Sunday, December 30, 2012

Favorite Restaurant Dishes of 2012

This has certainly been a delicious year! Before I left Los Angeles, I tried to visit as many restaurants, both new and old, as possible. Chicago has proved to be an equally amazing food town (though I haven't been documenting my eating adventures here as often). These are just a small sample of my favorite restaurant dishes from the year.

Kick Ass Margaritas at Marix. The food at Marix is good, and I think they make the best margaritas in Los Angeles, but what I love most about it is the atmosphere and all of the fun memories we created there. It is probably the restaurant I visited most in my ten years in Los Angeles.

Kick Ass Margarita

Wood-Roasted English peas at Tar and Roses. Almost everything we had at this meal was great, but these simple roasted peas were one of the highlights for me.

Wood Roasted English Peas

The Original Baco from Baco Mercat.It is easy to see why Bon Appetit recently named Baco Mercat one of the best new restaurants of the year.

The Original Baco

The chicken sandwich from Son of a Gun is a monster of a sandwich that is just delicious and best shared with friends.

Chicken Sandwich at Son of a Gun

I've now brunched at Longman & Eagle twice and it looks like I may squeeze in a third visit just as the year is coming to a close. Their chicken and waffles is an excellent way to get your day started.

Fried Chicken, Waffles, Sweet Potato & Pork Belly Hash, Maple Syrup

The Purple Pig is another favorite Chicago restaurant. The pork fried almonds are a must at every meal there. 

Pork Fried Almonds with Rosemary & Garlic

I had one crazy weekend in LA during the summer for a press trip and out of the many delicious things we ate that weekend, the Paiche from Mo-Chica was at the top of the list.


As I mentioned, I haven't been documenting my Chicago dining adventures as much, but I feel that the oysters at GT Fish and Oyster, the burger at Au Cheval, the foie gras terrine from Au Cheval, and the Tagliolini Nero with Crab, Sea Urchin, and Chili from Balena should all get shout outs. I am looking forward to many more meals in the next year and I can't wait to share them. Have a happy and safe New Year!

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Favorite Recipes of 2012

I say this every year, but I cannot believe how fast this year has gone by. It was a big year for me which included me packing up and moving from Los Angeles to Chicago. It was a great decision and I am having the time of my life meeting new people and exploring an amazing city. Even though I don't cook quite as often as I used to, there have been some delicious things that have come out of my tiny kitchen in the last year. Here are a few of my favorites.

Serious Eats' take on Halal Cart-Style Chicken and Rice is packed with flavor and a great way to have street food at home.

Halal Cart-Style Chicken and Rice

Cookies and Cream Brownies were such a hit at my friend's Super Bowl party that I made them again a few weeks later for the super cute couple that I cooked for for Valentine's day.

Cookies and Cream Brownies

One of the last things I cooked in LA was this insanely addictive Chipotle-Garlic Edamame.

Chipotle-Garlic Edamame

Greek Nachos quickly became my favorite summer meal.

Greek Nachos

Funfetti Cake was a fun way to celebrate my sister's 30th birthday.

Funfetti Cake

The holidays were definitely merrier with cranberry mojitos.

Cranberry Mojito

I really can't stop thinking about these peppermint slutty brownies. I may have to make them again for New Year's Eve.

Peppermint Slutty Brownies

I'm in California for the week visiting with my mom (!) and sister and relaxing. I hope that however you spend the holidays, you are having a great time with people you love.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide and a Giveaway!

Holiday Gift Guide

I thought I would do something a little different this year and make a little holiday gift guide of things that I am loving and/or coveting this season. It's not too late to pick up some last minute things for people on your list! To sweeten the post, I am hosting a giveaway to win one of these fabulous gifts! Scroll down for details.

1. Several cookbooks are on my "to-buy" list including The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen, and at the very top of the list is Jerusalem, A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, $19.85 on Amazon

2. I love rustic kitchens with a modern edge and this sign fits in to that aesthetic. It would be so cute over my little stove. "Eat" sign made with recycled farm steel by The Steel Fork on Etsy, $40

3. For leftover wine, these stoppers make an excellent stocking stuffer. vinostop "Peace" bottle stoppers on Spin Bucket, $9.95

4. I am feeling much love for my new home town. These necklaces are the perfect expression of pride for whatever city you live in.  City pride necklace on Brevity, $75-$95

5. If you're traveling during the holidays or just listen to a lot of a music, these headphones are a must. The sound quality is amazing, they have a microphone so you can use them on calls, and they are so sturdy, that I feel completely comfortable throwing them in a carry on and not worrying about them.  SOL Republic Tracks HD On-Ear Headphones, $129.99

6. Most of the time I take pictures with a 50mm lens, but it can be difficult in trying to get wide-angled shots of my city's skyline that I love so much. This 35mm lens allows for wider shots, while still being able to get great depth on tighter images. Canon EF 35mm f/2 Wide-Angle Lens, $309 on Amazon

7. To know me is to know I love, love my nail polish. I've changed nail colors three times in the past week alone. I am a huge fan of the brand Essie and totally crazy about their Winter 2012 collection. I have already added Leading Lady, Beyond Cozy, and Where's My Chauffer to my ever-expanding collection of colors. These colors are perfect for holiday parties and will make great stocking stuffers for the polish fanatics in your life. Essie nail polish in Leading Lady, $8

8. Winter is almost here! I'm super excited for the snow, but having already experienced the wind chill, I know I need to be prepared. This scarf/shawl combo is great for those super blustery days.  The Chunky Cowl Scarf Shawl Hood by CT Handmade on Etsy, $34.95

9. Who doesn't love a thoughtful, homemade gift? Give the baker in your life something like homemade vanilla extract and they will think of you every time they make a delicious treat. Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe on Saveur

Now for the giveaway! One (1) lucky reader will have a chance to win the SOL Republic Tracks HD Headphones in the color gray, as seen above. Since these are great for listening to music, the rules of the giveaway will be simple: Tell me your favorite holiday song (name of the song and artist). For additional entries, follow me on Twitter @dishingdelights and tweet me  your favorite holiday song or follow my Facebook page and leave a post with your favorite holiday song. Once you have done that, leave another comment to let me know you have done so. This contest is open to US residents only and you have until midnight CST on 12/29/12 to enter. This will be a nice post-holiday gift if you didn't get everything on your list. Good luck!

*Disclosure: I received a pair of SOL Republic headphones to review and another to give away. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Peppermint Slutty Brownies

Peppermint Slutty Brownies

We've all seen them. I believe they originated on Kevin and Amanda under the name Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie n' Oreo Fudge Brownie Bar (say that ten times fast). The Londoner coined them "Slutty Brownies" and they have been popping up around the web ever since. I got my first taste of these earlier this year at the Food Blogger Bake Sale and I have been waiting for a reason to make them. I try to stay away from box mixes so I wanted to do this version from scratch. For my holiday party with friends this past weekend,  it made sense to kick these up with some mint. These are a delight. The mint creams get a little melted in the cookie layer, but they definitely enhance the flavor of the candy cane Joe Joes. The gooey brownie layer is the perfect counterpart to the mint. I would like to think these were the hit of the party. These brownies are definitely rich so one pan will go a long way at a party.

Peppermint Slutty Brownies

One year ago: Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze
Two years ago: Little Ethiopia
Three years ago: Pumpkin Bread with a Cinnamon Cheesecake Layer
Four years ago: Almond Brittle

Peppermint "Slutty" Brownies
(Adapted from What's Gaby Cooking)

For the brownie layer:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 package candy cane Joe Joes (or other chocolate-mint sandwich cookie)

For the cookie dough layer:
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
Scant 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup of chopped peppermint cream candies (it is easier to cut them while they are cold)

To make the brownie layer:
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Turn off the heat. Whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder. Remove the pan from the burner and whisk in the eggs and vanilla until well-combined. Add the flour and whisk until it is fully incorporated. Set the brownie batter aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 pan with foil and leave an overhang so it is easy to lift the brownies out of the pan. Spray the foil with cooking spray.

To make the cookie layer:
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the egg and vanilla, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and mix until well combined. Fold in the mint creams.

Press the cookie mixture into the prepared pan into an even layer. Top the cookie dough with the candy cane Joe Joes in a single layer. Top the cookies with the brownie batter and use a spatula to spread the mixture evenly.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until a knife inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean. Let the cookies cool on a rack for 10 minutes before lifting out of the pan to cut and serve.

Printable Recipe

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Snickerdoodle Cheesecake Bars

Snickerdoodle Cheesecake Bars

I've had a cheesecake craving for about three months, so a few weeks ago, I decided to give in and finally make some. I can be picky about cheesecake, but I was intrigued by fusing it with the flavors of a beloved cookie. One or two of these bars definitely satisfied my craving and I was able to give the rest to my insatiable friends at a post-Thanksgiving get together. The warm smell of cinnamon baking is a great way to get in the holiday mood. If that doesn't work, just have a mojito or two. It's not too late to add these to your menu of holiday baking and I guarantee your friends will love these bars just as much as mine did.

I made this recipe as found on the Tasty Kitchen blog here. Next time, I would reduce the cookie layer by half and also line the pan with foil to make for easier removal.

One year ago: Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Two years ago: Braised Short Ribs with Autumn Root Vegetable Puree
Three years ago: Garlic Soup with Shrimp
Four years ago: Shrimp with Chive Butter

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Cranberry Mojitos

Cranberry Mojito

I spent the better part of the summer of 2002 perfecting my mojito making methods. In 2005 I graduated to rum and diet cokes during my nights out on the town, and then eventually cut rum out of my life except for the occasional mixed cocktail. I was recently sent a couple bottles of Shellback Rum so I decided to make something festive to try and get myself in the holiday spirit (see what I did there?). These mojitos are a little sweet, a little tart, and a lot of fun. The Shellback rum was surprisingly smooth which was nice with this particular cocktail. I found this recipe on We Are Not Martha. I reduced the amount of sugar in the simple syrup to 3/4 cup, but otherwise followed it exactly. You can find the original recipe here.

One year ago: Roasted Beet Salad with Wilted Greens, Herbed Goat Cheese and Candied Walnuts
Two years ago: Crostini with Poached Pears, Gorgonzola, and Honey
Three years ago: Kale Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing
Four years ago: Penne with Pesto, Mascarpone, and Bacon

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Party Recipe Ideas

I can hardly believe that it is that time of year again. I have such a love-hate relationship with it. Of course, it is an honor to be invited to so many gatherings, but at the same time, all of the celebrating can get downright exhausting! Here is a list of simple recipes that can be made if you are like me and don't like showing up to parties empty-handed or if you are going to a potluck and want to bring a crowd-pleaser.

Persimmons have just come in to season and I could not be more excited. This simple appetizer of roasted persimmons wrapped in bacon is a simple combination of sweet, savory, and tart.

Roasted Persimmons Wrapped in Bacon

It's just hard to resist food wrapped in pork. I dare you to eat just one of these Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp

A few years ago, it seemed like every food blogger in America was making Ina Garten's parmesan-thyme crackers. These savory shortbreads are perfect on their own, but would also be great with a spinach dip.

Spiced Candied Walnuts are great for a salad, but also make the perfect party snack.

Spiced Candied Walnuts

Sweet potatoes are loaded with health benefits. One of my favorite ways to enjoy them is roasted and topped with a creamy, herbed, goat cheese.

Roasted Sweet Potato Discs with Herbed Goat Cheese

And for something sweet, why not this festive, and incredibly delicious, Blushing Pom Holiday Cheesecake. Tart pomegranate juice mixed with a smooth and creamy cheesecake makes a dessert that is impossible for your guests to resist.

Pom Cheesecake

However you celebrate the season, I wish you good times filled with family, friends, and of course great food. Cheers!

One year ago: Spiced Candied Walnuts
Two years ago: Great Los Angeles Walk 2010
Three years ago: Cannoli
Four years ago: Dumpling Noodle Soup

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Edzo's Burger Shop - Chicago Dogs and Burgers

In my short time in Chicago, I have had some amazing meals at places like GT Fish and Oyster, Longman & Eagle, and most recently Balena, but I've also had equally great "low-end" meals at the various hot dog and burger stands all over the city. The proliferation of these stands all over the city have inspired me to start a new feature on this blog highlighting some of those better stands and the fare they sling.

First up is Edzo's Burger Shop. A couple of months ago, I randomly decided to spend a day in Evanston just to see what was there. Before a self-guided tour of the Northwestern campus, I visited Edzo's for a hefty lunch. Even on a weekday afternoon, the line was out the door, but the service is fast and efficient. I started with a locally-made Filbert's grape soda.

Grape Soda

At Edzo's, you can order a smashed griddle burger or a thicker char burger. For this first visit, I went with a single griddle burger ($3.89 plus $.75 for cheese) topped with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and American cheese. The burger has been smashed on the grill  so it gets crispy edges. It's flavored well and comes with a lightly toasted bun that doesn't overwhelm the thin patty.

Edzo's Burger

I figured that since I was already splurging with a burger, I could indulge further with truffle fries ($5.49). These hand cut fries are flavored with truffle salt and Parmesan cheese in every bite. The portion size is great for sharing.

Truffle Fries at Edzo's

By a happy accident, I was given garlic fries ($3.99). They were loaded with bits of garlic and full of flavor. Also worthy of sharing.

Garlic Fries at Edzo's

Edzo's is proof that an inexpensive meal does not have to be low quality. I appreciate their attention to detail and the energy the spend sourcing good ingredients. I'm definitely going to be visiitng again when their Lincoln Park location opens up.

Edzo's Burger Shop
1571 Sherman Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 864-3396

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Farfalle with Sausage and Pumpkin

Farfalle with Pumpkin and Sausage

Somehow, pumpkin has become the new bacon. I’m not sure how or why, but it seems that the second Labor Day was over, every food blogger in the history of the world started blogging pumpkin recipes. That may be a tad overdramatic, but to be honest, I was and still am overwhelmed by the volume of pumpkin recipes invading the interwebs over the last couple of months. I have certainly been guilty of this in the past, but I didn’t really want to contribute to the oversaturation this year…until now. This is one of two pumpkin recipes I have made recently. I won a giveaway on Mango & Tomato and was sent a couple of boxes of pasta. The spaghetti went quickly in one of my favorite easy recipes, but I wanted to try something a bit different with the farfalle which is not a type of pasta I use often. This dish is total comfort food, but not unhealthy. There is the slight sweetness of the pumpkin and cinnamon and a gentle heat from the red pepper flakes. The sage is not overpowering rounds out the flavor. The spinach added a bit of green and more would certainly be welcome. I’ve been sort of obsessed with Romano cheese lately, but if you don’t have it, Parmesan works well.

Farfalle with Pumpkin and Sausage

One year ago: Brunch at The Churchill
Two years ago: SugarFISH
Three years ago: Albondigas
Four years ago: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Farfalle with Sausage and Pumpkin
(Adapted from My Kitchen Addiction)

Makes 4-5 servings

10 ounces farfalle pasta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
Kosher salt to taste
12 ounces sage pork sausage
1/2 teaspoon diced fresh sage
1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup finely chopped spinach
3/4 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese for serving

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and season lightly with salt. Cook until the onion has softened a bit, about 3 minutes. Add the sausage and use the back of a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the meat. Cook for 8-10 minutes until the sausage is browned and cooked through.

Add the sage, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon to the pan. Cook for one minute. Add the pumpkin puree, spinach and wine and cook for 2-3 minutes until everything is warmed through and combined. Taste and season with salt if necessary. Add the pasta to the pan and toss to combine. If the mixture looks dry, add the reserved pasta water to the pan a little bit at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Serve the pasta topped with Parmesan or Romano cheese if desired.

Printable Recipe

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chocolate Swirl Biscuits

 Chocolate Swirl Biscuits

I recently realized that I was in possession of two chocolate swirled bread recipes. I decided to take the easy way out and make the one that didn't require rising time. Making these was a comforting task on a cool fall night and a way for me to calmly release some building tension by cutting butter in to flour. It is always amazing to me how that small effort can make me feel so much better. Bread and chocolate are a fantastic comforting breakfast. The recipe comes from the book Deep Dark Chocolate by Sara Perry and was reprinted on the website Bakerella. I made the recipe almost exactly as printed except I used 4.5 ounces of chocolate in the filling and I sprinkled half of the egg washed tops with coarse sea salt. You can find the original recipe here.

Chocolate Swirl Biscuits

One year ago: Truffled Egg Toast
Two years ago: Charleston, South Carolina
Three years ago: Quick Chicken Pho
Four years ago: Pomegranate Pound Cake

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Brunch at Saddle Peak Lodge

Tucked high into the Malibu hills, it is easy to see how so many celebrities flock to Saddle Peak Lodge for a quiet escape from the bustle of Los Angeles. It's not an easy place to find and it provides a nice retreat from prying eyes. During my dineLA press trip, we were treated to a lovely Sunday brunch at this classic location that specializes in wild game.

The brunch menu is lighter on game than the dinner menu because during the day is when the meat is gathered and prepared for the evening. As is customary and necessary with brunch, we started with a few cocktails. This bacon bloody mary provided the perfect antidote to the previous night's excursion. The thick cut bacon lended it's saltiness and smokiness to the bloody mary in a very subtle way.

Bacon Bloody Mary

Since we weren't able to get a taste of the game being prepared for the evening, we settled with a trio of game sausage ($9). On this day the sausages were duck with jalapeno, pheasant, and wild boar with cranberry. The flavors were subtle, but pleasant and we all kept coming back for more.

Trio of Sausage

We also shared a plate of the house-made bacon ($5). It's thick cut, perfectly smoky, and salty.


My main course was the breakfast pizza. It was just what I needed after another evening of a few too many cocktails. The pliant crust is topped with pesto, fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, a mixture of the game sausages and a perfect over-easy fried egg.

Breakfast Pizza

I was able to try a few bites of the rabbit confit pot pie ($15). A puff pastry vol-au-vent is piled high with a just slightly too salty rabbit confit. This would have been perfect if the salt had been dialed down a bit.

Rabbit Pot Pie

A quiche filled with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and broccoli ($14) helped us get some much-needed vegetables.


The interior of the restaurant is dark and contains many decorations like this which may or may not make you uncomfortable about the food you are about to consume. I'm fine with it since so many places on my trip to Namibia contained similar wall pieces.

Saddle Peak Lodge

For such a young chef, Christopher Kufek has a strong command on what makes a great restaurant tick. It's easy to see why Saddle Peak Lodge has withstood the test of time.

Saddle Peak Lodge
419 Cold Canyon Road Calabasas, CA 91302
(818) 222-3888

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Sausage, Cheddar, and Rosemary Buns

Sausage Cheddar Rosemary Buns

Autumn has arrived. This summer was fun, but I could not be happier to be wearing long pants, scarves, jackets, and light sweaters. Even when it's gloomy, I still love it. I'm excited to see leaves changing color instead of just going from green to brown like they did in Los Angeles. This weather  means me spending more time in the kitchen. With some more time on my hands, I have been wracking up some recipes that require the oven because my apartment no longer swelters when I turn it on. These savory buns are so easy to make and would be great at a potluck brunch party. Paired with a side salad, they can easily be turned into dinner.

One year ago: Fig Yogurt Cake
Two years ago: Momed
Three years ago: Beso
Four years ago: Easy Butternut Squash Soup

Sausage, Cheddar, and Rosemary Buns
(Adapted from Serious Eats)

*Notes: The original recipe called for 12 ounces of sausage which was way too much. I had plenty leftover. I also upped the amount of cheese. These buns would are great with plain pizza dough, but I imagine the flavor would be even better with a rosemary whole wheat or other flavored dough. Lastly, my version required much more time to brown than the original recipe's 18 minutes. I baked mine for closer to 30.

Makes 9 buns

1 tablespoon olive oil (for brushing the pan)
8 ounces bulk sage or breakfast sausage
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 pound pizza dough
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Brush the inside of an 8x8 baking dish with olive oil and set aside.

Add the sausage to a large skillet and turn the heat to medium high. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the sausage has browned and is cooked through. Add the green onions and cook for 1 minute. Add the rosemary and remove from the heat.

On a floured surface, roll the dough out to an 10x8 inch rectangle. Brush the edges of the dough with the beaten egg.  Spread the sausage over the dough in an even layer. Top the sausage with an even layer of cheese. Roll the dough lengthwise to create a cylinder, tucking in the ends. Cut the roll into 9 equal pieces and place in the baking dish, cut side up. Cover the dish with a towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

Arrange the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Brush the tops of the buns with the remaining beaten egg. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tops have browned. Let the buns cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Printable Recipe

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Funfetti Cake

Funfetti Cake

My sister was recently in town to celebrate her birthday. I was tasked with making a main dish and a dessert for a barbeque with a few friends. I was actually leaning towards cheesecake recipes because I have been craving cheesecake for months, but my sister was adamant about a non-chocolate cake. Eventually, we both agreed on a funfetti cake from scratch. It was a great night and I am fairly certain my sister had a memorable birthday. The cake was certainly a highlight. The light, sweet, and fluffy cake was accented with the best vanilla buttercream I have ever tried. I definitely am of the opinion that making the cake from scratch bested making it from a box. My cake frosting skills still need work, but they didn't take away from the tastiness of the cake.

Funfetti Cake

The cake is from Kokocooks who adapted from Williams-Sonoma. I was a little lighter on the sugar and used bigger "jimmie" sprinkles, but otherwise stayed true to the original. The buttercream is adapted from Gimme Some Oven and the only change I made was to leave out the milk. You can find the cake recipe here and the buttercream recipe here.

One year ago: Street Eats at The Taste
Two years ago: Animal Restaurant
Three years ago: Chaya Brasserie
Four years ago: Fig and Bacon Salad

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Greek Rice Bowls

Greek Rice Bowl

There is a little fast food restaurant near my apartment called Tzatiki Grill. I haven't been, but I hear it is like Chipotle with Greek flavors. I was intrigued by the idea of a "Greek bowl" and after my recent success with Greek nachos, I was ready to try the ingredients in a more portable lunch offering. This is an excellent diversion from the chicken and rice and salsa I normally tote to work for lunch and it feels food to change things up. The rice is based on a recipe I used to make with my mom. She made it in a similar way to fried rice, stir frying day old rice with spinach and plenty of garlic, but I have found a simpler way to make it though chopping spinach never really gets easier. Instead of having the tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and onion as separate toppings, I whipped them together for a simple relish/salsa that is excellent on it's own with tortilla or pita chips.

One year ago: Brunch at Cecconi's
Two years ago: Grilled Sausages with Figs and Mixed Greens
Three years ago: Cubano Sandwiches
Four years ago: Sweet Chili Shrimp with Sesame Soy Rice

Greek Rice Bowls
(By Esi)

Makes 4 servings

2 cups spinach rice (recipe follows)
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces ground turkey
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sprinkle with salt. Cook until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ground turkey cumin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until the turkey has cooked through, about 7 minutes.

Spinach Rice
(By Esi)

Makes 2 cups

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white rice
1 3/4 cups water or low sodium chicken stock
Salt to taste
1 cup finely chopped fresh spinach (you can use frozen spinach, but make sure the water is completely squeezed out)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rice and toss to make sure it is coated in the onions, garlic, and oil. Stir constantly until the rice is toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the water and season to taste with salt. Let the mixture come to a boil then reduce to a simmer over low heat. Cover and cook for 20 minutes until the rice is cooked through. Add the chopped spinach to the pan and use a fork to simultaneously fluff the rice and mix in the spinach.

Tomato, Cucumber, Olive relish (recipe follows)
Tzatziki (homemade or store bought)
Crumbled Feta
Sliced pepperoncini

Tomato, Cucumber, Olive Relish
(By Esi)

Makes about 2 cups

4 Roma tomatoes, seeds scooped out and diced
1 cup peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup roughly chopped black olives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Juice from 1 lime
Salt to taste

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olives, parsley, and lime juice. Season to taste with salt.

To assemble the bowls: Place 1/2 cup cooked spinach rice at the bottom of each bowl. Top each bowl with 2 ounces of the turkey mixture. Top each serving with tzatiki, tomato relish, feta, and sliced pepperoncini.

Printable Recipe

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bacon and Egg Farro Risotto

Bacon and Egg Farro Risotto

This recipe is kind of an oxymoron. You make risotto a little healthier by using farro and then completely defile it by adding bacon. I was inspired to try making a risotto without the traditional arborio rice after my trip to Mo-Chica. I had some farro sitting around my pantry for a while so this was a great way to use it up. This very creamy risotto gets a salty and smoky punch from bacon with the lusciousness of the fried egg. Peppery arugula keeps the dish from feeling overwhelming. The leftovers help up surprisingly well for a couple of days and the dish is good with either a poached or fried egg. I prefer the texture of a fried egg. I am definitely an "alternative" risotto convert now!

One year ago: Bacon Lettuce Peach Sandwich
Two years ago: Chicks with Knives Hatchi Dinner at Breadbar
Three years ago: Vaca Frita and Croquetas de Jamon
Four years ago: Slow Food Nation

Bacon and Egg Farro Risotto
(Adapted from Oui, Chef)

Makes 2-4 servings

4 slices bacon, cut into lardons
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
3/4 cup farro, soaked for 8 hours and then drained
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups arugula leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2-4 poached or fried eggs

Cook the bacon in a large skillet heated over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on towels. Add the onion to the pan and cook in the bacon fat until it has softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a sauce pot until it is simmering.

Add the farro and white wine to the skillet with the onion, stir to combine. Add the heated chicken stock to the pan a half cup at a time until the stock is mostly absorbed between additions. Stir often until the farro is tender and suspended in a thick, creamy liquid. Add the Parmesan and butter to the pan and stir well to combine. Stir in the arugula and remove the pan from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the risotto warm topped with a fried or poached egg.

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Friday, August 31, 2012


On my birthday, I ended up having two dinners. It was unintentional and definitely gluttonous, but the sort of thing I have come to expect during a press trip. The first of those dinners was at Mo-Chica, the newish restaurant by Ricardo Zarate in downtown Los Angeles. This is actually Mo-Chica 2.0 which opened in May after a smaller concept also in downtown. The restaurant has a modern casual feel and serves beautiful Peruvian dishes. Since we were there for the dineLA trip, we ordered everything on the special menu as well as a few cocktails. It was a great sampling of the normal fare that the restaurant offers. For $35 per person, dineLA diners were able to pick two appetizers, one entre, and one dessert. The portions were generous and you didn't feel like you were getting cheated out of a regular meal. Again, our hosted group had one of everything.


I started with a Oaxacacalifornia cocktail ($12). This spicy and smoky cocktail is made with mezcal, tequila, fresh lime juice, and pineapple rocoto gomme. It packed a delicious punch with just the right amount of sweetness from the pineapple.


The Cesarin is a Peruvian version of a Caesar salad with grilled romaine, Parmesan cheese, and huacatay anchovy dressing.


The antichucho de pulpo was one of two versions of octopus I was presented over the weekend. This grilled version was definitely my favorite. The tender octopus was served with roasted potatoes and a bright jalapeno sauce.

Antichucho de Pulpo

The albacore ceviche was like a work of art with sealed albacore, leche de tigre, Japanese cucumbers, and spicy rocoto. It was definitely not like any other ceviche I have had before.

Albacore Ceviche

Steamed clams (almejas) are served pancetta, aji Amarillo butter, and a generous chunk of grilled bread to mop up the juices.


The artichoke was a favorite for those of us craving vegetable matter. The artichoke is grilled and topped with a huacatay butter which gets into all of the leaves. It is served with a slightly spicy rocoto aioli dipping sauce.


Several of the dishes on the dineLA menu came topped with a fried egg which no one at our table objected to. The first was the bistek a lo pobre. Tender grilled pieces of skirt steak are served with pan fried banana and chickpea tacu tacu. The whole dish is topped with a crispy fried egg.

Bisteck a lo Pobre

Estofado de Alpaca is another egg topped dish with fresh tagliatelle pasta topped with an alpaca stew and that beautiful fried egg. My first experience with alpaca was a success.

Estofado de Alpaca

Quinoa is still having it's moment. The seed originated in ancient Peru so it makes sense that Zarate uses it in a variety of dishes. This quinoa risotto was super creamy and served with wild mushrooms and a parsley infused oil. It got me thinking about "alternative" risottos and I made one a few weeks ago (more to come on that later).


Next up were the fish dishes. Roasted black cod (Carapulcra) was served with Peruvian sun dried potato stew, peanuts, and chimuchurri. The flavors are bright and fresh.


My favorite entree was the paiche (an Amazonian fish) which was served ajiaco de arroz and a cherry tomato escabeche. It has similar bright flavors as the cod, but with a bit of a spicy kick and the dish feels lighter.


For dessert we were treated to a quinoa creme brulee which had the crisp top as a regular creme brulee with the added texture of quinoa in the custard.

Quinoa Creme Brulee

And lastly these sweet alfajores which were served with a birthday candle for me.


Mo-Chica is a fabulous addition the vibrant downtown LA dining scene.  It's easy to see why Ricardo Zarate won Food & Wine's best new chef award in 2011. His food is exciting, bold, and approachable. I'm excited to see what he will come up with next.

514 W. 7th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 622-3744

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