Saturday, April 7, 2007

Giada, Let's Cook Naked

Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis

Pasta with Tomato and Peas

To get the recipes:
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Actually, it was her idea. She was the one that suggested cooking"Gnudi", literally "naked" in Italian. These little dumplings have become the rage of many trendy restaurants from New York to Los Angeles.

Giada explains that they fall somewhere between gnocchi and ravioli. They are like eating the ravioli filling without the pasta around it.

She starts with frozen spinach, well squeezed out, ricotta and 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan, plus a hint of nutmeg. She's adding a lot of eggs - 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks. I don't think I'll add that many. Oops...she must have heard me, because now she's saying "It's important that you stick to this recipe." to keep the little gnudi together...I can't helping thinking of a nude beach with groups of ”
naturists” eating gnudi.

She mixes in the flour by hand and forms flats balls. They are cooked in DELICATELY boiling water, just 3 or 4 minutes. She adds a little marinara sauce, a bit more cheese and there you have a LOVELY dish! These would make a wonderful starter or a delicious meatless entrée, nudeless or not.

Her schtick for the recipes today is that she’s cleaning out her pantry of old dried pastas and herbs. OLD to her is 6 months. I guess that means I should get rid of the whole nutmeg I got from a Spanish grocery in 1985. And maybe those 1987 mustard seeds from India should go too.

She goes on to her pasta dish. She starts the water in a BIG pot. She’s cooking linguini, “’little tongues’, because they’re flat and narrow”, eeww, maybe yours is, but that’s another story.

Olive oil goes in the frying pan along with shallots (wow…super-sized ones. Could we be talking
GMOs?) The carrots will sweeten up the sauce that uses sometimes-acidic tomato paste. She’s using 5 tablespoons, that’s hardly the REST of a tube. That’s probably MOST of a tube, so this premise is wearing a bit thin. Giada adds the tomato paste and some pasta water to the pan of softening veggies to finish the sauce.

My husband says, “Why don’t you do that?” WHERE did he come from? And do what? Add pasta water to the sauce or…oh, her top IS a bit tight today…Is that what he means? I go back to concentrating on the dish. (Luckily, he wasn’t here for the “naked” shenanigans earlier in the show). She tosses her little tongues with the sauce, herbs, cheese and peas. It looks good, but I fear it may be bit bland. How’s about adding some chili flakes when you’re cooking the shallots and carrots?

We’re on to the Ribollita – a bean and spinach soup. She tells us it means “re-cooked” or “re-boiled”, because you can cook it one day and serve it the next.

Giada cuts up the
pancetta, which is like bacon, but unsmoked and flavored with spices. She browns it in her heavy soup pot. Meanwhile, she cuts another HUGE (WHAT is going on here?) vegetable, this time an onion, in big pieces. She also readies carrots and 2 cloves of garlic, one chopped and one whole. That’s a good idea if you don’t want too garlicky a flavor. She adds them to the pancetta with a bit of olive oil.

Her recipe says to add the veggies at the same time as the pancetta. I like giving the pancetta a head start and THEN adding the vegetables. Salt and pepper and squeezed-out tomato paste gets put in. I don’t like adding the tomato paste quite so soon. Let the vegetables soften a bit first. The recipe does say to cook them about 7 minutes or until the onion, the humongous onion, is golden brown. Add the drained (I would rinse them too) beans and chicken stock.

Now, those nasty
herbes de Provence go in. Frankly, I’d leave them out. I hate them. They remind me of old lady smell. I guess it’s the lavender. Anyway, just add oregano or marjoram (they’re cousins) and thyme. Whatever, just not smelly stuff. Oh, and press the dried herbs into your palm really well to release their oils, before they go into the pot.

She adds the spinach and a rind from Parmesan cheese. That is a heckofa good idea. In fact, it’s a GREAT idea. The rind has no wax, so it can be eaten and you just allow it cook and melt into the soup to give it a really rich cheesy (in this case cheesy is good) flavor. Good one, Giada. She tells us she keeps them in the freezer until she’s ready to use them.

Lastly, day old rolls are toasted with olive oil and placed in the bottom of the soup bowl. She ladles the completed Ribollita over and ecstasy ensues. And...she’s not even naked.

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