Tag Archives: pasta

Obika Mozzarella Bar Reviewed! (Los Angeles)

Gentle Reader, since The Practical Cook kitchen is collecting dust right now from lack of use, it seems appropriate to share a great new find from the road. Also, when you have the opportunity to eat Italian food with an Italian after driving to L.A. in a convertible on a beautiful day, you do it and say thank you. That, Gentle Readers, is good practical advice, pun intended.

It doesn't count as a power lunch unless there's something bubbly. (Champagne at Obika Mozzarella Bar)

It doesn’t count as a power lunch unless there’s something bubbly. (Champagne at Obika Mozzarella Bar)

I digress. Enter Obika Mozzarella Bar, part of a chain (not in the bad way) of independently operated restaurants worldwide. This was my first trip to Los Angeles, and Obika was the perfect introduction to a power lunch. Fueled by perfect weather, outdoor seating, a bottle of pink champagne (don’t judge, it’s L.A.), and food that was appropriate to the setting, I’m a fan.

Hello Hollywood. Thanks to my favorite Italian translator and producer, Luca @AmerigoFilm

Hello Hollywood. Thanks to my favorite Italian translator and producer, Luca @AmerigoFilm

We started with an appetizer platter that was reminiscent of Barcelona for me, featuring a plain mozzarella, a smoked one, a pesto, a smoky tomato sauce with almonds (the fact that I’m not still there swimming about in this one bears testimony to my self-discipline), and a caponata that was truly outstanding.

The appetizer platter was almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

The appetizer platter was almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

I have texture issues, and too often caponata is mushy. This was not at all, each ingredient stood on its own while playing well with others. Well done. Add bread crisps and a variety of cured meats, and I could have just stopped there. But I did not.

Actual pizza from a stone oven anyone?

Actual pizza from a stone oven anyone? Yes, we got that to go. Don’t ask.

Next course, pasta. Perfectly cooked, the pasta dishes were well executed. All of the food here features quality ingredients, and it shows. The simpler food is, the better the base ingredients need to be.

Pasta with red sauce FTW!

Pasta with red sauce FTW!

Ravioli, simple, classic, done right.

Ravioli, simple, classic, done right.

But let’s rush to the end, shall we? Dessert was a trio of tastes, small but intense, including a tiramisu and a dark chocolate torte. Yes I say.

A Mousse by any other name tastes delicious.

A Mousse by any other name tastes delicious.

The joy of eating outside in a great location watching people, eating great food, in a convivial atmosphere, can not be overstated. The caponata and the smoky tomato dips were standouts for me in a sea of right-sized bites. As you can see from the website, there are multiple locations–check for one near you and let me know what you think.

Tiramisu from Obika.

Tiramisu from Obika.

Until then, thanks to all for your continued support and suggestions. I continue to train for a 5k while on the road, in an attempt to balance my love for food with my whole life. I was struck again at this meal, when you have great food, you don’t have to eat tons of it. Just a little of something great lingers.

Sinfully dark chocolate torte.

Sinfully dark chocolate torte.

So today’s question, what are your favorite food cities to visit? I have the joy of taking a foodie friend through my town soon. Look for more reviews of NYC, NC, and everything chicken and waffles in between.

Send dinner invites, outdoor cooking challenges, and general mayhem to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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On Sunday, Weekly Menus, Birthday Style.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 4/7/2013 (with actual meal plans!)

Gentle Readers, what a long strange trip it has been. By that, I mean business and vacation were back to back in the last couple of weeks, and I’ve eaten my way along both coasts of these United States. Strangely, I now have intense cravings for Malaysian food, perhaps because BestieForce has been in both places. Yes, those are unicorn chopsticks.

BestieForce! Just add unicorn chopsticks.

BestieForce! Just add unicorn chopsticks.

And yes, I woke up in the middle of the night, jetlagged and craving this, Roti. Reviews of the two Malaysian restaurants are pending, and rumor has it I may learn to cook the sticky dessert rice I kept eating as well. Stay tuned.

Roti from Banana Leaf in San Jose, CA

Roti from Banana Leaf in San Jose, CA

But back in realityville, I came home to a reasonably clean kitchen and a fairly blank slate. You can see I’m not done globetrotting from the menus though. There’s an international festival at school this week, but we tend to eat that way all the time.

Sticky Rice with Mango from Banana Leaf

Sticky Rice with Mango from Banana Leaf

Without further delay, here are our weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 4/7/2013

Weekly Menus: 4/7/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery List: 4/7/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List: 4/7/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Salad!
I’ve been craving this for days. Though I managed a few of them over the last couple of weeks, it was not as often as it should have been.

Monday: Indian
I have some cauliflower that needs roasting, and I may try my hand at the sauce that goes with the roti pictured above. Plus chickpeas. Though my recent trip to Roti Boti has spoiled me on this front. Sigh, food memories . . .

The largest, fluffiest naan I've ever seen. You can ignore the adage to not fill up on bread at Roti Boti.

The largest, fluffiest naan I’ve ever seen. You can ignore the adage to not fill up on bread at Roti Boti.

Tuesday: Stir fry OR Breakfast for dinner
Depending on time and leftover supplies, I’ll make the call. I feel certain I know which the Jrs will choose. I have a half gallon of milk that needs to be consumed quickly, and eggs too. I’m thinking it’s time to make Waffles in bulk. Perhaps to be served with chicken?

36 Waffles

36 Waffles

Wednesday: Dine Out (Germany!)
We’re celebrating someone cranky’s birthday (cough cough Wadorf), and the Jrs have decided to go German on this one. Our tradition is to visit a new “country” (via food) and then ask a lot of trivia questions about that country during dinner. It’s great fun, give it a try.

Spinach Quesadilla and Ranchero Beans

Spinach Quesadilla and Ranchero Beans

Thursday: Mexican
It’s been too long since we have had our simple and traditional spinach quesadillas at home. Perhaps I’ll make sopapillas to go with. Mmmm. Dessert.

Carbonara from NYC!

Carbonara from NYC!

Friday: Pasta and Salad
Clean up hitter for the week. I may attempt carbonara again to polish off the last of the eggs. The Jrs are big fans, especially now that they are eating bacon again.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Looking forward to this one.

Questions, comments, topics? Email me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Next on Wednesday, Reader Questions and Feedback! (Submit Yours Today!)

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Weekly Menus: Week of 12/16/2012 (Holiday Prep Time Edition)

Gentle Readers, never has it been more challenging to sit down and write with an upbeat message. It is difficult not to focus on the tragic occurrence in Connecticut. I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of community and connection as means of healing.

TPCs Junior learn how to light the candles.

TPCs Junior learn how to light the candles.

This past week, Team Practical Cook was fortunate to be invited to a Chanukah meal, a first for us. It was a great experience, full of tradition and modified for the vegetarian TPCs Junior. Everyone had a role to play, from lighting the candles to blessing the bread and wine.

Vegetarian Matzo Ball Soup in progress.

Vegetarian Matzo Ball Soup in progress.

These small moments are the ones I’m reflecting on as I prepare for the upcoming weeks. We are attending a Moravian “Love Feast,” which features coffee and sweet rolls. We’re celebrating friends and family with a number of holiday meals and open houses. Truly a time to count one’s blessings and remember those who are in need.

Small hands reaching for the Challah.

Small hands reaching for the Challah.

With that in my mind, this week’s menus are:

Weekly Menus: 12/16/2012

Weekly Menus: 12/16/2012

The Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 12/16/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 12/16/2012

Which all means:

Sunday: Sammies
Simple and delicious, we’ll be downing a few before our social event begins.

Monday: Veggie Chili
Great hearty warmth to fight the chill. I may try my hand at a garlicky white version of this, with kale or spinach.

Tuesday: Breakfast for Dinner
Pumpkin Pancakes or potential biscuit experiment. Yes, please.

Wednesday: Christmas Tapas!
We’re reciprocating from our Chanukah invite. Our house rule is everyone gets to eat their favorite stuff in small bite-sized form. It’s the easiest and best way to do a relaxed holiday meal ever.

Thursday: Pirogies and Borscht
Craving both, and planning to source homemade pirogies and make the borscht.

Latkes frying in the pan.

Latkes frying in the pan.

Friday: Arepas and Crepes (or Dine Out!)
Again, craving plus reminded of a new place in town I need to research. We’ll see what energy levels determine.

Saturday: Pasta and Salad
I have some pumpkin pasta I’m ready to try, and looking to wrap the week up simply in preparation for a LOT of cookie consumption/production.

Peace.

Peace.

What’s on your cookie list this year? Wednesday’s blog is about the cookie jar, and I’d love to include some new inspiration! Post your favorites in the comments area below! Or drop me a line or a Tweet.

Send your cookies, cards, and questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Wednesday: Christmas Cookie Countdown, What’s Up This Year.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 10/21/2012

Gentle Readers, fall has arrived. It’s a little bit cool, and everything has turned to pumpkin, including beer, which makes me shudder in horror, but I digress. However, it’s also time for persimmon pudding, which I must encourage you to try if you haven’t. The taste is something like a spunky pumpkin bread pudding, and it is the childhood smell of autumn for me.

Persimmon Pudding from Crook's Corner. Almost as good as TPC's Mom makes.

Persimmon Pudding from Crook’s Corner. Almost as good as TPC’s Mom makes.

Let all of this add up to say, I’ve been in the kitchen, and feel inspired for having done so. So inspired that I challenged a professional cook to a sausage gravy battle. That might have been unwise, particularly because he makes biscuits at scale, but go big or go home I say. I’ve got a cast iron skillet and I’m not afraid to use it.

Which means the menus for the week are as follows:

Weekly Menus: 10/21/2012

Weekly Menus: 10/21/2012

The four-square grocery shopping list:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 10/21/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 10/21/2012

Which all adds up to:

Sunday: Beans and Rice with Avocado
We tend to like a simple Sunday meal. Though we may top it off with dessert and Wii at our favorite gastropub. The Juniors are popular, and their social schedule often requires creative booking.

Monday: Omelet Bar
Spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, and good cheese. Some bread from Le Farm, some preserves purchased at the state fair, call it a win.

Tuesday: Pork chops with spatzle
It’s fall, and time to cook some apples and sear some pork chops, that’s what I say.

Wednesday: Polenta, pasta, or dine out?
We’re hosting a very special guest from the West Coast this evening, so we’ll have to do additional recon and agree on this meal. Something simple to accommodate the demands for attention that are surely going to ensue.

Thursday: Frozen Pizza and Salad
I’ve got a business obligation, so it’s time to break out the Punt! dinner.

Friday: Biryani
I’m going to try this for it’s ability to be vegetarian and meat-filled without much hassle. We shall see.

Saturday: Dine out!
Time for some field research. Details pending!

Where do you stand in the Great Pumpkin debate? Do you like it in your coffee? Your beer? Make your voice hear today. The comments section is open for business. Your vote counts. 😉

Send your pre-carved pumpkins, persimmons, and excess Halloween candy to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Monday: Polenta with Egg, Mushrooms, and Spinach

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Weekly Menus: Week of 8/12/2012

Gentle Readers, it is hard to believe that summer is drawing to a close. I will fully admit that I’m reaching the end of my tomato consuming capacity, I’m done with humidity, and I look forward even to the structure the school year will bring. Perhaps that’s because this was a summer like any other for Team Practical Cook: we embraced it with both arms and squeezed.

Mango dessert at ONE Restaurant. "I'm going to eat this until it's gone." --The Youngest

Mango dessert at ONE Restaurant. “I’m going to eat this until it’s gone.” –The Youngest

I haven’t been in the kitchen as much it seems, but when I am, there has been great joy and relative simplicity. It has been about cooking with and for more people, new adventures, new places, new tastes. There’s an incredible backlog of things to try, and I look forward to working through that list this fall. Please keep your challenges and questions coming, they will be addressed as the seasons turn.

Summer adventures in the Guggenheim.

Summer adventures in the Guggenheim.

Enough waxing poetic, we still all have to eat. Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

Weekly Menus: 8/12/2012

Weekly Menus: 8/12/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 8/13/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 8/13/2012

The above is still so lean because we continue to get vegetable drive-bys from the family. Not complaining, just explaining how I can feed the family without ever apparently shopping for food.

Which all translates into:

Sunday: Eggplant Parm or Dine Out
I know, I know, we are dining out a lot. But the Juniors have a much richer social calendar than I do, and I have to accommodate the requests for their time. Field research has been fantastic, more on this upcoming. Otherwise, we’re making Italian food at home.

Monday: Nachos!
A family favorite. We’re taste testing different chips, and this is a good way to use them up. Our version is with black beans and sweet potatoes, cheesy without being gloppy, and no meat.

Tuesday: Salad Surprise
The other trick of this summer has been lots of salad. Great way to use up leftovers. Always evolving, and make it according to your own personal style.

Wednesday: Pancake Courses
We’ve been challenged to create a 3-course pancake meal. This will either be the test run or the live edition, if the guest of honor (aka, the challenger) is available. It will be appetizer pancakes (small cornmeal ones), savory crepes, then a dessert pancake (like an apple fritter).

Thursday: Beef and Veg
We really have to use up the cow in the freezer. It’s becoming a friend at this point.

Friday: Soup and Sammie
The heat has broken enough that soup (not just gazpacho) is on my mind again.

What is your summer food memory for this year? Share your comment below! It’s wide open there, like the beach first thing in the morning.

Send all challenges, strokes of brilliance, and gold medals to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Wednesday: Simply Herb Pasta Recipe.

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Not Quite Carbonara Recipe (Vegetarians Welcome)

Gentle Readers, sometimes The Practical Cook winds up in the kitchen in less than perfect circumstances. This past week, the days were perfect, time spent on vacation in the mountains. But we had so much fun we failed to really grocery shop, and got home tired. What to do?

Not Quite Pasta Carbonara with Spinach

Not Quite Pasta Carbonara with Spinach

Work with what you’ve got. In this case, we were feeding a vegetarian, and there was not a strip of bacon in sight. But there was pasta, and spinach, and eggs. Go!

Not Quite Carbonara Recipe

Please note that absolutely everything about this is an approximation. I was trying to feed people, not document each step.

olive oil
garlic (2 or 3 cloves, whole or minced)
baby leaf spinach

fresh pasta (dried will do), 1 pound will feed a crowd
3 eggs
lemon juice (depends on how potent it is, at least a teaspoon or two)
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan

1. Put pasta water on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and garlic over a strong medium heat until you smell garlic. Toss in the spinach and saute quickly until leaves are coated with garlicky oil and just starting to wilt. Pull off heat.

2. Scramble the 3 eggs with lemon juice and a splash of olive oil. Blend thoroughly.

3. By this point the pasta water should be boiling. Make the pasta according to direction (we used fresh black pepper spaghetti, but anything will do). Cook until just al dente. Drain and toss in heatproof serving bowl with the egg mixture immediately.

4. Toss thoroughly to coat and cook the eggs a bit. Add in garlicky spinach. Toss and top with a bit of Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remember, with enough garlic and Parmesan, you won’t miss the bacon. That much. 🙂 This egg sauce technique will work with many other combos. Enjoy! Special thanks to Waldorf for allowing me to co-opt the idea and technique.

S'mores solve the dinner dilemma too.

S’mores solve the dinner dilemma too.

What’s your go-to dish when things are looking bare in the cupboard? Post a comment below!

Send your pasta, wisecracks, and actual questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Summer is flying by, it’s time for Weekly Menus again this Sunday!

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Filed under Can this supper be saved?, Recipes

Make a Meal from My Freezer: Reader Challenge!

Gentle Readers, is there anything better than a challenge? I think not. Long-time reader Blended Familia came to dinner the other night with this list in hand:

The Practical Cook Freezer Challenge: What Can I Make With This?

The Practical Cook Freezer Challenge: What Can I Make With This?

And a request. What can I make out of this? Delightful! First thing to note, there are warring camps here, as there always are. She is eating healthy and feeding an army of meat eaters. Not that meat isn’t healthy, but everyone runs differently. She needs a little, they want a lot.

BF is also looking to streamline the food budget, and meat, especially from the farmer’s market, is not cheap. How to blend these requests as seamlessly as her familia? Read on.

The Practical Cook Freezer Challenge: 5 Meals

1. Paella. This will use 1/2 a sausage and one package of chicken thighs and makes a lot. The onions and garlic are part of the recipe, combined with rice and tomatoes, you can make a lot. Great to make and freeze in portions if you’re cooking for something less than an army as well. Another bonus, this recipe lends itself well to the addition of hot sauce at the table. Add paprika and saffron in the process, but let people season to their level of fire.

2. Sausage and Greens. Bow to the meat eaters and make a bratwurst with whatever greens are in market at the time: kale, beet, mustard, etc. Simplify your life with a package of pierogie, stretch with applesauce, or make some mashed potatoes or hash browns. When I make this for The Practical Cook’s Junior, I eat double greens and let them have the extra sausage. Everyone’s happy.

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

3. Chorizo Burritos. The beauty of this one, you can use 1/2 package, or brown the whole thing and let everyone decide how much to add to their burrito. Stretch the meat with pinto beans, sweet potatoes, avocados, lettuce, rice, etc. I love chorizo for its intense flavor, and find a little bit goes a long way.

Hello beautiful sweet potatoes.

Hello beautiful sweet potatoes.

4. Gumbo. Another great way to use chicken thighs and sausage. Don’t fear okra, I beg you.I don’t want to hear about the slimy factor, not if you like Jell-O.  If you are unable to face it, add spinach or something else green here, even butterbeans, but do include tomatoes, onions, and rice.

Non-horsey Okra Pods

Non-horsey Okra Pods

5. Pasta Toss. For what I think is Italian sausage, this is ideal. You can cook it in slices separately with peppers and onions, and let people toss with red sauced pasta to taste. That way, you can go more veg if you choose. The big box Italian restaurants are doing this, take a page from their book. We do a lot of pasta bars, letting everyone choose their own taste adventure. Serve with a salad and call it a day.

The Joy of Self-Service: Pasta Bar

The Joy of Self-Service: Pasta Bar

Mission accomplished. These meals are set up to cook once but customize at the table. Meat can be featured in the quantities you prefer, and ingredients are used to stretch the whole thing.

What’s in your freezer? If you’d like to take the Freezer Challenge, post a comment below, send me an email, or tweet #freezerchallenge in my direction. I promise you, I can make a meal out of it.

Send your freezer-burned pictures, challenges, and bright ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Friday, Ham and Cheese Tea Sandwiches (a recipe).

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Filed under Can this supper be saved?, Punt!