Thursday, April 28, 2016

Costco Wholesale helps me serve a healthy dinner in just 15 minutes

A Codfish Medley with organic spinach, organic diced tomatoes, pitted olives and shredded cheese cooks in less than 15 minutes in a preheated oven.

Editor's note: We continue to spend most of our food dollars at Costco Wholesale, but on our last visit to the Teterboro warehouse, some of the prices for fresh fruit seemed high.


Costco Wholesale may have a limited selection of wild-caught fish, but I never get tired of the fresh cod fillets from Iceland for only $7.99 a pound.

On Tuesday night, I prepared a Codfish Medley with about 2.3 pounds of the wild-caught skinless-and-boneless fillets, and other ingredients from the Teterboro Costco.

They include organic spinach (1 pound for $4.49), organic diced tomatoes and shredded Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (1-pound jar for $10.59 after an instant coupon).

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees, and lined a large pan with aluminum foil.

Then, I added the ingredients in layers: 

Spinach to cover the bottom of the pan and a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, followed by lightly salted fish portions, ground red pepper, organic diced tomatoes spooned from the can, pitted olives, shredded cheese and the juice of a Meyer Lemon.

I placed the pan in the oven, and the fish was translucent and flaked beautifully in about 15 minutes.

I poured a glass of red wine, and finished my meal with a big salad of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix (1 pound for $4.29 at Costco) dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Thanks to The Fish Dock, an Icelandic fish store in Closter, for inspiring me to prepare a medley.

I've also prepared a medley at home with Icelandic flounder fillets from the Teterboro Costco, and the store's fresh Canadian flounder is a third possibility.

And nothing says you couldn't use wild-caught shrimp in a medley.

Other ingredients in the homemade Codfish Medley include extra-virgin olive oil, Meyer Lemon, sea salt and Aleppo red pepper. 

This morning, I had Codfish Medley leftovers with leftover organic brown rice, which I prepared this week in an electric cooker with whole peeled garlic cloves and organic diced tomatoes from Costco Wholesale, and organic black beans from ShopRite.

Fresh fruit at Costco

On Tuesday, the Teterboro Costco was selling 4 pounds of large fresh strawberries for $9.99, and an 18-ounce container of blueberries was $8.99.

In February, that same container of blueberries was only $4.99.

We did buy a 4-pound package of Red Seedless Grapes for $8.99. A large Golden Pineapple was $2.99.

And 3 pounds of Organic Bananas were only $1.99, the lowest price in North Jersey.

We also bought 24 Organic Eggs, $6.99; Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon, 1 pound for $14.89; three large Gourmet Cucumbers, $3.39; and a 3-pound bag of raw California Almonds for $16.99.

We roast the almonds at home (275 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes), and dust them with Saigon Cinnamon from Costco for an after-dinner snack, with or without fresh fruit and cheese. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Little Ferry H Mart cuts back on free samples, stays mum on new store

These part-time employees at the H Mart in Little Ferry dispensed free seafood samples on the weekends for about a year, but last Sunday, they were gone for good, a store employee said. 
This empty space was where free samples of seafood were available, not far from the main fresh-fish counter, including seafood pancakes, crab meat, boiled octopus, smoked farmed salmon, broiled eel and broiled mussels topped with fish eggs. A few free samples, including meat, were available elsewhere in the store on Sunday.
The Korean supermarket occupies about half of the former Valley Fair building, which dates to the 1960s. A cyclone fence now surrounds most of the structure as workers clean the steel supports under the building, though it's not known whether the work is related to the company's plan to build a new store in the vacant half.


The shabbiest H Mart in Bergen County is long overdue for a complete makeover.

The store takes up the back half of an enormous 1-story building on Bergen Turnpike in Little Ferry that began life as a Valley Fair discount store.

The parking lot floods regularly, the dingy lunchroom closed years ago and the entrance to the Korean supermarket looks awful.

Still, the store attracts customers by offering fresh seafood, an unmatched variety of Asian greens, fresh produce and prepared Korean food -- much of it at low prices.

On Sunday, for example, a box of 16 small, yellow Ataulfo Mangoes was on sale for $8.99 with an instant coupon, reduced from $14.99.

Jackfruit was only 99 cents a pound.

I called H Mart headquarters in Lyndhurst on Monday, but couldn't find anyone who could tell me whether plans for a new store in the vacant half of the Valley Fair building are going forward.

A package of Stir-Fried Vermicelli, left, a yam-flour noodle Koreans call japchae, was $5.99 at the Little Ferry H Mart, 260 Bergen Turnpike.

Baby Bok Choy were cut to 68 cents a pound at H Marts in Englewood and Little Ferry.

A spicy preparation called Stewed Tofu was $4.99 at the Little Ferry H Mart. Prepared food is made in-store or supplied by such outside Korean caterers as Jinga.

A snack I enjoy at home is a small plate of reheated japchae with spinach and other vegetables topped with crunchy kimchi from my refrigerator.

Stewed Alaskan Pollack sections with skin and bones ($7.99 at H Mart) and Stewed Tofu served with leftover  Kabocha squash mashed with olive oil, and sauteed cabbage and sweet peppers.
The seafood counter at the H Mart in Englewood, where whole wild-caught whiting usually are $3.99 a pound.

A large tray of Kimbap -- a Korean roll filled with rice, vegetables, egg and imitation crab made from pollack, right front -- was $6.79 at the Englewood H Mart, 25 Lafayette Ave. Trays of sweet dessert Rice Cakes, rear, are 50% off after 4 p.m.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Costco Wholesale pizza withdrawal cases are mounting in Hackensack

Now that small businesses can get delivery of orders they place online, the parking lot at the Costco Wholesale Business Center on South River Street in Hackenack usually is almost empty, as it was last Monday afternoon.
On Monday, the shuttered food court from the old Costco warehouse looked like it did in this March 15 photo. Employees said a renovated food court is expected to open in the first week of May.


As a supplier to restaurants and pizzerias, Costco Wholesale Business Centers sell pizza boxes, but not the pies themselves.

The Business Center in Hackensack is different, however, because it's a renovated Costco warehouse with a food court that catered mainly to consumers for more than 21 years before closing last October.

When the warehouse reopened on March 15 with a new sign and a new purpose, the food court remained closed, but employees said it would reopen in a couple of weeks.

On Monday, when I stopped by for one of Costco's 18-inch veggie-combo pizzas ($9.95), the food court still was closed.

But I was assured the food court will indeed open in the first week of May.

As the opening has been delayed, I've been showing Costco pizza withdrawal symptoms.

No-pizza diet

The last slice of Costco pizza I had was more than six months ago, on Oct. 15, when the new, bigger and more crowded Costco Wholesale opened in Teterboro.

I could get only a slice of the regular cheese pizza (which is cut into two smaller slices), and, as usual, it was gooey and filling.

I went on a no-pizza, no-bread diet to lose weight more than five years ago, so I only allow myself the guilty pleasure of a couple of slices of Costco pizza once or twice a year.

The pies are pre-made, and baked in a conveyor-belt oven that can't be slowed, if you want a well-done pie -- my preference.

I usually put one or two slices in my oven at home, and crisp them up.

I saw 22-ounce jars of refrigerated Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto marked down last Monday at the Costco Wholesale Business Center, apparently because of a freeze/use by day of April 27.

The price was cut in half to $3.97.

I bought two 34.5-ounce bags of Quaker Simply Granola for about $1.85 a pound, below.


Costco Wholesale Business Center, 80 S. River St., Hackensack; 201-296-3044. Food court, 201-296-3061. Call for warehouse hours. Closed Sundays.

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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

New Orleans still is in crisis more than a decade after Hurricane Katrina

On April 7, a high-stepping grand marshal leading the New Wave Brass Band helped kick off the French Quarter Festival, an annual four-day showcase for the city's unique music and food.
New Orleans brass bands are the product of social clubs that arranged burials for members. A band plays dirges on the way to the cemetery, but on the way home, the lively music celebrates the life of the recently departed, trailed by mourners and others who are referred to as the Second Line, below.

Editor's note: This is the last of four posts based on a six-day visit to New Orleans this month.


NEW ORLEANS -- "I hate to see that evenin' sun go down."

This famous blues song is always on the mind of New Orleanians, who say crime has made staying out after dark a risky proposition.

The Big Easy has become the Big Uneasy.

Signs of renewal outside the French Quarter more than a decade after Hurricane Katrina are everywhere, but residents don't feel police can protect them.

The quarter was largely untouched by Katrina, residents say, because it is the highest point in a city sandwiched between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain.

Ex-mayor in prison

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who was elected in 2010, isn't regarded as much of an improvement over former Mayor Ray Nagin, who was sent to federal prison for his part in a $500,000 bribery and conspiracy scheme.

Nagin, like then-President George W. Bush, failed the largely minority city during and after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.

Meanwhile, the Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper, The Times-Picayune, not only abandoned the city by moving its headquarters out of town, but in the fall of 2012, cut back its print edition to only three days a week.

Still, the city's indomitable spirit was evident during a six-day visit this month.

A 150-foot mural of a clarinet on the Holiday Inn in downtown New Orleans is a tribute to a neighborhood that played a key role in the development of jazz.

One of the city's palm trees seen against the vacant World Trade Center.

The Ernie K-Doe Mother-in-Law Lounge in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans is now owned by Kermit Ruffins, a trumpeter and chef who cooks on the days he performs there and serves the food free to patrons.

The colorful exterior of what is now called Kermit's Treme Mother-In-Law Lounge includes a portrait of Ruffins, below.

Kermit's Treme Mother-In-Law Lounge is at 1500 N. Claiborne Ave. in New Orleans (504-975-3955).

A quiet pedestrian space in the French Quarter.
French Quarter architecture provides shady sidewalks and balconies for people watching.

St. Louis Cathedral, which overlooks Jackson Square, is said to be the oldest Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the United States.

Although the cathedral was named after a French king, the scallop shell over the pulpit often symbolizes St. James, the patron saint of Spain. 
A plaque in the French Quarter notes New Orleans was the capital of the Spanish Province of Luisiana from 1762 to 1803. Today, the food shows Spanish, French and Acadian influences. Cajuns are the descendants of the Acadians, who were expelled from Canada and settled in Louisiana from 1765 to 1785.

This St. Charles Avenue streetcar is one of the originals, and doesn't have air conditioning, but is a cheap way to see New Orleans' Garden District, where homes date to before the Civil War.

The streetcar passes an historical plaque noting that a factory at 1755 St. Charles Ave. produced more than 20,000 shallow-draft landing craft for allied forces during World War II.

Homes in the Garden District, above and below.

Other streetcars, including those that operate on Canal Street, are new and fully air conditioned, above and below. The fare is $1.25 or $3 for a 24-hour pass. Seniors pay only 40 cents. 

Streetcars run about every 20 minutes, but that is flexible, so don't take one, if you are in a rush to get anywhere. Canal Street cars are subject to frequent delays as they skirt the French Quarter, stopping for accidents that close the street or when cars make U-turns over the tracks.
Taxis in New Orleans are more expensive than those in Manhattan. In addition to an initial $3.50 charge, you'll be hit with an extra $1 for a second passenger. Here, we were stuck in rush-hour traffic on Canal Street, where tourists slow their cars and pickups to gawk and sightsee. A 2.5-mile taxicab ride cost us $15, including the tip.
Crawfish Cakes at Mandina's, an Italian-American restaurant in New Orleans. See: Good food is everywhere in Crescent City

A small Muffaletta Sandwich -- olive salad with Italian cold cuts and cheese -- was $10 at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Kenner, La.
The Hyatt House on Poydras Street in downtown New Orleans "upgraded" us to a suite on the unlucky 13th floor. Sure enough, the room was cursed with a broken toilet, a shower that flooded the bathroom and other problems. We enjoyed the free breakfast with made-to-order omelets, but not the many dirty utensils, plates and bowls we saw during our entire stay, despite repeated complaints to the staff.

At the airport, you'll thank your lucky stars when you get a boarding pass marked "TSA Pre" with a check mark next to it, as I did in both Newark and New Orleans. That means you'll be shown to a special security line, where you won't have to take off your shoes or remove your computer from its bag, and your body won't be groped or scanned. You'll be on your way in a matter of minutes.

Next: In North Jersey, 
you have to read the labels,
 even with seafood.