Saturday, October 8, 2016

Enjoying homemade pesto, pan-fried fish, pasta with sardines and more

Homemade pesto -- basil from my garden, garlic, grated cheese, pine nuts, salt and extra-virgin olive oil -- is a savory accent on a wedge of sweet-potato frittata.


Fragrant basil leaves growing abundantly in my garden are just a distance memory, but I still have one decent portion of homemade pesto in the freezer.

Although pesto is most commonly used as a dressing for pasta, it's versatile enough to spread on a sandwich or to accent a fish fillet just off the grill.

I also use it in omelets and on frittatas. 

Until Costco Wholesale unveiled Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto in 2013, I always made my own pesto in large batches using a blender recipe that could be frozen before the addition of grated cheese.

You'll find the recipe here: 

How to enjoy pesto without pasta

Now that my plants stand withered from the summer heat, I'll return to enjoying Costco's refrigerated pesto, which uses basil leaves from Italy.

Season one carton or 16 ounces of liquid egg whites mixed with grated cheese before adding the mixture to a 10-inch preheated pan with olive oil. As the crust sets, you can add sweet potato slices, boiled separately until you can pierce them with a fork. Then, move the non-stick pan into the broiler until the crust browns (about 15 minutes at a low broiler setting).

Pesto, which requires no heating, can be added to a frittata after it is removed from the oven. I also added crushed Aleppo pepper.

I used homemade pesto and organic pignoli nuts to dress an 8.8-ounce package of Delverde-brand Tagliatelle Nests with Spinach from Italy. These mouth-filling noodles take only about 5 minutes to reach al-dente perfection. I use unsalted water because there is plenty of sodium in homemade or Costco pesto.

A 10-inch egg-white omelet can be stuffed with Costco's smoked wild salmon, pesto and Mexican-style salsa, all sold under the Kirkland Signature house label. I made this omelet with my own pesto.

I had my omelet for breakfast with a baked sweet potato and grilled Chinese eggplant.

I thought I had found a good buy on wild-caught Gulf Shrimp at H Mart, 260 Bergen Turnpike in Little Ferry, above and below, but when I turned over the bag, the ingredients included salt and sodium bisulfite, a preservative. I passed.

An unusual item at the Little Ferry H Mart is jackfruit, sold in large pieces for around $5 to $6. If you buy one, make sure you refrigerate it when you get home.
I rely on the Korean supermarket for fresh whole fish at low prices, such as this porgy my wife seasoned and pan fried in olive oil ($2.99 a pound). Three porgies came in under $10. I also picked up baby mustard greens, which were on sale for 78 cents a pound.

Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti from ShopRite in Paramus dressed in Victoria Marinara, Moroccan sardines and fresh cherry tomatoes. I added a little extra-virgin olive oil and a few ounces of red wine to the sauce, plus dried Italian herbs and red-pepper flakes.

A heart-healthy dinner for four with leftovers: A 1-pound box of whole-wheat pasta, a 40-ounce jar of marinara and three or four cans of sardines, mashed with a fork before you add them to the sauce. I left a few ounces of sauce in the bottle and used them to poach two organic eggs for breakfast the next day.

Leftover whole-wheat pasta is a great bread substitute at breakfast.

Dozens of free samples, including the full-fat cheeses I rarely buy, are available at Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St. in Englewood, above and below.

I had a hard time resisting marinated cherry size fresh mozzarella, left, and sampled three with a toothpick.

On Friday, I hit the jackpot with one of Jerry's restaurant-quality take-out dinners made with a soft-shell crab. The complete dinner included string beans, pasta, a stuffed mushroom and a cucumber salad, marked down to $5.99 after 4 p.m.

Other Meals To Go were built around a grouper fillet, chicken picata or sausage. 

At ShopRite, 224 Route 4 east at Forest Avenue in Paramus, the store-brand of Greek Non-fat Yogurt with Fruit was on sale this week (75 cents each), and seemed a better buy than other brands, including Oikos, Chobani and Fage. At home, I opened one of the ShopRite cups, below, but found it wasn't full. The cup holds 8 ounces, but contains only 5.3 ounces of thick yogurt and fruit, the net weight listed on the side.

Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice carries a badge from the Non-GMO Project, telling consumers the oranges weren't grown using genetically modified seed. 
At the Costco Wholesale Business Center, 80 South River St. in Hackensack, a 2-pound bag of triple-washed kale was $3.89 on Thursday. A week earlier, I saw the same bag of kale being sold at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro for $5.39 -- a dramatic example of how prices can vary at the two warehouses.

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