Tag Archives: pesto

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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Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, Restaurant Reviews

The Joy of Pesto

Nothing screams fresh and bright like good pesto. Personally, I am a fan when it’s tempered with some sweet and juicy tomatoes diced atop the final dish. Last night, in a superheroic effort to save some on the brink basil, I made pesto with what was at hand. It was good, really good, but there was a blender fail. Can this pesto be saved? Read on.

The Journey Begins: Basil in the Blender

The Journey Begins: Basil in the Blender

I’m pretty sure I’ve always made pesto in the blender, but while my water was boiling furiously, and this picture is lovely, it would not blend. There was some language used that was less than gentle. But never fear, Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook soldiers on.

Pulverized Basil, or Pesto, in the Food Processor

Pulverized Basil, or Pesto, in the Food Processor

I heart my Kitchen Aid Food Processor more than I can say right now. A few seconds later, I had pesto and was able to complete the dish.

Tortellini with Pesto and Tomatoes

Tortellini with Pesto and Tomatoes

If I had a true recipe here, I would share it, but lean in and I’ll tell you a secret: you can make pesto out of almost anything. Yes, it’s true, as long as you have a few key flavor elements, it will work nicely.

The Elements of Pesto

1. Something Green. Basil is the leading contender, and I like to add a bit of parsley for brightness. But I’ve made pesto from spinach and just parsley before when basil went MIA.

2. Something Nutty. Though I’ve made pesto without nuts for family, I prefer the nuts. Toast them before for flavor, pine nuts are traditional, but walnuts are great, and I’ve used pistachios in a Greek version.

3. Garlic. Accept no substitutes.

4. Cheese. Parmesan or Romano are traditional, but feta and cottage are lovely too. Try a combo, and alter based on the flavor profile you’re seeking.

5. Olive Oil. Do not skimp or use crappy stuff. You can taste it in the final dish, pick a flavor you like and go for it.

Tips: Frankly, I toss all the stuff into the food processor (now that I’ve learned my lesson) and blend. Add salt and pepper to taste and adjust seasonings and elements to suit yourself. If it’s dry, add more oil, bland, add more cheese or green, or a little more salt.

And most importantly, make a big batch while you’re doing it, and freeze the leftovers in cubes, to be whipped out like a magician during a future feeding emergency.

Pesto Cubes Heading for the Freezer

Pesto Cubes Heading for the Freezer

Pesto is a natural with pasta, but try it over a stronger tasting fish or chicken. I had some of the best beef shortribs of my life that featured a pesto drizzle. Use your pesto in small portions, but with creativity, and you’ll never look back.

Are you a pesto fan? Purist or experimental? Share your thoughts by posting a comment below, or Tweet!

Send your basil 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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Tomorrow, we conclude the week with German Chocolate Cake and Frosting Recipe.

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Filed under Can this supper be saved?, Punt!, Recipes