Thursday, February 25, 2016

At Lodi food warehouse, organic salads are half the price of non-organic

At the International Food Warehouse, 370 Essex St. in Lodi, bargains are getting harder to find. And missing price signs are common. I did find a liter bottle of extra-virgin olive oil -- a blend from Italy, Spain and Turkey -- for $5.99 that I will use with balsamic vinegar to dress my daily salad.

On Wednesday afternoon, I found 5-ounce containers of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix and Organic Half & Half  (Baby Spinach and Spring Mix) for 99 cents each, above. The triple-washed salads carried a short expiration date. That's a better buy than 1 pound of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix for $4.29 at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro.

Next to the Earthbound Farm salads, 5-ounce containers of non-organic Attitude Salads were $2 each, twice the price of organic. Go figure.

-- VICTOR E. SASSON

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

To protect ShopRite brand, store bans antibiotic-free Perdue chicken

"No Antibiotics Administered" on the label sets Readington Farms Chicken apart at ShopRite supermarkets, including the Paramus store. But ShopRite doesn't sell Perdue's Harvestland brand, also raised without antibiotics.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Chicken giant Perdue made a clean breast of it when it unveiled Harvestland -- whole birds and parts raised without harmful antibiotics.

But at the Paramus ShopRite, shelves are filled with packages of  antibiotic-free Readington Farms Chicken, which the supermarket chain sells exclusively, not with Perdue's Harvestland.

This ShopRite continues to offer conventional Perdue Chicken with a deceptive "all natural" label -- the parts are raised on antibiotics that promote growth and cut down on disease in crowded chicken houses.


ShopRite continues to sell Perdue Chicken Drumsticks and other parts from birds raised on antibiotics.
"No antibiotics ever" is on the label of Perdue's Harvestland Chicken Drumsticks, which I saw at H Mart, the Korean supermarket in Englewood.

Readington Farms Chicken at the Paramus ShopRite, 224 Route 4 east. Coleman Organic is the only other brand of antibiotic-free chicken available at this ShopRite.

Locally grown basil in a pot was on sale Tuesday at the Paramus ShopRite.

ShopRite has the best buy on Organic Whole Wheat Pasta from Italy, including this Capellini dressed in a combination of Victoria Marinara and Vodka Sauce. The Luigi Vitelli brand also offers Spaghetti, Linguine, Fusilli and Penne, all for only $1.25 a pound.

Monday, February 22, 2016

First, Costco shoppers pay to join, then get fee back in cash rebates


The Costco Wholesale warehouse in the Teterboro Landing shopping center off of Route 46 in Teterboro is bigger than the old Hackensack warehouse. Improvements include a separate entrance for merchandise returns, below.





By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Costco Wholesale members gladly pay an annual fee of $55 or $110 to join the club, because they know they will get far more back in cash rebates.

This month, I received two reward coupons from American Express, which issues my True Earnings-Costco credit card.

They total more than $274, compared to my annual Executive Membership fee of $110.

The credit card itself has no annual fee.

The coupons include cash back on purchases at Costco, outside gas stations, restaurants and other stores.

I'll also be receiving a 2% cash rebate on my warehouse food, clothing and merchandise purchases from Costco -- a unique benefit of joining at the higher Executive Membership level.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

It's easy to find good heart-healthy food here, there and everywhere

The Ahi Tuna Salad at the Suburban Diner, 172 Route 17 north in Paramus, includes rare, sesame-encrusted fish; romaine lettuce, toasted almonds, mandarin orange sections and crisp wontons ($16.50). I asked for the Asian Sesame Dressing on the side, and found it too sweet.

From Maguro Sushi House in Rochelle Park, a Spicy Tuna and Crab Roll (about $8.50). A variety of Maguro rolls are available in the cafe at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, 350 Engle St., Englewood.

A Seaweed Salad from Maguro Sushi House also is sold in the hospital's cafe (about $3.50).

I often use the $8 dining card given volunteers at the Englewood hospital to buy fresh spinach from the cafe's salad bar. I prepare it in olive oil and sake, adding red-pepper flakes, a little sea salt and other spices.

Japchae, translucent noodles made from sweet-potato flour, are among several meatless, non-spicy Korean dishes from Jinga, a caterer in Queens, N.Y., that are sold at H Mart supermarkets, including the store at 25 Lafayette Ave. in Englewood.

Slices of Kimbap, a Korean sushi roll, are both soft and crunchy, and addictive. Trays include Korean pickles and sliced jalapeno pepper.

Stewed Tofu comes with a spicy red-pepper sauce, and sliced jalapeno peppers are the kicker.
A Tilapia Francese Dinner from Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St. in Englewood, includes pasta, vegetable, dumpling and stuffed zucchini, above and below.

Jerry's restaurant-quality Meals To Go are marked down to $5.99 after 4 p.m., if there are any left.

A 64-ounce jar of crunchy Arirang Mahk or Cabbage Kimchi is $12 at the source, a storefront in the H&Y Marketplace shopping center, 1 Remsen Place in Ridgefield. The kimchi is handmade without MSG.

At the H&Y Korean supermarket next door to Arirang Kimchi, 1-pound packages of strawberries from Florida were on sale for $1.99 each today, and 18-ounce containers of blueberries from Chile were only $2.99 each.
When I got home, I had a snack of Arirang kimchi and japchae, translucent noodles with vegetables ($4.99 for a 1-pound container made in the kitchen of H&Y Marketplace).
-- VICTOR E. SASSON

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hackensack warehouse to reopen soon as Costco Business Center

The Costco Wholesale warehouse on South River Street in Hackensack closed in mid-October, but now is preparing to reopen.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The parking lot at the old Costco warehouse in Hackensack is filling up again.

But this time, the cars belong to construction workers and other preparing to reopen the warehouse as a Costco Business Center on March 15.

The warehouse closed in mid-October after 21 years, and a bigger Costco Wholesale opened in a shopping center off of Route 46 in Teterboro.

The Business Center in Hackensack will be only the second on the East Coast to serve small businesses, and will offer both cash-and-carry and delivery. The first is in Georgia.

Hours will be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, until 4 p.m. on Saturdays and closed on Sundays, according to Costco.com

The warehouse also will have a food court, according to the Web site.

When the Hackensack Costco reopens, members won't find any apparel, jewelry, sporting goods, CDs, toys or seasonal merchandise, and no pharmacy, optical department, bakery or tire shop.

But Costco plans to serve restaurants and caterers, so there should be plenty of food to interest members who don't own a small business.

A Costco Business Center fact sheet lists "fresh and frozen meats, produce and other food products."

Costco Business Center, 80 S. River St., Hackensack; 201-296-3044. Opens March 15.


Two Kirkland Signature Organic Large Grade AA Eggs from Costco Wholesale, poached in Victoria-brand Vodka Sauce. Now, Costco sells two dozen of the free-range eggs at a time for $6.99. It isn't known whether food will be sold in the same size packages as now when the Hackensack warehouse reopens as a Business Center catering to restaurants and other small businesses.

Monday, February 15, 2016

When it's too cold to go out: Stay in, cook comforting food, eat, drink

EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK: A Middle Eastern spice, Mexican-style salsas, reduced-fat Swiss cheese and smoked wild Alaskan salmon are among the ingredients in this 10-inch frittata, which warmed me on a zero-degree day.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

We ran around on Saturday in the bitter cold, and when we drove home from a concert around 10 p.m., the temperature readout on my car's dashboard was 4 degrees.

Sunday morning was even colder -- zero degrees -- so we stayed in, cooked comforting food and drank a couple of glasses of red wine with our evening meal.

I've heard Italians don't use grated cheese on pasta dishes with seafood -- preferring bread crumbs instead -- but I've never understood why.

For dinner, I prepared a seafood pasta in a sauce made with Parmesan and Romano cheeses, and used grated cheese as an accent. 

Delicious.

And we had plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week, if we want to put a meal and a salad on the table in just a few minutes.


For the frittata, I used 3 cups of egg mixture -- liquid whites, whole organic eggs, grated cheese, 1% milk, chopped garlic, red-pepper flakes and other seasonings -- that I poured into a preheated 10-inch pan with olive oil. Once the bottom was set, I moved the frittata into the oven and finished it under a low broiler setting.

For dinner, I prepared Organic Whole Wheat Shells from Whole Foods Market with anchovies and sardines in Victoria-brand Vodka Sauce, which is made without heavy cream. I used 1 pound of pasta, about 35 ounces of sauce, three cans of skinless-and-boneless sardines, and one can of drained and rinsed anchovies. Optional is adding red wine, olive oil, black pepper and other seasonings to the sauce. For al dente pasta, boil for 9 minutes, not the 14-15 minutes listed on the box.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Night out in Wayne: Romantic Italian meal with wine, then all that jazz

On Saturday night, a special at Amore Cucina, also known as Amore of Wayne, were these Heart-Shaped Crab Cakes served over diced fresh pineapple in a cranberry sauce.

Another appetizer special, fresh Blue Point Oysters, were the perfect start to a romantic dinner with sparkling wine on the eve of Valentine's Day.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

When I put "Amore" in my car's navigation system, nearly a dozen restaurants using the Italian word for "love" appeared. 

Amore Cucina in Wayne was the one we were looking for, and the restaurant came through with a romantic, heart-healthy meal on the even of Valentine's Day.

We had tickets to see blues singer Catherine Russell on Saturday night at William Paterson University's Shea Center in Wayne, so the nearby Amore was a natural choice for dinner before the show.

And since we were driving more than 20 miles to Wayne in single-digit temperatures, I decided to stop first at the Costco Wholesale off of Route 23.

The Wayne warehouse is one of only two in the state with a liquor license, and I wanted to pick up inexpensive house-label Kirkland Signature Prosecco and California Cabernet Sauvignon, a total of five bottles.


Amore Cucina operates a bar and grill on the building's lower level, but the restaurant allows customers to bring their own wine with no corking fee. We drank a bottle of Kirkland Signature Asolo Prosecco Superiore, a sparkling wine from Italy, we bought earlier at the Costco Wholesale in Wayne for $6.99. Other brands of this prosecco average $12.

Good food, good bubbly

After we braved the shopping frenzy at Costco an hour before closing time, we got to Amore Cucina about two hours before we had to leave for the concert.

Service was casual, but that meant we had a leisurely and delicious seafood meal washed down with a bottle of prosecco, which we cooled in an ice bucket the servers provided.

Before we ordered, I toasted my wife on the eve of Valentine's Day.

I started with a Trecolore Salad ($9.95), which was mostly peppery arugula; and a special starter of four Blue Point Oysters ($8.95), served only with wedges of lemon. Perfect.

My wife chose another special, Heart-Shaped Crab Cakes over fresh pineapple in a cranberry sauce ($13.95).

The cakes had a grease-less crust filled with hot crab meat, and the savory forkful I tried contrasted nicely with the sweet fruit.

I was intrigued with a special of Black Linguine with seafood in a light tomato sauce, but to cut down on carbs went with the Flounder Milanese listed on the menu ($21.95), because it was served with more arugula salad, and you can never eat too much of the peppery green.

Like the crab cakes, I bit into a grease-less crust to reach the hot, moist, delicious fish.

My wife also chose from the menu, Fettuccine Mar Monte with shrimp in a light cream sauce ($21.95), but took home leftovers.

We finished with cups of tea and strong black coffee ($2.50 each).


An Italian classic, Flounder Milanese, was served with a wonderful arugula salad.

I started with a Trecolore Salad with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese in an oil-and-lemon dressing.

Fettuccine Mar Monte included shrimp, fresh tomatoes and asparagus in a light cream sauce.

Amore Cucina has two dining rooms that accommodate a total of about 130.

Short drive to show

Amore Cucina is on Ratzer Road, about 3 miles from the Shea Center for Performing Arts on the WPU campus.

We loved Catherine Russell, who turned back the calendar to the first half of the last century and performed blues song associated with Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ethel Waters and others.

She was backed by a terrific quartet, especially pianist Mark Shane.

I laughed at the lyrics of one of her songs, a warning to a persistent former lover:

"Now, my man is an undertaker and he's got a coffin just your size."
Wayne v. NYC

At nearly every show I've attended, the emcee always gets in a plug for WPU's Shea Center in Wayne, noting how much more expensive it is to go and see the same talent performing in Manhattan.

Of course, what he doesn't mention is the harrowing drive home over poorly lit, winding and descending two-lane township roads where locals think nothing of driving over 50 mph or stay glued to your rear bumper.

Details

Amore Cucina, 611 Ratzer Road, Wayne; 1-973-595-7717. Web site: Love is in the air

Shea Center for Performing Arts at William Paterson University, 300 Pompton Road, Wayne. For box office, call 1-973-720-2371.

Costco Wholesale, 149 Route 23, Wayne; 1-973-339-4006.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Shopping for comfort food in Paterson, I can't help but cry for Aleppo

In June 1978, I made a brief visit to Aleppo, the city in the north of Syria where my parents were born. I saw many things and places familiar from the conversations I overheard when my parents invited their many friends to our house in Brooklyn, and I took lots of black-and-white photos. Here, Syrian bread puffed up like a pillow as the loaves baked in an oven before being offered for sale.

In the summer of 1978, you could stop on the streets of Aleppo for a cup of hot tea or a yogurt drink.

Editor's note: In 2013, I described my emotions after I heard the news about a government assault on Aleppo, Syria, the city where my parents were born. Now, the situation has gotten even more hopeless.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Since the start of the Syrian civil war, my occasional trips to buy bread, spices and other food in Paterson's Middle Eastern bazaar have been anything but routine.

I'm a first-generation American born to Jewish parents who emigrated from Aleppo, Syria, in the 1920s.

This week, government forces, backed by the Russians, began an offensive to take back Aleppo from the rebels -- a development that once again turned my thoughts to the city of their birth and its rich food tradition.

Today, The New York Times, quoting a new report, said 470,000 Syrians have died in five years of war -- almost twice the 250,000 counted a year and a half ago.

If that doesn't bring tears to your eyes, I'm not sure what would.


In 1978, I visited a Jewish yeshiva in Aleppo, and met teachers and an excited group of students.
Jewish life

My father's father was a pastry maker in Aleppo, and my mother's father was a rabbi and shochet, who was certified as competent to kill cattle and poultry in the manner prescribed by Jewish law.

My parents met on the Manhattan's Lower East Side, married, sailed to Cuba for their honeymoon on the Morro Castle, and eventually settled in Brooklyn, where my mother self-published the first edition of her Syrian Jewish cookbook in the 1950s.

When I moved to northern New Jersey in the late 1970s, I began visiting Paterson to shop or eat in bakeries, markets and restaurants opened by Syrian Christian immigrants in the South Paterson neighborhood bordering Clifton.

They began arriving in the late 1800s and early 1900s to work in the city's silk mills.


In 1968, Michael Fattal, a baker from Aleppo, opened Fattal's in Paterson. Today, you can find hundreds of items, including store-baked spinach pies, pastry, cheese, yogurt drinks, imported extra-virgin olive oil, spices, tea and chewy pocket bread, or order a Syrian specialty and enjoy it in a small dining area at the back of the greatly expanded bakery, butcher and grocery store.

A mildly spicy Aleppo pepper is the perfect accent for fish and egg dishes or you can use a pinch or two when you make hummus.

Fattal's on Main Street

My first stop on Thursday was Fattal's, one of the few South Paterson businesses with is own parking lot.

I made the trip because I had nearly run out of crushed red Aleppo pepper, which I sprinkle liberally on fish and egg dishes.

I bought a little more than a half-pound of crushed pepper ($6.99 a pound), a quarter-pound of ground cumin ($4.99 a pound), and a pound of Fattal's own grape leaves stuffed with vegetables ($7.99 a pound).

A 3-liter bottle of La Ziza Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Lebanon was $20.99 or just under $7 a liter. A half-gallon of Merve Ayran Yogurt Drink was $10.29.

A half-dozen freshly baked Spinach and Cheese Pies were $8.99, and 13-ounce cans of Libano Verde Hommos Tahina from Lebanon were 99 cents each.


Easy hummus

All you need to do make creamy hummus is empty the contents of a can into a bowl, and add fresh lime juice, extra virgin olive oil and plenty of minced or ground garlic to taste.

I garnish hummus with Aleppo pepper, crushed mint leaves or both.

In Paterson, after dashing over to Salah Edin, a restaurant on the next block, for two bags of freshly fried falafel, I went back into Fattal's for a package of medium Syrian breads (12 for $1.50), the only ones I could find without preservatives.


South Paterson

Even as Aleppo is being slowly destroyed, South Paterson is prospering, with the opening of new cafes, pastry shops and restaurants.

Over the years, Syrian businesses have been joined by numerous Turkish, Lebanese and Palestinian cafes, bakeries and restaurants. 

A new strip mall has opened on Main Street, and a new building is going up near Salah Edin Restaurant.

The big farmers' market off of Crooks Avenue is open year-round. And a large McDonald's has opened on the Paterson side of Crooks Avenue.


At Salah Edin, $1 buys a bag of five freshly fried falafel.

On the drive home, the smell of fresh Fattal's bread teased me. At my kitchen counter, I immediately made and ate two small sandwiches with hummus, one with a cold stuffed grape leave and the other with a warm falafel, above and below.

Fattal's bread keeps beautifully in the refrigerator or freezer.
The dining room of Aleppo Restaurant at Main and Thomas streets in Paterson.

What's still standing

On Thursday, I put my groceries in the car, left it parked in Fattal's lot, and walked two blocks to visit Mohamed K. Jello, a devout Muslim who owns Aleppo Restaurant.

The terrific Syrian food there reminds me so much of my mother's cooking.

I embraced Mohamed, and he served me a glass of hot ginger tea.

He said relatives still are living in the northern part of the city, and so far are safe.

We talked about the destruction of the minaret in the Great Mosque, but he said the old clock tower is still standing.

Click on the following link to my 2013 post on Aleppo, written almost 35 years to the day after my 1978 visit:

My heart goes out to Aleppo, Syria


Details

Fattal's, 975-77 Main St., Paterson; 1-973-742-7125.

Aleppo Restaurant, 939 Main St., Paterson; 1-973-977-2244. No alcohol allowed.

Salah Edin Restaurant, 995 Main St., Paterson; 1-973-225-0575.

In 1978, a clock tower known as Bab al-Faraj was a major landmark in Aleppo, and I often heard it referred to when my parents and their friends reminisced about their lives in the city, said to be the oldest in the world. 

The minaret of the Great Mosque of Aleppo, shown in June 1978, was destroyed during fighting in April 2013. The building dates to the 11th through 14th centuries.

In 1978, I explored the cobblestone streets and alleys of Aleppo's old city, where I was surprised to see Star of David motifs in a metal door, upper left.

Even in 1978, parts of the old city were being cleared for the construction of apartment buildings, above.

Residential buildings in Aleppo near the clock tower.

Stalls selling brooms.

A March 2015 report on The Guardian.com said troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were using the ancient citadel of Aleppo to rain down destruction on enemies below, and that the 13th century fortress had suffered "untold damage."