Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In northern New Jersey, seafood lovers should start with reading labels

Inspired by a fish medley I bought at The Fish Dock in Closter, I prepared fresh, wild-caught flounder from Canada with spinach, pitted olives, tomatoes, Mexican-style salsa and Aleppo red pepper.

I also used extra-virgin olive oil, Meyer Lemon and a little sea salt on the fish before putting the pan into a preheated 350-degree over for about 12-14 minutes. The flounder fillets were $7.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro.


One day, we were eating local Black Drum Fish, freshly shucked oysters and crawfish prepared in a spicy boil. 

But on our return from New Orleans, we found ourselves surrounded by imported seafood, including farmed fish from China and Vietnam, two countries with poor food-safety records.

New Jersey boasts several fishing ports, and you can find seafood from the shore at the Whole Foods Market in Paramus, including whole fish and clams.

But if you shop at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro, you'll see wild fish only from Canada and Iceland or just labeled "USA."

The Fish Dock, a small market owned and operated by Icelanders, specializes in wild and antibiotic-free farmed fish from Iceland, but also carries domestic shrimp and other items.

Restaurants and take-out present a special problem, because few places tell customers whether the fish, shrimp or other seafood they sell is wild-caught and, if farmed, whether antibiotics or preservatives were used.

The Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack is aimed at restaurants, caterers and other small businesses, but carries no fresh fish. Frozen farmed catfish fillets from Vietnam -- called Basa or Swai -- will likely end up on restaurant or catering menus. A restaurant can buy a pound of this fish for just $2.40.

Aqua Star is a Chinese processing company, and although these frozen salmon fillets are wild-caught, they are from keta salmon, not the more desirable sockeye, coho or king. A pound of 6-ounce fillets costs about $5.40 at the Costco Business Center.

Aqua Star also offers frozen Coconut Breaded Butterfly Shrimp to restaurants and caterers for about $5.50 a pound (16-20 per pound). The box doesn't say whether they are farmed or wild, but I'm guessing the former.
In New Orleans, a Rouses Supermarket offered fresh wild-caught Gulf Shrimp for only $5.99 a pound. You also could find ready to eat spicy boiled crawfish, wild caught in Louisiana, for $2.49 a pound, below.

Back in New Jersey, nothing says welcome home better than a hearty dish of organic whole wheat fusilli in marinara sauce with wild-caught Moroccan sardines and anchovies from cans, the first dish I prepared on our return home.

I fried two organic eggs in olive oil for breakfast the next day and ate them over leftover fusilli. 
My wife seasoned sections of whole fresh King Whiting and pan fried them. I ate mine with sauteed cabbage and sweet peppers, and Meyer Lemon. Fresh, wild-caught whiting usually goes for $3.99 a pound at H Mart in Englewood and Little Ferry. A single center bone makes them easy to eat, even out of hand like a chicken leg.

I had leftovers of my homemade fish medley with sauteed spinach and organic quinoa, prepared in a rice cooker with organic beans and organic diced tomatoes.

Before we attended a performance of the Doo Wop Project at William Paterson University on Saturday night, we enjoyed a dinner of seafood, pasta and salad at Amore, 611 Ratzer Road in Wayne (973-595-7717). We split a special of Black Linguine with Lobster, Shrimp, Clams and Mussels in a light tomato sauce ($36.95), above and below.

Missteps by the kitchen included some overcooked shrimp, above, and a Trecolore Salad that was much too tart and didn't have enough extra-virgin olive oil in the dressing ($9.95), below. I don't know whether the seafood was local or imported, wild or farmed. 

We also had a Caesar Salad ($8.95) and a glass of Chianti ($8).

At Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood this afternoon, I picked up three takeout seafood dinners, including Shrimp Scampi, Linguine with Red Clam Sauce, Roasted Potato and Artichoke-Fennel Salad, above and below, marked down to $5.99 after 4 p.m. I don't know whether the shrimp are wild or farmed.
Jerry's is at 410 S. Dean St., Englewood.

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