Food and Drug Administration show that more 32 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for use food animals in the U.S. in 2013 -- up 17 percent from just four years earlier."

About 20 percent of people sickened by an antibiotic-resistant bug don't pick it up in the hospital or from another person -- they get it from food."

Best practices

The article contains two lists showing which chain restaurants, and meat and poultry producers use human and animal antibiotics, and which don't.

I was surprised to learn that Coleman Natural and Niman Ranch, two brands known for organic or naturally raised meat and poultry, are owned by Perdue, which uses antibiotics widely.

The only chains that ban antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention, as well as other drugs, are Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread (beef, chicken, pork and roasted turkey).

What you can do

I've stopped eating meat and poultry altogether, but other family members look for organic or antibiotic-free beef, chicken and turkey.

When I buy seafood, I look for wild-caught fish and shrimp or farmed fillets that are raised without antibiotics. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Good food -- and a little red wine -- saw us through North Jersey storm

On Saturday night, I opened my front door to experience the calm after the first major snowstorm to hit northern New Jersey this winter. On Friday night and as the snow fell on Saturday, I enjoyed a series of small, comforting meals.


I got our snow blower to roar to life on Saturday, but the white stuff kept on falling and blowing into my face, and I gave up after clearing the sidewalk and half of the driveway.

At least we didn't lose power.

On Saturday morning, I prepared a 10-inch frittata from seven or eight whole organic eggs, Campari Tomato halves, prepared pesto and Mexican-style salsa.

All of the ingredients came from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro, as did a fully cooked Trident Seafoods slow-smoked Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Fillet we had in the cupboard.

We also had leftovers -- organic whole-wheat pasta shells with pesto, black truffles and pignoli nuts, and boiled Kabocha squash and garlic mashed with extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings.

I was in Englewood on Wednesday and Friday, when I bought a restaurant-quality takeout dinner from Jerry's Gourmet & More, and fresh spring mix and baby spinach from the cafe at the hospital where I volunteer.

Damn the storm. We ate well, and enjoyed a few glasses of red wine.

And the sun is shining brightly this morning.

A wedge of frittata, and organic whole-wheat shells with pesto, black truffles and pine nuts. Costco Wholesale's pignoli or pine nuts are imported from China, but now are organic.

Slow-smoked wild sockeye salmon with mashed Kabocha squash and a wedge of frittata.

Slow-smoked sockeye salmon in a salad of fresh spring mix dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

From Jerry's, 410 S. Dean St. in Englewood, tender Calamari Fra Diavolo with string beans, and roasted potatoes with peppers and onions. I washed down the meal with a couple of glasses of red wine from Italy.

Jerry's Meal To Go included Eggplant Caponata, above, and was marked down to $5.99 after 4 p.m. on Wednesday, when I picked it up.

Friday, January 22, 2016

At Esca in N.Y.C., go for the bargain lunch, pass on pricey flight of wine

An entree of Cape Cod Sea Scallops, Venetian Red Rice and Caramelized Endive was on the Restaurant Week lunch menu this week at Esca, a high-end Italian seafood restaurant in Manhattan.


On the bus ride into Manhattan for lunch at Esca, one of the city's top Italian seafood restaurants, I had my heart set on house-rolled dumplings in an unusual tuna bolognese sauce.

Esca is always my first choice during the semi-annual Restaurant Week promotion -- a three-course lunch for only $25, plus tax and tip, less than the price of an entree ordered a la carte.

It's only a couple of blocks from the bus station, but more importantly, I gave up eating meat and poultry years ago, and now enjoy seafood exclusively.

Esca, which serves an incredible variety of raw and cooked fish and other seafood, is co-owned by restaurateur Dave Pasternack, who is both a chef and an avid fisherman.

A walk-in

I got there a few minutes after noon on Thursday, and even though I was alone and hadn't reserved, I was shown to a corner table in one of the small dining rooms.

I had to ask for the special Restaurant Week menu, which will change daily, "inspired by the catch of the day," according to Esca's Web site.

And just when I thought my waiter was telling me too much about the preparation and ingredients of the Cavatelli with House-Made Tuna Bolognese, he mentioned one of the ingredients was pancetta -- a pork-belly bacon.

I passed, thinking it made no sense to put fatty, artery clogging pork in a heart-healthy dish of tuna, mackerel and other fish. 

To add robustness to the dish, anchovies would have made far more sense than pancetta.

Still, my bargain lunch was terrific: 

Complimentary olives, a warm crostini, and wonderfully crusty Italian bread, with fruity extra-virgin olive oil for dipping; spicy fish soup, a half-dozen sea scallops with extraordinary caramelized endive, and dessert to go. 

My starter was Zuppa Di Pesce Amalfitana, a fish soup in the style of Amalfi, with a spicy tomato-and-chili bruschetta.

Whining about wine

Since the 1990s, Restaurant Week lunches have always been about getting a terrific meal at some of the best restaurants in Manhattan for relatively little money, and not ordering extra-cost bottled water, soft drinks, iced tea, coffee or anything else that would upset the balance.

On Thursday, however, I decided to indulge myself by ordering a 2-ounce serving of Italian wine to go with each of my courses, a supplement of $17.

I loved the white from Friuli with my fish soup, the red from Tuscany with my scallops and the sweet dessert wine from Piedmont, but $17 for 6 ounces of wine isn't much of a deal.

I also objected to the use of large glasses without lines, unlike the ones you'll find in Montreal restaurants, asking my waiter how he knew he was pouring 2 ounces of wine.

And when it came time to add a gratuity, I departed from my past practice of not tipping on wine, because restaurants mark it up so much, and reluctantly left 15% on the food and wine total of $42.

Normally, I'd leave $5 or 20% on the $25 food bill.

If you enroll an American Express credit card and use it to pay for your $25 lunch, as I did, you'll receive a $5 statement credit for up to four such meals.

Car or bus?

Restaurant Week is ideal if you work in Manhattan or are visiting the city for business or pleasure. 

For residents of northern New Jersey like me, taking the bus into the city is the only real alternative to spending more than the price of a three-course lunch on the Hudson River toll and parking, not to mention fighting insane traffic.

A glass of Brandini Moscato D'Asti 2014 Piemonte, a sweet dessert wine, was served with my third course, Salted Caramel Semifreddo with Peanut Butter Ganache. After taking the photo, I asked for a take-out container and bag. 

A white wine from Friuli was served with my first course, a spicy fish soup.

I arrived without a reservation not long after the restaurant opened, and was shown to a table for two.

Before my fish soup and sea scallops, I enjoyed a complimentary warm crostini with beans and preserved mackerel, and olives, plus crusty bread and a small plate of extra-virgin olive oil for dipping.

Esca is at 402 West 43rd St., near Ninth Avenue, in Manhattan (212-564-7272). Service was excellent: My water glass was kept full, I was offered bread twice and luckily got the heel of a crusty Italian loaf, and my table was crumbed between courses.

The restaurant's Web site: Esca


The Winter Restaurant Week promotion at more than 350 places in Manhattan runs through Feb. 5, with three-course lunches for $25, a better deal than three-course dinners for $38.

Esca is offering a three-course lunch menu for $25 Mondays through Fridays until Aug. 14

See nyc.go Web site for other participating restaurants: 

$25 three-course lunch

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Shop Whole Foods Market's frequent sales, rely on great return policy

Whole Foods Market's 365 Everyday Value Mexican-style salsas, shown at the Paramus store, can be used to poach fish fillets or in omelets.


Whole Foods Market's 365 Everyday Value products aren't always organic, but their price and quality give other supermarkets a run for their money.

I've come to rely on two 365 Everyday Value products, a line of non-organic salsas and organic whole-wheat pastas from Italy in several shapes.

Last Saturday, I drove over to the Paramus Whole Foods to get a refund for frozen turkey parts, and discovered the store was knocking 10% off all 365 Everyday Value items.

I picked up 1-pound boxes of Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli and Shells for $1.49 each, and a 25-ounce jar of 365 Everyday Value Organic Italian Herb Pasta Sauce with no sugar added for $2.99, both before the discount.

ShopRite and Trader Joe's also sell organic whole wheat pasta, but you won't find any shells, which "catch" the sauce in which you prepare them.

Whole Foods' 365 Everyday Value salsas are terrific for poaching eggs or fish fillets -- they serve as both cooking medium and sauce for a side dish of rice or pasta.

A 24-ounce jar of Roasted Salsa Verde was $3.99, and 16-ounce jars of Roasted Poblano and Roasted Chipotle Salsas were $2.99 and $2.69, respectively, all before the 10% discount.

At $1.99 each, these 25-ounce jars of 365 Everyday Value Pasta Sauce, with no sugar added, are competitive with sauces you'd find at ShopRite and other supermarkets. The Whole Foods' pasta sauces have added value, because they are free of genetically modified ingredients (GMOs).

Great return policy

My wife likes the Whole Foods' case holding frozen meat, including antibiotic-free chicken backs, necks and feet for soup.

But she doesn't like the larger frozen turkey parts, as I discovered when I brought home turkey backs and giblets with a gift card I got for Christmas.

It was no problem returning them without a receipt, and the refund was put on a gift card that enabled me to buy 365 Everyday Value salsas, organic pasta sauce and organic whole wheat pastas that were on sale.

I had to pay only another 86 cents.

With organic food and produce widely available at ShopRite, Costco Wholesale and other stores, I'm able to shop only occasionally at Whole Foods, especially when the store is having a sale, including discounted wine and seafood.

They are a good deal for me and other consumers.

Whole Foods Market, 300 Bergen Town Center, Paramus; 201-266-1244.

Open 7 days from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., but less busy on weekdays.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Eating in or out, Feast of the Seven Fishes is always the right choice

Fresh-water carp cooling their tails on the fish counter at the H Mart in Fort Lee, below.


I'm lucky to eat an Italian-style Feast of the Seven Fishes maybe once a year.

But since I gave up meat and poultry more than five years ago, I usually enjoy a variety of fresh, heart-healthy seafood every week -- fresh, dried or from cans.

If you're concerned about mercury, concentrate on such small fish as sardines and anchovies, which are easy to incorporate into pasta sauce, and avoid large predators, including Chilean sea bass and giant bluefin tuna.

A fish salad with canned light skipjack tuna, pink salmon, sardines and chickpeas -- dressed with fresh lime juice, Dijon mustard, cumin and other spices -- makes a great snack or sandwich.

Most of the ingredients can be found at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro.

Whiting and Alaskan pollack, two cousins of cod, are widely available fresh or prepared at Korean supermarkets.

Pollack also is used in fish sticks and other items at Costco Wholesale.

If you prefer fresh fish, the Teterboro Costco usually offers fillets of cod, haddock and flounder, all wild; as well as wild whole red snapper or farmed branzino from Greece.

Costco also carries antibiotic-free Atlantic salmon fillets.

You can find wild-caught Gulf Shrimp at Whole Foods Market in Paramus ($14.99 a pound when on sale), and sometimes at H Mart.

Unlike Fairway Market in Paramus, the fish-counter workers at Whole Foods will gladly devein large wild shrimp.

A refrigerated case displays sashimi, fish eggs and other raw items opposite the main fish counter at the Korean supermarket in the Linwood Plaza shopping center on Fletcher Avenue in Fort Lee.

A tray of sliced raw salmon and other fish was $21.99.
You can't beat two eggs over easy, broiled whiting and terrific home fries at the Golden Grill, 1379 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck (a bargain at $7 with toast), and don't forget to accent your breakfast with Cholula Hot Sauce from Mexico, below.

Whole fresh whiting from the Fort Lee H Mart ($4.99 a pound), seasoned and pan-fried at home, go well with organic quinoa, organic diced tomatoes and garlic cloves; and sauteed cabbage and sweet peppers.

A center spine makes whole whiting and bigger whole King Whiting easy to eat.
A large Futomaki Roll from Maguro Sushi House, 430 Rochelle Ave., Rochelle Park, includes crab, egg, kanpyo (dried shavings of calabash, a gourd), spinach, cucumber and caviar. Also available in the cafe at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, 350 Engle St. (about $8.60).

Slices of Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon, available year-round at Costco Wholesale, can turn a salad into dinner. The smoked salmon also is terrific in an omelet or as a snack when rolled with a slice of reduced-fat Swiss cheese and dipped in Dijon mustard.

Fillet of cod with roasted peppers was the centerpiece of a restaurant-quality takeout dinner from Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St., Englewood, below. I plated the fish with a wedge of vegetable frittata and broccoli, leaving chicken dumplings and farfalle a la vodka for another family member.

A complete Meal To Go is $7.99 or $5.99 after 4 p.m., if there are any left.

A fresh fava bean salad from another Meal To Go, and pitted olives from Jerry's in Englewood. A 20-ounce container of olives was only $3.99.
Salted codfish or pollack is a staple at our house, and is especially good added to pasta sauce. Here, salted cod, boiled three times and rinsed to cut the sodium content, is paired with fresh ackee, the national fruit of Jamaica, and plated with leftovers. The dish, Ackee and Saltfish, is prepared with sweet and hot peppers, and usually served with boiled green bananas. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

ShopRite, H Mart supermarkets ask customers to jump through hoops

At ShopRite's Can Can Sale, 8-ounce cans of Glade Spray are 99 cents each, compared to 19-ounce cans of Lysol Disinfectant Spray for $3.99, below.

The Can Can Sale price for Lysol matches the $15.99 Costco Wholesale charges for a 4-pack, but this week Costco is offering an instant coupon of $4, lowering the price to $11.99.


ShopRite has a great deal on 15.5-ounce cans of organic beans for 77 cents each, but you'll have to buy 10 to get that low price.

The organic beans, which are made with water and a little sea salt, normally are $1 each. 

Welcome to ShopRite's Can Can Sale, which I shopped at the Paramus store on Wednesday, picking up Organic Black, Pinto, Kidney, Garbanzo and Cannellini Beans.

For a one-dish meal, I add organic beans, organic diced tomatoes, and water or chicken broth to organic brown rice or organic quinoa, and prepare them in an electric cooker.

Progresso Soups are $1.08 in 18.5-ounce cans, a discount of 97 cents, but you can't lower the price by buying 10 cans.

At the Can Can Sale, Adirondack Seltzer is a better buy by the ounce in liter bottles, above, than in cans, below, but you'll need a calculator to figure that out.

Botticelli Pasta Sauces from Italy in 24-ounce jars are half-price at the Paramus ShopRite ($1.99), including a meatless Bolognese Sauce, left. The vodka sauce is one of the few without heavy cream.

I prepared a pound of Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli ($1.25 at ShopRite) in the Vegan Friendly Bolognese Sauce, which substitutes soy for meat. Next time, I'll add a little red wine while heating up the sauce and use a half-pound of pasta.

A addictive Korean seaweed roll known as kimbap was $6.79 at H Mart in Englewood, where the price of such prepared side dishes and snacks has risen dramatically in the past year.

H Mart rebates are not cash

The Korean supermarket chain known as H Mart offers customers a Smart Savings Card similar to ShopRite's Price Plus Club Card.

To qualify for sales and specials at both stores, customers must use their loyalty cards.

But, unlike the ShopRite card, the Smart Savings Card also is a rebate card, entitling the customers to 1% back on their purchases.

There's a big hoop to jump through, however.

You don't get the rebate until you spend $1,000, and when you receive the $10 certificate, you have to use all of it to buy more food at H Mart.

On Saturday, at the Fort Lee H Mart, I picked up two $10 rebate certificates, then purchased fresh whole whiting ($4.99 a pound), and a head of red leaf lettuce ($1.29) for a total of $18.26.

When I gave the cashier the two $10 certificates, she informed me she couldn't give me change. 

I had to use one $10 certificate and a credit card for the $8.26 balance.

At the Englewood H Mart on Tuesday, I bought fresh Chinese Broccoli and Chinese Eggplant, both on sale; and a Seaweed Roll for a total of $9.94, and paid with the second $10 certificate.

Again, the cashier said she couldn't give me the change. I ate the 6 cents difference.

I added a little sea salt and brushed Chinese Eggplant slices with sesame oil as they grilled on the stove top until the flesh turned creamy.

I washed and seasoned, then cooked Chinese Broccoli in chicken broth and sake in a covered pot. I brought the liquid to a boil first, then cooked the broccoli for less than 5 minutes, softening the thick stems.
H Mart eggplant and broccoli over organic quinoa prepared with organic diced tomatoes, whole garlic cloves and olive oil in an electric rice cooker. The organic quinoa, diced tomatoes and California garlic were from Costco Wholesale.

The Paramus ShopRite is at 224 Route 4 east, but also is accessible from Spring Valley Avenue.

The Fort Lee H Mart is in the Linwood Plaza shopping center on Fletcher Avenue, and the Englewood H Mart is at 25 Lafayette Ave.

Other H Marts are in Little Ferry and Ridgefield. All of the Korean markets have counters offering fresh fish and other seafood at low prices.