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Category Archives: food

Radio Africa & Kitchen (San Francisco)

No trend has been more popular in the San Francisco food scene in the last couple of years that than the pop-up where culinary school graduates as well as amateurs test out their recipes and restaurant concepts in borrowed locations and usually only for limited amounts of time. Now more and more of them are moving on to setting up their own full time brick and mortar restaurants.

Where as in a a pop-up it’s common to serve only until all your supplies run out  and to not always have a full menu such rules don’t apply for a regular restaurant and there is a higher level of consistency and service expected.

While Chef Eskender Aseged may have just transitioned from having a pop-up to a restaurant he clearly has learned much in his 20 years in the industry and it shows in the food and service at his new restaurant. The menu may be small but every dish felt thought out and well prepared.

Now located in a new condo building right by a T-line station in the Bayview and with easy parking on the street the restaurant is modern but not trendy and they focus on a small menu that will change weekly. Bayview may not be the go to neighborhood for many diners but it has a small but always increasing food scene with most restaurants being at very reasonable price points.

We had no problem walking in and getting a table but as the word gets out I hope this places fills up with people that enjoy good food. There was a nice mix of people ranging in age from little kids to distinguished looking silver hair ladies and gentlemen and a mix of Latino, African Americans and Caucasians.

Every week the menu consists of 4 smaller dishes and 3 larger ones. They don’t have a beer or wine license yet but are fine with people bringing in their own.

We got two smaller dishes and two entrees.
We started with a Shitake and crimini mushroom wot crostini with English peas, Manchego cheese and basil ($9) . The bread through out our meal was really good and they didn’t skimp on the mushrooms.
The second starter was Albacore tuna kitfo with chives, mitmita, creme fraiche and jicama ($10), which was pretty much a tartare with Ethiopian seasoning. It was served with some of the best jicama I’ve had in SF. This was a very good solid and delicious dish. Kitfo is usally made with raw beef which some folks balk at so this is a good way to try the seasoning of kitfo, the mitmita in a more accessible preparation.

The entrees were both very good. The French Spouse has the vegetarian option, a Jerusalem artichoke “souffle”, with Ethiopian spiced lentils and butternut squash (15) Each element was good on it’s own but together they really worked great together.
I had the lamb (18) which was so tender and flavourful and the seasoning gave just the right amount of heat and really brought out the flavour of the lamb. It was served with couscous and zucchini.

The portions for all the dishes were large and you could be quite satisfied with just ordering two larger entrees. We were too full to try the sole dessert option.

Another I liked is they are using Square to do their credit card transactions. It’s saves money for the restaurant, the consumer and you immediately get an emailed receipt.

I look forward to coming back regularly and trying all the different menus.

Radio Africa & Kitchen
restaurant at 4800 Third Street

My first attempt at Carbonara

Italian cooking has always been a mystery to me. While some families have traditions based on rice or pasta my Irish/German family was firmly planted in all things potato. When my father did cook Italian it was American Italian like shrimp scampi or spaghetti and meatballs. Nothing too exciting and certainly never made with fresh pasta.

Certainly Carbonara isn’t the most traditional Italian recipe with there only be records of it since the mid 20th century although the first time I had it freshly made was when an Italian roommate at my school in the Netherlands made it for us. I remember how freaked out I was at her pouring raw eggs over pasta and worrying we would all get salmonella. Thankfully I put aside my fear to eat her lovely concoction that wasn’t made with any daily and just the smallest bit of butter.

Over the years I’ve gotten to eat many wonderful carbonaras, some with spaghetti, others with fettuccine, some vegetarian, others full of pork fat yet I never got around to making it. I think my hatred of dry pasta and my totally laziness and unwillingness to make my own pasta prevented me from making Italian pasta dishes. That was until I found a couple of shops in town that make their own fresh pasta. While I am sure it’s not as good as some people’s grandmothers one of my pasta favorites is the fettuccine from . It’s the kind of pasta you can eat with just some garlic and butter and it’s so satisfying.

The inspiration for making fettecine a la carbonara was when I saw some amazing wild lobster mushrooms at my local food co-op.
What do you think this is? No, it's not alien goo.  on Twitpic
Also nabbed during my grocery shopping was local duck eggs. There are few fowl that I love more than duck so there was no way I could pass up fresh duck eggs.

Having purchased this bounty of delights I set about trying to find something to do with them when I came upon this recipe . When I remember that I bought some langostino tails (other wise known in the US as squat lobster even though they are not actually lobsters at all) at Trader Joe’s I could help but have a dish with two ingredients that are called the same thing.

I followed the directions in the recipe pretty much as they were listed other than when the peas were added I also added the already cooked langostino tails and of course instead of chicken eggs I used duck eggs. I also used another tablespoon of butter and it only took 4 minutes to saute the mushrooms. The biggest challenge was adding the beaten eggs to the pasta with out it becoming scrambled and making sure all the pasta was coated in it.

All in all it was a surprisingly easy recipe to make and I loved how colourful and appealing it was.

Learning to love quiche

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I was reminded today how much our views of what is comfort food and common food depend on our culture and community. Growing up in small town USA foods like quiche and pain au chocolat were as alien to me as the French language. For my French spouse however there is nothing more simple or comforting that a slice of quiche or having a pain au chocolat on a lazy morning.

I admit I avoided making quiches for the longest time being as intimidated by the name more than any recipes. While I can make a pies without even measuring the ingredients and there is nothing I like more than a meal in one dish something about quiches was daunting.

It took going to France and eating the many, many different quiches that abound at in french homes and in cafes for my fear of the quiche to be overcome. I learned that quiches don’t need to have cheese, they don’t need to have heavy cream. In short a quiche is a vessel of eggs and dairy that can transport any type of veggie or meat. The end result is always a lovely custard of dairy and eggs with tasty morsels embedded in it.

Since the French spouse is a pescatarian, my quiche are usually a base of eggs, milk with cheese and one or two vegetables. One of my favorites is leek and mushroom quiche. I cook my quiche in my pie dishes which means it’s a pretty short quiche. If you use a deeper pie dish then you will want to add 1/2 cup more milk or cream. I use thin pre-made crust, some quiches have very thick crust, some are thin wrappers for the goodness inside. The crusts should not be too sweet but a generic pie crust work pretty well for me.

Leek and Mushroom quiche
1 pie crust, if made from scratch rolled quite thin (I use ready made crusts from Trader Joe’s)
1 1/4 cup milk (or cream) I never use cream though
4 eggs
3 leeks, cut into 1 inch slices
1/2 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Emmenthaler cheese, shredded
4 tbsp butter
4 cloves of garlic crushed or finely diced
3 tbsp fresh herbs finely chopped-dill, tarragon and basil are some my favorites, I only pick one for each quiche
1 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450

2. In a heavy bottom skillet melt the butter, add the leeks and saute them until they start to get soft, then add the garlic and mushrooms and saute until the leeks are translucent with a bit of caramelization.

3.transfer the leeks and mushrooms to a plate with a paper towel on it to absorb all the excess liquids.

4. Whisk the eggs and the milk together, make sure they are thoroughly whisked, add the salt and pepper and the finely chopped herbs

5. put a thin layer of cheese on the pie crust

6. put 1/2 of the leeks and mushroom in a layer

7. do another layer of cheese

8. then pour 1/2 of the egg and milk mixture in the pie dish

9. layer the remaining leeks and mushroom

10. do another layer of cheese

11. pour the remaining egg and milk mixture

12. spread any remaining cheese on the top, leave enough cheese aside for this top layer to be evening covered

13. cook for 15 minutes at 450 before lower the temperature to 325 and cooking for 30 minutes. This will give you a nice brown crisp top.

This is just one of many versions of quiche. So long as I use the same amount of veggies I can add anything to this, spinach, onions, potatoes…… For me it’s become my go-to dish when I have some veggies I need to use or I want to make sure I have something I can eat for lunch through out the week.

The hardest part of making this is waiting 15 minutes after you take it out to cut a slice.

On a mother I miss and one I never had

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Mother’s day for the past 20 years has always been a tricky day for me. Twenty years ago I left home at 16 to save myself and give myself a chance at a happy life. I succeeded pretty well, finishing high school while not have a permanent address, going to college and so far living on three continents and travelling most recently to the Arctic Circle in Sweden. I have a spouse of eight years and a home I’ve lived in for more than a decade. And all that time I’ve had a mother who is alive but who is often not a real part of my life. Even as a child I had an odd relationship with Mother’s Day. On the one hand I love a celebration especially one involving food and I truly wanted nothing more than to be able to give my mother one of those cards that has all those sweet sentiments and gratitude for all the love and kindness she showed me. Instead even as an honesty obsessed kid I would try to find a card that said only the truth. One that said I love you, thanks for the nice things you do and for being around sometimes. My mother’s mantra has always been “there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my kids” but her actions were almost always the opposite and the true mantra was “there is nothing I don’t expect from my kids other than perfection”. 20 years of being away from my mother and the intervention of some amazing caring adults when I left my parents’ home taught me that neither her goals nor her expectations are realistic or healthy. My relationship with my mother has been based on trying to have no expectations of her as a mother and expecting absolutely no true support or acceptance and for periods of time we can pretend to be family.

Now Mother’s Day is especially hard as my sister who’s main goal of the past decade has been to be a perfect mother and wife is dead because she didn’t live up to her husband or my parents’ expectations. The sadness and horror I feel that she tried so hard to be perfect and my own mother uses her supposed failings as a wife or mother to justify her husband murdering her in cold blood is magnified on a day that I know her children are spending with the grandparents who always judged their mother even when she is a murder victim. Will those children be raised with an image of their mother as saint or sinner or will they be given the gift of being raised knowing she was a complex person full of life and love? Will they be raised thinking someone wanting to leave a marriage is a genuine justification for murder? Will they blame my sister for being murdered? Will my toddler nephew even be raised with stories of his mother and how much she did for him and loved him?

My sister and I had a complex often contentious relationship as adults being almost opposites for the last tens in terms of politics, religion, beliefs and goals. We both left home at 16, too young and without support. We both put ourselves through college and moved far away from our home town but then we both went down different paths. She tried through two marriages and a rebirth in her Catholic faith to be as mainstream and conservative as possible while I didn’t try hard but ended up on the outskirts of heteronormativity due to my sexuality, my urbanization and my access to privilege. We both struggled to reach our personal goals and neither of us ended up exactly where we expected but neither of us ever thought that violence would be a part of our lives again. We always knew that we had the power to change the situations we were in and that was true until a man, her husband took that power away with a shot gun borrowed from our father.

My sister more than anyone in my childhood gave me my love of food and in many ways although she was only 3 years older than me she acted as a second mother to me, giving me what my own mother couldn’t. I learned early on not to cry in front of my parents or run to them if I was upset but my sister would let me crawl up on her lap and rock me in the lazy boy chair even when I was 12. She would some how make magic food out of the simple and basic ingredients we had in the house. We never had junk food except for my father’s stash of junk food which we were usually not allowed to have and my mother seemed to have a strict policy that all cookies must be healthy and weight at least a pound. My sister solved the issue by making potato chips from scratch and making donuts out of our generic bulk flour and then glazing them in fresh maple syrup. While I could follow a recipe, she seems to know instinctively how to make dishes from nothing. That was how she dealt with so many things. She would have an ideal and make it happen with food and with life. For me it’s taken so much practice to get to the point where I can look in my frig or at my life and see what I can make with with ingredients I’ve been given.

I feel so sad that her daughter and son will not have the years to come to get to know their mother as a cook and as a human. I think about how if she hadn’t left home at 16, I would have never been brave enough to leave home. I think about how when I was afraid, she held me and when I was too scared to defend myself, she defended me. Who will teach her children these things when the biggest lesson they have learned is that the person who loves you the most may kill you?

Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

Balsamic pork tenderloin with mashed parsnips, mushroom risotto and strawberry salad

Balsamic pork tenderloin has become such a favorite of mine that I make it at least a couple of times a months. It’s funny to think how much I like it when growing up the only way I had pork other than ham or bacon was the dry overcooked and bread pork chops we had once a week. Imagine the driest, whitest pork chop cover in a thick layer of bread crumbs with no seasoning and way overcooked. I have no doubt that was my mother certain that if that meat was cooked even the littlest bit pink we would all have Trichinosis just she was certain if we didn’t drink three glasses of milk a day our bones would all spontaneously break.

I didn’t eat pork that was pink until I went to college in The Netherlands and I was too polite to tell my host that my meat was undercooked. But sure enough as soon as I tried it I realized that not only was it not undercooked but for once it actually tasted good.

I didn’t start cooking pork tenderloin until one day when shopping at Trader Joe’s I noticed the packages of the tenderloin and thought it was first beef tenderloin. It made me curious to try it and even more so when i realized to cook one tenderloin only takes around half an hour.

While I love the taste of meat on it’s own I do like this version of Balsamic Pork Tenderloin. It’s based on a version I found on the internet several years ago and I eliminated the olive oil from the marinate as well as some herbs and I cook it at a higher temperature. I use white balsamic vinegar because the dark balsamic vinegar gives a darker look to the meat that I don’t like and the white balsamic vinegar makes for a nice golden sauce . The taste is exactly the same with either white or dark balsamic vinegar.

Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
1 tenderloin about 1 1/2 pounds

Marinade
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons country dijon mustard
2 teaspoons clover honey
3 teaspoons fresh crush garlic

Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Put the tenderloin in a gallon zip lock bag and pour the marinade over it and refrigerate it at least a couple of hours, overnight is best.

Preheat your oven to 425. Some people brown the tenderloin before hand but I haven’t found it to improve or give a crust to the skin so I just put it straight into the oven. I use an oven proof skillet rather than glass or metal roasting pan. I find that it seems to cook better in a round dish that fits it best and that afterward if I want to make a more complex sauce out of the drippings and marinade left at the bottom of the pan I can do it right on the stove top in the same pan.

Roast it at 425 for approximately 30-35 minutes and pour in all of the marinade. The marinade will reduce naturally and you can serve it on top straight from the which is what I did in the picture above. If it is a larger piece it will take longer. The internal temperature should be around 150. The FDA recommends cooking to 160 but I find that it is overcooked at that temperature and European and Canadian government standard are set at the equivalent of 150. When you take it out let it sit for at least 5 minutes before slicing but keep the drippings in the stove to keep warm.

I served this with a parsnip puree and a risotto both which can be made in approximately the same time as the tenderloin is roasting and then sitting.

Leek, eggplant and mushroom soy ginger stir fry

Growing up in a small town our family rarely went out to dinner and with a diet based in my parents German and English roots our taste buds were pretty limited. So a really special fancy meal out for us was at the one Chinese restaurant in the town, a place that was text book americanized chinese food complete with chow fun and no tofu on the menu but seemed exotic and out of the world for a kid whose daily dinner was breaded meat, boiled potatoes and canned veggies. They didn’t even have chop sticks unless you asked for them and we of course never did.

I remember be fascinated by how the vegetables were cut and the taste of soy sauce.  My mother who was also convinced that we would die if we didn’t have at least a half of dozen servings of vegetables a day always made us get a veggie dish and that’s how I got to know Chinese eggplant.

Unlike other varieties of eggplant the Chinese eggplant has a thinner skin, a slender shape and isn’t as bitter as other eggplants. That means it’s easy to cook with the skin on and without using salt or water to leech out the bitterness.

One of the first dishes I made on my own when I became a college vegetarian was a stir-fry and it’s still one of those dishes I do when ever I have a pile of veggies and am not sure what to do with them.

I like now trying different vegetable that you wouldn’t normally have in a Chinese cuisine. I was inspired to use the leeks because my spouse is French and has a love of leeks which while alien to me, I’ve grown to love. They combined the sharpness and tanginess of onions with the heartiness of a root vegetable.

3 leeks (wash them if there is still sand in them)
1 1/2 cups of button mushrooms
3 ounces fresh black trumpet mushrooms
2 chinese eggplants
4-5 slices of fresh ginger
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
olive oil as needed
water to steam the veggies

I cheat by using a ready made sauce usually, the one I used for this dish was a shiitake soy ginger sauce which you can make by mixing soy sauce, dried garlic, ginger powder, dried shiitake, rice wine and rice vinegar. Not to mention I don’t use a cast iron wok instead using a non-stick wok shaped pot.

Slice all your veggies, doing the chinese at an angle because it looks pretty. You want to remove any green leafy part of the leeks and cut them in 1 inch length pieces. Saute the leeks until they start getting translucent and then add the ginger, garlic, the eggplant and a small amount of water and cover the pot with a lid to cook the veggies. Once the eggplant has started to cook, add the button mushrooms. When everything is almost fully cooked uncover and add your sauce and the black trumpet mushrooms. The black trumpets add a nice earthy taste that contrast with the sweetness of the now caramelize leeks.

Death and Food: two things that seem to go together

On January I was enjoying watching the Aurora Borealis  in the Arctic circle of northern Sweden, while thousands of miles away my nice “Christian” brother in law was murdering my sister in front of their daughter in a small ugly town in Virginia.

As soon as I found out I flew back to the states and that small town where she lived. Back to Jesus land and my Jesus loving family and that hate for others that seems to go hand in hand with a love of Jesus. Back to the land of lard and factory food. Where as my spouse pointed out at the funeral there were almost as many sex stores as there were churches and there were churches on every corner.

In Sweden I had a freakout about the scarcity of fresh produce and the high cost of food, a trigger that goes back to a childhood of always feeling hungry emotionally and physically. In Virginia I was in the land of the buffet, every counter overflowing with the cheapest food cooked in the maximum amount of lard and oil. Yet there too there was the lack of the fresh produce and healthy food that 10 years in California and 10 years before that surround by folkies, hippies and environmentalist had made me consider as natural as clean water to drink and fresh air to breath. And in Virginia unlike my unfounded fears of scarcity in Sweden I was indeed starving for emotional and physical sustenance  just as my sister had been in the years leading up to her husband committing one final permanent act of harm.

While I was in Virginia for 2 1/2 weeks staying at a motel that the cab driver who took me to the airport confided to me was a a known crack den I ate from 4 buffet restaurants, two chain restaurants and my mother’s finest family food which consisted of some kind of breaded meat, canned veggies and lots o’startch.  The saving grace for me was the local Trader Joe’s but the food I got from them was more a security blanket than something that I actually ate. It greeted me every evening after spending all day with my tight smiled mom, my darling niece and nephew and my mental father. I lost almost 15 pounds in the 2 1/2 weeks I was there. I lost far more than that but pounds can be measured, people can not be.

I came back home having been gone for 2 1/2 weeks in Virginia after being in Europe for six weeks but in some ways I went back 20 years to before I escaped from my parents home. Yet it’s 20 years later and my sister who was the example I followed to leave the abuse and fear, is gone. Not just gone. Taken, murdered by the person that was suppose to protect her from the cold world and the starvation. The man that she converted to Catholicism and with whom she pledged to never raise her voice against nor he against her. No instead he raised my father’s shot gun and put multiple holes in her chest.

There are holes that we fill with many things. My family fills them with hate and Jesus. I’ve always filled them with travel and food. What happened is a constant thought, a hunger for a person who is gone and a hunger to understand what happened. While I figure how to even accept what happened let alone why, I think I’ll make some food.