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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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Blueberry Cucumber Granita

Blueberry Cucumber Granita

There were some blissfully cool weeks in August where the temps were about 80 degrees and I was able to wear pants for the first time in months. Unfortunately, temperatures are creeping back up so I am looking for new ways to cool down. Long time readers know, I love combining cucumbers and fruit. There is just something so cooling about a fresh cucumber with a juicy fruit and I keep coming back to the combination. This time it's with blueberries which I love because the season lasts longer than other berries and the flavors are so versatile. This is the perfect end of summer refreshment, and I may make this again over the weekend while I escape Chicago to my first midwestern summer retreat in Michigan. I won't tell you how to live your life, but we may or may not be adding some vodka to our granitas to give it a little kick.

Blueberry Cucumber Granita

One year ago: LudoBites 7.0
Two years ago: Watermelon Cucumber Cocktail
Three years ago: End of Summer Cuban Feast
Four years ago: Bacon and Tomato Hash

Blueberry Cucumber Granita
(By Esi)

Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
Zest from 1 lime
1/4 cup mint leaves
1 pint blueberries, washed
1/2 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
Juice from 1 lime

Heat the sugar and water over medium low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the mint and lime zest. Let the syrup steep for twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, blend the blueberries and cucumbers in a blender until smooth.

Discard the mint leaves from the syrup. Once the syrup  has cooled completely, mix it with the blended blueberries, cucumber, and lime juice.  Strain the mixture into an 8x8 pan. If would like a little more texture to the granita, add 1-2 tablespoons of the pulp to the strained mixture.

Place the dish in the freezer and freeze for 4 hours, scraping the mixture with a fork every hour until it is frozen.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Spaghetti with Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes and Bacon

Spaghetti with Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes and Bacon

As with every year, I am gobbling up as many summer tomatoes as I can before the season ends. I am trying to find new ways to use them besides my usual suspects of pico de gallo or slow roasted tomatoes. I found this recipe via Pinterest months ago and wanted to wait until the perfect tomatoes were in season to make it. Now that the temps have (temporarily) cooled to below 80 degrees for the first time in two months, I am more prone to turn on my oven and make something more interesting than a turkey wrap. The anchovied bread crumbs and bacon give this dish an intense savoriness which is balanced with the sweet roasted tomatoes. I followed the recipe as found on the blog The Italian Dish. A few notes though: I used whole wheat spaghetti and whole wheat breadcrumbs. I used bacon instead of pancetta which renders a lot more fat. If you use bacon, I would suggest either draining some of the fat from the pan or omitting the olive oil when toasting the bread crumbs. Also, I scooped out the entire inside of the tomato instead of just the seeds. My oven is smaller and cooks food a little faster so my tomatoes were done at 25 minutes. I suggest checking them early on to make sure they don't fall apart.

Spaghetti with Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes and Bacon

One year ago: Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Two years ago: High Tea at Jin Patisserie
Three years ago: Greek-ish Salad with Spelt Berries
Four years ago: Honey, Pistachio, and Chocolate Chip Biscotti

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Greek Nachos

Greek Nachos

Sometimes I find a recipe and make it right away. Other times, I hold on to recipes for years and a memory will spark my desire to make it. Lately, I have been looking way back into my archive of saved recipes and I have had some fun playing around with them. This recipe isn't that old. It dates back to the summer of 2009, but that was a time in my life when I wasn't doing much cooking. The summer mix of ingredients made me hang on to it until now. It is a quick and fun dinner and absolutely great for a party. I couldn't find ground lamb at my market so I used ground turkey. Beef would work as well. Store bought pita chips ensured I would not have to turn on my oven on a hot day. The tangy feta and yogurt sauce is great, and the toppings were just as good on spinach rice the next day. Summer is quickly winding down so I encourage you to find the best tomatoes and cucumbers and not wait three years to make this recipe.

Greek Nachos

Other bloggers who love Greek nachos:
Closet Cooking
Vanilla Sugar
Not Without Salt

Greek-Style Nachos
(Adapted from the New York Times)

Makes 4 servings

For the sauce:
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
Zest and juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

8 ounces pita chips (homemade or store bought)

1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
1/2 pound ground turkey (or ground lamb or beef)
1 tablespoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup tomatoes
1/2 cup cucumber
1/2 cup red onion
1/2 cup sliced black olives (or kalamata olives)
Sliced pepperoncini
Crumbled feta

To make the sauce, combine the feta, Greek yogurt, olive oil, mint, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Mix until smooth and season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the turkey is cooked through, about 7 minutes.

Divide the pita chips among plates. Top each plate with a bit of turkey, the feta sauce and a mix of the other toppings.

Printable Recipe

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