Thursday, June 28, 2007

Giada, If You Have The Thyme, I Have The Place

Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis

Cooking From The Heart
Crostini with Sun-Dried Tomato Jam
Side Car Martini
Giada's Carbonara
Almond and Chocolate Clusters

To get the recipes:
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A big crowd is gathered around the table at Giada’s. She’s cooking her favorite foods in “Cooking from the heart.” By the look of her top, we can practically SEE her heart.

Giada starts with an interesting spin on Carbonara, by adding asparagus to it. She keeps the asparagus bundled up in its rubber bands and cooks it in salted water for 3 to 4 minutes. (I’ve never seen that before - the rubber bands, not the cooking technique.) She shocks it in ice water to stop the cooking.

In the same pot of water, she cooks the linguine and then slices the asparagus on the diagonal.

Another unusual addition to the Carbonara is a basil aioli. Because raw eggs are being used (they do get heated up slightly from the hot pasta), she advises us to use only the freshest eggs possible.

2 egg yolks get mixed in the food processor with Dijon mustard (the white wine adds a tangy flavor, Giada tells us), garlic, lemon juice, and a little cayenne. Then she slowly adds ½ cup vegetable oil and ½ cup extra virgin olive oil. She says the vegetable oil thickens it and olive oil gives it flavor. Well, the olive oil certainly has more flavor than the vegetable oil, but BOTH thicken the mixture. She adds ¼ cup chopped basil leaves. It looks good, but rather thin.

Giada’s going to garnish the dish with fried eggs. She adds 4 tablespoons of butter to a pan and cracks 4 eggs in. She fries them sunny side up. To assemble the dish, she adds asparagus to a bowl and then the cooked linguine. She adds the basil aioli and some shaved pecorino and mixes it together. She serves herself some. Giada salts and peppers the fried eggs and places one atop her portion. She proclaims it “so luscious.”

It looks beautiful and I’ve rarely met a dish that couldn’t be improved upon with fried eggs. One out of one, Giada.

We learn that Giada loves jam. Who knew? She’s making a jam that’s both sweet and savory. One tablespoon of oil goes into a saucepan with half an onion, thinly sliced, chopped garlic and seasonings. She drains oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, reserving the oil. She chops them and adds them to the saucepan with a little of the reserved oil. She cooks it down for 5 to 7 minutes.

To get the crostini ready, Giada slices a baguette diagonally and…Uh-Oh here we go again. Here comes the oil. Then a little salt. Into a 400 deg Farenheit oven for 8 minutes. Okay, I know I said I’d follow Mario into the fire of the bruschetta debate, but those DO look good.

She adds 1 cup of water to the tomato jam with ¼ cup red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, ½ cup chicken stock and some fresh thyme. She cooks it for 30 minutes covered, then uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes until it thickens nicely. She gets her goat cheese ready at room temperature.

Giada spreads a little of the sun dried tomato jam on top of the crostini, then puts a dot of goat cheese on top. She garnishes with fresh thyme. It looks great, but I think I might reverse things. I’d put the goat cheese on first and then a dot of the jam. AND wouldn’t that jam be awesome with a little kick? How about adding half a finely chopped jalapeno? Yessirree!!! THAT would be good.

To wrap things up, Giada makes a little sweet. She sprays mini-muffin tins with nonstick spray. I wonder how those cool looking silicone ones would work. Probably very well. She puts a teaspoon of toasted slivered almonds in each cup. Then she places one caramel cut into quarters on top. She melts them in the oven at 350 deg. F. for 8 minutes. They go into the fridge to firm up. For the coating, she melts chocolate chips and white chocolate chips in separate double boilers.

She’s kind of wussy to use a double boiler. It IS the right way, but as long as you keep the heat low and keep checking the chocolate, you’ll be ok. The other thing that’s more worrying (well, that may be too strong a word) is that she’s added 4 to 6 tablespoons of room temperature cream to the melting chocolate.

The best coating, the one that dries hard to a nice shiny crisp shell, isn’t made with CREAM. It’s made with vegetable shortening.
Yes, I KNOW, it’s slightly gross, but NO ONE will know you’ve added it. Add 1 tablespoon of shortening to every cup of chocolate chips. Just melt it along with the chocolate. And it will coat these clusters beautifully, as well as strawberries, of course.

In fact, I won’t even make chocolate covered strawberries if I don’t have Crisco in the house. (Of course, that’s not usually a problem, because it lasts for YEARS in the refrigerator.)

She pops the clusters onto a baking sheet. She dumps 4 at a time into the chocolate and fishes them out with a fork. Then she repeats the same with the white chocolate. They look good enough to eat…about 30 of them.

Giada sets her clusters in the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes. (If you use the Crisco, they set at room temperature.)

Her last favorite of the day is a Sidecar martini. She mixes sugar with lime zest and a bit of juice. She dips the rims of the martini glasses in the sugar. They look delightful. She mixes 1 cup cognac, ½ cup orange liqueur, ½ cup sweet and sour mix (!), ½ cup lemoncello (the recipe spells it limoncello) and ¼ cup lime juice. Shake for 10 seconds and pour into the rimmed glasses.

Great show this week. Each recipe had a slightly unique spin. Giada knows her stuff.

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