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Dining in Nairobi - An Overview

Thanks so much! This is very helpful. I think we will try for Blanco's or possibly Open House. I'll report back how we liked it once we are back at the end of September.

Aug 25, 2011
megek in Middle East & Africa

Dining in Nairobi - An Overview

My husband and I will be in Nairobi in the middle of September, at the end of a safari. As usual, the safari company has us booked at Carnivore the last night. I want to try something else because it sounds very touristy and anyway, I am vegetarian (although my husband enjoys meat).

Any recommendations? I am not looking for something with only vegetarian dishes, just something with some tasty veg options. We would prefer to eat more local cuisine - either east african or indian (we are visiting from San Francisco). From what I have read, some potentially good options include:

Thanks so much for your thoughts.

Aug 22, 2011
megek in Middle East & Africa

Jeremy Fox & crew leave Ubuntu!

This is so tragic! Looks like a press release is forth-coming:

Feb 17, 2010
megek in San Francisco Bay Area

September COTM “Vietnamese”: Rice, Noodles, "Banh" & More

I have made it and enjoyed it quite a lot, but always add chili paste (mashed thai bird chili, garlic, and a little vinegar), hoisin, and cilantro. Simple accompaniment.

Sep 07, 2008
megek in Home Cooking

Recommendations from The Perfect Scoop

Wow! I thought I was the only one that thought the roasted banana was just, ehh. Bad texture, flavor was alright I guess, but it need toasted walnuts and chocolate shavings to mask some of the ice cream flavor. Also froze rock hard, when another ice cream in the same freezer temp was delightful and soft/scoopable.

Jul 09, 2008
megek in Home Cooking

Jfood needs help please: New to Homemade Hummus

Yeah, I cook garbanzos from scratch and then peel the skins off over a movie or something, since it takes forever! But it makes really creamy hummus.

Jul 07, 2008
megek in Home Cooking

Recommendations from The Perfect Scoop

The Salted Caramel ice cream is to die for. Absolutely an ice cream version of caramel. Be warned though, its quite rich!


I don't think you need the toffee crunch in it, but it is kind of nice to practice caramelizing a smaller amount of sugar, to get a feel for it (before you do the whole 2 cups that goes into the ice cream). Also, mine definitely seized up as the recipe warns you, but I just was patient and kept stirring till (most) of the solids had dissolved. Well worth it!

Jul 07, 2008
megek in Home Cooking

Lard simmered pork carnitas help for a vegetarian cook

Thanks everyone! I am inspired to try this out... can't be too hard! I have decided to skip the whole rendering my own lard ridiculousness, as I it sounds like it will turn out delicious without the extra headache and serious calories.

I am going to try grant.cook's recipe as I found nice detail (even photos of the steps!) online. Will definitely report back, hopefully with some photos of my own. Thanks again and wish me luck... I am off to the butcher.

Jun 21, 2008
megek in Home Cooking

Lard simmered pork carnitas help for a vegetarian cook

Thanks paulj! I would like to try something homemade, but perhaps I should go for the water simmered version to make things a little more manageable. What recipe do you use?

Jun 20, 2008
megek in Home Cooking

rivoli on shattuck?

I tried out Corso last night. It was quite busy (we waited 1/2 hour plus at about 6:45/7pm on a Thursday). Some small kinks to work out as far as service, but the food was all tasty and I will definitely try it again (maybe after it settles down some – it’s only been open a week and a half). I think part of the wait was more due to slowish service sorting things out, but it was full inside.

3 people, bill $81 before tax and tip

1 mixed greens with balsamic – simple (just greens) but nicely dressed and nice lettuce mix
2 romaine salads, one with anchovy vinagraitte, one with balsamic – pronounced tasty, one friend ordered hers with the balsamic instead since she fears anchovies, but tasted the anchovy one and enjoyed that too. Nice croutons.
1 cauliflower soufflé – nice intense cauliflower flavor, not super light in texture but really quite tasty. Polished it off quickly.
1 spinach – perfectly cooked, nice and garlic-y with yummy olive oil
1 fagioli beans – melt apart soft yet held there shape. Nice earthy flavor and well seasoned. Sopped it up with bread.
1 braised beef with chili verde sauce – healthy portion, also pronounced delicious (I didn’t try)
1 shrimp dish – lovely shrimps nestled on a bed of beans and crostini (looked like garbanzos?)
1 mirror pond ale
1 glass abbruzo wine – nice, inexpensive glass ($5?). I like that you can do ½ glasses, whole glasses, or half carafes.

All in all, potentially a great addition to the neighborhood.

Jun 20, 2008
megek in San Francisco Bay Area

Lard simmered pork carnitas help for a vegetarian cook

It’s my better half’s birthday and I want to make him delectable carnitas this Sunday (6/22). But since I don’t eat meat, I really don’t know how to cook it. Carnitas somehow seemed easy since I can just stick it in a dutch oven and simmer for a couple hours… until I discovered the key to the best is to stew it in freshly rendered lard. Aack! This is starting to feel like advanced meat cooking…

Am I crazy? I am not necessarily averse to meat handling (well, at least for special occasions! I am admittedly a little squeamish normally), but the biggest problem is how clueless I am about meat cooking (I am pretty darn good for all non-meat cooking, or, uh, most, IMHO). I am up for a challenge though!

Many questions:
1. Should I just forget about simmering in freshly rendered lard, and go the healthier route of simmered in water (with orange rind and spices)?

2. How much pork shoulder do I need? Do I need to direct the butcher to do anything with the pork shoulder (e.g., trim it or cut it up or something)? Remember, I am clueless. I figure I should do the minimum sized recipe, since it is just his one dinner and his leftovers (maybe enough for 3+ servings). Am I supposed to rinse and dry pork before cooking? Even if it’s happy feel good pork?

3. If I do go the lardo route, where the heck do I get a nice hunk of pork fat to render? I would prefer to use some sort of local/organic/feel good pork shoulder and fat too, but maybe that is ridiculous for fat rendering. And how much fat is enough to simmer the shoulder in? How do I dispose of the fat (just pour into a can and put in the trash)?

4. I was hoping to find the Rick Bayless recipe, but could only find one that feeds 20 people: ( Other recipe suggestions? Is Bayless the way to go?

5. How the heck do I know when it’s done without tasting it?! (Poses a problem for seasoning too…). Is there some sort of time per pound formula that I can hope works out for me? Or do I just wait until it looks a certain way? How should it look?

6. Any other tips? I could go on and on with questions.

Here is my tentative menu, unless the advice is to scrap-it-stupid, and do something easier!
-Carnitas (recipe tbd
)-Rancho Gordo pinto beans (maybe attempting some of them lard-refried)
-Homemade tortillas (
)-Homemade guacamole and salsa
-Queso fresco (suggestions for other nice Mexican cheese for this?)
-Veg fajitas (I need to eat something!)
-dessert of either/both roasted banana ice cream ( with chocolate shavings/syrup and/or burnt caramel ice cream ( or


Thanks for any and all advice!

Jun 20, 2008
megek in Home Cooking

Zeppole at Dopo (Oakland)

Yep - I had them there last week and I was stunned. Phenomenal is a perfect description!

Jan 12, 2008
megek in San Francisco Bay Area

Quiche/Savory Tart Filling

This recipe is an adaptation from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I really like it in the potato "crust", and like to vary the fillings to what I have on hand, but I am sure it would be good in a more traditional crust as well.

Spinach and Herb Torta in a Potato Crust
Serves 4-8

3 large russet potatoes (about 1 ¼ pounds)
2-3 T olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bunch scallions, including greens, thinly sliced
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chopped parsley
½ cup chopped cilantro (I probably use more than this)
Salt and fresh ground pepper
2 bags spinach (or 2 bunches with leaves coarsely chopped – discard stems)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup cottage cheese
½ - ¾ cup crumbled feta (use ¾ if you are adding more veggies, see variations)
Zest of one lemon

Peel potatoes and slice into 1/8 inch slices – slicing two potatoes crosswise and one potato lengthwise. Toss with 1-2 T olive oil. Heat a wide skillet over medium heat. When pan is hot, add one layer of potatoes and cook, turning once, until golden on both sides and tender when pierced with a knife after a few minutes. Place on a paper towel as they finish cooking and season with salt and pepper. Repeat until all potatoes done.

Preheat over to 375°F.

Add 1 T olive oil to pan. Add onion and cook until soft and beginning to brown. Add scallions, garlic, parsley, and cilantro and cook a few more minutes until scallions are wilted. Season with salt and pepper and remove to a large mixing bowl. Add spinach to the same pan with water clinging to its leaves (or add a little water if the spinach is dry). Cook over high heat until wilted (3-4 min). Transfer spinach to a sieve and press out excess water. Add to the mixing bowl with onions/herbs. Add eggs, cottage cheese, feta, and lemon zest and mix well. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as necessary.

To assemble: Use a 9-10” round baking dish – pie pan, spring-form, round casserole dish, whatever. Layer the bottom with potato rounds, overlapping so there are no empty spaces. Similarly, layer sides with potato ovals. Pour in spinach mixture. Bake at 375°F until firm and golden in places, about 40 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. It also freezes well in individual portions.

I have done all sorts of variations on this – it is very forgiving (but I think the lemon zest is a must!). I have used sweet potatoes for the crust. I have used a mix of broccoli, cauliflower, and swiss chard in replace of the spinach, which makes for a much higher volume of veggies, but I think the cheeses and egg can remain the same, just bake in a deeper pan (okay, so I probably increase the amount of feta to ¾ cup). If you use chard or other heartier green, just make sure you remove the stems, chop it up, and sauté it longer till its tender. If you want to add broccoli or cauliflower, chop it into pretty small pieces (~½ inch cubes) and sautéed it in the same pan as the onions – after the onion begins to soften slightly but well before the herbs/green onion get added. They don’t need to cook until soft, just enough to take away the rawness.

Jan 09, 2008
megek in Home Cooking

Eatin' at Udupi, Dreamin' of Kabana Drivin' by 900 Grayson

900 Grayson has had a permit sign up in their front window for at least a month (maybe more?), indicating they were going through the permitting process to extend their hours through dinner (woo-hoo!).

Their website doesn't post a dinner menu or extended hours yet, so I don't know if what you witnessed was private or not.

Jan 05, 2008
megek in San Francisco Bay Area

Best Creamy Mac and Cheese?

I have used the recipe for "Really the Best Ever Macaroni and Cheese" from the L.A. Times - the recipe name does not exagerate (linked in the chowhound post below). The only change I make is using half cheddar and half jack instead of just cheddar (plus there is gruyere too). Definitely use panko for the bread crumbs.

Oh, and make sure your arteries are clear:

Jan 02, 2008
megek in Home Cooking

Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook: Yeasted Baked Goods; Pastries; & Basic Recipes (Chapters 5 and Back Matter)

Any chance you might paraphrase the recipe? I googled but found a different Martha recipe, for ice-box parmesan rosemary crackers. Thanks!

Jan 02, 2008
megek in Home Cooking

What are you serving for Thanksgiving dessert?

Not sure if its the same one, but I checked Epicurious, and found this 2004 Bon Appetit recipe:

Oct 30, 2007
megek in Home Cooking

What are you serving for Thanksgiving dessert?

Wow! Do you have a recipe for the custard profiteroles?

Oct 30, 2007
megek in Home Cooking

Alexander Valley Sauerkraut

I just experienced the pickles for the first time, and now you tell me there is kraut too! I have been looking for the pickles in the east bay for some time - finally spotted them at the Andronico's on Shattuck (at the back end of the dairy aisle, near the meat counter). Keeping my fingers crossed they have the kraut too! Thanks.

Oct 29, 2007
megek in San Francisco Bay Area

July 2007 Cookbook of the Month: Vote here for the Runoff!

Veg cooking for everyone

Jun 16, 2007
megek in Home Cooking

Talavera Taqueria (New), Berkeley

For what it's worth, I had the vegetarian burrito last night (not necessarily how most judge a place). Rice, black beans, cheese, guac, sour cream, hot sauce (I requested no lettuce or salsa fresca).

It was great - nice ratio of ingredients, and no problems with over-salting. It will be my go-to-close-to-home burrito fix. Next time I will add nopales to it. The freshly made chips are delicious, and they had four salsas to choose from (mild salsa fresca, medium salsa verde, medium roasted red, and spicy red). The medium verde and spicy red are my favorites. And the staff was extremely friendly.

Jun 16, 2007
megek in San Francisco Bay Area

June 2007 Cookbook of the Month: Your Suggestions Needed

Following up with respect to delaying a vegetable-focused book to another month, when others have more veggies - fine by me! I would love to do either of these books anytime.

May 08, 2007
megek in Home Cooking

June 2007 Cookbook of the Month: Your Suggestions Needed

I would be thrilled with either Vegetation Cooking for Everyone or Chez Panisse Vegetables.

May 03, 2007
megek in Home Cooking

Help - Cinco de Mayo dessert ideas? (not flan)

Churros! Serve with Mexican Hot Chocolate

Recipe I want to try:

May 02, 2007
megek in Home Cooking

Into The Vietnamese Kitchen

I tried to search for info on Vietnamese sweet potatoes, and all I could find was this:

"American sweet potatoes are not the same as Vietnamese sweet potatoes. The American sweet potatoes are moister. They're wet. Vietnamese sweet potatoes are dry and a different kind of sweet. There are Vietnamese white ones with purple skin and purple in the middle too."

I wonder what "a different kind of sweet" means.

Apr 25, 2007
megek in Home Cooking

Into The Vietnamese Kitchen

yes I will have to try the sweet potato cakes too! The spicy lemongrass tofu was actually a different recipe than the shrimp, it had sautéed onions/shallots/garlic, thai bird chilies, lemongrass, turmeric, soy/sugar/salt, and roasted peanuts + thai basil thrown in at the end. Great cold leftovers for lunch today.

Apr 24, 2007
megek in Home Cooking

Into The Vietnamese Kitchen

Thanks for the recs pitu. Last night I made another 1/4 recipe of the spring rolls, accompanied by the scallion noodles - really simple, just a few ingredients, but delicious - and spicy lemongrass tofu (for me) and grilled lemongrass shrimp (for the omnivorous bf - I think this is the one you recommend). Both the tofu and shrimp dishes were delicious as well. My bf hopes to try the steamed fish with soy, ginger and scallions before the book goes back to the library...

Apr 24, 2007
megek in Home Cooking

Asparagus salad @ Cesar's on Piedmont

Ate at Cesar's on Piedmont (Oakland) again this weekend. It was a great, as usual. One of the best things we ordered was the ensalada de esparagos - asparagus salad with moscatel vinaigrette.

Has anyone else had this? It was so bright and refreshing and tasted of spring. The asparagus was sliced thinly on the bias (about 1/4 inch slices or so), simply tossed with vinaigrette and IIRC toasted almonds. It seemed like the asparagus was raw or maybe barely blanched.

I want to recreate at home, so let me know if you can remember more details than I can.

Apr 23, 2007
megek in San Francisco Bay Area

Into The Vietnamese Kitchen

I just checked out "Pleasures" from the library (couldn't get "Into the Vietnamese") and made a couple of dishes last night.

Pham's Salad Rolls with Jicama, Peanuts, and Basil:
This was fantastic. The flavors balanced each other perfectly. Basically rice paper rounds filled with a little egg, lettuce, jicama/carrot saute, fried tofu strips, hoisin/chili paste sauce, chopped peanuts and thai basil. I served it with her soy-lime dipping sauce. This is definitely a repeater - even a crowd pleaser/party appetizer. I am happy to post a more detailed summary if anyone wants it. Really, really tasty.

Pham's Soy-lime dipping sauce:
Yum! Thai bird chilies mashed with garlic and sugar, then mixed with lime juice, soy sauce, and a little water.

Pham's Vietnamese Fried Rice: Simple but a great accompaniment.

(From Into the Vietnamese Kitchen): Thai Broccoli stir fried with garlic
This was pretty good, but not great. I thought the flavoring sauce was a little too much, if I made this again I would reduce the ratio of sauce to Thai broccoli. I did add some tofu to make it more of a meal.

Sweet endings - Pham's Fried Bananas with Coconut Ice Cream. Super easy, batter was light and tasty.

Let me know if you want a summary of any recipes - the salad (spring) rolls were definitely the best of the night.

Apr 20, 2007
megek in Home Cooking


Me too, but then I hit reload current page. Now it shows 4/20.

Apr 19, 2007
megek in San Francisco Bay Area