Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cooking with Giada

I want to cook like Giada De Laurentiis.

I don't necessarily mean that I want to create the same recipes as she does, although that would be nice too. My son gave me some DVDs of her cooking show on the Food Network and I was hooked. Her recipes are simple and easy to recreate at home and they are based on Italian cooking, of which I am particularly fond.

When I say I want to cook like Giada, I mean I want to cook under the same circumstances as she does. When she needs to add fresh garlic - as she does in almost every episode - she picks up a beautiful whole head of garlic, looking like it came from Central Casting - Produce division. Giada carefully plucks off a clove or two, putting the rest of the head back into the artful display of vegetables in a bowl on her counter, apparently never to be used again. When I need garlic, I gingerly reach into my garlic holder. If I am lucky, I can find the remains of a head of garlic with an acceptable clove or two still attached. The only downside is I then have to round up all the papery garlic layers that float out of the container and onto my counter. I acknowledge that this would not make good TV.
When Giada needs to zest a lemon, she reaches into a lovely bowl filled with lemons, apparently already washed and dried by Central Casting-Produce division, and selects a blemish-free specimen. She zests it with her microplane (Giada's utensil comes from Sur La Table, her website helpfully points out!) before daintily discarding it in a decorative bowl used for just this purpose. Me? I mentally calculate the price of that pyramid of lemons (hmm . . .based on my grocery's prices, that looks to be about $6) and then decide to rummage in my fridge for one of those tiny hard lemons the fishmonger throws in my bag for free. Which I will wash and dry myself, of course.

And speaking of the fridge, I have never seen one so . . . sparkly. When Giada opens hers to get out the milk - always in an attractive glass cruet, usually measured to the exact amount her recipe calls for - it's refrigerator nirvana. Behind the milk, I see a few carefully chosen items displayed - a bag of organic produce and several condiments with their labels discreetly turned away from the camera. It's a carefully contrived refrigerator tableau.

The freezer is just as immaculate. Whenever Giada makes a semifreddo (Italian for "half-cold"), I consider pausing the DVD just to gaze at the inside of her freezer. She has no trouble sliding out a rack and finding ample room for her loaf pan amongst the bags of organic berries and containers of homemade heirloom tomato sauce. Her freezer contains none of the detritus mine does: half empty boxes of pirogies, bags of frozen peas (those previously used as ice packs thoughtfully marked with an X in Sharpie marker by my daughter), frozen basil leaves that have been reduced to basil dust, unidentifiable frozen meats, and various things my daughter stuck in the freezer for homemade science experiments (snow, juice mixed with jello, gum). There's no room for a loaf pan, unless I clear out the bag of chicken broth ice cubes that I am definitely, absolutely going to use one day.

Another ingredient that she uses often is fresh basil. She just pulls a handful of leaves from a lush bouquet of basil attractively arranged on her counter. The basil has also been washed and spin-dried by the Produce Central Casting department, so that all she needs to do is chop it up and throw it in her dish. At my house, the only plant growing so abundantly is the thistleweed in my garden. I buy fresh basil, only to see it dissolve into green slime in record time. I try to freeze the leaves for later use, only to see them reduced to dust in my non-immaculate freezer. Sigh.

Giada also has it easy when cooking poultry. When she needs 4 boneless chicken breasts, they are magically arrayed on a plate before her. We never see her cut open the plastic on a package of chicken, then have to dispose of the wrappings and disinfect the counter where the chicken juices dripped. Does she even have that moment of obsessive-compulsion where she re-washes everything and then Lysols the cabinet handles in case she inadvertently spread chicken juice everywhere?

I'd also like to cook in Giada's kitchen. It is large and sunny, with enough room for a camera crew and producer, so I'll bet it's great for entertaining. She doesn't seem to have a storage problem - when she needs a 9 quart dutch oven, it's right there on the Viking stove for her. I am not sure where that hulking thing resides when she is not using it, as it takes up a lot of cabinet real estate. Ditto with the food processor, cappuccino maker, blender, ravioli press, and stand mixer. And the Le Creuset pots and All-Clad pans. I don't even own half of the things she does, and what I do have is either jammed in a cabinet, or getting dusty in the basement.

The best thing about cooking like Giada would be the clean-up. Or I guess I should say, the lack thereof. I haven't been to one of her sets during taping, but I am pretty sure once the director yells "Cut," Giada gets to go off camera with a Bellini, while a swarm of assistants do the dishes and wipe down the counters. That's the way to cook!

Some Giada recipes from Everyday Italian:

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola

Pasta Primavera

Watch Giada in action~


  1. Erma Bombeck, move over! I nearly missed my conference call today, I laughed so much at this. How well I know the garlic skin all over the floor (along with the onion skin), the unidentified objects in the freezer and the half-full bags of frozen peas that get reshuffled to put in that one more soon-to-be-unidentifiable thing, the back row of yet more unidentified objects in the fridge. Oh, the list goes on, and you caught it all!

  2. Many buttons were pressed by this post. You have expressed my thoughts about cooking shows to a T!

    Where is Julia Child with the chicken on the floor and her many culinary faux pas when we need her?

  3. I can't add much more to WOS excellent commentary & others remarks on the way it is for the FOOD Network personalities (although Guy Fieri at times is a bit less sparkly on Diners, Drive- ins and Dives). In Hawaii, many herbs grow prolifically, with the exception of least not in our yard. It gets leggy quickly no matter how much pinching we do. I am familiar with the green slime as well.

    Very entertaining post!

  4. Only imported thing omitted was the mirror. There's a mighty big gap between the way I look and the way Giada looks while doing all this ( AND eating it, if eat it she does).

    Having just put together a wild mushroom cooking video, for a friend's public-access tv show and eventually my site, I can assure everyone that Open Spaces/Joan is only hitting the highlights of a very long laundry list - or needs-laundering list, as the case may be.

  5. should've been "important" thing, although "imported" is probably equally accurate.

  6. Thanks for your comments! I realize of course what the producers need to do for great TV, but it is frustrating when she gushes about how quickly a dish comes together - when it assembles so quickly because everything is already prepped for her! Us mortals have o factor in the chicken juice disinfectant time, looking for the cutting board time, etc.

    To Leslie - the other point I decided to omit was how good Giada looks while cooking. I do think there is some correlation between the success of her dish and the amount of cleavage she shows. My husband especially enjoys the shows where she has to put something into the lower oven! :)

    I usually save my cashmere sweaters (if I owned them) and multiple necklaces for when I am going out to eat, not when I am cooking for myself.

  7. WOS - You must have been in my kitchen! Every time I watch the Food Channel I feel like ordering in - I just don't shape up. Thanks for the laugh.

  8. Just found your blog and post from the CL message boards. Great post!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.